Yesterday, I read this article, "Raising the Baby Question," at The Nation. I was steamed in a way I haven't been in a long time. Here comes this young (24 year old) reporter who writes an article with outrageous claims. Nona Willis Aronowitz, the writer, posits this theory: feminist writers ignore mother and family issues, and mother and family writers ignore feminist issues.
She cites a few blogs, books, and Web sites, which she claims proves her point.
Even though they don't, really, and she ignores a huge, active population of women who are feminist and family writers who are actively not just writing about but are also doing something about feminism, politics, and family issues.
Case in point: the MOMocrats.
We are merely one among many, including: WomenCount, BlogHer, MomsRising, PunditMom, Political Voices of Women, The Girl Revolution, the late great Moms Speak Up, and more, including the many individuals who contribute their voices at group sites and personal sites. Just check out the Just Posts, for example, to see a lengthy list of women writers---some mothers, some not---who are delving into issues related to feminism, politics, social justice, life as a woman, life as a mother, and more. I became involved with the MOMocrats, in fact, because I was blogging so often about these topics at my personal blog, and had, through that, connected with both the Just Posts and Political Voices of Women.
Nevertheless, Willis Aronowitz claims that, "There's a palpable disconnect between these two worlds [mother and feminist], and it's starting to worry me."
Actually, that's dead wrong.
I don't think Willis Aronowitz means to be totally incorrect in an article on a national site.
I think she just missed a lot of relevant information.
Her side point, the one she ought to have pursued, is dead on, though, "Most feminist mom organizations and websites like Sistas on the Rise or Hip Mama are local and grassroots, often excluded from discussions of feminism in the national media."
However, national media---collapsing under its own auspice currently---isn't the end all be all, and grassroots organizations have a wonderful outreach.
Can it be bigger? Should it be bigger? Yes.
That doesn't affect, however, how empowering and effecting it feels when a fellow mother at my daughter's school catches me one morning to say, "My friends and I, we hate the news, but oh we love MOMocrats, read it every day!"
At MOMocrats, we cover news, national news, local news, policy news, economic news, all sorts of news, including news of interest to women, such as female candidates, family leave, health care, the environment, and more.
But those aren't women's issues. Those are all of us issues, my friends, it's just that women happen to care more about them and tend to get involved to do something to improve those situations.
More than just writing and talking about feminism, though, MOMocrats (and others) are acting within the mother, political activist sphere. We may not have been offered a national stage, so we built our own. That's what women do. Now we are out there, doing.
Women who are mothers are not, as Willis Aronowitz erroneously implies, too busy to be activists. She disproves her own implication, in fact, when she concedes that mom blogging is a revolutionary act, as is political mom blogging and feminist mom blogging. It's true that financially struggling mothers, single mothers, and so forth may have to sacrifice some forms of activism, but what Willis Aronowitz doesn't seem to grasp is that motherhood is, in and of itself, activism and revolutionary.
Those single mothers may not have the time or venue to grab a national stage and talk all about feminism, but when they raise their children according to their personal values, they produce a new generation that will be more voices talking about family issues such as health care, maternity leave, and support for parents. When my friend, a single parent who is financially struggling, explains the challenges she faces getting health care for her children, she is being an activist, even though it's me who calls our state senator and demands action.
In fact, all mothers are, in some way, activists.Their contribution just might be invisible or overlooked---this happens way too often, as Willis Aronowitz's article proves.
As an activist who is politically involved, I have also found that society is not quite as kid unfriendly as parents might fear. Our co-founder and editor, Glennia Campbell recently said, "My kid got dragged around to so many political events last year he thinks Al Franken is a relative of ours and that we have Obama on speed-dial."
That's funny. It's also funny that in a school report about "what mom and dad do" my seven year old wrote, "Dads go to work and moms go to political meetings."
It's funny, but important to consider, too, that my children have been to Town Halls and sat through meetings with Congressmen, have attended political debates, accompanied me to vote, started the first day of school with Dad instead of me because I was in Denver at the national convention, been to local political groups, kissed me good night before I left to attend a 10 p.m. meeting at a bar, and more.
That's activism. That's a palpable connection between mothering and feminism.
It's also a palpable connection between mothering, fathering and feminism.
Willis Aronowitz makes a good point when she said, ". . .dads need to be part of the conversation. Whether or not fathers live with their families, they are routinely excluded from parenting and discussions surrounding it. Nearly every woman I interviewed for this piece seems convinced that once we garner a critical mass of men, parenting issues will be taken more seriously. The more allies mothers have, the more mainstream these issues will become."
Absolutely, but we need to not discount that many men are involved, and they are frequently included in parenting and discussions surrounding it. Can there be more? Should there be more? Absolutely.
But in my family, my efforts are possible because of my husband, and his part and support. I've interviewed countless candidates---men too---who are very devoted to issues affecting the status of families in the United States.
We don't always agree, though, about what should be done. My elected members of Congress, for example, don't think parents deserve leave, family leave protections, or health care reform. Well, I have to exclude Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from that last one, because she is a heavy advocate for health care reform.
However, let's not confuse disagreement and "outside my sphere" for "not happening." That's the biggest issue I have with Willis Aronowitz's article: it seems that she thinks because she's not in it, it's not happening, and because it's not everywhere, it's not effective, and because moms are busy and not involved in large numbers in the same model of activism that she is, they are not doing anything.
Still, Aronowitz gets a lot right: the national media and culture at large does need to pay more attention and give more respect to women and mothers and all that they do. We do need to provide a better framework that is more supportive of parents.
Willis Aronowitz has a clue.
But like I told my little girl while we read the Nancy Drew mysteries together recently, "A clue is one piece of the puzzle. You have to seek out more clues of what is, rather than what you assume. Then you can see the whole picture."
Talk outside your own sphere.
Then we can talk about what is, rather than what someone erroneously thinks isn't.
Mothers are activists. Parenting is part of the feminist discussion. Feminism is a huge part of the parenting discussion.
The real question is why young feminists who aren't yet mothers aren't turning to and listening to the older women, many of whom are mothers. Is it a misapplication of severing the apron strings? Or is it the arrogance that moms aren't anything beyond a vessel to raise children, the arrogant assumption the young and childless so frequently make? The assumption, also very arrogant and ignorant, that mom becomes the woman's identity, and that mothering isn't anything beyond serving? Is it that childish inability to comprehend a parent as anything beyond a parent? Is it the typical lack of understanding we all have before becoming parents about how very revolutionary parenting is?
In addition to that question---which will probably never change because you need to get older to realize how very much you do not know, and you need to become a parent to truly understand all that it involves---the real issue we need to discuss is along the lines of something Ann Friedman questioned today, "Is the niche-ification of the Internet amplifying or ghettoizing women's voices?"
I think what we really need to discuss---what Willis Aronowitz is actually picking up on, and is a very valid worry---is whether the niche-ification of women, mothers, women's issues, parenting issues and feminism is amplifying or ghettoizing women's voices.
Like I said earlier, women weren't offered a stage, so we built our own. Has this given us a better venue? Or has it marginalized us more?
h/t to Cyn3matic for the pointer to the Ann Friedman article.