What is motherhood for if not to teach the world about feminism?
It’s mother’s day on Sunday and I am reflecting on my relationship with my own mother. It is a tradition in our family that mother’s day was celebrated more often than not with words rather than gifts. Since as far back as I can remember, my mother’s day offerings were written tributes of love. I would thank my mom, using this day to commemorate her efforts, her effect on me. How funny to think I was already writing gratitude lists long before this blog was even imagined.
And so in line with tradition, my blog today is about this pivotal figure in my world. My mother.
There are many aspects of her being that have been shared with me over the years – her generous heart, her loving embrace, her liberal nurturance, her wacky worldview – the list could go on. The gratitude list has swelled with each passing year. Her love and insights continue to be greatly appreciated. But today I want to focus on a specific element of her maternal offering, something that she probably wouldn’t even consider something that she has intentionally bestowed on me.
I want to talk about how she taught me feminism. Notice that I don’t say she taught me about feminism. She taught me how to do it. She showed me what it means to be a woman. Fiercely so. And she demonstrated that fierceness with obstinate individualism and willful independence, which was acted onto the world as a celebration of personhood.
“It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.”
― Warsan Shire
My mother never taught me not to shift-shape to fit in with society’s (read patriarchy’s) heteronormative expectations. But she doesn’t shave her armpit hair or colour over her grey hairs. She didn’t need to tell me not to bend over backwards to please a man. She just demonstrated to me time and time again via her stories or her actions that she would not let anyone violate her boundaries.
It is not easy to be a perfect feminist. By some radical feminist’s accounts, my mother is not a good feminist, and neither am I. Some have raised eyebrows at ‘Beyoncé feminism’ – the picking and choosing of some or other aesthetic detail and the abandonment of certain others. But I, like my hero Chiminanda Ngozi Adiche, believe that feminism should not be like some snooty sorority but rather “a big raucous inclusive party”.
Lets accept all and every membership. Lets hold onto each and every sister’s hand that holds up the feminist flag.
And while we’re talking enrollment, let’s remember that mother is one of the most powerful roles we can play as women. Every person on this planet has a mother. It just makes absolute sense to me then that there is no better way to change the world, than to be a mother who teaches feminism.
So…this mother’s day, I would like to thank every single mom (including my own) for their powerful effect on this planet, for bringing womanly wisdom into the home and hearts of their loved ones. Thanks for teaching us to respect women and treat them as equals to men. Thank you for demonstrating that a woman’s worth is not determined by her physical appearance alone. Thank you for being the first female ally each of us had in the world. Thank you for working so hard at your job, as mother, and for working so hard in general. Thank you for teaching us that there are many ways to be a woman. You help us see this through your actions but also by demonstrating your acceptance and support for other women, who are different to you. Thank you for teaching us about men’s vulnerability, for showing us how to see and support diverse articulations of masculinity. Thank you for baring your sexuality bravely. Thank you for showing up in all these ways and more. You are shaping this world. And it is a better place because of you!