ain’t i a mama?

ain’t i a mama…

you know how alice walker says that feminism is to womanism. like purple is to lavendar. ive always loved that quote. lavendar is my favorite color and one of my favorite scents.

well, last night as i was falling asleep after reading the comment thread of doom, i realized:

feminist is to mama like yellow is to:
waking up with the first rays of light hitting your face as the sun rises over the ocean and you stare into the sun’s reflection in the water and then jump in and swim celebrating this new day.
the colostrum nectar that i breastfed my daughter her first days after birth
the color of my mixed race daughter cheek as she sleep at night
the crushed wildflowers that aza picks in the park and then brings to me saying in her singsong voice: mama i have a present for you!

——-

a list:

people who have asked why i dont identify as a feminist

-random strangers on the internet
-random people who have just met me and like to push buttons

people who have never asked me why i dont identify as a feminist

-zapatista women when we lived in chiapas
-palestinian women when we lived in a small village in the southern west bank mountains
-women community organizers in the east congo
-young black american and african immigrant mothers whose birth assisted in north minneapolis
-the eight month pregnant kenyan-dutch woman who i shared a couple of days in israeli prison with
-my grandmother who grew up in the south, was college educated in the 40s, worked and earned her own money for years as a teacher, didnt have children until she was nearly thirty, was a community organizer, and taught all of her daughters and grand daughters to speak their truth and respect people

most of these women did call me ‘mama’ though. as i called them.

i wrote this last year on the word ‘mama’:

i love the word: mama. when i was doing research in east africa, mama was my name. mama maisha (which means life in swahili). mama works as an honorific there. it replaces ‘miss’ and ‘maam’ and whatever ways of respectfully addressing women. it is not dependent on whether or not the woman has children.

sitting in a room with dozens of community women leaders all of us addressing each other as mama… mama fayida, mama esperanze. as we talked about ways to address the violence in the communities. was powerful.

especially since i had miscarried a couple of months before. i was ‘mama’ before i ever gave birth.

it was also powerful because mama is how the boys back home address me. and once again it acts as an honorific a term of respect and kinship.

and being able to travel half way around the world and still be addressed by the same name that southern boys knocking on my grandmother’s door use…just another way that one can travel so far…rural south carolina to rural east congo…and still find home.

mama. is just such an evocative word. here, in cairo, the equivalent to mommy is umi. and umi is a beautiful word. but even here. everyone knows what ‘mama’ means. ma. ma. ma. there is something primoridial about it. something that speaks to millions of years of walking on this earth. i dont have any scientific data to back up my claims.

——-

bfp recently did one of my favorite posts:

I do not identify as a woman.
Or a feminist.
Or a womanist.

Mami.
Chicana.
Woman of color.

They mean what that mean for me.

and then she dropped one of my favorite comments yesterday:

Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you.
Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.

i know that when i have been seen as being helpful to another’s liberation, that is when they start calling me mama.
——

srsly, if the common definition for feminism to be treated equal to a man. im not interested in feminism. that is not the goal of the women with whom ive worked. 1/3 of black men are in the prison industrial system. i am working for a different world for my daughter.

so, why did i agree to blog for feministe?
well, frankly, i have been and continue to be pretty critical of mainstream feminism. mainstream feminism is pretty irrelevant to my work, my family, my life, and to the communities with which i work in solidarity. and ive been critical of feminist media productions, including this blog, feministe. and the role they play in public discourse and understanding of the world that we live in. after a lot of consideration, i figured it was only fair of me to know the media productions better if i am going to critique them well. and considering how critical ive been, the bloggers of feministe still wanted me to guest blog, well, i have a bit of respect for people who engage their critics rather than just attack them.

——

i throw a side eye at folks who call themselves feminists, especially without an adjective in front of the word. and i have made it clear that if i had to be one, (and thank god i dont) i would be a crunk feminist. those girls keep it crunk.
Beat-driven and bass-laden, Crunk music blends Hip Hop culture and Southern Black culture in ways that are sometimes seamless, but more often dissonant. Its location as part of Southern Black culture references the South both as the location that brought many of us together and as the place where many of us still do vibrant and important intellectual and political work. The term “Crunk” was initially coined from a contraction of “crazy” or “chronic” (weed) and “drunk” and was used to describe a state of uber-intoxication, where a person is “crazy drunk,” out of their right mind, and under the influence. But where merely getting crunk signaled that you were out of your mind, a crunk feminist mode of resistance will help you get your mind right, as they say in the South.

and if your brand of feminism does not embrace and push to the forefront the critiques of itself, then i have no interest in your brand or your movement. actually i dont have an interest in brands at all. and if your movement isnt aligned with crunk feminists, and rasta feminists, with the zapatista women’s critique of feminsm, with palestinian women dressed in hijab with a fist in the air, with little girls who walk through war zones to get to school whether on the streets of washington, dc or the streets of goma, drc (democratic republic of congo) then i want nothing to do with your movement. cause those women dont bother to ask me why i am not a feminist. they just call me ‘mama’.

these movements center mamas, overflow with mamas, because mamas have been at the center of every major movement in the world for change. we give birth to and nurture, in various ways, revolutionaries everyday, whether or not that has been acknowledged in the ‘official’ records. being a mama is not a description of one’s biology or genitalia. it does not describe how many children we have nestled in wombs. it is not a description of age or even male/female gender.

it is who we are. it is what we do. it is love by any means necessary.

Author: has written 8 posts for this blog.

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445 Responses

  1. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 28, 2010 at 7:57 am |

    Word. Absolutely.

    If anything is going to convince me to completely abandon identifying as a feminist, it’s the incessant hostility towards mamas and the inherent (US—thankfully, other nations have more common sense) assumption that mama=right wing.

  2. so_treu
    so_treu July 28, 2010 at 8:13 am |

    i wish i had something more eloquent to say other than YES, BY DAMN. but damn, YES. thank you.

  3. Elizabeth Anne
    Elizabeth Anne July 28, 2010 at 8:19 am |

    Maia – Yes!
    La Lubu – GOD YES.

  4. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 8:22 am |

    Rise and Shine indeed! xoxox

  5. Jill
    Jill July 28, 2010 at 8:34 am | *

    Not much to say other than <3.

    And thank you, again, for being generous enough to share your words and thoughts in this space.

  6. Lisa
    Lisa July 28, 2010 at 8:37 am |

    Stupid me. I had thought feminism, as I have cultivated it for myself, meant to radically transform the oppressive states of all peoples, beginning with women who are the overwhelming majority of poverty and violence.

    I’m pretty sure that someone really awesome, say, uh bell hooks or Audre, or Gloria, that said something along the lines of:

    The point of feminism is not for women to be equal to men. The point of feminism is not to lust after the dominating roles of ruling over others. The point is to unearth the systematic oppressions that keep us all locked and limited. It is about transforming power, ourselves, and our lives. And it begins with wo/men.

    I do identify as feminist, with the understanding that I will have to spend a helluva amount of time disclaiming many attributes and notions of mainstream feminism. I believe there are multiple manifestations of feminism. I also believe in the power of not identifying as such. Cause, you know, the majority of women on this planet DON’T. And I’m pretty sure a lot of those women are pretty rad and amazing just as they are.

    And anyone with the time to contribute to this site has the capacity to at least TRY to understand that enforcing and using the label “feminist” as either an equalizer or qualifier is one of the most elitist and ignorant
    actions that can be thrust upon someone who *chooses* otherwise.

    The 450 and counting comments in your previous post has me, to put it mildly, quite concerned. (I want to write that it is driving me nucking futs.) Because for the years I’ve spent in the feminist blogosphere, for the amount of royal messes that have publicly played out, it’s confirmed one sad, infuriating fact: most feminist-identified individuals do not want, are not capable, have no interest in the most radical notion: listening.

    I’ve been a new mama for 7 months and what I’ve found is once I wrote ANYTHING that relates mamahood to a revolution, my inbox is flooded with: WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WITHOUT CHILDREN?

    And the moment you offer questions or criticism about how the world and its spaces can be (re)defined for more radical acceptance and inclusion, the knee-jerk reaction of most mainstream femmies is to write: WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT MY CHOICES? WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT MY LIFE? WHAT ABOUT ME?

    It’s as if readers cannot grasp that being and becoming a mother, mama, mami, is not about sulking about not going out, it’s not about centering ourselves, it’s commonly talking about love. Purely, simply. Love.

    But, here *F*eminists are…talking about hypothetical situations at bars and Applebees.

  7. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide July 28, 2010 at 8:44 am |

    This is the best thing I have read on this site, thank you.

  8. Angela
    Angela July 28, 2010 at 8:44 am |

    I think the reason the question came up yesterday is because you’re posting on a blog that has “feminist” in the title. It seemed like a fair question to me (even if there was a lot of hostility coming from a few people in that thread – and it really seemed like one or two vocal people, at least for the few hours I followed yesterday).

    I identify as Feminist. Full stop. That’s the word that best encompases my life view. I don’t feel the need for another adjective, though I think it’s awesome that we’re flexible enough to accept and adapt to different shades of feminism.

  9. Elizabeth Anne
    Elizabeth Anne July 28, 2010 at 8:45 am |

    Lisa – if there’s one thing i’ve learned about activism and the blogosphere it’s that an awful lot of folks need to have “It’s not about YOU” tattooed somewhere.

  10. auraesque
    auraesque July 28, 2010 at 8:47 am |

    I may not agree with or understand all you have written, but your posts and the discussions that have taken place here, on Jezebel and at Alas! A blog have made me rethink who I am and what I want to stand for.

  11. Lisa
    Lisa July 28, 2010 at 8:57 am |

    @ Elizabeth Anne
    I wish I could draw it, but…

    I think the tat would be something along the lines of taking the “no smoking sign” and instead of the cigarette, put the word “ME” in the middle.

    The font would be arial, bold, and no smaller than 24.

  12. Sumayyah Talibah
    Sumayyah Talibah July 28, 2010 at 9:03 am |

    Such a refreshing point of view. Thank you, Mai’a, for writing this. How can people claim to be about eradicating oppression if they are, in fact, oppressors themselves? Thank you, thank you, thank you, for putting into words what so many of us are thinking.

  13. latenac
    latenac July 28, 2010 at 9:03 am |

    I agree with about 90-95% of what Lisa wrote. And agree with Angela, I’m a feminist, period. Frankly I find it off putting that any time anyone introducing themselves here has to put a huge string of adjectives in front whatever noun they’re using to describe themselves. I personally find it in someways awful that in Arab society once you have a kid your name becomes Om or Umi whatever your child’s name is. Well I should say Om + the name of your firstborn son.

    I came here b/c I was looking for fellow feminists as I navigate raising a daughter. But I don’t think I’m looking for an example of feminism that needs to be defined by long strings of adjectives or earth mamas or even honorifics. My idea of feminism is not about creating black and white definitions it’s about subverting definitions to get a fuller view of the world.

  14. Jamie
    Jamie July 28, 2010 at 9:04 am |

    I have a lot to learn from you, Mama. Very much looking forward to your posts and reading what thoughts and experiences you have to share with us.

  15. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 9:08 am |

    Right on, Mama Mai’a.

    you have been a mama to me – even though you’re younger than me. and you have been a mama to my son even though you live a continent away. and i am a better mama for having known mamas, mamis, comadres, etc. like you, bfp, mamita, etc. being a mama isn’t about what came from your womb (or didn’t) but about transforming, truly revolutionary love and understanding that the trite “children are our future” is still a radical truth.

    those who don’t have children can only ever understand a portion of what that truly means, and only then if they choose to center children, as a coparent, as a father, as a relative caregiver, as a friend, as a teacher, whatever – those are all important, vital and valuable roles. but there is still a point where it falls short of truly understanding the 24/7 dynamic of being a mama – and in particular what it means to be a poor mama, a mama of color, a mama raising children of color, in this society. because the bullying/policing/judgement against such mamas is very real and very different from what those who are not mamas really know. there is a level of responsibility and expectation that they will never fully feel.

    but being a mama is about love. real revolutionary love.

  16. FilthyGrandeur
    FilthyGrandeur July 28, 2010 at 9:14 am |

    god i love your writing! in just a couple posts you’ve made me think of things in drastically different ways. (not sure if you mentioned this already, but do you blog elsewhere? i’d love to follow your work).

  17. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 9:17 am |

    @Aaminah: I don’t have an issue with Mai’a’s post defining “mama”=”works for social justice,” but given that definition and the way it’s being used here, I do have a problem with your assertion that you can’t work for social justice unless you center your life on children (and that even if you do, it’s always going to be lesser unless you actually have children of your own).

    If you want “mama” to mean “mother,” fine. If you want “mama” to mean “works for social justice,” also fine. But it’s incredibly dismissive to say that the only people who have anything to contribute are those who center their lives on children – that the only people who can be mamas by the latter definition are those who are also mamas by the former definition.

  18. unacceptable
    unacceptable July 28, 2010 at 9:17 am |

    Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter.

    And fuck anyone who comes along and things this is an excellent thing to post on a feminist website.

  19. Gajasimha
    Gajasimha July 28, 2010 at 9:21 am |

    Fabulous.

    Makes me angry that I would have pooh-poohed this before I started working with little kids — though seeing a blog post like this probably would have led to an instant conversion! What you said about standing in solidarity with those in liberation struggles is dead on. Up until a year or two, I figured being for feminism and such meant blowing off the struggles of anyone dealing with anything more serious than whether or not to buy another pair of heels.

  20. abby_wan_kenobi
    abby_wan_kenobi July 28, 2010 at 9:24 am |

    I think there’s room for everyone in feminism. I don’t know about “mainstream Feminism”. It’s never had a face that extended a hand and introduced itself to me. But I’ve known a some feminists. They may use different adjectives, but it doesn’t mean they disagree. There’s no “one right way”. Because the cause is big and broad and it needs all comers.

    So if you have the skills and the drive to further the cause of oppressed women in the Middle East, bring it. If you are suited to campaign for marriage equality in the U.S., bring it. If fighting religious oppresssion in China is near to your heart, bring it.

    The only negative quality I’d acknowledge in a feminist is the opinion that someone else is doing it wrong. There’s no reason to fight each other. We should support each other. I’m everlastingly grateful for the women who fight the battles I don’t have the skills or means to fight. For the ones who came before me and the ones that will continue after me. I’m just glad there are a lot of us. None of us can do it alone. And tearing each other down is least productive way we can expend our energies.

  21. Roschelle
    Roschelle July 28, 2010 at 9:25 am |

    Loving your tenacity and intellect! It permeates in every word your talented fingers type!!

    Using ‘mama’ as a respectful way to address a woman has not been completely lost in our (American) culture. Maybe it’s the strong ties that African slaves share with the Louisiana culture that’s been so welled preserved – especially New Orleans.

    I’ve encountered several black males from New Orleans who refer to older women as ‘mama’. Not in the sickening you’re-so-lame-it’s-pathetic way. But in a sincere, heartfelt…almost revered way.

    So, rock on mama! glad I found this blog and certainly glad you’re a part of it.

    Feminist or not…

  22. Roschelle
    Roschelle July 28, 2010 at 9:26 am |

    ignore the misplaced *e-d

  23. Blue Jean
    Blue Jean July 28, 2010 at 9:28 am |

    Reminds me of the African woman who once told a foreigner:

    “A man can father a hundred children and never know it, but a woman who becomes a mother remains a mother even if her child dies. Even if all her children die. Men don’t understand these things. That’s why we won’t be told what to do by our husbands.”

  24. AJ
    AJ July 28, 2010 at 9:30 am |

    Wait, am I reading this right? Is this comment:

    “Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you.”

    a comment we are liking and approving of here on Feministe now?

  25. Lib
    Lib July 28, 2010 at 9:31 am |

    I wonder how much privilege plays into a person’s inability to understand why a WOC or WOT (of the third world) would feel the need to place an adjective before the term or create their own. The definition associated with “feminism” (no adjective or modification added) is extremely inadequate, and the feminist movement continues to leave the majority of women out when it comes to “empowerment” and “liberation.” I have contemplated abandoning the title which was placed on me by other people (feminist) on more than one occasion, and the more co-opted the movement becomes the less I want to be identified as a feminist. Now I get that any movement will be co-opted, and ideas completely counter to the movement will be passed off by pop-culture as a part of said movement, thus constant name changes would just be ridiculous, but the truth is women were fighting to end oppression way before feminism, so just calling ourselves women should be enough.

    On another note, I just don’t get the “what about the childless” mantras to the mama/i’s title. I have no children, but I have raised children. I am no teacher, but I have taught people. All of those people I have come in contact with have also raised and taught me. These titles do not exclude people.

  26. Partial Human
    Partial Human July 28, 2010 at 9:31 am |

    Lisa – thank you for reminding me yet again that my inability to have children means I’ll never know love.

    Should I have kept going past five dead babies, pushed myself to the point of dissolving after holding another dead child in my arms, just so I could be a ‘real woman’.

    This whole argument that mothers are above all those who aren’t is sickening and reductive, and ignores swathes of women who cannot be mothers whether that’s due to biology or law.

    I may not ever be a mama, but I’m still a person, and I know love.

  27. Athenia
    Athenia July 28, 2010 at 9:32 am |

    why can’t we all just get along ;_;

  28. Salix
    Salix July 28, 2010 at 9:37 am |

    You know, I wonder if what really bugs people about parents/children is that radical love? The fact that hey, here’s a person who is LIVING OUT the truth that it is not “all about me.”

  29. unacceptable
    unacceptable July 28, 2010 at 9:39 am |

    No, what really bugs me about this “radical love” is that it apparently starts and ends with “fuck feminists” right here. That’s some radical loving for sure.

  30. Lisa
    Lisa July 28, 2010 at 9:48 am |

    Partial Human,

    Sorry if you get that message but I read and reread and reread what I wrote and I don’t find where I wrote:

    if you don’t have children you don’t know love.

    I wrote something along the lines of:
    when I write about becoming a mother, someone blasts me for writing about becoming a mother because I’m ignoring someone who doesn’t or could not have children.

    And:
    when mamas or mamis or mothers talk about trying to make their lives work, as women of color, as poor women of color, as single mamas, as ….whatever they identify and the are offering their lives up to share themselves – they are talking about love.

    if you connected the two to extrapolate:
    since you don’t have children, you don’t know love.

    I can’t undo your reaction, I can only clarify what I meant. And what I meant was:
    1) It’s not all about You.
    2) It’s not all about Me.
    3) It’s actually about Love.
    4) Listen.

  31. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 9:56 am |

    Rebecca – i think you have reading comprehension issues. that is all i have to say to you. yes, children need to be centered if someone wants to be considered a “mama” – even if they personally did not birth those children. i don’t even know what you are objecting to. mothering encompasses many things but it includes by definition centering children at least part of the time.

    Partial Human – i think you are completely misunderstanding all of this – because you’re making it all about you. i miscarried 8 children. i have birthed one. i had a complete hysterectomy at 34 yrs. i did not feel “less human” or less of a woman for any of this. and yes, i “mothered” others besides my own child both prior to having him and since. no one here has said that if you can’t or choose not to give birth to babies you are less human. are you a mother, however? maybe, maybe not. do you understand in the most profound sense what it is to mother in that case? maybe, maybe not. perhaps you have a much more profound sense of what motherhood, in terms of loss, is than many. or maybe you don’t. no one here is judging you personally so stop making it about your personal struggle VERSUS all mamas. maybe right now you are just hurting because of your losses, and i think most of us would understand that – and might know more about it than you assume. but lashing out at mothers/mamas because you haven’t been able to be one yet… just… wow.

