Saturday, February 25, 2017

Feminism, prejudice and fear: the views of Kasey Edwards

I hadn't heard of Kasey Edwards. Investigating (here, here), I find that she is a feminist writer and columnist who specialises in provocation. Well, her piece in the Canberra Times Why I won't let any male babysit my children certainly provoked me!
"When our first daughter was born my husband and I made a family rule: no man would ever babysit our children. No exceptions. This includes male relatives and friends and even extracurricular and holiday programs, such as basketball camp, where men can have unrestricted and unsupervised access to children. 
Eight years, and another daughter later, we have not wavered on this decision. 
Group slumber parties are also out. When there is a group of excited children it is far too easy for one of them to be lured away by a father or older brother without being noticed. 
When my daughter goes on play dates I make sure that she will be supervised by a woman at all times. So far she has only slept at one friend's house."
To support this position, she quotes various statistics on the sexual abuse of children.

From time to time I have written here about the issues and difficulties that can arise when the father takes on the primary child care role. This includes suspicions held by the mothers of school friends, suspicions that have increased with time because of growing fears about pedophilia. While I don't regret the experience, I have many happy memories, I would hesitate now to recommend the course to others without at least full recognition of the costs involved, together with a strategy for managing them.

In another piece, School holidays are here. Mothers, get to work, Ms Edwards complains bitterly about the failure of men to step up the child-care plate during holidays. Again a quote from the start of the piece to give you a feel:
The first year it happened, I was in shock. Now I’m just pissed off. 
Before my daughter started school, I had no idea that school-aged children had 12 weeks of school holidays every year. TWELVE, people! And some of the private schools have 17 weeks, which just goes to show that you can pay more and get less. 
It was just too crazy to even contemplate. Who’s supposed to look after all these children for almost one quarter of every year? 
Oh, that’s right. Mothers.
Or later:
Don’t get me wrong. I love my daughters and enjoy spending time with them. Although, I’d be lying if I suggested that the idea of entertaining a seven year old for 42 days in a row doesn’t make me feel a little overwhelmed. Gone are the days of kicking the kids out of the house after breakfast and not seeing them again until dinner time. And sitting them down in front of a TV or iPad for hours on end is just a recipe for mother guilt. 
But this isn’t an issue about quality time spent with children. It’s an issue about the inequity of who does the caring. It’s about the invisibility of said caring work and the impact that has on women’s careers, aspirations and wellbeing.
Ms Edwards also notes:
Part of the problem with our schooling system lies in outdated assumptions. From volunteering expectations, school meetings in the middle of the day and school holidays, women’s time is not regarded as valuable. Too often it’s simply assumed that we’re all just sitting around idly waiting for the school to give us something to do between other domestic and caring responsibilities. 
The burden of school holiday care falls almost entirely on the shoulders of mothers. The short-term consequences are stress, frustration and financial inequality. But the long-term consequences, over 13 years of a child’s school life, can be devastating to a woman’s financial security and wellbeing. This is an inequality rooted at the heart of family life and all the equal opportunity legislation in the world will not solve it.
School holidays can indeed be demanding and I've been through the full thirteen year cycle with two girls plus university. There is daycare or camps or sporting activities. There are kids coming round or going to friend's places. There are the visits to parks, sleep-overs. The pattern changes over time as the children grow older, moving into secondary school and university, progressively achieving autonomy. For many primary child carers, there is actually a feeling of loss at the end as the routines that have been such an important part of life disappear. At least, I found this.  

In all this, responsibilities do need to be shared as they were in my case within and indeed between families. Mind you, Ms Edward's kids would not have been able to participate fully in this process with my kids, given that the ground rules laid down effectively preclude fathers in the absence of a female. In this context, when I first read the Canberra Times piece and before I investigated, I thought that Ms Edwards must be a stay at home mum or at least working from home since that was the only way she could make the ground rules work.

I do agree with Ms Edwards about the out-dated assumptions built into the school system, although I came at this from a different perspective. Whereas Ms Edwards has, I think, an institutional focus, my problem lay in the way that so many of the arrangements, informal as well as formal, were geared to and dominated by mothers, creating difficulties for male participation.

