Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

14 May 2009

About that Nation article on moms, feminism & blogging....

Nona & I talked over the phone for a good 45 minutes about this article. I knew immediately that she got the issue as I was communicating it. Her prompt was simple - why aren't young feminists connected to mother issues and vice versa?

As someone who has been a feminist activist in some form or another since high school, was a member of NOW and vice-president of a local chapter when I had my daughter, she knew I had keen insight. I was 28, so I was still considered a young feminist. My first National NOW board meeting had me towing my newborn along with me. I breastfed the kid as I sat next to Ellie Smeal.

But I've also been in conversations with fellow feminists before & after I became a mom about the flip side of hospital mergers: birthing choice and reproductive technology. But those issues fell flat. When I tried to explain that CHOICE is more than choosing NOT to be a mom, but to choose to BE a mom, it didn't register as well as I wanted. Ditto for adoption. And this is why I told Nona that I think the pressure to BE a mom is so great on some young women that they don't want to work on mothering issues.

As I have said at Fem2.0 and WAM! I still believe that the popular/mainstream/big mommy blogging sites are apolitical. My sisters over at MOMocrats are taking offense to the article. I can see why. But I want to say that I think that Nona was speaking to the mom blogs we see in the corporate media. The Oprah Show moms & the like. I haven't read through all of them. I had my fill of them on Oprah.

But even if all of them were political uberfeminists, corporate media isn't showcasing them as such. Forbes.com showcased mom blogs for Mother's Day and not one blog they chose was described as a political blog.

Nielsen listed the top 50 power mom blogs [pdf link!] and categorized them and guess which category was missing? Political/activist. Their piece on connection with power moms does actually use the word "political" in a graphic of what moms are talking about. And feminism was either not heard or was looked for in the mom blogosphere conversation.

Are there political/feminist moms blogging? Hell yes! Is corporate media paying attention? Nope.

We're still riding the fumes of Mother's Day coupled with the concern over swine flu, so mothering issues like paid sick days were hot in the past few weeks. But without a public health crisis, paid sick days wouldn't have made more than a blip in media. In a few weeks mothering issues will be forgotten.

Does that mean I think that orgs like Moms Rising aren't doing a good job? Oh hell no.

Do I think that orgs like NOW aren't doing a good job with mothering issues? Considering that I'm the co-chair of the Mothers & Caregivers Economic Rights committee, oh hell no! What I do think is that given sending a TV crew to film a NOW rally on abortion versus a NOW discussion on post-partum depression, corporate media will always go with abortion. I've been in both situations.

And the media is what is pushing what issues are deemed "feminist" issues. Young women get their info from blogs and TV. What is discussed more often than not? Abortion, birth control and maybe lesbian rights. Those are hot button issues. They get play. BTW, I truly believe that if the media actually highlighted feminists working FOR mothers, that we'll win it all.

I've read the web letters and I take part of the "blame" for exclusions in Nona's piece. But as I said at the beginning, I focused on young feminism and what I felt were "typical" mommy blogs. We did talk about my work with NOW and my own blogging. I can't recall if we touched on all the concerns people have brought up, but we covered a lot. I did enjoy remembering the early days of Feministe, pre-and-early-Jill, when it was run by a single mom who entered motherhood as a teenager. Lauren rocked my socks off with her feminist take on single teenage motherhood.

That said, I still stand by the premise that there is a disconnect between the more popular feminist blogs and the more popular mom blogs. Every now and then there is a connection. And those blogs like PunditMom, who is a dear friend, are not getting the play they deserve. If anyone deserved to be listed in a Top 50 feminist or mom blog list, she does. And that is just my point.

If the connections are to be made, we need to reach out both ways. Young feminist blogs need to link to mom blogs more often and vice versa. As Nona writes over at Feministing's community site:

I know that young women and feminists care about these issues. My article (and Feministing) proves that. I also know that there are feminist/political moms out there. Still, parenting organizations who are under the media’s feminist radar but instituting real change need to align themselves with younger feminist blogs and organizations that get more face time. And vice versa. They should be linking each other, Twittering each other, and inviting each other to conferences. There needs to be groups like the MOMocrats that includes and speaks to non-moms, too. Young women need to not only comment on, but be engaged with these issues—and connect them to issues of abortion and birth control. It’s always hard to take action on issues that don’t directly affect you, but childless young feminists need to secure their futures.

I hope that this controversy ignites the connections I've been hoping for since I started blogging. The Dawns and PunditMoms of the blogosphere need to be recognized alongside the Jessicas and Jills. None are more awesome than the other. Each have their audience. But together? OMFG, together we would totally have world domination...with PunditMom in charge, of course.

This post is cross-posted at WIMN's Voices and Fem2.0.

6 comments:

This is a great post. Hashes out a lot of issues I didn't get a chance to in my piece.

On another note, I'm genuinely curious as to whether there are any childless women involved in organizations like Momocrats or MomsRising. If not, can we be? This convo has only made me want to be involved more, but I'm not sure even how to proceed if these orgs are so clearly "by moms for moms." I really want there to be a tangible space for parenting-activist allies, rather than just stirring up disagreements like this. Anybody know of one?

-Nona

Thanks Nona.

Katie Bethell from Moms Rising was at Fem2.0 and made me sit up straight when she said she wasn't a mom yet. So yes, at least for Moms Rising, they welcome all.

And of course, there's always the NOW committee I'm supposed to be chairing. I'm a slacker, I know!

This is a great response to a great article. Before I became a mother myself, I strongly resisted the maternal-is-political angle -- to me, it smacked of an essentialism that was old-fashioned and ultimately not very powerful. Now, I'm a little more sympathetic, but I do still think that we aren't going to get anywhere unless we can reframe "mother's" and "children's" issues as everyone's issues: all parents, yes, but also all people who have a stake in the future of our society. For instance, I love the work Moms Rising is doing but am still uncomfortable with the whole "mom" part.

That said, I'm guilty of the very same thing myself, having recently started up an initiative with a friend that targets moms (and dads) to help out less-fortunate moms (and families). It's a tricky business, I tell you, but this dialogue is absolutely refreshing -- and absolutely crucial.

-Rachel Fudge (helpamotherout.org)

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Great post.

Seems to me that parent, mom, dad, feminist, non-parent, etc. are not mutually exclusive. I understand that they are sometimes positioned that way by the media - but it simply shouldn't be. And we shouldn't be sucked into it.

It is easier for the media to emphasize divisiveness (or simplicity) than create a dialogue to hash out how we are going to address the core challenges facing people in this country and across the world.

In a 24 hour, sound-bite, talking head everything, where excitement is valued over substance/research and knowledge, there is little time to seriously resolve issues.

Think about it - pay parity, paid sick days (for sick children/parents/partners/etc.), affordable housing, childcare, living wage, accessible, affordable and HIGH quality health care, improved public education, access to funding for college, eliminating food deserts, etc...

These are not just feminist issues. These are not just mom or dad issues. These are not just non-mom issues.

These impact EVERYONE.

Personally, I think if the dialogue focused on issues and policy instead of labels of different groups of men and women, we would move much further along the spectrum much faster.

Love to all.

Great post Veronica!

I have joined some mom blog groups and overall, I have been disappointed. I for one would like to find more feminist mom bloggers.

To hell with Nielsen with Nielsen's 50, we should compile our own list of influential feminist mom bloggers, and promote it in our own circles.

This could serve to bridge the gap between young feminists and the momblogger groups. I think conscientious young feminists are interested in mother-related issues. They just can't find the feminist mom blogs. They just need a go-to list.

What do you say? Who are the 10 most influential feminist mom bloggers today?