    Salix – YES.

  32. Samantha b.
    Samantha b. July 28, 2010 at 9:56 am |

    Lisa, thanks for your excellent comment. You’ve perfectly put into words my mostly really positive reaction to this post and also argued very effectively for a more expansive notion of feminism.

  33. Any
    Any July 28, 2010 at 9:57 am |

    Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter.
    Soo… No grassroots organization I’ve ever helped with, no protests, no petitions, no volunteering, no being the only female hired to work in the medical supplies warehouse, no educating the ER docs to have a brochure full of local support groups to give women who’ve come in miscarrying, no volunteering at my nearby Planned Parenthood clinic, none of that did shit for the next generation? Thanks. Nice to know that simply because I chose not to ever have a child, you think that nothing I’ve done to help other women matters. At least it’s revealing to see that separatist crap goes both ways.

  34. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 9:58 am |

    maybe we say “fuck feminists” because that’s all feminists have EVER done for/to us.

    think about that, all of you privileged, entitled whine-monsters that are far more obnoxious than any child i’ve ever met.

    yeah – radical love means not everything is about YOU

    especially not when you are the damn oppressor.

  35. PJ
    PJ July 28, 2010 at 10:00 am |

    “Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes.”

    You know, this post should have a trigger warning just for that quote. So much for feminist blogs as “safe spaces.” Good grief.

  36. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 10:03 am |

    snort… yeah, the fact that *F*eminist spaces are such traumatic danger zones for so many women ALL THE TIME… really, let’s talk about “safe spaces”, shall we? or maybe we should just call out entitlement for what it is. and how commentors here continue to marginalize certain women from these spaces. this never was a safe space for many of us.

  37. PJ
    PJ July 28, 2010 at 10:03 am |

    @Aaminah: very nice. How do you know that everyone who identifies as a feminist is “privileged” and “entitled?” How do you know who’s out there fighting for whom? Go look up “feminism” in the dictionary for crying out loud.

  38. Ellie
    Ellie July 28, 2010 at 10:07 am |

    Radical love, except for people who label themselves as “feminists” because they just fuck everything up, are entitled obnoxious whiners, across the board. It’s all about love, though. But fuck feminists. Love.

    I wish I had the beginning of an understanding of how this makes sense. I’m sure there’s some disconnect going on that makes this a valid thing for someone to say, but in my personal experience of the world, this makes absolutely no sense.

  39. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 10:10 am |

    Aaminah, the post was about the ways in which “mama” can mean “working for social justice” rather than “has mothered a specific child or children.” (Mai’a, if this is a misrepresentation of what you wrote, let me know!) Allow me to quote:

    sitting in a room with dozens of community women leaders all of us addressing each other as mama… mama fayida, mama esperanze. as we talked about ways to address the violence in the communities. was powerful.

    i know that when i have been seen as being helpful to another’s liberation, that is when they start calling me mama.

    if your movement isnt aligned with crunk feminists, and rasta feminists, with the zapatista women’s critique of feminsm, with palestinian women dressed in hijab with a fist in the air, with little girls who walk through war zones to get to school whether on the streets of washington, dc or the streets of goma, drc (democratic republic of congo) then i want nothing to do with your movement. cause those women dont bother to ask me why i am not a feminist. they just call me ‘mama’.

    mama … it is who we are. it is what we do. it is love by any means necessary.

    And you:

    those who don’t have children can only ever understand a portion of what [transforming, truly revolutionary love and understanding that the trite “children are our future” is still a radical truth] truly means, and only then if they choose to center children, as a coparent, as a father, as a relative caregiver, as a friend, as a teacher, whatever – those are all important, vital and valuable roles. but there is still a point where it falls short of truly understanding the 24/7 dynamic of being a mama

    Like I said – no issue with either definition. But a huge problem with the conflation of them.

  40. Faith
    Faith July 28, 2010 at 10:10 am |

    “You know, this post should have a trigger warning just for that quote. ”

    I don’t know. Can all of the mothers who read this site also get a trigger warning for the still ongoing cesspool of self-righteousness and judgment that is being thrown at mothers a couple of posts below?

    Because, you know, I identify as a feminist (although after watching the disgrace that has occurred on this site over and over again I’m seriously considering dropping the label altogether) and I’m also a mother. That comment about feminists is far less disturbing than the hatred and resentment being tossed at mothers. And considering what triggered that comment, I don’t blame bfp one little bit.

  41. Eileen
    Eileen July 28, 2010 at 10:10 am |

    Your relationship with your kid is not more important than not being rude in public spaces. If you’ve got that sorted, good for you. Are we done now?

    Fuck feminism? Good to know this about Feministe.

  42. Jen
    Jen July 28, 2010 at 10:18 am |

    Rebecca,
    I agree with you. While I understood what Maia was trying to say, I felt it was condescending and unnecessarily combative (especially after her last post). I don’t have kids. I have no desire to identify as a “mama”. I feel the term “mama” is diminutive and cutesy, and I feel the term “feminist” stands alone.

    You can call yourself whatever you want, but don’t be offended by what I call myself. If I wrote a post that included “fuck mothers, fuck mamas, they’ve never done anything for me”, people would be up in arms – and they would have every right to their opinion.

    I am a woman. I am a feminist. I am not a mama.

  43. abby jean
    abby jean July 28, 2010 at 10:20 am |

    “if your brand of feminism does not embrace and push to the forefront the critiques of itself, then i have no interest in your brand or your movement.”

    yes. this. thank you so much for this. i want to write this across the sky.

  44. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 10:23 am |

    “this never was a safe space for many of us.” THAT is really an important truism. and to understand that, you might understand some anger, and that also to look outside of your personal experience of the world also – listening to what others are saying. taking the time for it to sink in. respecting the ideas, even if you don’t all the way understand them. because there is some real sharing going on here. in ways, i wouldn’t put myself out there even to take the time to do – even though I am white mother, I am a low income radical single mother and the feminist scene of the last 22 years of my motherhood has not been welcoming in my experience – and for many years would not print my writing. People can use words and define themselves in different ways, the word “feminist” is just like any other word, just one word, and you can show your own definition in a positive way–to me its more about actions then words sometimes— and language is a living thing, words can mean different things to different people. i dont’ try to tack down and fight in syllables but feel the over all spirit and meaning – for the important thing about words is communication. respect the anger because it contains within it the truth. if you can’t listen now, and take the time to process, you will be missing out.

  45. Shoshie
    Shoshie July 28, 2010 at 10:25 am |

    Oh for goodness sakes, people. Capital “F” Feminism doesn’t fight for all women. It’s a big problem, and needs to be brought to our attention. Mainstream feminism thinks the war on obesity is OK. Mainstream feminism excludes transwomen. Mainstream feminism excludes mothers. Mainstream feminism excludes women of color. Mainstream feminism is ableist. Mainstream feminism disappears women who are unfertile. Mainstream feminism excludes religious women.

    I could go on, but it’s early in the morning and I’m still sleepy. Please feel free to continue my list.

    I happen to identify as a feminist. But I identify as a fat acceptance activist first. Because many feminist spaces still aren’t safe for me.

    I understand why people say “fuck feminism,” even if I choose not to.

  46. Lori
    Lori July 28, 2010 at 10:29 am |

    How did so many of you miss this point, so eloquently made:

    “being a mama is not a description of one’s biology or genitalia. it does not describe how many children we have nestled in wombs. it is not a description of age or even male/female gender.

    it is who we are. it is what we do. it is love by any means necessary.”

    The best mothering I ever got was gotten from women other than my mother. Childless women, straight women, gay women, biological mothers … the gamut of women. It’s the nurturing, the wisdom, the tough love, the support, the sharing of grief, the sharing of joy, the celebrations and the starting overs, the making you stand on your own, the rules, the breaking of rules — and above all the loving “by any means necessary” — that makes us the amazing creatures we are, not our politics.

    Try to look beyond the biological meaning of the word “mama” and hear the primordial sense of it … “mama” is the universal creative force that doesn’t necessarily mean creating babies, but also creating villages and societies.

    Thanks you so much for this post … it is beautiful.

  47. Dee
    Dee July 28, 2010 at 10:33 am |

    I think your definition of what is means to be a mama is amazing, deeply personal and from what I can understand a radical way of conceiving the world and a way of life. And yet, I think the difficulty is your perception is not my reality (that is not to say your perception or your reality is not valid just that it is not something I understand or identify with). I personally don’t care to defend feminism or what it stands for. That is not my fight. My mother is an amazing woman but a feminist she is not and she would surely not agree with your previous blog.

    Your viewpoint is nuanced and I think that’s great but there are many women who do not identify with feminism and who also don’t see the world as you do and that does not automatically make them selfish beings who only care about themselves–and these women are not just the childless and they can be people of color.

    I guess my genuine question is it possible to get past relativism and coming to the conclusion that “well we have irreconcilable viewpoints so we should just stay out of each other’s ways?”

  48. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 10:35 am |

    (when I submitted radical motherhood writing to “feminist” publications in my first 10-15 years of motherhood- the reaction was usually to balk and laugh that motherhood had nothing to do with liberated womanhood and that my struggles were my own problem: if you cant’ get a babysitter = stay home. if you can’t afford to feed your child = you shouldn’t have had them. your problem, your child, your struggle is not the struggle for making a better world, or against oppression, but a personal issue. theres a lot of classism in “f”eminism too.) I forget which one is bad, big F or little f — hahaha. but I think some folks have partial love for feminism in a way, by its own deffinition. and its just like anarchism, I identify more as an anarchist. but there are a lot of criticism to that as well, and yes – critiques of itself – thats good! Generally I need to only speak and work in more positive places, for my own survival. I wouldn’t engage in a conversation like this unless it was for a friend, and seeing how she is making space here, to speak out.

  49. Faith
    Faith July 28, 2010 at 10:35 am |

    “But to find approval for the phrase “fuck feminists” on the Feministe blog is just a bit too much.”

    Here’s a thought: instead of getting offended by that statement, maybe you might want to step back and consider why someone like bfp would utter such words. Someone whom I’m guessing also believes very much in the full humanity of women everywhere. If even women like me who have identified as feminists for years are not offended by that statement, then maybe it’s time for some people to consider that maybe there are some very valid criticisms to be made about the feminist movement in general.

  50. Ellie
    Ellie July 28, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    @PJ: I do recognize that I need to check my entitlement. These women do not owe me an explanation of their situation, they do not automatically have to include me in this just because I whine WHAT ABOUT ME, WHAT ABOUT ME.

    But right now, my understanding does not make sense to me, at all. Do these women owe me an explanation? No, not really. But I also don’t see how exclusion, whether it’s of them or of me, helps anyone here. I understand, perhaps the community has not always done the best job at including everyone, I can acknowledge that. But does it help any more now than it did then?

  51. Jamie
    Jamie July 28, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    Feminism is such a huge, broad community of people. It’s not some sort of exclusive club where one has to either carry the “I’m a Feminist Card” or get kicked out by the bouncer at the door. Calling oneself “feminist” is not a prerequisite or requirement to believe in the same things as people who do choose to use the word “feminist.”

    Sadly, I can see why comments like “fuck feminism” happen and come from the mouths of other women. By fighting to be known as more than just mothers-of-whomever we also need to embrace women who are mothers. Is “fuck feminism” an extreme statement? Yes. But the more-than-mothers mantra can be taken to extremes and practically bash motherhood entirely. It’s no wonder that there are women who feel that way about the feminist movement and feel excluded or spurned by it. Mother is one identity of many, not the only one.

    Maia said at the very end, “it is love by any means necessary.” To her being a mama is loving and showing it through different means. What is so offensive about that? “Mama” is an endearment in this case, more than literally being someone’s birth mother.

    You don’t need to experience motherhood to experience love. You don’t need to give birth, or raise a child, or even be part of a romantic relationship to experience love.

  52. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    whoa, PJ… whatever. no, i don’t know. but you also don’t know – and obviously don’t give a damn – that there are NO safe spaces for so many other women. yes, you have a right to safe spaces. but your so-called safe spaces have consistently been toxic places for others. why are you making it all and only about you? really? “fuck feminists” is contributing to your physical and mental anguish? i doubt it. but people like you are a DIRECT cause for why little girls and boys of color, and women of color, are literally being killed. because it’s ALL ABOUT a safe online space for you and fuck any safety of any kind, online or otherwise, for others. THAT is something that mainstream *F*eminism and most mainstream *F*eminists i know (including this site) contribute to and actively encourage ALL THE FRIGGIN TIME. excuse me if i think just once some people could make it NOT about themselves and actually LISTEN to what real women, mamas, deal with day in and day out from YOUR SHIT.

    Eileen – considering that it’s ya’ll that are lacking in manners – and in my experience consistently lack in them across the board, everywhere you go – don’t even go there. the “rude” people are not the ones who in frustration are telling you all to go fuck yourselves after you’ve (maybe not you personally, but the “you” is a general and grouped “you” of mainstream feminism AND these comment threads) shit all over Mai’a and any other woc that attempt to say they feel where she’s coming from.

    Ya’ll wanna know why Mai’a doesn’t identify as a feminist? why i don’t? why BFP doesn’t? why we are inclined to agree with BFP’s statement? THIS IS WHY.

  53. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 10:39 am |

    @ Faith and Shooshie – such good points! :) exactly. fuck feminism. not such a terrible thing to say. xo

  54. KJ
    KJ July 28, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    There’s a difference between “not being about YOU!” and outright slamming on you. Other non-feminist Feministe guest bloggers do the former. This is the latter.

    Childfree/less women and adjective-less feminist moms do nothing for women? If you say so.

    Taking a break from Feminste for a while.

  55. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 10:43 am |

    Radical love means decentering yourself. i don’t know any *F*eminists that EVER do that.

  56. alexmac
    alexmac July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am |

    those who don’t have children can only ever understand a portion of what that truly means, and only then if they choose to center children, as a coparent, as a father, as a relative caregiver, as a friend, as a teacher, whatever – those are all important, vital and valuable roles. but there is still a point where it falls short of truly understanding the 24/7 dynamic of being a mama

    I am sorry Aminah but your definition of mama is incredibly cis and hetero centric. I am a trans woman and I have a trans mama who helped me become the woman I am today even when my birth mother turned her back. I can’t have kids myself because I don’t have a woman, but I can be a mama to little trans girls just finding their way whatever their age. Queer folks often make our own families because the “radical love” a mother has for her child doesn’t go that far.

  57. Lib
    Lib July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am |

    Wow, well this certainly turned into an exercise in defensive reading, and abusive dialogue.

    So far I have read several people explain that they don’t identify as feminist or are weary because they didn’t feel the movement was interested in their struggle. I have not read a post that asks, why that is, or how we as feminist can make things better.

    I have also read that to be a mama/i means children should be at the center of ones actions, which resulted in someone posting that those who don’t work with kids are important too. How come no one asked if the poster meant mama/i’s understand that we all have a responsibility to the next generation and any action that isn’t about leaving the world better than we found it is anti-mama/i?

    How come NO ONE asked why posts are making people feel alienated?

    Some of these posts read very much like guys who come in and say “so the bottom line is fuck men.”

    We as feminist have to be critical of ourselves, the point is to help women as a class, and people as a whole, and here we have women saying we aren’t helping them, they never felt safe in this space.

    Now I have some questions. Why aren’t we trying to understand each other, by asking for clarification and explanations? Why are we making assumptions and attacking one another? Who is this helping?

  58. PJ
    PJ July 28, 2010 at 10:46 am |

    Wow Aaminah. You just called someone else rude.

    But you know what? I do care about you. I really do. I care about people of all colors, genders, faiths and ages all over the world. I don’t know why you’re assuming that I don’t. I actually really do. I can call myself a feminist and still care about all kinds of people.

    Again, you have no idea what I might have been through in this life, and you’re making all kinds of assumptions about me based on the fact that I call myself a feminist. You obviously hate the person you’ve decided I am. That’s your right. You also have the right to start your own blog and call it “Fuck Feminists” and I won’t even post a comment ever.

  59. alexmac
    alexmac July 28, 2010 at 10:46 am |

    oh sorry I meant Aaminah, maintenance just came to my apartment

  60. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    AlexMac, don’t fucking partial quote and then bitch. You ARE A MOTHER if you mother a girl (trans or not) as a full time parent. you are a mama then. there is nothing transphobic about saying that people who get to take or leave their mothering duties do not FULLY understand the reality of NOT being able to do that. If you are actively engaged in children’s lives, you are participating in being a mama – and as you even quoted me saying, that is VITAL. i did not fucking say you have to give birth.

    READ PEOPLE. for criss-sakes….

  61. so_treu
    so_treu July 28, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    you know, there was a LOT going on in that “fuck feminists” comment bfp made. specifically there was a comment there about how certain types of women believe that we owe them something (in this case, we owe them the ability to allow them to define US as “feminists”) because of who they are, i.e. feminists.

    but somehow no one can get past the “fuck” part. because it’s hitting a little too close to home maybe?

    let me put it this way. the only reason that i know what a feminist is if because of my mom. it was my mom who insisted that i always ALWAYS speak, even when i was too scared too, ESPECIALLY when i was too scared too. it was my mom who told me i could do whatever i put my mind to, and NOT, i repeat NOT *regardless* of what’s between my legs or the color my skin, but because my gender and my race meant that i was heir to a lineage of strength, of beauty, and of mountain moving ability. it was my mom who gave me books to read by women, by BLACK women, women that are all too easily erased from any kind of canon. it was my mom that taught me a relationship with a man is all well and good, but it’s not essential to my happiness. she also taught me not to waste time hankering after people who don’t respect you and don’t hanker after you in kind.

    do you hear me? NOW did not teach me this. NARAL did not teach me this. Steinem did not teach me this. my mama did. as did her mom, and my aunts and grandmas and sisterfriends and neighborhood mamas. “feminists” have had little to no presence in my day-to-day living. especially in my formative years. aka my childhood. (and looking at that thread, im on my knees thankful for that.)

    so maybe you can hear me now. fuck feminists, because i owe them/you nothing. trust me.

  62. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 10:50 am |

    rightious anger and revolutionary love — there are intense things going on in the world we live in, intense battles. would you prefer silence here? people are speaking up. truth. respond with your best, that part is your choice, which is compassion and thinking. or maybe just listen. read things and think. must there always be so many fast comments?

  63. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 28, 2010 at 10:54 am |

    You know, folks, I’m a capital F Feminist with no qualifiers beforehand. You know what I do if I see someone say “fuck feminism”? I either a) shrug, roll my eyes and move on or b) consider why they said it (depending on who said it–BFP gets more cred from me than say, one of the Botkins). Or c)–leave it alone until my head is much cooler, and after the last thread, I’d advise folks to do that.

