Op-ed, Martha Joy Rose May 13, 2019
Despite headlines and discourse, the most unchanging thing about motherhood is how much it doesn’t change. While parenting narratives in the public arena are more visible than ever, while books on mothers and mothering are written and published at a dizzying pace (see Demeter Press among others), and while activists and bloggers do their best to articulate the realities and difficulties of mothering, the truth will make you mad. Policies ranging from healthcare to human rights in the United States have not changed much at all in the last 50 years, and if anything, they appear to be moving backward at times.
This year’s Mothers’ Day came and went with the usual fanfare of compliments, cards, and lovely acknowledgments. But, the truth of being a woman, or a woman of color in America, can be very scary. Aside from the well-known, repetitive conversation around everything from our as-of-yet still unratified ERA to maternal morbidity rates, we observed a rollback of certain state’s abortion rights, and the constant pressure mothers and caregivers experience as they try to balance unrealistic expectations with work pressures. All of this occurs in the midst of corporate greed and governmental callousness which is reflected in our lack of family-friendly policies.
‘All The Rage’ Isn’t About Moms Having It All — It’s About Moms Doing It All’
NPR: Weekend Edition, May 12, 2019
On why domestic demands on mothers actually increased in the mid-’90s
The expectations for motherhood suddenly … went through the roof. … One of the reasons that academics will cite for why this happened at the same time that [mothers’] labor force participation peaked was because there was a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen to the kids. All these moms are now in the workforce in greater numbers than ever: What’s going to happen to the children? So the standards for mothering kind of ratcheted up. [Link to ARTICLE].
Feminism & Motherhood
As a woman, I am angry. But as a mother, I’m seething. There’s a robust conversation right now about the historical and present power of female rage as a tool for social change. A number of books, articles, and social media hashtags are pointing out that women are fed up. Instead of being silenced by patriarchal ideas of women’s emotions as “hysteria,” women are embracing their anger as a social and political force to be reckoned with. That is great news for women. But what about mothers as a key subset of women? ~Kimberly Seals Allers for The Washington Post 2019: [LINK to article]
There is a lot to be angry about. Women of color in the USA, who are pregnant, have the most to be worried about. Their prenatal care, birth care, and post-birth care are all persistently worse than their white counterparts. This problematic scenario can be linked to many ongoing issues related to systemic racism, socio-economic status, and the apparent lack of willingness for medical professionals to listen to the voices of these women. [Read more here in the news at this link].
This year’s Museum of Motherhood annual conference focused on “Rewriting Trauma and Birth.” We welcomed keynote speaker Khiara M. Bridges, who is the author of Reproducing Race. Her book smartly explores the social construction of race in medical settings and helps to examine the forces that coerce women into dangerous birth scenarios.
So, whether over-burdened by maternal workloads, subject to a medical crisis of deadly proportions or managing the anger associated with outdated policies that do not support women and families, something has got to shift.
Before we can identify solutions we must notice the problems and call them out. By naming and labeling the issues we have engaged in the first line of offense. Some people will voice objections. They will list the ways in which gender mirrors biology. They will do their best to keep enduring structures of power and privilege intact. However, we just keep raising our voices and turning up the volume.
Kimberly Seals Allers proposes several steps for improving the state of families in America. Some of those include obvious changes to healthcare. Others must focus on policy shifts that recognize unpaid maternal labor, as well as the development of affordable childcare options for working mothers.
So what has been going on for the last 15 years? Below is an article that was written by Jill Brooke for the Chicago Tribune during a burst of notoriety for the Mom Rockers who had set their minds on creating change within the home as well as the world at large. While the emphasis on using art and music for social change has amped up the volume on women’s issues, many of the problems these founding artists sought to address have remained stubbornly ingrained in our institutions, including the “institution of the family.” You can read more on this subject in the book, the Music of Motherhood (Demeter Press 2018).
Course development and educational programming that break the barrier on women’s (and gender) studies in the university and beyond are an important step in disrupting repetitive patterns that keep individuals trapped in hegemonic discourses and force the idealization of parenting roles. Here at MOM, we are striking back by pushing back. Giving a nod to the work of Guerrilla Girl Donna Kaz, we encourage those of you who are seeking some strategies for change to utilize her work to create activist platforms. LINK
” I have heard many people express their own powerlessness as they face threats to their rights and the rights of those they support on a daily basis. Perhaps you agree there is a need to understand how to organize and see results, on a local level. Maybe you search for activist knowledge and are hungry for something to guide you through the steps of creatively supporting a cause. PUSH/PUSHBACK will fill that need.”
The band Housewives On Prozac was championing pushback through music in the late nineties through 2008. Their song “Eat Your Damn Spaghetti” was a rallying cry for overwhelmed and frustrated mothers. You can watch the video below. Meanwhile, the MaMaPaLooZa Festival, which is ongoing in New York City and Sydney, Australia aims to create dynamic change through empowerment, education, and large-scale community events. Other super-important and amazing organizations (to name a very few), include MomsRising, SisterSong, and The Center for Reproductive Rights.
TRACKING THE COURSE OF MUTINY AGAINST THE TYRANNY OF PARENTAL EXPECTATIONS
December 21, 2004,|By Jill Brooke, Special to the Tribune
“I tried to be the perfect mom but then buckled. It’s time for a little liberation, and I want to give moms permission to nourish a piece of themselves and then go back to wiping the kids’ noses, cooking dinner and carpooling.”
And what better way to launch a rebellion than rock ‘n’ roll? Link to ARTICLE.
Finally, let us ask the question: Why does America have the least-friendly family policies? The U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) not to offer paid leave on a national basis.
“People think motherhood is inherently overwhelming because we’ve made that idea seem natural,” said Virginia Rutter, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and author of “Families as They Really Are.” “We normalize the hardships of motherhood. … This is now what’s familiar.”
We must continue to work together for the kinds of change that will benefit all American families and not just a few. The best way to do this is to advocate for intersectional, interdisciplinary education and activism that affects attitudes, policy, and the private/public sector in ways that support women and men and make the world an easier place for caregivers to navigate.
*Mamava is a company that hopes to normalize breastfeeding and support nursing mothers. One of their lactation spaces in JFK airport is the featured photo on this post. #Mamava #Mothers #MOM #JoinMama