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13 May 2008

When Feminism and Motherhood Collide

When I was about 4 months pregnant the Iraq War broke out. I was at the much heralded anti-war protest that ended up stopping traffic on Lake Shore Drive. My mother freaked out when she saw it on TV and called me later that night to yell at me. I was very happy to report that I left that rally for a board meeting before the real fun broke out. The next day a dear friend reamed me over email about realizing that I'm not just eating for two, but living for two.

I've taken my daughter to peace rallies and even one for equal marriage. She's been to a NOW board meeting - I nursed her during a meeting AND while I made a point. She's been to other meetings. She's canvassed with me during political campaigns and I expect her to do the same this fall for whomever is the Democratic candidate. My life has changed, but hasn't ended with the birth of my daughter. She knows that I travel for work and for my activism.

I often say that my biggest fear is that she'll rebel and become a born-again Christian and constantly call me to tell me I'm going to hell. But in reality my biggest fear is that she's going to hate me for all that I do.

That's why I asked Dr. Wicklund about her daughter in January. And why I teared up when she said her daughter was grown, almost as old as I am, and still in love with her mom.

That's why I hate reading about Alice and Rebecca Walker. I know, better than some, how parental relationships can erode and tear, but the extent that their relationship has become toxic makes my heart break each time I think of it. I read Rebecca's latest book last year and even got to chat with her about it. Reading about the ending of her relationship with her mom was utterly heart wrenching. Here I am, wishing that I could have just one more day with my mom and there is Alice refusing to even visit her sick newborn grandbaby.

Walker’s success as a campaigner was to her detriment as a mother. Like Dickens’s Mrs Jellyby, who neglects her home and her children as she directs her energy towards the poor of Africa, so America’s icon often went to feminist meetings and rallies and left Rebecca to fend for herself. Her daughter experimented with drugs and became pregnant at 14. [link]
If my daughter ends up pregnant at 14 will it be a symptom of my feminist activism? Will the fact that her daddy & I are still married be enough to buffer her?

Will she write a memoir akin to Rebecca or even Larkin from "Parable of the Talents," who believes her mother sacrificed her for the good of the movement?

Yes, I know that the chances of all of that happening are slim, but it's not zero. And it scares the bejezus out of me.

Technorati tags: feminism, motherhood, Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker


Anonymous said...

this is just me, but i'm not the least bit worried about you all. the fact that you ARE worried is a pretty strong indication that everything's going to be okay.

and she'll rebel. never in the way you expect. she'll push your buttons. and even when you're mad at her you'll be proud, because you raised her to believe in herself.

please don't ever stop doing what you do. she'd never want that. and bless her heart, i think that alice had other issues going on, some we will never know about, and that's coming from a HUGE fan.

the worst thing you could ever do for your daughter is to model to her self-censorship. i'm not really worried you're ever going to do that though. :)


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