    I’ve read a lot of BFP and agree with her on many things. She’s written stuff that touches on perspectives and ideas that have never occurred to me or a lot of bloggers I read. She’s not some right-wing, woman-hating dipshit. You don’t have to like what she said, but you can stop acting so douchey. I mean, shit. No one has to be a Feminist. Really. They don’t owe you an explanation. And if they give you one, then fucking read it and chew it over and stop whining about their anger at White feminists and their tone (since we womenfolk never, ever hear tone lectures. FFS).

    If mai’a or anyone else doesn’t like me or want anything to do with me on the basis that I am a capital F Feminist, I will be just fine. I will sleep well tonight. My day will likely go swimmingly either way. She owes me nothing, and I have nothing to prove to anyone here.

    And I say this as someone who was grinding my teeth–and who’s still grinding her teeth–in response to failtastic things that were said on both sides of this, er, discussion, in the comments section of both posts by mai’a.

    Honestly, anytime a post about children is written, comments on all sides tend to leave me O_o.

  64. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 10:54 am |

    @Jen: it’s not the post itself I have a problem with. If, for this post, we’re working with the definition “mama” = “fighter for social justice,” I can work with that – I think it’s difficult to decouple the word from the meanings it had and still has, but I can work with that.

    But when people comment to say “Yeah! Only people who have mothered can feel radical love and make a difference in the world!” – that’s wrong.

  65. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 10:55 am |

    PJ – if you cared, you’d listen. i am only assuming based on the ridiculous things you have said. as someone else said, you (and others) didn’t take the time – and still arent’ taking the time – to ask “why do you feel this way about feminism? why are you frustrated enough to say ‘fuck feminism’”. which is, yes, what you would do IF YOU CARED. you aren’t asking what the problem(s) is/are. you are just denying them really by getting outraged that we would express those feelings.

    if you want to have an intelligent convo, why don’t we start there?

  66. tanglad
    tanglad July 28, 2010 at 10:56 am |

    It’s difficult to think about how one’s actions as a *F*eminist can hurt other women, isn’t it? For example, the mainstream liberal supposedly feminist interventions like feminist consumption and feminist fair trade make life even more difficult for the Third World women populations who I work with. Maybe that’s why they’re among the many women who do not identify as feminist that Maia noted. It’s easier to accuse us of being exclusionary. Not surprising, but still disappointing.

    Salamat for your fortitude, Maia. From this Peminist, much love and pagmamahal.

  67. Hel
    Hel July 28, 2010 at 11:00 am |

    I thought that feminist was about choice, about giving women the oportunity of being mamas, or childless, or scientist, or prime ministers, or virgins, or sluts, or priests, or pornostars. I don’t identify myself as a mama, and I don’t love everybody, but I respect your right of choosing whatever you want to be. Even if I don’t love you, or like you.

  68. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 11:04 am |

    AlexMac, don’t fucking partial quote and then bitch. You ARE A MOTHER if you mother a girl (trans or not) as a full time parent. you are a mama then. there is nothing transphobic about saying that people who get to take or leave their mothering duties do not FULLY understand the reality of NOT being able to do that. If you are actively engaged in children’s lives, you are participating in being a mama – and as you even quoted me saying, that is VITAL. i did not fucking say you have to give birth.

    READ PEOPLE. for criss-sakes….

    Oi Aaminah, your cis/het privilege is showing.

    You don’t get to wave your hand and dismiss a trans person’s pointing out your cis-centrism and heterocentrism. When you say that centering your life around children is what makes you a mama, you’re denying that right to people who don’t have the privileges you do. Queer and trans people are legally denied the right to parent in many places. Queer and trans people have no protection in many places from discrimination in hiring and firing. Queer and trans people are painted as menaces to children.

    Check your fucking privilege.

  69. Donna L.
    Donna L. July 28, 2010 at 11:07 am |

    I *love* Maia’s definition of “mama.” There’s nothing exclusionary about it.

    But I really wish Aaminah would stop blasting people long enough to acknowledge that her take on it:

    [QUOTE]those who don’t have children can only ever understand a portion of what [transforming, truly revolutionary love and understanding that the trite “children are our future” is still a radical truth] truly means, and only then if they choose to center children, as a coparent, as a father, as a relative caregiver, as a friend, as a teacher, whatever – those are all important, vital and valuable roles. but there is still a point where it falls short of truly understanding the 24/7 dynamic of being a mama[/QUOTE]

    is not remotely the same as Maia’s, and, in fact, is directly contrary to it. I happen to be a trans woman, and my son’s biological father. But in all the years since I transitioned (and even before then, really), I have been as much a “mama” (24/7), and have loved him as fiercely, as any woman who ever gave birth to a child. And it makes no difference that I’m also his father, and that he still calls me “Dad” or “Daddy,” which is a non-gendered term to him. The fact that his father is a woman doesn’t cause either of us the least bit of cognitive dissonance.

    So if I were of a mind to be belligerent, I’d be perfectly entitled to say to aaminah, fuck you and fuck your clueless cis privilege.

    But I won’t. All I ask is that aaminah, like everybody else, learn to consider her “definitions” in the light of her own privileges.

  70. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 11:15 am |

    “Queer and trans people are painted as menaces to children.” important point. can we take in each others meanings because the mothering we are trying to open up is definitely inclusive/protective of trans and queer mothering, as well as opening up also to see the different ways of caretaking and community responsibility and different stages and ages. and I dunno. I have to get off this now. and stay off. but it started out so golden and lets end this thread with more understanding too of how different words sound feel can be construed and build from there. because it seems comments themselves build into their own thing, even away from the essay itself.

  71. Cara
    Cara July 28, 2010 at 11:16 am |

    Dear Everyone Who Is Complaining About The “Fuck Feminists” Comment:

    If you read the thread yesterday and don’t get why bfp said that and why others would support it, I have nothing else to say to you.

    Further, by “pro-feminist” what we intended was “not against social justice and rights for women” rather than “not willing to critique the institution of Feminism and the many assholes who use it as a shield for their oppressive behavior.”

    So maybe we should clarify the policy. Thanks for the tip. But if you want to whine about how Feministe isn’t feminist enough because it’s willing to include women who support justice and rights for women, but who have been deliberately excluded and harmed by feminists and feminism, including in this very space, you’re not going to find sympathy for it, and you can do it elsewhere.

  72. Donna L.
    Donna L. July 28, 2010 at 11:16 am |

    And there are plenty of cis fathers who’d rightfully challenge your essentialist assertion that “mama” and “father” are necessarily qualitatively different, and that being one precludes “truly understanding” the other.

  73. emjaybee
    emjaybee July 28, 2010 at 11:18 am |

    I have learned to respect the anger of someone who has had experiences I have not. So I do. And I am a mama in the parenting sense, and I like the idea of making it a title of respect, of mama=world-transformer.

    It’s still hard not to react with anger when “feminist” is a title that was hard-won and full of pride for me. But yeah, it’s not all about me, and yeah, I do have privilege that is blazingly obvious to many other women who don’t share it.

    So I’ll listen, I am listening. But I won’t submit to being labeled or having my fights diminished by anyone. They were the fights I was born to, and they have not meant nothing. And being a feminist is part of that fight.

  74. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 11:21 am |

    what i see here is commentors who are limiting what mama-hood/motherhood is.

    Mai’a did not say that only those who have mothered can feel radical love or make a difference. That is interpretation – rather self-serving interpretation.

    What has been said over and over is that mothering is about radical love. it is about de-centering self and centering children. often mothering is towards an adult even – adults still need mothering for any variety of reasons. and i would never suggest that someone who is providing that mothering to an adult selflessly doesn’t know what radical love is – whether they even realize that what they are doing is mothering or not. and sometimes we DON’T know/realize that what we are doing is mothering someone else.

    in this way, i think ANYONE can be a mama. whether you birth a child or not. whether you are choosing not to birth or are unable to birth. whether you formally adopt or just take on a child. mothering takes many forms.

    what *i* was trying to get across, and perhaps failing at, is that there is a decided turn by *F*eminists in my life and in comments on Mai’a’s posts to say that women who do take on the full-time duty of parenting are somehow idiots and second class for making such a decision. whether you are cis or trans (and perhaps i would even argue more so if you are trans because there is a very conscious decision then to take on parenting), whether you are birth mother or otherwise – FULL TIME parenting is what i was talking about. the fact that you can’t “walk away” – that your responsibility is ongoing and essentially eternal. that you are held to account by society.

    is there something about full-time mothering that is DIFFERENT from being a father? a mentor? a teacher? a partner/co-parent? in most cases – YES. and is there a lack of respect not to mention resources for mamas? YES.

    what i have found so horribly frustrating in all of these threads has been the “omg, but so many parents are BAD parents who shouldn’t have ever been parents!”. you know, sometimes mamas become mamas who do kinda wish they’d had other options. and sometimes mamas are mamas because of a very involved and active choice.

    but the key to radical love isn’t about HOW you *became* a mama – it’s about how you *are* a mama.

    i think that the definition of being a mama is MUCH BROADER than is being allowed for here and that Mai’a was trying to get at that. so was i. i was not trying to limit who gets to consider themselves a mama or why. in the same way that i think whether one chooses to use the term feminist to self-describe or not doesn’t really change that the way they live their life or promote justice might still be viewed as “feminist” by others, or that what one person views as feminist might not be viewed as such by another.

    all i was advocating for is an awareness of the way that women who do full-time (and i don’t mean 40 hrs a week as a job – i literally mean those who that’s part of WHO they are) mothering should be respected.

    there are many different types of radical love too – i just think the one thing that holds all those types together is an unselfish committment. and i don’t understand how anyone can say they don’t care about children’s needs and don’t see those as intrisicly tied to their own – in the same way that i would say for trans-needs, LGBTQ needs, etc.

    but my lived reality has been that self-avowed feminists are very quick to subsume the needs and struggles of others. so that’s why i feel and agree with BFP’s frustration and have said the same thing myself in the past. as a movement, *F*eminism is very knee jerk and very selfish. so many of us live on a spectrum, a continuum of various oppressions. mamahood is one of those points on that spectrum where we are more often than not told by feminists to shut up. i have an issue with that.

    and for the record, i don’t “hate” quite so many people as folks seem to think. i certainly don’t hate individual people quite as much as they think. i hate institutionalized crap. i hate oppression. i hate the fact that people prop that up and then get angry with me for expressing my hate for the system they prop up. it doesn’t mean i hate you personally.

  75. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide July 28, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    For those getting defensive and taking partial quotes out of context, maybe you may want to sit on this one for awhile and come back later to comment. I know having your privilege pointed out to you is hard (I’m a white, cis, currently-abled, class-privileged, anglo, uni student), but centering this discussion around you and your reactions is precisely what this post is criticising.

    Read it a few more times, and you will see that is is really about actions as opposed to labels, the OP’s personal experiences of oppression (by feminists), embracing motherhood, mentorship, cultural membership, loving children not only as individuals but as an oppressed class, and lifting up your community. There is nothing offensive in that, and more importantly, there is nothing about YOU PERSONALLY that you need to take issue with.

    Would you object to a statement of “fuck misogynists” or “fuck transphobes”? Because “fuck *F*eminism” means much the same to someone actively oppressed by feminism and feminists, and asserting that someone does not have the right to express that is an exercise in privilege. Furthermore, saying that this is somehow bigoted towards feminists is just like claiming ‘reverse racism/sexism.’ I don’t buy it.

    Also, I think this is a pointed critique of western individualism and libertarian/liberal feminism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_feminism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_feminism) which is timely for a number of reasons in a period of conservative backlash. This sort of feminism is ableist and exclusive (http://switchintoglide.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/independent-women-privileged-feminist-ideologies-and-ableism), and is readily apparent in how we centre so many discussions of women on individual rights (right to choose, etc.), which is a de facto way of privileging white women.

    Let’s try and fix feminism so people no longer have to cry out “fuck feminism” instead of blaming the victims of our privilege, please.

  76. Cara
    Cara July 28, 2010 at 11:25 am |

    Also, one other thing: if you feel hurt or even “unsafe” because of “fuck feminists,” I basically understand where you’re coming from. Hearing a dismissal of a label that you use can be hurtful. I’ve been hurt by these kinds of statements a lot in the past, even though I knew that it wasn’t about me specifically. Right or wrong, fair or unfair (and I think it’s mostly unfair), it can feel like having your identity attacked. I suppose that it could even make you feel unsafe.

    But here’s the thing that you should be thinking about. If “fuck feminists” hurts or makes you feel unsafe, think about just how hurt and unsafe women who believe in justice for women just as strongly as you do have to feel in feminist spaces in order to utter those words. And then think about how terrifying and painful and wrong that is. Maybe you’ll start to get where the words are coming from, and why your hurt isn’t the most important thing in this particular situation. Or, at least, I hope a few of you might.

  77. Laughingrat
    Laughingrat July 28, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    This essay is so incomplete in its understanding of feminism and the social problems it addresses, so disordered in the way it presents its ideas, and so manipulative around race, class, parenting, and other important issues that it is impossible for anyone to reply to it coherently without spending paragraph after paragraph just deconstructing the false assumptions and pro-oppression attitudes implicit within it. Actually trying to communicate with you in a mutually constructive way about–well, anything at all–would obviously further be so exhausting and pointless that it’s doubtless anyone would bother. I have to wonder what the motives of the Feministe moderators are in inviting you to speak here, because you have only managed to make yourself look foolish, and by association, tarnish the interesting and valid aspects of your experiences and ideas. They have done you a disservice. It looks a lot like a setup to me.

    It is possible to speak boldly and proudly for your point of view and your experiences without arbitrarily denigrating other people. “Mainstream” feminists, whatever those are, are not hurting you, although the strawfeminists cheerfully provided by mass media and the “everyone knows…” school of experts certainly cut compelling, ominous figures for you to attack. There are real enemies for us both to fight. I am baffled as to why we must fight each other. Feminists are a lot of things, including, sometimes, “mamas.”

  78. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 11:28 am |

    xoxo Aaminah xoxo

    fuck power not people.

  79. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 11:30 am |

    Donna L – again – good lord… read if you’re gonna quote. you ARE mothering even if you call it fathering! MOST “fathers” are NOT 24/7 parents. if you are a 24/7 parent, then you ARE mothering and you DO understand exactly what i was talking about. it’s not about trans vs cis here. MOTHERING (in this context) IS 24/7 always-the-responsible-party-who-HAS-TO(and is expected to)-selflessly-&-tirelessly parent. so you are a fucking mother, as far as i’m concerned. you are a mama. there are, as i keep saying, MANY ways to be a mama and many ways to mother. all i said was that anyone who doesn’t do the 24/7 mothering does not understand the nuances of that role. it’s not degrading the necessity of OTHER roles to say that they don’t understand 24/7 pressures.

    mama is NOT necessarily a gendered term. or at least i don’t see it as necessarily being a gender limited term. my son calls me his father as well. and my son looks forward to being a mother and a father. i’m not the one limiting it to a gender. society limits it, and society in a very genderized way hates on women mamas. but yes, society hates on trans (men, women, both, neither) mamas even more. not me. please don’t put words in my mouth.

  80. S
    S July 28, 2010 at 11:31 am |

    “I have been as much a “mama” (24/7), and have loved him as fiercely, as any woman who ever gave birth to a child.”

    So, are we all going to agree that going through pregnancy, birth, and lactation for a child mean nothing? Parenting is parenting is parenting, but I’m not going to accept that raising a child is the exact same thing as birthing a child. Raising is hard, but you don’t usually have to confront death for it. You don’t literally have to give your body, and focus all of your self and your being on it. You don’t go through the experiences of labor, which are important and should not be dismissed.

    Women DIE giving birth to children daily. It’s one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide.

    Nurturing, teaching, co-parenting, yes, yes, yes. All of these are great, and wonderful. And a non-birthing/adoptive/substitute/etc parent is not less of a parent for having not birthed that child.

    But do NOT so blithely dismiss the sacrifices and experiences of pregnancy, birth, and lactation and say that raising a child is directly analogous to birthing one. They are not the same thing.

  81. latenac
    latenac July 28, 2010 at 11:32 am |

    There’s a huge difference between critiques and ad hominem attacks. “Fuck feminism” not really a critique. And frankly to separate out supporting justice and rights for women as something separate from feminism well I would define it as not being feminism in the first place. This whole conversation seems to boil down to either you’re a mother or a feminist, you can’t be both b/c feminism is about selfishness and motherhood is about love. (trying hard not to roll my eyes about both.) I’ve known plenty of selfish mothers and plenty of selfless feminists. This is a pro-feminism blog why not present what you have to present recognizing your audience rather than basically having an undertone of “Well I really dislike you guys and I would never call myself a feminist b/c you’re all jerks but let me tell you how wonderful and powerful I am so you can realize how horrible you guys are.”

    Maybe 90% of the women here who call themselves feminists are white privileged selfish people. I don’t know. But if you were trying to convert people to your cause or actually discuss real issues as you see them and be a mama who is teaching people, then well your posts are a big fail. If you were just trying to be shocking and piss people off that you look down upon anyway while generating comments and page views, well then your posts are an epic win.

  82. AJ
    AJ July 28, 2010 at 11:34 am |

    Ok, Cara, “fuck feminists” is now pro-feminist, and by thinking “fuck feminists” is anti-feminist EVEN after reading a thread about how children who are taught self-control are being oppressed, I am potentially an asshole using feminism as a shield for oppressive behavior.

    Really?

  83. Emily
    Emily July 28, 2010 at 11:36 am |

    I think that in the US, or rather, in white class privileged US culture, we have difficulty conceiving of mamas the way that mai’a is describing. But it’s such a powerful definition and such a powerful affirming role. I find myself very hestitant to mother other people’s children. Even when I know I can help. Even when it seems like I should. I think that I have somewhere developed the idea that “it’s not my place” or it would be “wrong” or that the parents would be “mad” but honestly, I’ve never had a caregiver be mad when I have gotten over myself to do it. I think we benefit from that kind of community solidarity, and I hope to find more areas in my own life where that kind of support and love lives.

    Becoming a mother has given me, personally, a window into a different kind of love. A love that connects me not only to my child, but to everyone in the world in a new way. I cry for the world in a way I never did before I had a child. I’m sure many people are able to feel that deep love without having children of their own. But there are also a lot of people who do find it through motherhood. It is not completely divorced from the concept of biological motherhood, but it is also not circumscribed to only those who have had that experience. Being a mother has given me a new perspective on radical love. That may be true for many women. But there is never only one path, and the fact that my path was biological motherhood does not cast aspersions on anyone who has chosen to forego motherhood or for whom it’s not an option.

  84. PJ
    PJ July 28, 2010 at 11:37 am |

    Nice save, Cara. By the way, identifying as feminist and believing in social justice are NOT mutually exclusive. But I’ll “whine” elsewhere from now on.

    1. Cara
      Cara July 28, 2010 at 11:53 am |

      By the way, identifying as feminist and believing in social justice are NOT mutually exclusive.

      What? Where did I say they were? I identify as a feminist, and I believe in social justice. So … pointing out that some women believe in social justice BUT have been harmed by feminism and therefore don’t identify with it does not mean that feminists don’t believe in social justice.

      Anyway, just for the record, I’m not going to be around to answer comments for the rest of the day. But much love to you, too, AJ.