Finally, in writing I have tried from time to time to separate and discuss the various issues involved in increased male roles in shared parenting into those common to both parents, those that are especially female, those that are especially male. Change requires each group to be addressed.

In this context and despite her feminist proclamations, Ms Edwards approach as outlined in the Canberra Times  simply reinforces one of the barriers to increased male participation. I was left feeling sorry for her daughters. Only one sleep-over in eight years for eldest? Without sensible relaxation of the rules, this can only get worse with time.    



Anonymous said...

Jim, I am glad you made comment on this article. I first read it yesterday in the SMH, then re-read it twice, then read it again from your CT link. I think the most 'interesting' para is as follows:

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies the prevalence of child sexual abuse is 1.4-8 per cent for penetrative abuse and 5.7-16 per cent for non-penetrative abuse for boys and 4-12 per cent for penetrative abuse and 13.9-36 per cent for non-penetrative abuse for girls.

So, being a fan of statistics as I am, and since the article was about the horrors of girlhood, I zero'd in on two particular figures for girls - the worst ones in fact:

"12 per cent for penetrative abuse" and "36 per cent for non-penetrative abuse"

You have to set aside your natural inclination to embarrassment, and the normal desire to check out the cricket scores, etc. - if you wish to 'engage' with the author of this article, so I checked out her source - "Australian Institute of Family Studies" -

and found the table of 5 articles cited - table 5 - and noted that the two stats I re-quote above are the two worst stats recorded in two separate studies:

Mazza, Dennerstein, Garamszegi, & Dudley (2001) reports the 36% figure. Go here for the precis/background of the 1996 survey of 362 women who completed the questionnaire, whilst in the midst of a wider study of the experience of menopause in middle-aged women:

Dunne, Purdie, Cook, Boyle, & Najman (2003) reports the 12% 'penetrative abuse' figure: - which was the result of a telephone survey, and includes this statement:

Among all females who had intercourse before age 16, older women were much more likely than younger women to say they were an unwilling partner on the first occasion

So, the author is basing her worst fears upon a) a 1996 study of 362 menopausal women remembering their teenage experiences, and b) a telephone survey of middle-aged women reporting their views of 'unwanted sex' at an early age.

Now, I dunno what all that means to us here in 2017, who simply wish to remain a valued part of the lives of our daughters, and granddaughters (in my case) - yet still morbidly cling to the identifier of "male".

But I do know that I for one pity the probable life experience of the author's daughters, and that of her husband, as now influenced by the particular twisted, ill-informed, view she espouses.


Anonymous said...

Too long as always - so just think about this:

One of those two studies was based upon 360-odd 50 year old women recalling their sexual experiences as 14 year olds. It was done in 1996, therefore she is basing her daughters' teenagehood upon data vaguely collected from the 1950's!


Anonymous said...

I made myself read that first piece about the "no male supervision" rule. Which is entirely ridiculous. I hadn't read the other bit whinging about out of school supervision being expected to be undertaken by the mother/significant female. I'm not quite sure who she expected to pitch in given her stance that men aren't fit to do it.

I do remember one mothers group friend saying she was disappointed as she had dropped her daughter to a friends place with the friend's mother in attendance. When she went to collect, the mum had gone out and the dad was in charge. She was aghast. She is an otherwise very sensible woman and I wasted no time in pointing out how silly I thought she was in respect to that situation.

Good on you kvd for hunting out the source of the stats. I thought they looked very inaccurate when I read the article.

Apart from worrying slightly about how her daughters will interact in the real world (if indeed these are her true views, rather than just attention-seeking), I wonder how she will cope if either of her daughters has a male teacher. My own daughter was very fortunate to have 3 male teachers in a row in primary school and has had a few in high school. The 3 primary school teachers were all very different and had their own strengths. The things thing that each had in common was an ability to connect with each child, be kind and be caring. That is something which does not depend on gender. She adored every one of them and learned a lot.


Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks for doing that search, kvd. My focus was on what she said, not the statistical base itself. That was a nicely put comment, GL.

There is a balance issue in all this. That's my core problem and always has been.

2 tanners said...

Nice response in today's CT.

2 tanners said...

Not sure what happened to the link but the address is:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I read that 'rebuttal' tanners - but I found it equally offensive in its gooey-eyed fluffy prose.

When somebody is given space in a widely read source of news and says "my decision is based on straightforward risk analysis: a cold, hard, unemotional reading of the statistical data" I think the very first thing one should do is review those statistical sources for their accuracy and relevance - and I find them lacking in both.

The disappointment for me is that, without such basic review, the position of the author is granted as base fact - with any dispute then on a hiding to nothing.


Anonymous said...

Here's a guy who offers a thoughtful word or two:

At the same time, a more nuanced public conversation about men and children would be welcome; one that expanded, even slightly, positive models of men in nurturing roles such as childcare and teaching — without the automatic presumption that they are predators.


Must admit I'm now more than a little confused - seeing as how the author of the above article is the spouse of said Ms Edwards :)


Jim Belshaw said...

Didn't find that Ben Pobjie piece quite as bad as you, kvd. It was a bit fluffy. Is Christopher Scanlon really Ms Edward's spouse? I'm not doubting, just surprised.

A lot of this falls in shifting fear/risk equations. Ms Edwards herself comments that children can no longer disappear in the morning and come back at nightfall. By implication, this increases the load on her, a load increased by her rules.

There are interesting issues here that we have talked about before in terms of the balance between protection and freedom, between autonomy and control. In a school setting, I have been struck by the rise in the over-protective parent and indeed school and broader social institution and laws. As parents, we tried to give our kids something of the freedoms we had, recognising that this was no longer possible. Laws and mores prevented this.

As an older parent, I am struck by the nostalgia that wraps older parents about their own childhood compared to what is possible today. This is not just Australia. Similar themes emerge in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and US among others. Part of the response is just nostalgia, but there is a common element relating to kids and freedom.

I feel that I was lucky to be a child when I was, recognising that risks were higher as a consequence. I could have died. Some did.

Thinking about our own kids, I think that the most important thing that we did was to make our home open house in the sense that kids could come around, that we did not over-supervise. Working from home as I did, it was easier. I had work to do, I din't mind noise, but I couldn't go out and run things.

It would be interesting to know what my daughters views are in all this. I haven't really discussed it with them. My perceptions may be wrong.

Anonymous said... 'about' page lists her husband and childrens' names. His web presence is

They both contribute to the 'Daily Life' segment appearing in Fairfax newspapers and online.

And that wiki reference you gave for her was initiated by herself. Never mind - some of the 'talk' commentary attached to the wiki article is pretty funny:

leaving aside the irony in the fact that this self-absorbed Aussie first came to wide attention by writing a book (I added some of the press, profiles that the book - Published by Random House - generated to the page) about how she quit the rat race because wanted to leave career ambition behind, then further furthered her ambitious career by wrote another another that also garnered attention [1], and now appears ot be so determined ot leave ambition behind that she has written her own Wikipedia page....


Jim Belshaw said...

Oh I laughed kvd.

I missed the the about page. I noted: "Kasey spent over a decade climbing the corporate ladder as a management consultant until she woke up one morning and realised she didn’t want to go to work. Ever again."

Hadn't checked the wikipedia history stuff. Her husband has played an active role. Couldn't spot that quote in talk.

Anonymous said...

The comment was from the 'deletion discussion' page for her wiki entry. And as for your own quote - her wiki entry actually says she was "made redundant" (twice) - not "woke up one morning" etc.


2 tanners said...

I'm sure that when she woke up after having been fired for the second time, she felt she didn't want to go to work.

Anonymous said...

Yeah tanners, but failing anything else coming to light, can I just add that I'm not particularly proud of my last few comments; they are essentially "shoot the messenger" stuff, when what I particularly object to is the quality of the actual information in the message itself.

The rest is a side-track as far as I'm concerned.