Monday, August 10, 2009

mommyhood versus mamihood

cross posted from flip flopping joy

I was going to leave this comment on this thread here at feministe (where the totally rawking Plain’s Feminist is guest blogging!)–but I felt like it got too ranty and long and not connected to the actual point of the post, even though it was in a way.

first comment for context:

I was at a conference just a bit ago, and although daycare was provided for the kids, it was clearly marked in the itinerary when children were “allowed” into the big people room–and my kid–who is an older kid, was bullied by one of the conference organizers. I almost left, but other mothers stood by me and we confronted the situation together. But new mothers who are BF aren’t going to go to that space because the “rules” state kids can only be in the space during X times. And this was a feminist space. So if a woman isn’t working for pay and decides to organize instead so that she can get that emotional and intellectual stimulation–what is she supposed to do when she is treated to such unfriendly and hostile spaces like that?

I mean, that feminist space was telling mothers, you’re only wanted here if you make your child and your motherhood as invisible as possible–*we* don’t want anything to do with your motherhood. Which helps to create that “you must be a super mom” mentality, even as feminism is *saying* it’s critiquing it. When a woman isn’t even welcome in feminist spaces what other choice does she have but to sit and stare at her child all day and try not to eat her own tongue from boredom?

second comment that I didn’t post at Feministe:

btw, that feminist space was created by largely white feminists and the feminist who bullied my kid was white. the women who stood by me and said let’s fix this and we’ll walk out if we need to were women of color–some mamis and others not–but all with the analysis that mamihood (rather than mommyhood) is not just left at the door when you walk into a room. That the “real” work of feminist organizing happens when a single mami knows that her child is supported and loved and looked after by everybody in the room, not just her.

Another example: at that conference, the childcare shut down earlier than what I was expecting it to. I didn’t have my phone on, so although the childcare place called me repeatedly, I never got the message. I wasn’t aware ANYTHING was going on until I was walking down the street to go pick up my kids from the childcare and women of color (mamis and non-mamis) were walking towards me with my kids–the women took my kids and were in the process of finding food for everybody.

When I thanked the other women profusely, they all said ‘no big deal, you’d do the same for me.’ and one of the woman without children sort of looked at me like I was crazy and asked “are you kidding me? what would I have done, left them there?” The thought of NOT being responsible to my kids was offensive to her.

Which makes me wonder if that’s why the divide between working and stay at home mamis is just not the same as it is between mainstream largely white moms. When the borders between different spheres in your life aren’t so harshly drawn, it makes less sense for certain women to be isolated from the community.

One of the women in that group is a woman that I call the mother of my children. She has made the choice to take on the role of caretaker and coparent of my children. She has not had biological children, she is partnered to somebody else, but we raise my children together. I have this relationship with two other women of color in my community.

when the core idea of what “woman” is is challenged repeatedly, it makes less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself. when the core idea of what “mom” is is challenged repeatedly, it makes less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself. when the core idea of what “partnered” is is challenged repeatedly, it makes less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself. when “sexuality” and what it is and what it can lead to is constantly challenged, it makes less and less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself.

Every mami, every mommy, should be able to feel the feeling that I felt when I saw my kids laughing and joking along in the group of other women/mamis. And I guess the point for me is that books, no matter how good, are not going to teach us all how to build a community where children are being raised collectively–not because of kumbaya dreams that everybody is a parent–but because of practical reality that children are a part of our communities and we owe accountability to them, just as we insist that they are accountable to us.

Learning how to raise children collectively is only going to come through actually doing the work of learning how to trust again–how many people in your life do you know and trust enough to help you raise your children–even if they aren’t the biological parent who is living with you and legally partnered with you?– And by pointing at the *real* problem, which is not so much that AP’ing is stifling and obscene on so many levels (holy jesus, it is)–but that collectively in the U.S., we have no fucking idea what “community” means–but at the same time, we all seem to think that deciding who will stay hidden within the community isn’t one very powerful and violent way of deciding what community really is.

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