  85. Amber
    Amber July 28, 2010 at 11:40 am |

    @Aaminah 77,

    That’s a very helpful comment. I’m sorry it had to be said over and over and over, but for me, I had to read it twenty different ways in screams, shouts and whispers to begin to hear what is being said. Thank you.

  86. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 11:44 am |

    Rebecca, i am fully aware of and IN AGREEMENT with your points. i don’t get how that means i’m engaging in cis-centric thinking. the fact that trans are not legally allowed to parent does NOT mean that they don’t still parent in various capacities. in fact, i personally am friends with transwomen who parent full-time (yeah, 24/7) and others who have partial custody of their children and parent in a very involved (i would still consider it 24/7 parenting even if their kids are only with them part time) way.

    i am so glad you bring up how trans are viewed as unable to parent and as “omg! danger!” though, because that is a very real issue as well. obviously i have serious issues with people who think like that (and hey, i know A LOT of *F*eminists who contribute to the upholding of those wack ideas!). i am 100% supportive of trans self-determination, parenting rights, adoption rights, etc. and i don’t think they are “less” than mamas in any way.

    i really don’t even understand the assumptions that are being made here that i am transphobic because i don’t center men as parents in a space that is specifically about women and transwomen.

    i most certainly welcome comments and discussion on the unique perspectives and trials of trans-mothers/fathers. but you must excuse me for not speaking TO their/your needs since i frankly don’t feel it’s my place or that i have the knowledge necessary to do it justice.

    my sincere apologies to anyone who was/is offended by very unintentional cis-privilege i may have displayed. i still think assumptions are being made about me and what my privileges are, as well as that i am being way misinterpreted across the board. clearly i am unable to express myself in a way that ANYONE here can understand so i will bow out of this conversation hence forth but will look forward to reading what others have to add.

  87. Donna L.
    Donna L. July 28, 2010 at 11:46 am |

    OK, aaminah, I accept that I misinterpreted your words and intentions and apologize for that. It would be unrealistic of me, as a trans woman, to expect every cis person always to consider the implications for trans people of what they say, in advance of saying it.

  88. Mechelle
    Mechelle July 28, 2010 at 11:54 am |

    I think I get it now. At first, I seriously misunderstood and took it the wrong way. I’m sorry.

    I understand what you mean by mama. Even though I have not birthed any children, I can still be a mama to those around me. I can be a mama to my mama, right? Aaminah, your reply 77 and 82 really cleared it up for me. I think the misconception is that many women here (as I did) thought of it in a gendered way but you are not seeing it that way. Seeing it your way makes more sense to me. Thank you.

    As a WOC I really do realize how sometimes feminism leaves me out. I understand that is why some people do not identify with it because it leaves them invisible. I would say I have not felt this much as a WOC (I AM fairly new to feminism) but can see it very clearly when speaking of transwomen as I have people close to be who identify as such and it hurts to see them glossed over.

    I totally misunderstood but now I have a lot more respect for you and mai’a. I am glad you all are here to give me another perspective because I never thought much about it this way.

  89. Lib
    Lib July 28, 2010 at 11:55 am |

    @China
    Do you blog? While I am clicking on names to find more of folks’ work in this forum, I’d love to add any work you produce to my bloglines, as I am already highly impressed by your comments.

  90. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 11:56 am |

    So, hello. I’m the one who said fuck feminism. only–not really, I said, specifically:

    Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you.
    Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.

    Now, I think the more interesting conversation on this thread would be to ask–what does “mami” mean? Or m/others? Why is it different than mommy or mother? I would be interested in hearing the real world activism that women who call themselves mami, mamaz and M/others do every day and how it expands into the community and is centered on holistic community organizing and individual needs rather than exclusive “my baby pees gold from Jesus’s sweat.”

    I think it would an incredibly interesting conversation to wonder why even feminists find “mama” to be a silly, obscene, offensive, etc term–and *infantilizing* term–and that doesn’t bother them, when, well, most mothers are women and feminism is supposed to be about women etc etc etc. I think it would be an *amazing* conversation to talk about why feminists will “reclaim” bitch and cunt, but find “mama” just too fucking goddamn offensive to even think about–

    And of course, there’s that other really interesting thing about how transwomen outside of the US (in many countries in Africa in particular) use mama and are called mama in a way that celebrates their womanhood in a way we will never see in the US ever–and I’d love to know why that is…

    And I think the interesting thing is that if there was even a little curiosity as to why somebody would not spell mom, M-O-M, but instead M-A-M-I–we could start to uncover the many decades long, centuries long, problems non-white women have with feminism, in really interesting and productive ways. Rather than me having to explain it all in one comment that would never do it justice ever because how can you put an entire history into one comment?

    But brownie points to everybody who has managed to completely decontextulize what I said. You are very clever.

  91. Jamie
    Jamie July 28, 2010 at 11:57 am |

    This post is divisive, unnecessarily hostile, and full of logical holes, and I am so disapointed to see such dismissive comments coming from moderators.

    Feministe was one of the first feminist blogs I started reading when I was coming out as a feminist, and I am so sad to say that I won’t be reading it anymore.

  92. Xy
    Xy July 28, 2010 at 11:57 am |

    being a mama is not a description of one’s biology or genitalia. it does not describe how many children we have nestled in wombs. it is not a description of age or even male/female gender.

    it is who we are. it is what we do. it is love by any means necessary.

    The link between this definition of ‘mama’ and what you say in your quoted post seems somewhat tenuous.

    Your linked post appears to assert that the emotional resonance of the word stems from a perceived innate (‘primordial’) commonality between various languages and societies across time and space of respecting women, with connotations of motherhood.

    However, the definition you give at the end of your post, that ‘mama’-hood is ‘love by any means necessary’ conflicts with this somewhat: it is unlikely that the majority of people who use ‘mama’ as an honorific (or as a word for mother) take this as the primary meaning of the word. Can a child be ‘mama’? Can a non-female-identified person be ‘mama’? Can a person who fails to love be ‘mama’? Would you call them ‘mama’? And what about all the people who call you ‘mama’? Would they call people such as these ‘mama’ too?

    A personal definition is one thing, but to talk about how a word is powerful and evocative due to the similar ways it is used by all kinds of people around the world and then to propse a redefinition which negates this ‘common’ usage, while attempting to retain the emotional power of the word – with its foundation removed! – seems a little intellectually dishonest if you are hoping to do other than share your personal response to the term and its resonance for you.

    You write that “they just call me ‘mama’. these movements center mamas, overflow with mamas…. we give birth to and nurture, in various ways, revolutionaries everyday… Using ‘birth’ and ‘nurture’, even if you do not mean birth in a literal sense, to describe the work of a ‘mama’, surely demonstrate how inextricably this word is tied up with motherhood (and certain conceptions of ‘womanhood’), partly (I imagine) in your own mind, but also in the common understanding of the word (which I gather has influenced your feeling that the word has ‘power’). And all those connotations and tangled connections which make up the power of ‘mama’, which give it the meanings it has for various people, perhaps in your case can be primarily identified as and pared down to ‘love by any means necessary’, but I very much doubt that everyone who uses it can agree on your definition.

    Thus: your assertion that ‘mama’-hood, defined as ‘love by any means necessary’, is an essential attribute of successful movements and the use of ‘mama’ as an honorific by various populations, including some WoC movements, really can’t, and shouldn’t, be conflated if you aim to make this a topic of debate rather than a poetic, personal reflection. They refer to two completely different conceptions of the word.

  93. Kaija
    Kaija July 28, 2010 at 11:59 am |

    And the moment you offer questions or criticism about how the world and its spaces can be (re)defined for more radical acceptance and inclusion, the knee-jerk reaction of most mainstream femmies is to write: WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT MY CHOICES? WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT MY LIFE? WHAT ABOUT ME?

    This is not really about the ONE TRUE FEMINISM or mothers vs. childfree women, this is about the fact that there are many many ways to live one’s life and the movement that I call feminism works for acceptance of individual free choice for ALL people, regardless of gender, class, parental status, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. The same selfish statements quoted in italics come up whether the issue is having children vs. childfree, semi-socialized health care, status quo , affirmative action, gay marriage, working moms vs. stay-at-home-moms, and on and on…lots of assuming that something for others means less for “me” and demanding reasons why “my” particular case should be most important.

    Pitting ourselves against ourselves does the divide-and-conquer work that keeps people from organizing to change structural barriers and cultural scripts that free all people to chose the life that suits them and build the supports that collectively leverage our variable contributions.. Not everyone will make the same choices, but everyone will have to accept and tolerate the choices of others. The mothers group can be and often is further splintered by the stay-at-home-with-the-kids vs. working-via-daycare squabbles. I don’t see that helping any of us.

    I’m a feminist, I don’t have or want children, but I can’t read any more of these threads without feeling dejected…

  94. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 11:59 am |

    “It would be unrealistic of me, as a trans woman, to expect every cis person always to consider the implications for trans people of what they say, in advance of saying it.”

    You know though, Donna, i really do pray for a day when that is not at all unrealistic for you to expect. And i hope that day comes soon. You’ve given me a lot to think about, because frankly, i’m not ignorant of the matter but it’s not always what i am centering when i am talking about something, esp not when i am speaking from personal experience. i need to center it more and point to voices like yours when doing so.

  95. Shoshie
    Shoshie July 28, 2010 at 12:08 pm |

    Laughingrat-

    The mainstream feminism being discussed here isn’t a boogly boogly thought up by the US right wing. It’s people who call themselves feminists and continue to oppress others. Geez, have you read the comments in threads on Feministe or Feministing or whatever other blogs that talk about trans issues? Or fat? Or race? They’re abhorrent! These are feminists who are hurting women and they are not strawwomen and they are not imaginary. They are real and they are hurting women. That is what we need to discuss in our movement.

  96. Jigae
    Jigae July 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm |

    It’s sad you all don’t have more ad units because this is starting to feel like controversy for the sake of page views.

  97. Ellie
    Ellie July 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm |

    @Jamie: Feministe was one of the first feminist blogs I started reading when I was coming out as a feminist, and I am so sad to say that I won’t be reading it anymore.

    I have unsubscribed as well. This is not a discussion I can include myself in any longer. I just can’t; there’s no space for me here.

  98. Morgan
    Morgan July 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm |

    @Aaminah – Even if it’s society and not you that genders mother/father as labels, the fact remains that you didn’t distinguish in your original comment between the gendered/non-gendered labels of ‘father’ as ‘male parent’ and ‘father’ as ‘non-full-time caregiver’. With your clarifications, I see where you’re coming from, but the original comment that got people worked up didn’t make the distinction of definitions obvious, especially since in your original list of non-mama child-caring roles you listed “co-parent” and “father”, when “co-parent” seems to be what you’re defining a non-gendered “father” role as in any case, unless I’m reading you wrong.

    If you personally don’t see “mother” and “father” as gender-limited terms, but you recognize that society does in general, it’s to be expected that unless you explain your own definition at the start, people taking your comments at face value are going to assume you mean them in the way they’re generally meant in society at large. Which is gendered.

    I agree a lot more with your most recent few comments than with your earlier ones, because it seems that what you were trying to say and what I was reading you as saying were different. Comment #77, I do like and agree with, but that and #80 did redefine what you were saying before a great deal. I don’t think it’s a case of people “putting words in your mouth” so much as the words that you did say being ambiguous – even if people weren’t getting the meaning you intended out, it doesn’t imply bad faith on their part. You only defined what you meant by “father” AFTER Donna L. had made her comment, unless I’ve missed something (in which case sorry). I didn’t see anything before that which would make it it unreasonable to assume that if you spoke about “mother” and “father” as distinct, the definitions were “female parent” and “male parent”, rather than “24/7 parent” and “not 24/7 parent”. Even if the definitions correlate statistically speaking, it doesn’t mean one is necessarily tied to the other.

    In principle I think I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but the criticisms which people have made of what you said seem to me to be legitimate based on the actual words you used, if not necessarily on your intent.

  99. Salix
    Salix July 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm |

    I think it would be an *amazing* conversation to talk about why feminists will “reclaim” bitch and cunt, but find “mama” just too fucking goddamn offensive to even think about–

    Oh my gosh. bfp, I am in love with this.

    (If I had to toss up a guess, I would say–because the [white] feminist movement has, historically, framed children/mothering rather than violence against women as the source and font of [white] women’s oppression. This is not the message to nor the experience of WOC. And I just know someone is gonna read that as “ZOMG u just said violence against women isn’s a problem.” For the record: that is emphatically not what I said. I have some other thoughts on the nature of rebellion in general and on how society specifically guides people to revolt in ways that don’t fundamentally challenge its structures, but that seems too, um, academic for the general tone of this thread.)

  100. Morgan
    Morgan July 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm |

    and I meant 82 when I said 80

  101. Jadey
    Jadey July 28, 2010 at 12:20 pm |

    This post emphasizes for me why I do not feel comfortable identifying as a feminist. It’s for the opposite reason – because all that feminism means to me, for a person like me, is privilege. Most of the successes (and “successes”) of the feminist movement as I know them have been about giving women like me more access and more privilege, but not about ending gender oppression and other oppressions. To take the title of “feminist” and get comfortable with it in any way would just be another extension of my privilege, an acceptance that I live at an intersection of privilege, not of oppression. I experience instances of oppression, but I do not and have not yet ever lived it.

    This does not stop me from loving the women (and others) in my life who are feminists, and learning from them, because what feminism means for me in my life is not necessarily the same as for them. But for me, feminism is colonialism – it is squatting on someone else’s land.

  102. Salix
    Salix July 28, 2010 at 12:23 pm |

    P.S. I’m talking about general framing of the narrative, media portrayals, political movements–not the individual experiences of women of color versus white women. I don’t think I made that clear.

  103. solara
    solara July 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm |

    This blog used to be one of my mainstays, and has become, over the last few months, part of my emotional support as my real life has been increasingly isolated due to events that are out of control. The problems this blog is facing now, and the hostility I feel here, have actually almost driven me to commit suicide – because where I live, there aren’t liberals, much less feminists or even womanists. It gets really isolated and unloved feeling. Now, I see this: Fuck feminists, all in the name of “radical love”. Really? Well, thanks for giving me the message clear and simple. There’s no longer room for me here, for a feminist intellectual who deeply appreciates critiques of feminist discourse and discussions of problematic issues and language within feminism. I could talk about why the language being used is triggering to many feminists, and why our initial reactions to such sentiments are anger, fear, pain, and, for me, crippling depression. But I’m not sure you care, and I sure as heck have had enough trying to talk to people who don’t care in real life, much less over the internet.

    Good bye, and I hope someone with more patience can try and speak up about what’s going on here.

  104. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm |

    Part of the push back (and part of why I’m going to have to push back) is that outside of the feminist sphere, in my social experience, being a mother is privileged over not being a mother. I personally experience social pressure to have children. I’ve been denied jobs because people think mothers are better qualified to work in that environment. I’ve been publicly chastised by mothers for my decision not to have a child. I’ve been called selfish, stupid, and unnatural by friends, family, and medical professionals. I have been denied medical procedures because I have not yet given birth. Because I will not conform to the appropriate notion of what a woman should be, I experience oppression. Hell, in the last thread someone said that those who are child free should be grateful to those who choose to have children…as if we’re doing something wrong that someone else must make amends for. Thus to the extent that any discussion forwards the narrative that I am somehow less of a person or woman because I don’t want to have a child or that motherhood is essential…that’s about me. And its not whining. It’s not bitching. It’s not denying that mother’s also face oppression. It’s simply asking you to respect that your words add to the cacophony of hate that is directed at me.

    This isn’t to say that the feminist movement doesn’t have an anti-mama problem. Based on the last thread, I think that’s pretty self-evident. The feminist movement fucks things up all the time. If you’re going to sit around defending feminism…well, here’s a shovel…there’s the mountain of shit. I’d start with Susan B. Anthony and George Francis Train and keep digging. So bfp’s anger and frustration make sense to me.

    But, the use of the word mama as a definition for social justice bothers me. Because regardless of its current meaning, its derivation is rooted in mothering. It’s attempting to re-center my experience around motherhood. It’s equating motherhood with nurturing. I reject that my compassion, my love for other people is rooted in mothering. That I should be defined by motherhood.

    I completely understand that this provides important meaning for some people…but please understand that when you universalize it, using a word that evokes old prejudices and gender norms…you hurt those of us who do not fit into those gender norms.

  105. C.E.
    C.E. July 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm |

    I very much appreciate Maia’s post. Like so_treu, I was taught to be “feminist” things–independent, assertive, social justice-loving, proud of my female self–largely by my mother. My mother never identified as a feminist, and for a long time I thought that was my mother’s failing. But it was the failing of the mainstream American feminist movement, which did not include my mother in it and which still fails to include many marginalized women in it.

    I identify myself as a feminist since the label sums up many of my beliefs about human rights as they relate to gender. However, I recognize that there are powerful, effective women and gender movements across the globe that, for many valid and rational reasons, do not define themselves as feminist. One such reason is that white upper/middle class North American/Western European hetero cis women still dominate feminism.

    I (as a white upper/middle class American hetero cis woman) strive to change that about feminism, because I think such exclusion is bad for everyone. It’s hard to know how to stop it when even my most educated, well-traveled feminist friends lament the supposed lack of feminism everywhere outside of Western Europe, California, and the Northeastern US. Their ignorance is really inexcusable. I tell them that there are millions of people doing what I consider “feminist” work outside of my friends’ small circles, and I get answers basically saying that the work that African or Indian or minority American women are doing is “not really *feminist.*” Who, then, is refusing to apply the label?

    No people–even women sharing my beliefs about equality and justice, women whom I think of as feminists who are doing what I think of as feminist work–have *any* responsibility to me or to a political movement to embrace the label “feminism”. Not my mom, not Maia, not anyone. If people identifying as feminists want huge numbers of other amazing people to identify as feminists, then we should start better including them and recognizing their work. Otherwise, they have every right to say “fuck feminism,” and people identifying as feminists would do well to listen.

  106. PJ
    PJ July 28, 2010 at 12:35 pm |

    And Cara, I’m sorry you won’t be around for the rest of the day because I have a couple of things to say to you:

    You’ve said that those of us who were alarmed by the “fuck feminist” quote were “whining.” Surely you’re aware that women who dare to express a dissenting opinion have been called “whiners” for decades, if not centuries. As a moderator on a feminist blog, you might want to choose your words more carefully. This isn’t right-wing radio, is it?

    Also, you did indeed allude to (and foment) the completely false notion that feminism belongs only to “privileged” women, while social justice is a completely separate issue and that is only for — whom exactly? The truth is that feminism (like civil rights, like LGBT rights, etc.) is part and parcel of a larger movement toward social justice. To that end, I also resent the implication all through this comment thread that “privileged” women (read: white?) cannot possibly have been victims of any kind of violence, trauma, or oppression, and might need protection from certain kinds of implied threat. That is pure unadulterated bullshit, and you of all people should know better.

    This is a feminist blog. It’s in the very name. If I were to visit a blog dedicated to horror movies and call horror movie fans a bunch of pathetic basement-dwelling geeks, I would be a troll, and would be banned, and rightfully so.

