I've come across some quotes recently, from maternal feminist writers I've read over the years, that sum up how I got onto this track, and turned me on to the mothers movement. Most of these are from the books I've listed in an earlier post.
The Australian blogger known as blue milk has compiled eleven quotes from feminist maternal thinkers. I'll include a sample here, but it is really worthwhile to read her eleven.
3. They may have been living comfortably with their spouses for a decade, but when they become mothers, the gender inequality becomes more noticeable to them. These women are really trying to question how we do motherhood.
(To fathers who challenge this point, O’Reilly would offer a pop quiz: What is your child’s shoe size? When was their last immunization? What food won’t they eat? When is their next dentist appointment? What is their issue right now?) Real equality means men are doing that thinking, too. – Andrea O’Reilly
4. We’ve internalized the notion of rugged individualism so deeply that we believe we are solely responsible for our children’s health and well-being. And we believe that this belief, instead of being a sign of hubris or of despair, is an entirely normal and natural thing. This leads us to place terrible pressure upon ourselves – and gets our society almost entirely off the hook as far as responsibility for children and families goes.
Our “post-feminist” generation grew up believing we could do and be anything – and as young women it’s fair to say that we pretty much could. But all this ran aground once we had children. For many women it became very difficult to reconcile not just “work” and “family,” but our pre-motherhood and post-motherhood selves. The equal partnership marriages so many of us believed we’d entered into (so naturally that we didn’t even articulate it to ourselves at the time) changed once we became parents. Many women found themselves sweeping up Cheerios, picking up boxer shorts, and contemplating their husbands at the breakfast table through the protective screen of “his” newspaper. Many began to nurse a simmering rage. – Judith Warner
6. There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. . . . Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other.’ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. . . . Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me -– whatever that was -– but somebody actually needed me to be that. . . . If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like. The person that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want. - Toni Morrison.
10. The ante on motherhood has been upped. June Cleaver had it easier: she could just send the kids outside to play. Nowadays, mom is not only supposed to raise children but raise them to an impossibly high standard. For example, when Dr. Stanley Greenspan introduced the concept of floor time for children on the autism spectrum, it was a specific treatment for children with specific needs. Now, mothers with healthy babies are supposed to commit to floor time and to feel badly if at the end of the day they haven’t done enough floor time with their babies. Oh, and vacuum the floor, too. Seriously, it’s extraordinary when you think of it how much energy goes into one child, extraordinary how much worry goes into one child. Educated, caring parents see a study — say, the one about not exposing preschoolers to television — then feel devastated about showing their newborns Baby Einstein videos. Somehow, in all of this we’ve put aside common sense. We rely too heavily on experts. We need to take the veneer off of motherhood. Here’s another thing I find fascinating about this time in our culture: we love for science to prove parenting theories right. Dr. Sears appeals to the science adoring, proof-hungry parent, but at the same time, he justifies his prescriptions by citing practices of primitive cultures. So, science and women in Africa prove you should wear your baby in a sling all day long. Does anyone talk about why women in Africa wear their babies? Because they are working all day long and they have no other place to put the babies. If they were given a choice, would they perhaps put the babies down more often? What the experts tap into is women’s profound ambivalence about how much this experience of motherhood should dictate their lives and their identities. – Meredith Michaels
These were sent to me by my friend Joan:
From the Swedish Ministry of Labor: “To make it possible for both men and women to combine parenthood and gainful employment, a new view of the male role and a radical change in the organization of working life are required.”
Nancy Fraser continued “The trick is to imagine a social world in which citizens’ lives integrate wage earning, care giving, community activism, political participation, and involvement in the associational life of civil society – while also leaving time for some fun. This world is not likely to come into being in the immediate future, but it is the only imaginable postindustrial world that promises true gender equity. And unless we are guided by this vision now, we will never get any closer to achieving it.”
Nancy Fraser, 1997, Justice Interruptus, p. 62.
So many fantastic and brave women working on this - I just want to tell everyone what is going on!