Apparently because I write and talk about feminist motherhood, I get asked about Alice & Rebecca Walker. A lot. So when the latest piece about their falling out went public, I was asked my opinion again.
First, I'm not entirely sure if Rebecca brought up her mother in a recent interview or it was asked. I think it's important to know if she keeps bringing this up or if people keep bringing it up. Are we all hoping that we'll open up a magazine or our internet browser to see a a story about how the two of them will be reuniting on Oprah? Honestly, I do.
I want to see these two amazing women kiss & make-up. And as much as I hate Dr. Phil, I couldn't care less if he makes it happen either. Challenge to you, Dr. Phil! Why? Because this mother-daughter fight has been awful to watch. It's been awful to watch as a feminist, as a feminist mother, as a daughter and as a human being. It's just plain awful.
And I can't begin to imagine what each of them are actually going through.
I've reviewed two of Rebecca's books. I've read zero of Alice's. Yes, a total demerit on my feminist card. I've even weighed in on this fiasco before. I still concede that being a feminist and a mother in the 1970s was a far different experience than it is today. It does not excuse the way that motherhood was thought of, written about and spoken of back then. Yes, having a child takes away the freedom one had just a year before. But hey, for the most part, we chose to live our life with a child. I ran into that reality while I was pregnant and the Iraq War was ready to be launched. How does one balance protesting an unjust war in an attempt to save the lives of countless women, men and children with the well-being of the life inside your belly? Even the cover of Feminist Mothering tries to ask that question.
Thus in the end, I see the Alice & Rebecca Walker soap opera (and it is people, we're watching every step!) as an exercise in "What is feminist mothering?" And ironically, Annie at PhD in Parenting was also pondering this question.
So what do I really think about the Alice & Rebecca falling out? Let me start by saying that I believe Rebecca Walker...to an extent. I'm sure there are some exaggerations or mis-remembering going on. But the heart of the issue is there.
Do I blame Alice? Yes. I think that if she really did just take off without saying good-bye to Rebecca so often, that's sad. I enjoy my time away from home as much as any momma does, if not more to be honest, but I cherish my goodbyes, even if the kid has started to be super clingy at them.
But there is something about the way Alice raised Rebecca that also rings true to feminist mothering and that is what Andrea O'Reilly says is empowered mothering - putting yourself first. And obviously there is balance to be found there. Putting yourself first isn't empowering when it is harming the child. And clearly Rebecca was harmed.
Yet at the same time, I do wish that Rebecca would simply say "No comment. You can read my books," when asked about her mother. There is almost nothing new in the pieces I've read this past week about their relationship. Nothing that would make me feel worse or better for either of them. I know she's hurting and if I could, I would give her a big ass hug.
As for me and my daughter...Being a feminist mom means raising the kid in an empowering way. I try to give her power or not to douse the power already in her. I don't belittle her observations about the world, especially since she's making sure awesome ones. She's pretty fearless and I push her to maintain it. I do worry that the same power she gets from jumping from 5 steps up onto concrete will be the same place that empowers her to make some dumb choices as a teen, but I'm more hopeful that if I empower her to trust her judgment that she'll be the one that says, "Dudes....No."
Being a feminist mom isn't just about banning Barbies and all things pink. It's about raising a strong, intelligent and caring child who says fuck you to gender roles. Of course she still loves wearing pink, but it's not the only color in her closet. Of course she still loves watching Disney movies, but she also likes watching sports.
Being a feminist mom means that I must continue to live my life to show her that being a mom isn't the only role women were born to do. She knows that I love her without limits, but she also knows that mommy travels for work.
Being a feminist mom means finding that weird middle ground between having my daughter be the center of my life, but not my entire life.
Being a feminist mom means raising her to not think she has to take care of me when I'm old. And then for me to act on that when the time comes. To prepare her for going out into the world and kicking her out the door to actually do it.
Being a feminist mom also means doing all of this and preparing for the day when she tells me that she hated it all. When she tells me that she wishes I had just stayed home and made cookies. Then telling her, sorry baby, but that wasn't and isn't who I am. And hoping that she'll still love me more than I love her...as she likes to remind me.