    I can only conclude that you wanted to stir up some page views. Well done. Men everywhere will find this very amusing, I’m sure.

  107. anonymous lurker
    anonymous lurker July 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm |

    Wow. So, what I’m getting out of this thread is that the divide between WOC and white feminists is… not decreasing. At all. I’m also getting the sense that there are white commenters in this thread that don’t understand that this entire discussion is about racism. Psst, guys: IT’S ABOUT RACISM.

    I get where BFP’s coming from, where that anger is coming from, where maia is coming from. At the same time… I’m white and affluent. White mainstream feminism carved out possibilities for me, my mother, my grandmother, and that did help and teach me, as much as my mother helped and teach me. Those experiences are real for me and shaped me. I don’t want to be a mother. I don’t want to be a metaphorical mama. I don’t want to love radically. I just want to redistribute resources. There’s such a huge divide, a disconnect here, and this thread makes me feel like it’s never gonna end. It depresses me.

    But, again, I don’t blame maia and BFP for keeping their distance from a movement that not only excludes them, but literally hurts them.

  108. Frowner
    Frowner July 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm |

    I’m a serious lurker and a very occasional commenter. I’ve been thinking about maia’s post from yesterday a lot, also what goes wrong in the comments sections on posts like these. (I’ve seen several just in the last couple of months.)

    One of the things I like about Feministe is the awareness of derailment–threads get derailed a lot but at least there’s a discourse available to critique that. I feel like there’s a…a kind of emotional derailment that happens in these threads. Although there were a lot of directions that discussion could have gone, it’s very clear that maia didn’t want the response to her post to be a thread in which we argued about whether children behave well or poorly in public places and debated whether children belong in bars and strip clubs. It also seems to me that a thread about examples of bad child behavior is unlikely to generate anything useful to us as feminists.

    It dismays me that this type of essay often generates so much more emotional engagement than other topics but generates so little in terms of anti-oppression work. What attracts so many people to this type of pile-on, especially in a space nominally using an anti-oppression framework?

    It also seems to me that in a movement and on a blog that’s had recurring trouble with white privilege, those of us who are white have a particular responsibility to figure out constructive ways to disagree with activists of color. For me personally, that means a generous reading of bfp’s “fuck feminism” comment–ie, I know that white women and feminism have repeatedly failed women of color in very painful and frustrating ways; how can I respond to bfp’s comment in that context? How can I respond to this comment in a way that gets me closer to anti-oppression goals instead of centering my immediate feelings? Can I respect someone’s legitimate anger instead of getting angry in response? How would I want a straight ally to respond to my feelings of hurt and anger when straight people fuck up again and again? …Ultimately, how can I respond to bfp’s comment in community with her rather than in opposition to her?

    This

    I think it would be an *amazing* conversation to talk about why feminists will “reclaim” bitch and cunt, but find “mama” just too fucking goddamn offensive to even think about

    is absolutely brill, and I would be all over a thread like that. In that kind of thread, I wouldn’t myself start out by discussing feminists/bitch/cunt; I would start out by discussing “mama” and the various responses to it.

  109. Evie-lu
    Evie-lu July 28, 2010 at 12:38 pm |

    @Kristin J. (#109): “But, the use of the word mama as a definition for social justice bothers me. Because regardless of its current meaning, its derivation is rooted in mothering. It’s attempting to re-center my experience around motherhood. It’s equating motherhood with nurturing. I reject that my compassion, my love for other people is rooted in mothering. That I should be defined by motherhood.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been trying to put together in my head this morning, so thank you so much for that. My caring about other humans or about non-human animals has nothing do to with mothering and all to do with compassion (which I do not see as coming from some innate mothering-related trait).

  110. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide July 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm |

    Put me down as one white privileged feminist who is sticking around–this is EXACTLY the discussion that should be having in spaces like this, and to those of you “saddened to be leaving Feministe for-evah” (“boo hoo, everything is not about me and my experiences and my individual right not to be challenged in my hegemony”) need to open your minds–there are experiences that are so unlike ours that we can scarcely comprehend them, but attempting to do so, !REALLY LISTENING! even through a blog is where social justice begins.

    ma’ia, keep on truckin’. You have my rapt attention in a way that no blogger on this site ever has–I learn something at every turn, and if I had to state one passion that I have that is greater than my love of gardening, it would be my constant love of learning. Please keep challenging and de-stabilising places of interaction such as this; I look forward to following your work.

    Offended feminists–get over it. Take a step back and learn something from this experience, and consider how your responses to this post are much like privileged male responses to “women’s issues.” Something to think about.

  111. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide July 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm |

    Also, to perhaps re-direct this thread: how do you think that the terms related to “mama” and “mami” interact with the racist portrayals of “mammys” in north american cinema and lit. (IE. Gone with the Wind)?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammy_archetype

    Is that a white co-option and subjugation of black motherhood? I have to admit, having a Canadian (and therefore knowing wayyyy to much about American pop culture because of US Cultural Imperialism, another issue for another day) perspective, “mammy” is what came to mind when I heard “mami”. Any thoughts?

  112. Athenia
    Athenia July 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm |

    Why are we arguing about this? Maia seems to have such rich background—a background that I imagine most of us don’t share.

    Why aren’t we talking about that?

    Why is this discussion so combative?

    We are all working to end sexist opression.

  113. C.E.
    C.E. July 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm |

    Specifically on the mama point, I’d like to add: Many commenters are arguing, like Kristin J., that “the use of the word mama as a definition for social justice bothers me [because] regardless of its current meaning, its derivation is rooted in mothering.” I acknowledge that point, but I think the same commenters should be able to appreciate that the use of feminism as a definition for gender justice bothers many because it is rooted in privilege, and arguably it continues to be associated with privilege.

  114. Faith
    Faith July 28, 2010 at 12:45 pm |

    “being a mother is privileged over not being a mother.”

    That where so many people are so greatly mistaken. I promise you that there is no privilege in being a mother. None whatsoever. The pressure that you feel to give birth is not because the people pressuring you honestly think so highly of mothers. They do not. They are pressuring you to give birth in order to force you into a position where you are easier to control. Becoming a mother did not give me more privilege, it took away a great deal of my privilege. It forced me into a position where I was and am just as dependent on my kids as they are on me, in certain respects. As a mother I am just expected to give up any other aspect of my life. The ironic thing is that all the so-called feminists on the threads about kids who are complaining about kids and telling women where they can or can not go is that these feminists are HELPING misogynists to control us. They are doing the job of the radical right for them. I promise that conservatives and MRAs reading these comment threads are laughing their asses off at that comment thread and this one.

  115. sadie
    sadie July 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but i did spend some time with the comment thread yesterday and went to bed aggravated and disgusted.

    Maia, I am with you. I’m a white mama from a poor background and while I’ll generally ID as small f feminist, I have been paying attention to the myriad ways that feminism fails so many women, especially women of color, poor women, transwomen, mamas. Honestly i don’t understand how any feminist who’s been paying attention can read you say that you don’t ID as a feminist and not get what that is about, even if they don’t feel that way themselves. People need to expand their reading, i guess, or maybe have a conversation with a radical woman of color or three.

    So many movements around the world have been kicked off by mamas, sustained by mamas, won by mamas. *F*eminists need to learn about those stories, and notice that like you say, those women aren’t worrying about wether or not they are FEMINIST. They’re worrying about real life shit.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there and hanging in in spite of the ridiculousness going on. and thanks to Feministe for hosting.

  116. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    mai’a this is a beautiful post. And no wonder I always call you, in my mind, mama mai’a. I keep looking for that qualifier whenever I see your name.

    I’ve read some of the comments but I wanted to get this comment written before the thread got too long for me to view it (as it looks like it’s on its way to doing, lol.) I am a slow writer.

    Anyway, I am a mother and a grandmother. That, actually, is neither here nor there, though, I think as pertains to this conversation. I am not particularly fond of children, or at least children I am responsible for – I had one, for this reason. She turned around and had four, though, so that didn’t exactly work out according to plan ;).

    I always say the above – that I am not fond of children – and I even believe it sometimes, but from the beginning of my conconsciousness as a girl, as a woman, as an activist, as a (at one time) feminist, as part of society, as a mama – I have felt that centering children is the key to it all.

    My reasons may be different from that of others – to me, centering children means centering life. And it means centering *all* children – loving by any means necessary, as you say (I love that!). Imagine a world where the children were the center, and the parents/adults were the satellites – people would pull out all stops to make sure that no child went hungry, that they were not bombed, that no child was ostracized because they were gay, or trans, or gender queer, or not abled in any certain way, or poor, or of any particular color or ethnicity, or born to a certain group of people in a certain place, or… well, I could go on, but I think that’ll do. What a world it would be when they grew up – not perfect, because there is no such thing, but maybe… different.

    And, by way of centering children, centering life, it naturally follows that women are centered. Whether they are biological parents or not – that is not really important (to my way of thinking) to the centering of life (not wombs, specifically, by the way).

    I am (obviously) not “theory” trained. I was so excited, though, when Feminist sites started popping up all over the internet – finally, I thought, I was going to learn about *real* feminism, not my hodgepodge collection of life lessons and beliefs. I was soooo puzzled, at first, reading these sites – amusing, many of them were, and full of little this’s and that’s – but when, I wondered, were they going to get to the real stuff? I mean, surely there is only so much one can say about lipstick and blowjobs and feminist brands and – well, a whole host of other things that I thought interesting, but not particularly relevant to the lives of women I knew. Finally I realized – to them, this *was* the real stuff.

    Things have changed a bit over the years, as more Feminists have come into contact with women unlike themselves, and people are trying. Still I moved on, thankfully finding radical women of color and womanists and so on, where the fit for me was more comfortable. I’ll tell you though, what was/is my final straw with mainstream feminism is the question – “why is this a feminist issue?” whether it is posed as a question by the commentariat or answered preemptively by the person writing about whatever issue.

    When life/children/women are centered, everything is a feminist issue. Everything relates to the next thing and has impact far beyond just the individual and a lack of recognition of this is, of course, very dangerous and damaging to me and mine.

    Well, I got far afield from where I began or intended to go, but beautiful post, mai’a. I hope those who are having trouble grasping what you are saying are able to take a step back, listen and perhaps come to a better understanding.

  117. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    Faith,

    I think you misunderstood what I was saying. Conforming to gender norms provides a type of privilege. So yes, by conforming to social expectations you are privileged. That doesn’t mean that mother’s get treated well and more than it means that skinny people are treated well. It simply means that society approves of your actions and disapproves of mine and use its power to force me to change.

  118. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm |

    @Aaminah:

    (I’m just reading down the comments, I hope you don’t mind if I reply sequentially.)

    Mai’a did not say that only those who have mothered can feel radical love or make a difference. That is interpretation – rather self-serving interpretation.

    No – that’s what you said. As I have pointed out.

    What I’ve been trying to get you to see is that you’ve been pom-poning the original post and following that up with a message that is completely the opposite. I don’t think it’s really a matter of interpretation. You said that people who have not mothered cannot fully know revolutionary love, and you said it in a comment that explicitly defined mothering as centering one’s life around children, in contrast to the original post which talked about a “mama” as a person who fights for others’ rights whether or not they are her children.

    And as I’ve said, I don’t take issue with the definition of “mothering” as caring for a specific person. But in a post about a different/broader definition of mothering, it’s incredibly dismissive to say that “those who don’t have children can only ever understand a portion of what [transforming, truly revolutionary love and understanding that the trite “children are our future” is still a radical truth] truly means.”

    I agree that it’s wrong to treat mothers as less-than. I just don’t think that the way to go about changing that is to treat non-mothers as less-than.

    I appreciate the clarification at #77, but I’m still not sure you understand what I’m objecting to about what you said.

    #83: I also appreciate the apology for the cis-check. (In the future, it might help for your first reaction not to be “stfu bitch it’s not transphobic,” as it might help not to follow up with “I’m going to ignore your needs because I don’t know enough about them.” The appropriate reaction to a privilege check is to educate yourself.)

    I think alexmac had different problems with your comment, so I’ll let her get to it if she wants, but the assumption that everyone has a choice to parent? Cis-centric and heterocentric.

    (My other problem was due to the lingering contradiction between your definition and Mai’a’s definition of “mama” – because as obnoxious as it is to say that people who don’t parent can’t be activists, it’s even more obnoxious to say that of people who can’t parent.)

    i really don’t even understand the assumptions that are being made here that i am transphobic because i don’t center men as parents in a space that is specifically about women and transwomen.

    I haven’t seen anyone claiming that it was transphobic, rather, that it was minimizing the work of fathers who parent. I think it’s a semantic problem – you’re using “mother” as a gender-neutral word, but you’re still setting up a gendered word in contrast to it. (ie. if “mother” is gender-neutral and reflects the work of caring for and parenting, what is “father”?)

    @S: it’s possible to avoid erasing the work of pregnancy and labor without demeaning the work of parenting on the part of parents – gay, infertile, trans – who did not give birth to their children. Donna does not love her child less because she did not bear him, for god’s sake.

  119. konkonsn
    konkonsn July 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm |

    Thanks, Kristen J., for helping me understand why I was freaking out over the idea of being called a mother. When I read this post and the subsequent comments, I got (or think I did) what the original poster and supporters are trying to say. That in feminist spaces, mothers are conceived primarily in terms of US American, white motherhood and all that goes with it, so feminism often derides it. That in other countries, and even in the United States, motherhood is as much a social role, a mothering in a community, as it is about the personal raising of children and such.

    I love other people, I support the people around me, I try my best to better my community. But because I /am/ a young, white, gay, US feminist, the thought of being called mother is un-nerving. I’m 24 and constantly am told how I need to start thinking about settling down already, that I don’t have all the time in the world to raise kids. My friends with kids tell me how much I’m missing out, and so on and so forth.

    So I read this post and am fine with what is being said, and I even think if I lived in a different community I would be cool with being a mama. And I’m cool with others who are mamas. I just don’t want that label for myself, even if we have the same ideas.

  120. Faith
    Faith July 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm |

    “It simply means that society approves of your actions and disapproves of mine and use its power to force me to change.”

    Kristen,

    I’m a low-income single mother of 2 children. Don’t tell me that I’m privileged. Just don’t. You’re making an ass of yourself by telling me that I have privilege by doing something that has caused me to live in poverty for a decade and caused me to be constantly insulted and derided.

    You.don’t.know.what.you’re.talking.about.

  121. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm |

    …or, what Morgan said at #103. And this is why I should refresh.

    Kristen J. makes a good point at #109, though.

  122. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm |

    Faith,

    I apologize for the use of “you.” I don’t mean you personally. I mean mothers generally. I recognize that intersectional oppression has an enormous impact on how mothers and the child free are portrayed. My point was not to specifically say that you have privilege over me, but rather to point to the fact that I experience the oppressive force of not meeting gendered norms.

  123. roses
    roses July 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm |

    Mmm. I can understand why this post would make people feel defensive. Especially people who haven’t read any of Mai’a or BFP or Aaminah’s other writing, and don’t know where they’re coming from. But I would suggest trying to get past the knee-jerk reaction and trying to really understand what Mai’a is saying. Re-read her post. Read some of her writing at Guerrilla mama medicine or her’s and BFP’s writing at Flip Flopping Joy. Click over to Aaminah’s blog and read there. Try to understand where they’re coming from. Why women who are fierce and passionate advocates for other women might say “fuck feminism”. Think about the difference between people in power, people with social power, men, saying “fuck feminism” and women of colour, women who aren’t middle class, women with less social power than your average white middle class feminism saying “fuck feminism”.

  124. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm |

    Right on to bfp at #95, and super-right on to Nanette, especially this:

    Imagine a world where the children were the center, and the parents/adults were the satellites – people would pull out all stops to make sure that no child went hungry, that they were not bombed, that no child was ostracized because they were gay, or trans, or gender queer, or not abled in any certain way, or poor, or of any particular color or ethnicity, or born to a certain group of people in a certain place, or… well, I could go on, but I think that’ll do. What a world it would be when they grew up – not perfect, because there is no such thing, but maybe… different.

  125. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 28, 2010 at 1:03 pm |

    I don’t think this is about mothers having it better than childless/childfree women or vice versa. I think this is about women being pigeonholed into rigid roles, depending upon their race, class, and age. Young, White, middle- and upper-class (perceived) women face tremendous pressure to have children, and are often berated for not doing so. Poor women, women of color, and foreign women are usually pressured to NOT have children–their children are seen as a drain on society.

    White, middle- and upper-class mothers are berated for working outside the home (you can’t have it all you selfish bitch!). Domesticity is romanticized. UNLESS–you are a woman of color or poor. Then you damn well better get a job, you lazy welfare queen!

    If you have children, your choices are policed like no one’s business. Sheesh. I know pregnant women who were lectured by strangers about the “harm to the baby” because they had a cup of coffee (decaf, but why pause to find out when policing random women is so much fun?). If you don’t want to have children, it’s not like preventing pregnancy is made all that easy, what with the chipping away of our reproductive rights goes. Because, you see, some women are “supposed” to be mothers (whether they want to be or not). Some women aren’t “good enough” to be mothers (no matter how well they raise their children).

    Granted, it’s hard for me to read things like “being a mother means you know what it is to love” because it is reminiscent to me of the pressure I’ve been under to have kids, whether or not I wanted them. It reminded *me* (I’m not saying that is what was said, I swear!) of the nostalgic for the 1950′s rhetoric surrounding (White, middle-class motherhood). But I try to realize that there are many facets to this–they are different sides to the same shitty coin.

    Basically, I don’t think it’s helpful to pit these situations against each other. These are all slices of the same shit pizza that’s offered. /gross metaphors

  126. Gajasimha
    Gajasimha July 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm |

    Can children be mamas as well?

    As the original post said, that very thing is openly coded into a lot of cultures (and languages). Can it be problematic? Sure. But it can also be uplifting.

  127. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm |

    Basically, I don’t think it’s helpful to pit these situations against each other

    And I’m saying this in general response to a small motherhood pressure vs. mother oppression debate in the comments, not to mai’a.

  128. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm |

    But, the use of the word mama as a definition for social justice bothers me. Because regardless of its current meaning, its derivation is rooted in mothering. It’s attempting to re-center my experience around motherhood. It’s equating motherhood with nurturing. I reject that my compassion, my love for other people is rooted in mothering. That I should be defined by motherhood.

    *MY* experience, as a US citizen that crosses boundaries and borders every day of my life, as a queer person, a racialized person, a mami, as a chicana, as a former migrant worker–mami is NOT rooted in mothering–it’s rooted in unionizing. It’s rooted in women who were workers in factories making dresses only white women could afford organizing unions in ways that opened up the idea what union and organizer could and should be. Oh, yes, you CAN take your baby girl to a protest, you CAN organize a contract with a child on your hip. you can because you *have* to. and your duaghter will surely be working in that same factory soon and she better learn how to organize unions or she’s gonna be fucked.

    Mami means organizing against the local incinerator being put in your neighborhood, beacuse you can’t take time off from work to nurse a sick child. and you can’t take time off from work because your breasts are leaking some weird substance and you’re not really sure if they are supposed to do this. mami means *organizing*.

