A Motherhood Movement for the 21st Century
| October 14, 2008
“You say you want a revolution?” is the theme of an international gathering in Toronto this month, where a grassrootsmovement to give voice and power to the mothers of the world is poised to come of age. The founder of the “rock ‘n roll” wing of the movement tells us what it’s all about.
For women who are mothers trying to get on with the business of their our lives, the current political debate over whether soccer moms really are pit bulls with lipstick misses the point. Stereotypes continue to limit women through labels. Identities like working moms, alpha moms, hot moms, hip moms and rocker moms lack substance and integrity, and do not tell the story of American women.
The beginning of what has become a modern motherhood movement isn’t about celebrity baby bumps, or politics as usual. Such organizations as the Association Of Research and Mothering (ARM), Moms Rising, Mamapalooza and Mother~ The Job have raised the bar on what mothers do—how they’re perceived, appreciated, and compensated.
Feminism rocked the business world over the last 30 years but found it more difficult to reach deep enough into the fabric of family, where women today still struggle to articulate and reconcile the differences between traditional roles of wife and mother; and businesswoman, board president and candidate for president or vice president. Sarah Palin’s sound-bite descriptions of herself as a hockey mom do little to move the conversation forward.
Plenty of media sources continue to hold women who are mothers hostage through guilt trips, comparisons, and outdated expectations.
But the fastest growing segment of small businesses owners in America are women, many of whom have a much more realistic idea about women’s day-to-day lives. Some are mothers who have jumped on the marketing-to-mom bandwagon. While much of this may be more about sales than about changing the way we live, anything that amplifies the voices of women has to help in the long run.
ARM has conducted first-rate research and amassed thousands of academic articles since its inception in 1997. ARM founder and feminist studies professor Andrea O’Reilly has led the charge generating international gatherings, books, presentations and classes. On the weekend of October 25, leaders from more than 20 of the most important mom/feminist groups will gather in Toronto to lend power to what has already flourished as a grassroots movement.
Among the participants are:
- Moms Rising, which organized massive online registration in support of the Fair Pay Restoration Act and demonstrations that most recently delivered hand-decorated baby onesies to Capitol Hill as a way to emphasize needs for child health care, paid maternity leave and equal pay for women in the workplace who also happen to be mothers.
- Mother~ The Job, whose film “All Day” follows the hands of a mother as she goes about her maternal duties, pointing out the monetary value of that work offered free of charge.
- Mamapalooza, formed in 2002 with the notion that art and rock and roll is a great way to serve up a platter of revolution within the home. Refusing to settle into any one category, the women of Mamapalooza have been presenting large-scale community festivals, media and workshops as a way to empower and articulate the ever-changing voices of women who are mothers.
At the heart of this movement is the notion that women who are mothers are women first, that every woman has a life beyond her role as mother and that motherhood is a job that needs to be respected, monetized and personalized according to the needs and ideals of each individual and family. Others may play on women’s fears, but these are the voices that will continue to redefine the power of mothers.
The revolution is here and while it’s still too early to say exactly how the roles of mother will evolve, evolve they will. And we will be able to look back on this time: ARM and Mamapalooza’s next initiative is founding a Museum of Motherhood. Like all great revolutions, with time and ‘mom’mentum, this movement will leave a mark.