Monday, February 7, 2011

Motherhood is a Political Choice

On the post about Jessica Valenti that I wrote on Friday, Politicalguineapig had the following to say:
I'm guessing you didn't read mai'a's subsequent responses in the Feministe post. She did take that attitude in the comments. "mama' is still kinda cloying to me, just because it's another of those 'oh let's celebrate our biological functions.' Women have periods, women have kids- neither of them grant the possesor any sort of special insight, beyond personal knowledge of how society treats families/women, and the importance each society places on kids/fetii/eggs.

She also kind of irritated me because it was clear that she didn't identify as anything other than a mom who happened to be involved in politics.


And that blither about 'sending calming waves' just put me on notice that this was not a person I'd ever take seriously. And don't call race on me- I seriously thought she was white, cause she reminded me of a white mom in my neighborhood and a few friends of my mom. (My mom's into all sorts of weird mystical sh*t. Really ought to know better, considering her occupation, but.. whatev.)
I actually slammed closed my laptop so hard, my children asked, "what's the matter mom"?  Please explain to me what is wrong with celebrating our womanhood?  In fact, taking ownership over the myth that periods make us foul and unclean, is a radical act of love, in a world that shames the biological processes of women, while uplifting those of men.  Let me specify here, that I speaking specifically of cisgender men and women.  WOC have historically been constructed as 'unwomen' and by reveling in that which makes them female, it is absolutely an indication of self love.  This is important to me, because we are told not to love ourselves, not to celebrate our womanhood, and that our bodies are somehow deficient.

I am absolutely enraged that a White woman believes that she has the right to question how a WOC identifies.  Motherhood is a political identity, in a world that constructs us as irresponsible, rabid breeders.  When White women have children, they are good and pure, and yet the fruit of our wombs is seen as disposable, surplus population.  White women have used their status as mothers to fight for the rights of women and children for centuries, but somehow, when a  WOC does it, it is unimportant.  I believe that when a WOC takes on the label of political mother, it is a statement against both racism and patriarchy, thereby making it the ultimate act of both agency and resistance.  We have stood against guns, and angry mobs to protect our children, but this - this is not worthy of a being called political act? The blogger Little Light said it far better than I.
It is time for us to acknowledge that our love is an act of war.

It seems distasteful to say. It feels wrong. Our love, our lives, our nurtured gardens and families, we say, these are not weapons. These are not acts of violence. To us, they are not.

Nonetheless, there are those who insist breathlessly, endlessly, that they are...

The very act of not getting to define everything for the rest of us is the end, for them.

I write about my experiences as a mother from time to time on this blog, because to me, this identity is one of the most important that I carry.  When I teach my children to acknowledge sexism, or to question Whiteness, I am performing a political act.  This is a role that has brought me great joy and great pain.  When I held my child in my arms, as he cried because he had been called a nigger, the rage was barely containable. I have turned this rage into the impetus to continue to fight White supremacy, in an effort to make a better world for my children.  How is this not a political good?  When I defend them against people who seek to touch their hair, as though they are some freak science experiment, how is this not teaching bodily autonomy and personhood? 

To be honest, I am absolutely sick and tired of people deciding that motherhood is something that they can choose to belittle, because this is not a choice that they have made for themselves.  If I were to turn around and suggest that childless women were not living up to their destiny, or were not to be listened to on this basis, how long do you think it would be before the comment section of this blog was filled with vitriol? It seems to be a trendy thing to express hatred of children, and dismiss the concerns of mothers and I am telling you right now - not in my space you don't.  This is a woman and child friendly space.  Dismissing motherhood is anti-woman, and when it is done to a WOC it is racist.

Finally, for some women, motherhood is part of a spiritual journey.  You may not believe in God, or even have a spiritual side, but it is silencing to deny the beliefs of another when they are not actively engaged in belittling you.  The connection of WOC, with spirituality and motherhood is a long established fact that can be seen across culture and ethnicity.  In fact, in human history you will find carvings that depict women heavy with child that have been revered.   In some cases, motherhood has given us the strength to climb the incredible mountain that is placed before us as a part of our life's journey.

I would not be who I am today, were it not for my beliefs and for my children.  I don't advocate that anyone make the choices that I have, but I damn sure am not going to remain silent and watch as they are belittled.  I certainly will also not remain quiet as a White woman takes the opportunity to silence a fellow WOC, because she cannot relate to what she has said.  It may be easy to dismiss and just say "whatev," but this dismissal is laden with unacknowledged privilege and in fact reveals the many things that continue to divide women. How is that for playing the fucking race card?