    Mami means sharing the work of being a mother with tias and aunties because you are not goddamn super mom. And sometimes taking the kid to the protest sucks. Mami means doing it anyway because your tias and aunties are sick or out of town. Mami is being a sex worker and hiding it from your kids because mommy’s aren’t supposed to do that, and it’s speaking spanish even though they can take your kids away for that, and it’s watching out for the other kids in the neighborhood because ICE has been patrolling up and down the streets for weeks, and it’s watching out for the girl who was left alone in prison after her mother got deported before she did. Mami is being sterilized, and having laws legistlated saying your kids aren’t “legal.” Mami is recognizing that what mommy is supposed to be is *imposed on you* by racist violent heteropatriarchy–and that you can never ever be a mommy ever because your children are looked at as ‘illegals’ and you are considered a national security threat. It’s recognizing that nobody. nobody. from the feminists to the government thinks you have the right to be a mother. It’s testifying against the motherfucker who killed your baby girl, it’s organizing against Latin@ based queerphobia and transphobia, it’s becoming a barber so that butch girls can finally get their hair cut they way they want it without all the drama and gender policing that usually comes with a short hair cut. it’s insisting on the right to a name. I have the right to my name.

    It’s all this AND more–but mostly, mami is resistance. it’s unionizing. it’s organizing. That it’s not an action of “mothering”–and really the women who have the privilege of “mothering” defining their loving protective my kid pees jesus sweat relationship with their kids and with the world–it’s great to have that previlige but it’s really best not to assume everybody has it.

    it’s a resistance to violence. it’s resistance to something being done to you, being expected of you, it’s claiming your right to humanity, and the humanity of your neighbor and the humanity of the kids left behind with no parents and its giggling with your kid on the park bench at all the people walking by because that’s the only thing you can afford to do.

  129. Shoshie
    Shoshie July 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm |

    Right on, Sheelzebub!

    This is so stupid, this mothers are privileged no childfree folks are privileged nonsense. This is what patriarchy does, pitting women against women, patriarchy hurts me more than you, when what’s hurting us all is patriarchy. I’m part of a culture that emphasizes family and children, so I feel constant pressure (as a 24 year old woman who recently married a man) to have children. I’m also a scientist who works in a lab, so I feel constant pressure NOT to have children. It’d kill my career, my baby would have two heads, whatever whatever. It’s a fucking Catch 22, y’all. And it’s not anti-women-with-children and it’s not anti-women-without-children. It’s just fucking anti-woman. Period.

  130. Faith
    Faith July 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm |

    Kristen,

    Just to give you some more idea of who I actually am: I’m white, college-educated, and reasonably conventionally attractive. I’ve STILL been shit on and forced into a position of submission by having children.

    I promise you that no matter who you are the only privilege you are actually going to receive by conforming to gender roles and having kids is the love of your kids.

  131. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide July 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    @bfp 134
    Your clarity of thought amazes me. Thank you.

  132. oremia
    oremia July 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm |

    Faith @ 123 “I’m a low-income single mother of 2 children. Don’t tell me that I’m privileged. Just don’t. You’re making an ass of yourself by telling me that I have privilege by doing something that has caused me to live in poverty for a decade and caused me to be constantly insulted and derided. ”

    One may be oppressed in one area and privileged in another.

    I guess i also just don’t understand why one would want to have children to know that they would be raised in poverty if motherhood WASN’T held in such high esteem. Since it is, that shows privilege.

  133. KL
    KL July 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm |

    I have followed Feministe for a short period, but now I think I have even more respect for this blog than I did before and even though I don’t agree with everything I have read, to me personally, it shows a great deal about a person’s (or in this case, blog’s) character to have guests on here who do not identify as feminist and to allow discussion that critiques the very core of what this blog identifies as (being feminist or Feminist). Safe space =/= no discourse. This being a feminist blog doesn’t make feminism untouchable as a topic of critique. In fact, if there is anything that feminists should constantly be evaluating is what it means to be feminist and how it impacts those you want to help. if those you want to help say “fuck feminism” then maybe it means we’re not doing something right and maybe we should listen, especially when the people saying it are fighting just as hard for social justice as we are.

    In any case, I have enjoyed the post. It has given me a lot to think about, as have the comments from both sides, heated debates and all ;)

  134. konkonsn
    konkonsn July 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    @bfp 134

    Well, shit, opened my mouth and inserted my foot. Anyway, that helps me understand…I think I need to do some more reading.

  135. Tracy
    Tracy July 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm |

    All I can read in this entire post is: WAH.

    I’m sooo sorry that not everyone wants to put you on a pedestal just because pushed a baby from your loins. Sooo sorry that there are people who expect you to do your job as a parent and discipline your spawn. So sorry that the world does not revolve around you and your offspring.

    And I didn’t know only mothers could know love, and only mothers ever do things for children. Gee, my bad. Guess those childless doctors who slaved in labs searching out cures for childhood diseases, or all my years in organizations like the Girl Scouts teaching girls valuable skills for living don’t matter. Oh, and I thought the point of this site was to stand up for respectability for ALL women. My bad.

    And I suppose women who are unable to have children or adoptive parents can’t possibly know love or do good things for children either.

    Whatever. I bow down before your infinite wisdom, your majesty. And if you don’t like feminism, why blog on a feminist site?

  136. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl July 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm |

    Ooof. I was with you until I ran smack dab into yer hetero-sexism.

    *gak*

    [and no, your disclaimer that really, dood, *anyone* can be a mama, is a little less than self-reflective]

  137. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 28, 2010 at 1:21 pm |

    Feminists gave your ass the right to vote.

    Unless you were black–then you had the “official” right but were prevented through Jim Crow laws and intimidation and violence.

    Feminists made sure you got paid a decent wage.

    And women of color are still paid far less than White women are.

    Feminists gave you the right to choose (to be a “mama”)

    Well. . .except for those pesky forced sterilizations of women of color. And that Norplant crap–it was foisted on women of color and when some wanted it taken out, they were refused.

    Feminists gave you the right to control your fertility.

    Please see above.

    Feminists gave you the ability to sit there behind your computer and lower case letters and judge the shit out of something you clearly know nothing about.

    The irony.

  138. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide July 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm |

    Also, no one said YOU ALL need to identify as mama’s/mami’s. A person looks at social justice differently than you do, and calls it something else.

    Get.over.it.

    A person shares a personal experience of being oppressed by the feminist movement.

    Check.your.privilege.

  139. groggette
    groggette July 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm |

    I’ve seen quite a few people say they’re bowing out from Feministe becuase of this post so I just want to say, it’s posts like these that cement Feministe as a (near) daily read for me when I’ve left behind many other feminist sites.
    Thank you Mama Maia for sharing your words and experiences here. Looks like I’ll have to add ffj to my blogroll ;)

  140. Lena Chen
    Lena Chen July 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm |

    I’m a feminist and I often think “Fuck feminism”. I’m glad Maia is gutsy enough to say it out loud.

    Have y’all read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman? It’s about a utopian all-women’s land in which there is no inequality (because there is no capitalism) and motherhood is considered the most important undertaking in one’s life. But motherhood for these women doesn’t mean prioritizing their own family over others. Children are nurtured by the entire community; their welfare and that of the society itself are viewed as a communal responsibilities. And when Maia talks about “mamas”, this is what I think about.

    I say this as a woman of color born to working class immigrants who know nothing of the feminism I embraced during my years at the Ivy League university where I felt like the odd girl out. I can call myself a feminist and accept at the same time that mainstream feminism didn’t and still doesn’t represent women like my mother. I can call myself a feminist and sometimes think myself “Fuck feminism!” because I don’t agree with its elitist brand of progress. This doesn’t mean that gender equality isn’t important, but it does mean that society (and this includes progressive movements) values some women more than others. This is a fact that has gone unacknowledged for far too long within the Feminist Establishment. And if it takes someone shouting “Fuck feminism!” for everyone to wake up to it, then I’ll be there shouting it with them.

  141. Jadey
    Jadey July 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm |

    Sheelzebub @ 143: thank you for deconstructing that shit-tastic condescension-reeking comment. I wish it didn’t need to be said, but it probably did.

    bfp @ everywhere, all the time: you are fantastic. You are amazing.

    Mai’a, thank you again for being here, for doing this. I was wondering, if the first post was originally intended to be a “soft ball”, what your hard-hitters were going to look like. I’m not disappointed.

  142. The Voracious Vegan
    The Voracious Vegan July 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm |

    Fearless and courageous. I applaud you, even when I don’t always agree with you!

    I’ve been a bit disillusioned with Western/bourgeoisie feminism, myself. Not that what they are doing isn’t VITAL and IMPORTANT, because all battles need to be fought,…but I think that it can frequently exclude, or minimize, things that I think should be right on the forefront. (The seemingly endless critique of pop culture, without delving much deeper beyond this or that model is too thin, for one thing. Also the oppression olympics, PC competitions, and hall monitor policing behavior that leads to watered down ‘safe’ opinions…that isn’t going to change the world, in my opinion. )

    However, I call myself a feminist BECAUSE, to me, my feminism does critique itself and DOES stand in solidarity “with the zapatista women’s critique of feminsm, with palestinian women dressed in hijab with a fist in the air, with little girls who walk through war zones to get to school whether on the streets of washington, dc or the streets of goma, drc (democratic republic of congo)”…..AND MORE.

    That IS feminism to me. Women have been struggling for their, and their community’s, liberation for centuries and centuries and centuries. It is NOT a new invention, the term feminism is just what we, in the West, choose to call it now, at this moment in history. To me, feminism is all things good and right in the world.

    I loved this post and I love your work.

  143. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm |

    I can’t stop people from flouncing off from feministe (I’m not even sure I want to) and I am not a feministe booster or anything (more often a critic, though I do give them credit for opening up the space to others), but if anyone who is just sooooo offended by mai’a or bfp or others on this or mai’a’s other thread would just take a step back for a minute and ask themselves…

    How often do they see a significant number (more than one or two) of women of color here, on this site, when there is not a woc guest posting? Or perhaps you’ve never noticed the absence? Or never noticed that some of the more familiar (to white feminists) names you don’t see here at all?

    These are historically (as relates to internet time, lol) unsafe spaces for many non-white women – for their views, their ideas, their beliefs. Chally posts here, I know (I am not sure if Holly still does, I don’t read the site often) and I imagine she conserves her energy as best she can in order to do so, because some of the reactions to her posts must be draining.

    Anyway, though, I have no problem with people leaving spaces that are uncomfortable for them. I do it all the time. You might want to ask yourselves, though, why it is that these particular women (mai’a, bfp, aaminah, etc) are making you so uncomfortable, so angry, so offended that you must go – that you can no longer participate here. That you can no longer engage in the argument, the conversation, in attempting to understand, attempting to get past whatever barriers real or perceived?

    Gotta run… two of those well-loved, centered children are harrassing me into settling a dispute – while the 2 year old tries to break my glasses. love, by any means necessary. sigh.

  144. Faith
    Faith July 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm |

    “I guess i also just don’t understand why one would want to have children to know that they would be raised in poverty if motherhood WASN’T held in such high esteem. Since it is, that shows privilege.”

    Fuck you. No, seriously fuck you.

    For starters, you have no idea if I made the decision to become a mother or not. For another thing, people don’t always choose to do things because it gives them privilege. Do some women choose to become sex workers? Obviously. Are you going to tell me that sex workers are privileged now because they wouldn’t have chosen it otherwise?

    Seriously, I have privilege. But becoming a mother: NOT A PRIVILEGE.

  145. Sumayyah Talibah
    Sumayyah Talibah July 28, 2010 at 1:34 pm |

    being radical means being a mama, and being a mama means living for the children. that’s it. it’s very simple. Aaminah added that if you are not a full-time, 24/7 parent/caregiver/whoever, then you may not understand everything that goes into it. it has nothing to do with gender, nothing to do with race, class, or what-the-eff-ever!

    yes, i AM a mama. i have 2 small children. before i was a mama, i was a mama. i lived with my sister and her kids before i had my own. i was up with fevers, diarrhea, teething pains, spilled milk, diaper rashes. but that’s irrelevant to this post.

    this post is, at its core, in MY opinion, a statement about who the Feminists include among themselves, and why some people feel alienated by them. to take 2 or 3 comments and create well-over 125 MORE comments about why you agree or disagree with being called “mama” is irresponsible. to take 2 or 3 comments and create well-over 125 MORE comments about why you agree or disagree with “fuck feminists” is irresponsible.

    seriously.

    the whole point of the post has been missed. i know that after this posts, i probably will be called out, questioned and/or attacked, but i really don’t care.

    learn to, not just READ, or INTERPRET, but UNDERSTAND. if you’re not a man, you don’t know the experience of a man. if you’re not Black, you don’t know the experience of being Black. i could go on and on, but i’m tired, and my son needs his mama to sing the ABC song for the 2345th time today.

  146. Donna L.
    Donna L. July 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm |

    After someone commented on it, I just noticed, for the first time, S’s post (#83) responding to an earlier post of mine:

    Me: “I have been as much a “mama” (24/7), and have loved him as fiercely, as any woman who ever gave birth to a child.”

    S: “So, are we all going to agree that going through pregnancy, birth, and lactation for a child mean nothing? Parenting is parenting is parenting, but I’m not going to accept that raising a child is the exact same thing as birthing a child. Raising is hard, but you don’t usually have to confront death for it. You don’t literally have to give your body, and focus all of your self and your being on it. You don’t go through the experiences of labor, which are important and should not be dismissed.

    Women DIE giving birth to children daily. It’s one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide.

    Nurturing, teaching, co-parenting, yes, yes, yes. All of these are great, and wonderful. And a non-birthing/adoptive/substitute/etc parent is not less of a parent for having not birthed that child.

    But do NOT so blithely dismiss the sacrifices and experiences of pregnancy, birth, and lactation and say that raising a child is directly analogous to birthing one. They are not the same thing.”

    But I never said they were the same thing, never dismissed the sacrifices or experiences of pregnancy, birth, lactation, etc. (blithely or otherwise), never said they weren’t important.

    All I said was that I’m no less a “mama” because I didn’t give birth to my child (and, instead, am his biological father), and love him just as much and just as fiercely as anyone who did. “As much as” does not equal “exactly the same.” I’ve known plenty of mothers, some who gave birth to their children and some who didn’t, some who are cis and some who are trans, some who also are (or also identify as) fathers and some who don’t. From everything I know, and from all the talking I’ve done with other women with children over the years, there’s no difference in how we feel about our children. None. I know I shouldn’t have to be defensive, and I know I shouldn’t care what you say, but please don’t imply that my experiences, or my intense love for, and closeness with, my son, are “less than” anyone else’s because I’m not his biological mother.

    And I can’t help detecting a hint of the kind of essentialist feminist transphobia that has made me feel like saying “fuck feminism” on frequent occasions. Childbirth and lactation do not equal motherhood any more than menstruation equals womanhood, womanness, or whatever word you want to use. Your comments remind me a little of one of the things that the proprietors of that women’s pharmacy in Vancouver said in trying to justify their policy of refusing to fill prescriptions for, or otherwise provide services to, trans women: “it’s all about the bleeding.” Actually, it isn’t.

  147. sadie
    sadie July 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm |

    Faith, thank you so much for what you said (post #113). the way you clarified the difference between being pressured to have kids and mothering being privileged is so, so important, and you have articulated something I needed to say so many times but never knew how to put into words.

  148. AdrienneVeg
    AdrienneVeg July 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm |

    Just want to thank bfp, Mai’a, and Aaminah in particular for having the fortitude to continue critiquing feminism and explaining your perspectives on this. Those of us who have felt welcomed by feminism and have benefited the most from it typically need to hear these critiques over and over for it to sink in, and we’re fortunate that you’ve been so tireless and patient thus far. I identify as a feminist but I find myself thinking “fuck feminism” more and more often lately.

  149. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm |

    if you’re not a man, you don’t know the experience of a man. if you’re not Black, you don’t know the experience of being Black.

    …and if you’re not a mother, you don’t know the experience of being a social justice activist. See the difference?

  150. Eileen
    Eileen July 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm |

    This thread is the first time I’ve ever seen “check your privilege” used as a euphemism for “go fuck yourself.” Message received!

  151. sadie
    sadie July 28, 2010 at 1:44 pm |

    oops Faith, I meant #119!

  152. PJ
    PJ July 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm |

    @KL: “fuck feminism” doesn’t equal “discourse.” I’m all for opening up a dialogue, but being told that my point of view doesn’t count because I’m “privileged” isn’t discourse. It’s a lecture, and it’s based on a misunderstanding of what feminism is.

  153. Faith
    Faith July 28, 2010 at 1:52 pm |

    “None of those arguments negate that motherhood is a privilege.”

    You know what, I’m done. Either you’re going to get it, or you’re not. I’m not going to waste anymore of my time trying to explain to people who already think they know they answers. It’s a pointless, stupid waste of time.

    So, you all have fun having no real understanding of what it means to be a mother and you all have fun telling women how awful they are for believing that they actually have a right to take their children with them out in public, even around people who don’t want kids around.

    Good luck with that. Good luck with continuing to NOT fucking listen to anything that is being said.

  154. Eileen
    Eileen July 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm |

    “You might want to ask yourselves, though, why it is that these particular women (mai’a, bfp, aaminah, etc) are making you so uncomfortable, so angry, so offended that you must go – that you can no longer participate here.”

    I’m not a flouncer, but here you go: there was a post titled “You do not have a right to child free spaces.” A debate started about what the post was ostensibly about, and then as soon as dissent started coming in the post was redefined as having been about racism all along. There has been a huge bait and switch with this topic. I didn’t know anything about the person posting, other than their opinion about bringing a child everywhere, which is a position with which I disagree.

    When I disagreed my child suddenly disappeared from this earth apparently, since no mothers could possibly disagree with the post. When I disagreed it immediately became a referendum on my race, and the privilege I undisputedly receive because of it. When I disagreed a vast chasm opened up, and I was invited to jump into it.

    And fine. I will, in the name of social justice. Geronimo!

  155. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm |

    I have no idea who Sheezebub @144 is replying to – I can’t find the original comment, but I wanted to tack on my thoughts to the portions she has quoted:

    First, to the original commenter I’d like to say… you might want to rethink this. This really isn’t the hill you want to stand on in this conversation. Seriously.

    Feminists gave your ass the right to vote.

    No. No they did not. If you are referring to non-white U.S. women and men, especially. White women/feminists at one time were very invested in getting the right to vote for former slaves, particularly as part of working towards their own liberation and right to vote. But make no mistake, before, during and after then white women/feminists took full part in the oppression of people of color, of women of color, of attempting to make sure they had no access to quality education, to decent housing, to decent jobs, to dignity, or to anything else enjoyed by mainstream white U.S.

    So, no, feminists did not get “us” the right to vote. That was the result of a lot of blood, sweat, tears, court cases, brave people (Blacks, Whites, Jews, men and women) who faced down danger -including from “Feminists” to gain the vote. For themselves and others.

    Feminists made sure you got paid a decent wage.

    No. Feminists made sure they got a decent wage, while “we” stayed in their homes and raised their kids, washed their floors, scrubbed their toilets, etc, for a pittance… so that “Feminists” could take their places among White men.

