Meet My Mom And Three Dads - Dutch Bill Would Allow More Than Two Parents

Need a bigger family album?
Need a bigger family album?
Benjamin Dürr

AMSTERDAM - We all know that families today are no longer only made up of Mom and Dad and the kids. This has led the Netherlands to work on legislation that would make it possible to have more than two people as parents. Take Susanne Supheert, 25 – she has four parents.

It was more than 11 years ago on a Tuesday in December that they dropped the bomb. Susanne was 13. She came home from school to find her Dad sitting in front of his computer, her Mom leaning against the sideboard. Her parents had been married 22 years. And now her father was announcing that he was gay.

The family changed after his announcement. Her parents got divorced; Susanne’s father moved out and remarried – this time, to a man. Her mother remarried too – also to a man. So now, 12 years later, Susanne has four parents.

Families are changing as fast as society is. Parents find new partners; children are adopted by gay or lesbian couples. The father-and-mother model has in many cases become obsolete. Discussions have been underway since last October in the Netherlands to make it legally possible for more than two people to be recognized as parents. But it’s not only a legal issue – what’s at stake is the definition of parenthood, and what and who parents are.

The fact that this issue is up for debate in the Netherlands is down to one woman – Liesbeth van Tongeren, a Green Member of Parliament from The Hague. “Until know, we’ve been acting as if patchwork families didn’t exist,” says van Tongeren. Politicians and lawmakers base themselves on a family model that has long been replaced by other models. So van Tongeren called for the Ministry of Justice to look into the legalities of having more than two parents. Children in the Netherlands, as in Germany, have only two parents because parenthood is based on the notion of blood relationship. “The mother of a child is the one who gave birth to it,” says Paragraph 1591 of the German Civil Code.

That a child could grow up with two mothers is not an eventuality dealt with in either German or Dutch law. And van Tongeren wants that to change; to her, it’s a question of equal rights for hetero and homosexual couples. Even more, it’s about simplifying family life. “For lesbian parents, for example, the problems already start with small daily things such as the fact that only one mother can sign a permission slip for their child to go on a school excursion.” From there the problems go on to include taxes, insurance, and inheritance.

Not just about gay parents

However, it is not only homosexual parents who are affected by the outdated family models. The issue is also of concern in families where there is a stepparent – stepparents have fewer rights. The Dutch call patchwork families Roze Gezinnen (pink families), and by van Tongeren’s estimation some 25,000 children grow up in one. “Laws have to be adjusted to match social changes and reality, not the other way around,” she says.

It is still unclear when the draft legislation will be completed. The conversation has just started and could last moths, even years, van Tongeren says: “The issue is as sensitive as gay marriage.” It’s taken a while to even get things to this point but van Tongeren sees no reason why the debate launched in her country can’t be taken up internationally. She says she’s been surprised by positive reactions to her initiative. Once, she tweeted, when she walked into a restaurant other diners broke out in spontaneous applause.

There have of course also been critics, who mostly use the argument that it is best for children to grow up with the traditional father and mother – a concept van Tongeren equates to “prejudice.” At the end of the day, it is not a person’s gender that makes them a good parent, and three parents or more can love children as much as two can. Another argument van Tongeren says she often hears is that it’s difficult enough for two parents to agree on a way forward when there are problems and that with three or more involved it would be impossible.

Susanne Supheert knows something about the negative aspects of having more than two parents. In her case, it was strongly tied at first to her father’s homosexuality. “I was going through puberty, and I really didn’t need something like that!" But she believes it should be possible to have more than two legal parents. "No child will be the worse for it" – even if it can sometimes be difficult “because somebody is always missing. However it can also strengthen your development; you learn a lot.” Tolerance, for example.

Today Susanne works for the municipal government in The Hague. All four parents live nearby and she sees them regularly. She wouldn’t want to be separated from any of them, she says: “We’re a family."

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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