Last month I shared a lesson a student of mine taught me about subjugated knowledge and the colonized mind. This month, I would like to continue in a similar grain and consider how we share the practice of oppression through language, and particularly, as we teach language to our children. Working to counter kyriarchy in my parenting, I often find myself asking, what I am really saying, reading, or singing to my daughter?
I walk with my daughter almost every morning, and as new parents are often encouraged to do, I try to talk to her continuously about a variety of topics. While I do talk to Hazel about meaningful things, like my hopes for her, stories about her family, the joys of reading, etc.; most days my monologues are inspired by whatever we happen to walk by at the moment.
One morning we talked about the differences between fences, gates and walls, their purposes, and the different materials from which they are constructed—I was really reaching on this day. We repeatedly talk about the flora and fauna. I have discovered that there is what feels like an inordinate number of avocado trees in the say, six square blocks surrounding our apartment. How do the people who live here eat all of these avocados? Do they eat them? Do they let them rot on the tree? This seems like a terrible waste of avocados, though there is one home with a bin in the front yard with a sign that says “free avocados,” in which the homeowners leave the fruit for neighbors and passers by like Hazel and myself.
This may seem silly and often, the discussions are silly, but taking to heart what I have learned from liberative feminists, post colonial scholars, and semiotics, I also critically observe how and what I say. One day, trying to make it fun to point out different plants and bushes, I pretended to be an announcer for kind of a nature show. Somewhere in-between introducing the “the deadly oleander,” and “a lovely variety of cacti,” it occurred to me that I was actually engaging in a kind of trope for a travel narrative. It wasn’t that I was saying anything particularly oppressive or colonial; rather, I realized my tone, my ‘how,’ came from the stories of my own youth—it was a kind of cross between stories related to “Dr. Livingston, I presume,” and Crocodile Dundee. Continue reading “Parenting with the ‘Same Words’ by Sara Frykenberg”