    Feminists gave you the right to choose (to be a “mama”)

    No. Feminists gave “us” the right to choose *not* to be a parent. Although even that has been allowed to be eroded to the point where, again, it is most accessible only to those with money to travel or live in certain areas.

    What “Feminism” did not do, and has not done, is work assiduously to make that choice an actual choice, and not a necessity. If there is no other choice then it’s not a choice.

    Feminists gave you the ability to sit there behind your computer and lower case letters and judge the shit out of something you clearly know nothing about.

    Nah, that was Bill Gates.

  156. a_childfreer
    a_childfreer July 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm |

    “So, you all have fun having no real understanding of what it means to be a mother and you all have fun telling women how awful they are for believing that they actually have a right to take their children with them out in public, even around people who don’t want kids around.”

    No, i understand EXACTLY what it’s like to be a mother. Which is precisely why I don’t want to become one. Do you know what it’s like to be child-free?

  157. lt
    lt July 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm |

    @bfp – Thank you for the wonderful and bfp.

    @ 159: Seriously? Since you didn’t have an abortion (assuming that was an option), you don’t have the right to point out that mothers *aren’t* actually respected? You hear anti-choicers make the argument that abortion rights undermine support for families; thanks for working to make their point.

  158. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm |

    Do you know what it’s like to be child-free?

    Oh, FFS. I’m childfree, and I’m not going to be shy about telling you that you sound like a douchebag.

    BTW, the abortion option you mentioned? Yeah, in the US, it’s not all that accessible to many women for many reasons. And being able to physically do something doesn’t make you privileged.

    Kristen and Faith were talking past each other a bit, but one thing I’ll say for that conversation–it was done in good faith. Try it sometime.

  159. Sarah
    Sarah July 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm |

    I completely agree with Jen at 42. I am a feminist. I’m a twenty-two year old single woman who is completely ambivalent about children as well as the idea of bearing them. Furthermore, I am a PWD, and bearing children might not even be feasible for me. I may never be a “mama.” But I can be a feminist. And if you think feminism hasn’t done a thing for your female child…wow. No words.

    As for “fuck feminism,” I think that’s a ludicrous statement. By all means critique feminism, there’s definitely a lot to critique. But to damn an entire movement is just ignorant.

  160. Jax
    Jax July 28, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    Mothers are sometimes the problem as well. I think it’s unfair to place all the glory on all mothers when not all mothers are equal. What about women who choose not to be mothers, they get no glory because don’t wish to procreate? Also unfair. A woman does what a woman does and works to make things easier for her own and the next generations, her reasons may be different but that doesnt mean that the outcome is of lesser value.

  161. Shelby
    Shelby July 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm |

    @Kari; Hold the FUCK up. Are you for real tryna tell non white women about our own lives? And what we should be *grateful* for?!?! Let me tell you what feminism has done FOR ME because obviously have not even an iota of a clue:
    – Used anti-Black RACISM to get YOUR right to vote. Throwing my community under the bus
    – sterilized and experimented on my body without my consent to give YOU choice and ME “population control” ie. fucking genocide
    – Used my body to feed your kids so you could get your equality in a capitalist system that is DEPENDENT ON my perpetual slavery
    – Stolen our children to “save” them from our “backward” culture and the poverty YOU caused in our communities
    – Supported politicians who voted to DROP BOMBS ON US and called them “pro women”

    And you tell US that WE should be grateful? Feminism has used bodies like mine as stepping stones and cannon fodder since DAY ONE and you are telling us to be GRATEFUL?!?! What in the holy fuck is wrong with you?

  162. roses
    roses July 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm |

    Why do people assume that if Mai’a wants nothing to do with feminism, it must be because she is ignorant about feminism? I think she is well aware of what feminism has achieved, and for whom. I think maybe she is more aware than some about what feminism has not achieved, and for whom. Instead of coming from an assumption of ignorance and bad faith, why not try assuming she knows what she’s talking about and try to figure out why she feels how she does?

  163. KL
    KL July 28, 2010 at 2:20 pm |

    @PJ, hmm, maybe fuck feminism can mean discourse?…wouldn’t you agree that people are entitled to be angry about injustice and express that anger, especially if they feel they aren’t being heard any other way? I identify as Christian, my spirituality means a great deal to me and its hard to not take it personally when people dismiss faith or religion and even attack it similarly to “fuck feminism”—but the reality i have to accept is that for a lot of people, Christianity has oppressed them, it has made spaces unsafe for them, it has made existing in the world unsafe. Now I don’t subscribe to that particular sort of Christianity and I find it by definition to not be Christian at all, but how i personally feel about it and the reality of the consequences of Christianity in this country (US) are very real to millions of people. So if someone says fuck Christianity, i do think its a reasonable reaction and I think it can be discourse, even healthy discourse if I step back from my personal feelings and if I take a breath after the knee-jerk response of anger at feeling attacked. Couldn’t the same be true of feminism? If mainstream with a capital F feminism is oppressive to specific groups of people, if it excludes and harms others, isn’t it reasonable to say “fuck it”? You might very well be right that its based on a misunderstanding of what you understand feminism to be. But doesn’t that place the responsibility on us then to help change how feminism is perceived, specifically by those who find us to be oppressive of already oppressed groups?

    I hope that it doesn’t come across that i am not acknowledging your frustration or don’t understand how infuriating it can be to feel like part of your identity is being attacked or dismissed. I promise in many many ways, i do understand. I just believe that part of being in a safe place gives safety to those who may even disagree (yes as strongly as fuck feminism) a voice and place, and that it can be healthy discourse. It is healthy for us as feminists to sit back and wonder why someone would feel as strongly as they do that feminism is so bad–especially when we believed we were fighting for the same thing. It is healthy for us to figure out how to engage those people, to allow them space for their very real frustrations with a movement that is supposed to help but in some ways has harmed. And I would argue it still maintains safety for you, especially since you are in the majority here as a feminist.

  164. korakoeides
    korakoeides July 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm |

    Radical love means decentering yourself. i don’t know any *F*eminists that EVER do that.

    And here I thought the idea that women shouldn’t center themselves and should always do for others and be selfless and emotionally available to everyone else all the time…was an idea advanced by the patriarchy.

    When did that come around to being radical?

  165. Elby
    Elby July 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm |

    I guess I have to re-educate myself. I knew that feminism failed to achieve certain things, but I never realized that feminism was directly responsible for sterilization, genocide, perpetual slavery and stealing babies.

  166. IrishUp
    IrishUp July 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm |

    @ 110 ” I just want to redistribute resources. ”
    @ 109 “It’s equating motherhood with nurturing. I reject that my compassion, my love for other people is rooted in mothering.”
    @ 112 “My caring about other humans or about non-human animals has nothing do to with mothering and all to do with compassion (which I do not see as coming from some innate mothering-related trait).”

    What I’m wondering about is why do you reject mothering or being a mama as the root or cause or anchor for these wonderful things? It seems like it’s hurtful to you that mai’a and other people use mothering and being a mama to mean those things, and if that’s true, why is it so? Have you – have we USians internalized some thing(s) about being a mama or mothering that might need unpacking? What about having internalized that mothering and mama = cis het female? The OP, and other commenters strongly identify with mami and mothering in the context of their social justice work and their sense of nurturing – myself included. That should be OK in a feminist space, and I think there is a lot to learn from the WHY’s w/r/t OP’s identification with mami over feminist.

    ********
    Often, when I think of what *F*eminism SHOULD be, I think about this picture I have had in my wallet since 2005. It’s a picture of a beautiful little Iraqi boy, about the same age as my son was then. Except for their coloring, they could be twins – my son looks EXACTLY like this boy when he sleeps in that position. The little Iraqi boy is not sleeping. He’s in a coffin. His house was bombed by US drone planes. I burst out sobbing when I saw the AP photo accompanying the (then) latest war article – in that instant it was less like a photo and more like a premonition.

    The details of age and boy and coffin shouldn’t obscure that THAT is the reality of life for way too many people, and an altogether disproportionate number of brown people. Social justice is not going to eradicate small coffins, but eventually make them rare. Every time USian Nice White Ladies center feminism around something other than equality for everyone, compassion for everyone, and remembering that I as an able white person was born standing on the backs of others and it’s my job to actively get off and help them up, we make more little coffins.

    Mai’a, thank you for this beautiful post.

  167. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 2:37 pm |

    i realize you’re being sarcastic Elby, but you can start your re-education by reading Andrea Smith’s book, Conquest: sexual violence and american indian genocide. Dorothy Robert’s Killing the black body and most work by Leila Ahmed give very compelling backgrounds on why many non-white women would say “fuck feminism.”

  168. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide July 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm |

    @Elby 173

    If that is snark, than you are deliberately mis-reading the legitimate concerns of WoC on this forum.

  169. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm |

    What I’m wondering about is why do you reject mothering or being a mama as the root or cause or anchor for these wonderful things?

    Speaking for myself here – because I am not a mother and do not wish to become one, and am fed up with being told that this makes me less loving or compassionate?

  170. Sarah
    Sarah July 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm |

    @176

    Accusing feminists of racism, sterilization, child-theft and warmongering is not legitimate.

  171. Sophie
    Sophie July 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm |

    “i throw a side eye at folks who call themselves feminists, especially without an adjective in front of the word. and i have made it clear that if i had to be one, (and thank god i dont) i would be a crunk feminist. those girls keep it crunk.”

    Yeah, I mean like, women want to have the same rights as men totally deserve to have a ‘side eye’ thrown at. Makes complete sense.

  172. C/L
    C/L July 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm |

    A debate started about what the post was ostensibly about, and then as soon as dissent started coming in the post was redefined as having been about racism all along.

    Yeah, I don’t know about that whole redefining claim. If you are a person of color living in a racist society, then it’s pretty much always going to be about racism. And this is true whether or not white readers of the internet are hip to it. Y’know?

  173. Eileen
    Eileen July 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm |

    Fair enough then, please allow me to clarify that I am only definitely opposed to white children in inappropriate public spaces. Hmm, that doesn’t fix this, does it?

  174. Salix
    Salix July 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm |

    Accusing feminists of racism…is not legitimate.

    O_o

    You owe me a new keyboard.

  175. roses
    roses July 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm |

    Elby – Feminism is not solely responsible for those things. But feminism contributed to some of them, in some ways, as did women who call theselves feminists. And feminism as a movement continues to spend very little time even acknoledging the reality of those things, let alone trying to fix them.

    If there are women coming here, telling us: “Feminism doesn’t speak to me” what response do you think will be better for feminism, for women? Telling them to fuck off? Or listening and trying to understand and considering whether there are ways we can make feminism more welcoming to them?

  176. Morgan
    Morgan July 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm |

    I agree with Rebecca (#178). I am not a mother, I have no wish to become one.
    My love is not less legitimate. It may manifest itself differently, because it’s informed by different experiences, but it is not worthless by virtue of my not being a mother. If I fail at being loving and compassionate, it is not because I am not a mother.

    I don’t reject motherhood or mamahood as forms of love, or as a way of describing a person’s way of loving. I believe mamahood is (or can be) a way of being that is loving and radical and compassionate and everything else you want to describe it as. I believe it can be at the root of some people’s experiences and expressions of love and caring and nuturing and compassion and so on. That doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s.

    And saying it’s not everyone’s doesn’t mean it’s not some people’s, or that the people whose experience it isn’t have any less valid ways of being [insert awesome quality here].

    Motherhood may be IrishUp’s anchor, and that’s legitimate and good, and ought to be recognized. Doesn’t mean Rebecca or Kristen J. or anyone else can’t have equally valid, different foundations for equally valid ways of loving and ways of being.

  177. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm |

    What was said: how children are understood or read by society makes a difference in how they are treated. A black girl laughing with her friends is arrested for disturbing the peace. A black girl *child* throwing a temper tantrum at school is arrested. Another black girl *child* is arrested at school again for throwing a tantrum. A disabled girl not wearing the coat she is supposed to is arrested. A Latina writing on the desk is arrested. A black girl trying to break up a fight between friends is tased then arrested. A white girl *baby* crying in a line is slapped in the face by a grown man. A group of Latinas speaking spanish at a store is attacked by a grown woman with a hair brush. a black girl kills her pimp and is given life imprisonment. a latina asks the president’s wife why the president is arresting her family, and the entire family has to go into hiding. a group of Latina girls that have committed no crime but are in prison anyway are told that if they don’t shut the fuck up and do what they are told, their parents will be deported from the prison without them.

    when my kid is being “loud” he can be shot in the back by the police claiming to just want to “tase” him–and nobody gives a shit.

    Just so we’re clear on what was really said and what was meant by what was said.

  178. latenac
    latenac July 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

    Sumayyah Talibah “being radical means being a mama, and being a mama means living for the children. that’s it. it’s very simple.”

    I’m a mama and I couldn’t disagree with this more. I don’t live for my child. To me that’s a terribly dangerous path that can so easily end in believing your child is an extension of you and thus since you want to see yourself as perfect, your child is perfect. It stops you from being able to see when your child has done wrong or needs help or doesn’t want to be the person you think they should be. It stops you from seeing your child as the individual they are. It stops you from being a mama.

    Sorry I guess I’ve just hung around too many “AP Mothering” blogs and boards but the world has more than enough Earth Mommy Martyrs who live 24/7 for their kids whether they want or need it. Being a mama is planned obsolescence which means you need something to do when they’ve grown into the independent, wonderful adults you hope they’ll become.

    And it’s not radical to be a mama. It just takes some lucky sperm and a lucky egg.

  179. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm |

    No, i understand EXACTLY what it’s like to be a mother. Which is precisely why I don’t want to become one. Do you know what it’s like to be child-free?

    No, you don’t know EXACTLY what it’s like to be something you’ve never been. That just kills you, doesn’t it? Because you’d rather be “right” and know EVERYTHING than listen to others with different and valid experiences.

    And yeah, I know what it’s like to be child-free. As do all parents, DUH. We were all child-free before we were parents.

  180. Ellie
    Ellie July 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm |

    You might want to ask yourselves, though, why it is that these particular women (mai’a, bfp, aaminah, etc) are making you so uncomfortable, so angry, so offended that you must go – that you can no longer participate here.

    Fuck feminism. No, I mean Feminism. Or FEMINISM. I said fuck feminism, not feminism as you understand it, but feminism as I meant it, without qualifying that it was different than another very common understanding of feminism. Fuck you for being a feminist, or a feminist, or another kind of feminist. Feminists have done nothing but hurt me, okay well maybe those feminists, but not these feminists, but fuck feminists.

    You can’t understand what it is without being a mama. Except you don’t have to be a mama to be a mama. A mama can be a mama or she can’t be a mama, a man can be a mama, a sibling can be a mama, but only a mama is a *real* mama. And fuck you if you misunderstand what I mean by mama. Fuck you, and your privilege, and don’t you dare say I have privilege, because you have no idea what my experience is.

    This could have been so many learning moments, but just turned into alienation at the hands of rhetoric.

  181. Sumayyah Talibah
    Sumayyah Talibah July 28, 2010 at 3:20 pm |

    @latenac -

    i’m only going to say this once, so please read carefully. i NEVER said that being a “mama” meant giving birth or seeing your OWN child as an extension of yourself. “living for the children” means just that – living to make a future for the future. being a mama is not the act of being pregnant and/or giving birth. being a “mama”, in this context, means raising, nurturing, caring for other people, specifically but not limited to, the younger generation.

  182. martini
    martini July 28, 2010 at 3:22 pm |

    Kristen J. @109, amazing comment. Great explanation for how some of us are hurt by these discussions, and that isn’t being acknowledged.

  183. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 3:23 pm |

    Eileen:

    What C/L said.

    I would also go a bit further and mention that it is always about race, even when it seems like it is not. A group of white women sitting around discussing their children is still about race – for one thing, it is likely that of the concerns that come up, not one of them will be the ones bfp mentioned, which for now primarily affect non-white children. But, of course, it won’t stay like that. It never stays like that, but as white women have the privilege of not thinking about it until it happens to them or to their children, by the time it gets to them and enters their awareness – as with so many things – it is usually already too late.

  184. Erin
    Erin July 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm |

    I’ve always considered Feministe to be one of the more adult (or mature I should say) popular feminist blogs. So it is always surprising when I see people in the Feministe community reacting to a post with tone arguments or ‘I’m taking my ball and going home!’ type responses. I always expect better.

  185. skram1
    skram1 July 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm |

    i have been around feministe etc and seen these kinds of discussions transpire many times. and i have seen the shit from Feminists that warrants the kind of response that this post gives. because Feminism isn’t a safe space for many women. and this is something that we all must work through – listening, respecting, even the anger, and especially the fierce commitment.

    but. i have to say that i don’t want to start from, Feminism isn’t a safe space for all women (mothers, mamis, transwomen, womyn), to end up at, we can’t have or shouldn’t work to have safe spaces. i think that this gets complicated because, as Feminism has (or should have) taught us, spaces are different for different folks.

    because i’m really worried about solara at 108, who’s worried about dying because she/zie/he doesn’t feel she/zie/he has *any* safe space. i don’t know if that makes me a feminist, or a womanist, or a mami, and ultimately that doesn’t matter, because mostly i care about you living solara and continuing to fight. and i guaran-fucking-tee that other folks here do as well.

  186. latenac
    latenac July 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm |

    @Sumayyah Talibah

    I didn’t take your comment to necessarily mean you had to give birth to be a mama. But I still disagree that being a mama means living for the future. Even if it’s not for your own children but for others it’s still a slippery slope to self-martyrdom.

    Something about the undertone of this whole “I’m a mama” thing (and I’m not addressing this to you specifically) reeks of condescension. Kind of a female version of paternalism. I haven’t been able to quite put my finger on exactly why I feel this way. Maybe it’s the hippy earth mama aspect of it.

  187. Shelby
    Shelby July 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm |

    “And it’s not radical to be a mama.”

    When society calls you a welfare queen, crack whore, illegal alien, drain on the system– yes, it is. I’m not sure if you guys are refusing to engage or are just this woefully uninformed, but these systems? US society, imperialism, prison systems, welfare, capitalism– these things are actually, literally, not metaphorically, killing us.

  188. Ash
    Ash July 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm |

    Apparently there’s no space in your world for people who aren’t mothers? This disturbs me a great deal, but whatever. I don’t plan on ever bearing children but I have no plans to bar other women from making those choices for themselves. But it sounds to me like you genuinely do not respect other women unless they are mothers, and this definitely bothers me.

  189. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp July 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm |

    I am loving your posts, maia. The pushback you’re getting just shows the importance of having your voice in this space.

  190. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm |

    Maybe it’s the hippy earth mama aspect of it.

    Maybe it’s the sneering condescension implicit in your comment that offends me.

  191. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm |

    Ellie, learning moments are not always pleasant. In fact, in my experience, its the decidedly most unpleasant ones that pack the biggest lessons. Mind you, each and every time actually accepting and absorbing the lesson has been dependent on my own willingness and ability to work past my confusion, pain, insensitivity, anger and offended pride/whatever, to get to the kernel of what was there to learn. And then it was up to me to start listening again, to progress to the other learning moments.

    I have not always been successful at this, of course, human nature being what it is. That’s no reason to stop trying, though.

