Motherhood and Going Feminist

I spent yesterday at the Go Feminist conference.  The conference was, obviously, about feminism, but it was more specifically about attempting to connect the dots between the different forms feminist activism can take; thus, the conference blurb:

Go Feminist recognises that we live in a world of interlocking hierarchies and oppressions. It is part of our feminist mission to dismantle this.’

I don’t think we’d argue with that, would we?  Over in Boogieville, we’re all about dismantling interlocking hierarchies and oppressions.  It’s what we idly dream of whilst dunking marshmallows in hot chocolate and watching Thelma & Louise.

And the programme for the conference reflected its aim.  Amongst others dealing with black feminism, and faith and feminism, and women and economics, there was the centrepiece of the conference, a session on how to connect movements (with a particularly interesting bit by Rahila Gupta) and an accompanying workshop, and a further workshop addressing intersectionality and how to deal with oppression when it comes from multiple directions all at once.

And, you know me, I hate to criticise.  Well, I don’t, but I do hate to criticise people like the people who organise stuff like this: big, conference-thingies, with loads of people, all talking about feminism.  Really, what sort of shit criticises women who do that?  Well, as Rahila Gupta would no doubt point out, the sort of shit who feels that her area of marginalisation hasn’t been addressed at all.  And who doesn’t feel that just because she has privilege in other areas, she should be silenced.

Now I’m privileged in many ways and I have no problem with feminism addressing racism, anti-capitalism, and the inequalities of the legal system, and what all of these things mean for women.

But.

Now, I should preface this by saying obviously I didn’t go to every workshop so I may have missed something, but nothing in the title of any of the workshops lead me to believe I did.

It really came to me during the Sexism in Popular Culture plenary session, when the question was repeatedly being asked ‘what can we do?  What can we do to change the way people think; about feminism, about equality, about the way the world works?  How does this shit change?’  And I just wanted to jump up and get all Whitney Houston on their arses.

Y’know, all ‘I believe that children are the future (warble, warble etc etc)!

In all that intersectionality, in all that ‘connecting movements’, there was not a whiff of the word ‘motherhood.’  And what connects women if not the concept of motherhood?

And I mean all women, not just those who become mothers.  Because whether you like it or not, whether you have children or not has very little to do with whether this issue will impact you as a woman.  Just ask any childless woman how often she has to fend off intrusive questions about why she’s childless.  Just ask any woman who can’t have children how often she has to lie to people just to keep her sanity.  Just ask any woman, on becoming a mother, how many assumptions she had to fend off to find her own way as a mother.  Just ask any woman of child-bearing age who’s career is, surreptitiously, stalled because of an assumption that she’ll ‘get up the duff’ any minute now (from my own experience in the legal world, women did routinely get pregnant the minute they made partner – because that was the only way to do it; it was universally acknowledged that getting pregnant before being made a partner meant you didn’t get made partner).

You don’t need to be a mother to be affected by motherhood because, childless, the patriarchal myth of motherhood will still come and get you.  You just need to be a woman.

Oh, I know, I know.  Feminist parenting is my ‘thing’, of course I’d notice its absence.  And of course before I became a mother and had no intention of ever being one, the absence wouldn’t have occurred to me either.  But isn’t it glaring?  When you think about it?  Even for a minute?

So much of what feminism is about intersects with motherhood at really, really fucking direct points.  And mothers are marginalised in all kinds of ways that intersect with feminism, and huge swathes of mothers worldwide are marginalised more than I could even shake a fucking stick at and a huge part of that marginalisation arises directly from the fact of their motherhood. And even white, middle class feminist mothers are marginalised because other mothers don’t get what the fuck you’re on about and feminism tends, it seems, to ignore the elephant in the room.  Whilst providing a creche and offering workshops for children…

Oh, I don’t want to whine.  A hearty congratulations to all the organisers for all the many things they got right (which was basically everything else – not least actually getting up and doing the whole thing in the first place).  I enjoyed the day, I really did.  It just spoiled it for me is all.

About MistressofBoogie

Feminist. Loud-mouth. Sometimes those two are linked. Sometimes not. View all posts by MistressofBoogie

7 responses to “Motherhood and Going Feminist

  • Jeanie

    Couldn’t agree more about the marginalisation of mothers – in fact it was the birth of my daughter (also unexpected) that not only revealed to me my many pre-motherhood priveliges but also unleashed my inner-feminist – and what a screaming banshee she turned out to be, particularly in defence of her daughter!
    Reckon a large part of the problem is that feminist mother lack the time to organise agendas/speakers after a day of battling against the world of pink sexualised princesses & gallant macho destroyers incessantly invading our homes.
    Our battle is a daily and micro one also.

  • MistressofBoogie

    I’d agree with all that.
    Nothing brings feminism into focus like the birth of a daughter; I found it was very much based on ‘this patriarchy shit may be what I’ve been stuck with, but she’s certainly not going to be!!!!’
    And I’d come to the conclusion it was about energy, too. The hundreds of little things grind you down every day; who then has the energy to take that micro and make it macro? It’s exhausting!

    • Nesomja

      I also agree it’s the energy. Since I became a mother I no longer read the feminist blogs I used to read- they just seem so out of touch with my life. Motherhood also throws up everything I had believed and makes me realise how relatively easy it is to be a feminist without children. I feel that motherhood is a key part of the repression of women around the world and to ignore it misses the most important part of many women’s lives. I just found your blog, thank you.

  • MistressofBoogie

    You’re very welcome (I don’t normally take this long to respond, but I’ve just come back from the weekend-away-from-hell..). If you’re anything like me, you’ll be searching far and wide for anything which resonates as a feminist mother, and you won’t find much. The more I think about it, the more weird it seems, because you’re right: motherhood is a key part of the repression of women around the world. And yet try and find the feminist activism in the UK (or the West generally) directed at the motherhood issue…
    Seriously, is every mother as knackered as me?? We need drugs. Lots of drugs!!

  • Gappy

    Yes, yes and yes again. Amen to this. The majority of women become mothers, so for feminism to ignore how motherhood affects women is counter-productive in the extreme.

    Absolutely love this blog. Can’t believe I haven’t found it before.

  • MistressofBoogie

    Don’t beat yourself up; this blog is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Still, if more people read it, the feminist revolution would ROLL IT ON UP and that’s, like, a big responsibility. So, I’m, y’know, taking my time…
    Have loved your way with a swear word from way back!

  • The Motherhood Penalty « Adventures in Boogieville

    […] You tell me again that feminism doesn’t need to fight for […]

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