So, I arrived home safe and relatively sound, though I’m still dying from this cold1 and I left my notebook at the conference2, but Thoughts have been swimming in my head. Well, I say Thoughts, but I mean Questions, or Observations that I’m not sure what to do with yet, and, me being me and this being a blog, I thought I’d share them with you3:
How can we have a (singular) “motherhood movement” when what we want, as mothers, is not all the same? Cindy Sheehan evokes her motherhood in her pacifism; Sarah Palin does the same in support of her pro-war, pro-gun stance. My motherhood most definitely informs my support of gender-neutrality or gender-prescriptivism-abolition. Andrea O’Reilly argues that there is a motherhood movement, with a “diffuse style of organizing… reflective of the eclectic and democratic nature of maternal activism.”4 But where, if anywhere, is the line between democratic and discordant, between non-hierarchical and non-cohesive? Further, is it possible to create a cohesive “us” (to say “yes, we are part of the same [motherhood] movement”), without necessitating an opposition to a “them” (“you are not a part of this movement”)? Does it even matter whether we acknowledge or create this cohesion currently, or do we get on with our lives and our work and let history sort it afterward?
Speaking of our work, where is the balance between big picture thinking — knowing where we want to go, and specifying what is wrong with where we are — and single-step action? Does working to address one small injustice “bog us down in the details”, or is it the only way the whole is ever changed — or do a bit of both? And how do we — do I — pick which one (or few) small step(s) to work on? When we — I — care about so many parts of social justice (breastfeeding support and rights, birth choices, abortion access, disability rights, queer rights, just to name a few), how do we say “this is where I shall dig in my teaspoon”5, leaving the rest to “someone else”?
I adored being at a conference where for three days the topics, and the majority of attendants, were mothers. And yet… We cannot — will not — achieve gender equality until men, as a class6, are spending as much time on their fatherhood and their fathering, are as worried about work-family balance, are as invested in the domestic sphere as women, as a class, are. But, the “fatherhood movement” equivalent has so far shown to be patriarchal and misogynist, focusing on holding on to their society-granted status as “head of the household”, not moving toward doing the housework. So what would a non-patriarchal parenting movement look like? Can we only get there via a motherhood movement, just as we required feminism to gain what small equalities we’ve achieved outside the domestic sphere? How do we simultaneously keep in mind and move toward the equality we desire while acknowledging the all too real power differentials that currently exist — whether the topic is parenting, or race, or gender, or sexuality, or insert privilege/marginalization axis here?
And finally7, and far more personally, when am I going to get to do The College Thing? Will I be able to do it this time? Is this a socialized desire based on a hierarchy that places Official Academics above non-institutional thinking and lived experience, a needy feeling born, or borne, of my feelings of insecurity at academic conferences and around those with Important Letters after their names, or a real longing reflecting my joy in intellectualism and all the better parts of academia? And how long will it take after the new baby comes for my brain to de-mush itself enough to me to attempt, again, The College Thing, and figure all this out?
If motherhood and activism and women-with-children “speak[ing] out on why we need to change the world and how to do it” is your thing, check out MIRCI. Get your hands and eyes on a (heavy! huge!) copy of The 21st Century Motherhood Movement. And if you are able, get thee to a MIRCI conference. Sure, it’s smaller than BlogHer, and you won’t be bringing home a Potato Head or a KitchenAid unless you pay full price for it, but oh will your brain thank you.
At least, if it’s anything like mine.
- Not really — I think — but very much Not Enjoying it, especially the coughing-until-I-piss-myself-or-vomit aspects, and no one in Toronto actually ever heard what I sound like, but, y’know, I’ll heal… ↩
- Thank the God/dess for meeting someone Very Nice there who lives not two miles from me, found it, and brought it back to Portland for me. But we haven’t managed to meet up here in Oregon yet, so I still don’t have it. ↩
- In no particular order except which ones came into my cough-addled brain first. ↩
- The 21st Century Motherhood Movement, page 3. ↩
- I don’t know if Liss coined it or merely popularized it, but I learned of this metaphor — not the same as the spoon theory — at Shakesville. ↩
- And not merely a few individual men, whatever one pseudoenlightened egotistical mansplainer on Twitter says. ↩
- For tonight, at least. ↩