Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother’s Day: What are we really celebrating?

I have a new post up at Global Comment

Today is Mother’s Day and restaurants and florist shops are on overdrive, trying to keep up with the consumer-driven holiday we have created to celebrate motherhood.   In advertising, I have seen everything from sofas and loveseats to big screen televisions (supposedly on sale) all meant to honour women who have raised or are currently raising children.  Looking at the ads, it would be easy to believe that this is a universal concern because so much has been dedicated to this supposed holiday; however, it is far from the truth.

Jillian Michaels recently caused a stir when she announced that she did not want to have children for fear of losing her figure.   Michaels has struggled with weight problems in the past and the fear of becoming fat again was too much for her to overcome.   There are plenty of women who do not want to become mothers for various reason, but Jillian’s comments represent a particular frame of thought that has come to be associated with motherhood.

Photographers aggressively seek pictures of women with a baby bump and even when a woman is not pregnant, the slightest weight gain is enough to set people speculating as to whether or not she is with child. Once again, this might seem like an obvious love of motherhood, however, nothing could be further from the truth.  These investigations are simply just more discipline of female bodies.  If it is revealed that a woman is not pregnant, the fat shaming begins immediately and if she is pregnant, the policing of her personal activities ensues.  Suddenly, every action and every single morsel of food that she consumes becomes the business of the public – all wrapped in so-called concern for the unborn child.

Even the women’s rights movement — which has every incentive to invest in motherhood — is loath to talk about it in real and meaningful ways.   You see, motherhood reminds these so-called activists of the problem that has no name.  Visions of Betty Friedan emerge because motherhood, for liberal White feminists, often represents a trap, even though they claim to “want it all.”  Fighting for the right to have an abortion has become the litmus test for feminists today, even though it is often buried in the language of choice.

Yes, women can choose to have an abortion — but they can also choose to mother.  Though Mother’s Day is mean to be a celebration of motherhood, The Center for Reproductive Rights once again obscured the lived experience of so many women to focus again on the right to have an abortion. What is interesting about their so-called Mother’s Day video is that it stars all Black women, yet Black women have historically had to fight to have their motherhood legitimized. Black women are still understood to be welfare queens, living off of the government teat, who breed irresponsibly, and therefore the suggestion that motherhood should be celebrated by Black women by glorifying the right to choose is problematic, to say the least.  A choice should mean showing both sides of the issue and yet, when it comes to women of colour, there is a continual fixation on abortion as though we do not actively choose to mother from a place of informed agency and a desire to love our children.

Finish reading here