  192. Shelby
    Shelby July 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm |

    @Kari; where did I assume you were white?! And, yes, if you are not actively fighting oppression you are a part of it. I thought that was kind of basic understanding in social justice circles? I hold myself to that standard and I’m always grateful when folks point out ways I can do better. But to tell women who have, over and over again, said how hurtful feminism is to “be grateful?” That is some next level type of callousness. If feminism is helpful to you, awesome! That doesn’t make others’ pain less legitimate.

  193. Nickelas
    Nickelas July 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm |

    Maybe looking at this through another lens would make things clearer. For example, maybe it’s not so myopic to think that feminism, for all the many things it can be, cannot be everything good. Maybe it just gets at a more radically Marxist critique that feminism is rooted in capitalism, was made possible by the revolutionary potential of capital, and therefore will always defend the privileges (eg “adults-only spaces”) bestowed upon it by the system upon which it was founded. In that sense I don’t think it’s myopic at all to say that there are types of exploitation and injustice, like those in the 3rd world, that feminism cannot and will not remedy. In that sense, you wouldn’t call 3rd world feminism (or social justice focused on ending oppression of women) “feminism” because that ignores the economic and historical context of that particular movement for social justice. In fact, that’s a typical capitalist ploy to quell and/or coopt dissent: ahistoricization and decontextualization. Just trying toteasing the class context out of a discussion that seems determined to avoid it.

  194. IrishUp
    IrishUp July 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm |

    @Morgan & Rebecca; I hope I didn’t come across as questioning anyone’s choices w/r/t deciding not to be a parent, because I don’t have the right to question that of anyone, and I think I’ve got a pretty decent handle of what that means in terms of US feminism. FWIW, it was solidly my own postion for 2/3rds of my adult life!

    So I apologize, let me try to get at what I mean a second time.

    What aroused my curiosity was the rejection of the OPs statement that, to many people in the world, being loving, caring, compassionate, activist, etc is what earns you “mamihood” or “motherhood” as an honorific. While I get the investment in removing gender essentialism from caregiving and nurturing – from a USian POV, I am wondering: what’s behind rejecting that this is the language that women from the rest of the world use when they talk about their own activism and caregiving in their own communities? Why does the thread keep going from the OP (and bfp, and Aanimah, and others) saying “This is how the work that I do is framed to myself and within these other communities” to NWL USian feminists going “Nuh-uh, that’s not what feminism is, and why are you hating on us?” Why, when it’s been stated and restated that the motherhood mai’a is describing is not XX-DNA females having living babies (although this is an experience that can be encompassed by the former), do commenters INSIST that the later definition is what the OP is about?

  195. Shayne
    Shayne July 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm |

    I keep waiting for feminists and non feminists to allow women to have opinions that may or may not radically differ from their own. All without being told what they feel, think, say or do is bad or wrong.

    I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. Because we’re all allowed to think for ourselves. Right?

    Seems to me all it ever is is men and women busy telling each other how to think, be, vote. That will never change.

  196. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm |

    maybe the thing that is offputting to a lot of white people/mothers is that they have the *choice* to compartmentalize their mothering from other identities. they have the choice to be a career woman AND a mom. they have the choice to be an organizer and a mom or a feminist and a mom. and with that choice comes the privilege of choosing to be a woman and a mom or an earth mother sacrafice your entire being for your jesus peeing precious.

    when you feminism stems from your mothering–when your work stems from your mothering, etc because it NEEDS TO, you don’t economically, emotionally, physically, have a CHOICE–you are a very different type of mother and mean a very different thing when you say “don’t make it all about yourself.” maybe it’s not self-martyrdom, but about acting in solidarity in a situation where sometimes the only “choices” is the family (a contested term) around you, goddamned fucked up as it may be.

    and it would also be really great to recognize that Latin@ mothers in particular, but non-white women and women of color have had a very long standing critique of the earth granola mother AP website bullshit for a very long time. we really can and do think for ourselves and talk about important shit outside of our children’s precious pooping habits.

    and maybe the biggest problem in these two threads is that there are a whooooooooole slew of people who are deciding they know everything, without having read anything more than a blog post. sometimes. *sometimes* it takes more than a blog post or two to figure out what people are talking about. And sometimes the more appropriate response is to ask questions or maybe even just not assume that mami is a spanish way of spelling mom.

    maybe there could be some assuming that “mami” and “m/other” and “mama” all came about because very real very legitimate critical thinking skills.

  197. littlem
    littlem July 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    I can call myself a feminist and sometimes think myself “Fuck feminism!” because I don’t agree with its elitist brand of progress. This doesn’t mean that gender equality isn’t important, but it does mean that society (and this includes progressive movements) values some women more than others.

    Originally (and eloquently) stated by Lena Chen.

    Repeated for emphasis.

  198. a_childfreer
    a_childfreer July 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    “And yeah, I know what it’s like to be child-free. As do all parents, DUH. We were all child-free before we were parents.”

    You fail at child-free definition. Being child-free is different than childless. Child freedom is embracing the idea that you are happy without children, no matter how much society sneers at you or pressures you. If you made a choice to have children, then you were never, ever child-free.

  199. latenac
    latenac July 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm |

    @Shelby “When society calls you a welfare queen, crack whore, illegal alien, drain on the system– yes, it is. I’m not sure if you guys are refusing to engage or are just this woefully uninformed, but these systems? US society, imperialism, prison systems, welfare, capitalism– these things are actually, literally, not metaphorically, killing us.”

    I guess I am just woefully uninformed. It’s not radical to me to become a mother even in the face of all that you’ve listed. Standing up to that and fighting all that you’ve listed and being an activist and helping others, yes that’s radical. But just having a kid in the midst of it, no, it’s what you do with the kid and the community around you that can be radical. And frankly if this is what the original post was supposed to be about, you write a lot better than Mai’a does.

  200. Kari
    Kari July 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    @shelby you said “Hold the FUCK up. Are you for real tryna tell non white women about our own lives? ”

    That’s presumptuous, to say the least, and ironic considering you were accusing me of some pretty heavy shit based on the fact that you assumed I was white. Whether I am or not is irrelevant. We’re all women. Furthermore, you have no idea what I do in my daily life to fight oppression, so check yourself.

    Second of all, I think we owe the women who paved the way for us (ALL WOMEN, of color or not) a debt of gratitude for their sacrifice. Was it always perfect? No. Do some women who call themselves “feminists” do the wrong thing? Absolutely. Are there still terrible, horrible atrocities inflicted upon women (of color and otherwise) every day? Of course there are. But making blanket statements about an entire movement and group of women, many of whom have done a lot of good, comes off as offensive and as completely missing the point.

  201. Naamah
    Naamah July 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm |

    To Faith @119

    Most of what I am reading in these comments is completely baffling to me. But this, what you said, that is valuable and true, and I wish that all the deliberately childless/childfree women who criticise women for becoming mothers and believe that parenting while female confers some great societal benefit could understand this.

    As for the rest, no, some of us don’t want to be defined as ‘mamas.’ Not because we don’t care for motherhood but because we are tired of being told “No, if you act like ABC or XYZ, then what you REALLY are is X thing.” We are tired of being told what we are, how we should identify. If you want to, in your own minds, classify someone as a ‘mama’ because they are nurturing or do the hard work of teaching, building, making things right, sacrificing self, and doing what needs to be done, fine, I have zero problem with that. But don’t expect other people to adopt your label, please, and don’t get upset when we refuse to, or if it bothers us. We aren’t rejecting your philosophy. We’re rejecting being told what we “really” are. That you have a different understanding of things, even if it is a WAY deeper understanding, does not mean you can overwrite people’s identities or insist that they redefine them using your words. Not assuming an identity does not mean I don’t respect the identity.

    Case in point: I am not going to call myself a womanist, ever. I’m a feminist. I have NO problem and NO trouble understanding why someone would not want to identify as a feminist. I completely get that. And I get “fuck feminism.” Privileged women have elevated their own at the expense of WOC, have treated them as afterthoughts when they were thought of at all. So I get that. But I’m still going to call myself a feminist because I don’t feel I have a right to claim another identity; I am still awash in the ignorance of privilege, and I would be no asset for a movement I don’t fully understand, so I’m not going to call myself anything else. So I listen, I work to educate myself, and I try not to get in the way when I don’t know what to do. I am pleased to see feminism get called out on its bullshit.

    Although I do wish that people would stop with the “motherhood gives you special insight” thing and the implying that you aren’t a fully-realized human being unless you come to those insights through motherhood specifically. There are any number of circumstances or conditions that can increase a person’s sensitivity to humanity, and make them wiser and better people. Motherhood is one path to this, and a fine one that deserves far, far more respect than it has, but it is not the only one.

  202. Lasciel
    Lasciel July 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm |

    People can extend “mama” to mean caregiver if they want, the whole thing is just a big reeking pile of womb-worship with a disclaimer tacked on.

    We’re just being trolled here, by a guest blogger :/

  203. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 4:16 pm |

    If you want to, in your own minds, classify someone as a ‘mama’ because they are nurturing or do the hard work of teaching, building, making things right, sacrificing self, and doing what needs to be done, fine, I have zero problem with that. But don’t expect other people to adopt your label, please, and don’t get upset when we refuse to, or if it bothers us.

    8-0–how about returning the favor? when a woman of color says she’s not a feminist, don’t scream at her for 600+ comments about why she’s a feminist anyway or why she’s “ungrateful” for rejecting the term?

  204. Emily
    Emily July 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm |

    I’m pondering the way that individualism/individualistic ethics versus more community-oriented ethics are playing into this debate. Particularly wrt the “hippy earth mama” comment. I mean, yes, part of what I love about mai’a’s post could be described as a “hippy earth mama” vibe, but I think for me what I associate with that phrase, as it relates to mai’a’s post, is with a sense of community and interconnectedness and working for and with each other rather than being “liberated” to individually make the most of ourselves and our (individual) lives. Now, to call it “hippy earth mama” is in itself perhaps obnoxious in that mai’a is not talking about hippies in the US but rather other cultures with different frames of reference, values and goals. Is “hippy earth mama” the only culture that certain mainstream US feminists can conceive of that have a more connected understanding of the relationship between the individual and the collective? Does that demonstrate just how “foreign” the experiences of radical WOC are to this particular audience?

    I love the post, and am greatful to all the commenters who risk their sanity to speak their truth here. I sometimes feel like the “white liberal” US lens of mainstream feminism can’t handle stuff like mai’a’s post because of a really strong emotional attachment to individualism. Which I guess is a “liberal” value, but is it necessarily a feminist value?

  205. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl July 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm |

    Given the subject matter, I think that this link is worth a read.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/27/michele-hanson-my-daughter-treasure

    I think that *if* Mai’a and BFP’s definition of being a mama is what Treasure is doing then I totally agree with the OP. Because Treasure could so easily be a man; it is the act of mama’ing that is valuable, not her gender.

    However, I too am also really getting the sense of a “female version of paternalism” that latenac refers to. Despite their disclaimers that it is about a type of behaviour, and not about being able to birth/raise a child, it’s just not ringing true to me. And I come from a culture where mothering is central.

  206. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero July 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm |

    As a queer, femme, sometimes female trans* person, as a disabled person, as a mentally ill person, as a poor person, I can state with utter certainty that feminism as a movement has done fucking nothing to help me. Has in fact harmed me directly and personally. I have seen how feminism treats women like me and non-white women and various women whose lives do not fit a very narrow definition of woman and oppression. Non-white women are expected to be grateful — and to display appropriate gratitude — for a movement that failed to consider their lives and experiences and needs and did nothing much for them. Trans* feminine folk are ejected from women’s spaces because we make real women uncomfortable; trans* masculine folk are welcomed into those spaces because their genders aren’t considered real either and there’s a wildly objectivising fetishism of their identities and bodies in certain circles. Sex workers and illegal substance users are, ah, strongly discouraged from participating in feminist events (You can support us from over there. In the dark. Where no one can see you. Where there will be no expectation of reciprocal support.). Disabled people find community meetings and events inaccessible and are shamed for not participating as currently non-disabled folk do — going to meetings and street protests is real activism; writing blogs and being present on-line is not.

    We have very different needs. We tend to need things rather low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, water, shelter, security of body and family and health. The fraction of women in the population of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies is of very low importance to me. I need help to stay alive — as does everyone else I’m just more obvious about it — and the feminist movement isn’t going to get me that. The disability rights movement is and a good portion of feminism doesn’t give a shit about disability rights. Nice words maybe but not to the point of, y’know, doing shit. We’re still bitter about the disability tent at the Beijing women’s conference being inaccessible.

    So yeah. If y’all still haven’t worked out the connections here, we say “fuck feminism” because feminism has been saying “fuck you” to us for a long, long time.

    You want to flounce? Flounce. Take your wounded privilege and good riddance.

    As for being a mama. I’d love to be one. If I could I’d like to be pregnant and give birth. I don’t have the organs necessary and there are enormous barriers and little assistance for disabled parents and I’m poor and queer so it’s unlikely I’ll get to be a parent to more than my cats. But the broader definition… that’s for someone else to say. Maybe I can be that kind of mama to someone.

  207. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 28, 2010 at 4:27 pm |

    Bfp,

    “*MY* experience, as a US citizen that crosses boundaries and borders every day of my life, as a queer person, a racialized person, a mami, as a chicana, as a former migrant worker–mami is NOT rooted in mothering–it’s rooted in unionizing.”

    I see mami as a different word than “mama.” I was specifically objecting to the use of the honorific “mama” as a synonym for “social justice advocate” in universal experience. I completely respect and honor your understanding of mami (or mama) as it works in your life and describes your experience. I just want some acknowledgment that the word mama has meaning in a society that oppresses those who do not conform to the gender norms where the kyriarchal system forces women to become mothers. Okay, perhaps I also want some acknowledgment that you are not part of the masses of people that think there is something wrong with me because I don’t want to give birth or raise a child.

    IrishUp,

    “What I’m wondering about is why do you reject mothering or being a mama as the root or cause or anchor for these wonderful things?”

    Because I am not a mother and I probably will never be a mother? Because nuturing = motherhood is harmful to people who are told over and over that they are heartless, selfish bitches for not giving life. Because I’m tired of having to justify my existence to people who think my life is worthless because I don’t have children. Because I think my SO is the most nurturing human being I’ve ever met despite his gender. Why can’t compassion be its own root? Why does love have to spring from something? Why do you need motherhood as a rationale for loving?

    Faith,

    If you come back to the thread –

    “I promise you that no matter who you are the only privilege you are actually going to receive by conforming to gender roles and having kids is the love of your kids.”

    I disagree. I would experience different oppression from the constant and horrifying policing of mothers to the complete and utter disrespect that society places on mothering…but I won’t experience the same oppression. I compare it sometimes to getting married (although I recognize it is NOT AT ALL THE SAME). My SO and I refused to marry for years on the grounds that (1) we should not take part in a system that would privilege us over other couples/groups and (2) marriage as an institution has historically been oppressive to woman. But the pressure to marry…the refusal of service, the difficulty in finding a place to live (exacerbated by our interracial couple-ness, I’m sure), the daily grind of interacting with other people who treat you like a sub-human person if you are an unmarried woman living with a man eventually came to a head when I wasn’t able to see him or provide critical medical information when he was in the emergency room (despite having a medical power of attorney!). So we married and I grit my teeth at the comments about how I must need to be home to make dinner, comments about his shirts never being pressed, and comments about my other wifely duties. It’s still annoying…and it’s still oppressive…its just differently so. I won’t say one is by-definition better than the other. I made my choice and live with the consequences.

  208. Marilyn
    Marilyn July 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm |

    There’s already 200+ comments here. I’m keeping this short.

    Women are important. Women with children are important. Women without children are important. You know the saying, “it takes all kinds”? Well, here it is. I do agree with maia that contemporary feminism (which I often equate with liberal feminism) does not appreciate mothers, and often only appreciates the college-educated, as well. But feminism can (if it wants to) appreciate and value women from all walks of life, be they mothers or not. Though maia is obviously saying some controversial things (200+ comments, ’nuff said) they need to be said. I’m not a mother, and I don’t want to be. I have yet to see a woman with children treated well by either her family or society in general. (You know, unless she’s pretty, white, married [to a man] and has money.) Has feminism, with it’s messages of equality, helped soothe my fear that having children will turn me into a non-person? No. Feminism has done nothing but enhance that fear. maia, thank you for guest blogging about a subject that so desperately needs to be discussed, and I think everyone here should thank Feministe for inviting her.

    Okay, that sounded a little pretentious and self-righteous there at the end, I know. :)

  209. Naamah
    Naamah July 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm |

    bfp @214

    Hell yes.

    It makes me sick that people piled on that the way they did. The posts’ content aside, the focus on that one statement with such singleminded cluelessness was nauseating. Did NONE of these people understand or stop to think that feminism has serious shortcomings, and someone from a group hurt by that would probably not identify as a feminist? Yeeeah. Way to prove that someone’s completely right to disassociate themselves from your group, people. Way to fucking go.

  210. Shayne
    Shayne July 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm |

    I love the post too. I’d like to see more reminders of women who have lived their lives and come to their own conclusions, whether or not those conclusions are the ‘popular’ ones.

    And most definitely, regardless of whether I agree with them or not.

  211. Lucy
    Lucy July 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    @Donna L. “Childbirth and lactation do not equal motherhood any more than menstruation equals womanhood, womanness, or whatever word you want to use.”

    Very off topic but as someone who was “birthed” and not for one meager second “mothered” by my extremely abusive (physically, mentally, emotionally and knowingly allowed to be sexually abused by many men) “mother”, I want to say THANK YOU for that and the dedication and love you show your child.

  212. kdel
    kdel July 28, 2010 at 4:39 pm |

    Maia-

    Thank you for being here.

    That’s really all I have to say…As someone with 4 kids, ages 20, 14, 2 and 2…I’ve struggled with how I align with feminism, with traditional motherhood, with my own quasi-queer identity, with my white middle-class roots and my time homeless…with all the contradictions.

    You’ve stirred the pot, and I’m glad. I don’t want a melting pot, I want a colorful gumbo, and sometimes it takes a stir.

  213. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm |

    I just want some acknowledgment that the word mama has meaning in a society that oppresses those who do not conform to the gender norms where the kyriarchal system forces women to become mothers. yeah–that’s the thing, if anybody knows that mom and mommy have meanings, it’s woman of color. But I think that what you are asking here is for a white woman’s expeirence with the word “mama” to be centered. mama (with an accent on the end, don’t know how to make my keyboard do that, sorry), mama, ama, mami–in the US, they all have different meanings, they all come with different connotations–an example, I’ve heard white people get really grossed out by Latin@s using “mami” and “papi” as terms of sexual closeness and tenderness–as in, oh, papi, u my sweet sexy man–they get grossed out because they are not used to the idea that a person can be loved and cherished and *sexually attractive* because of their roles as parents. But whether or not it grosses non-Latin@s out or not–it is there, being used in communities throughout the US–without even the slightest thought being given to the fact that in white communities, calling someone mama may be oppressive.

    so, I will give you 100% that mommy can be an entirely opressive and horrible thing–that it is something that is imposed on people, that it has expectations that bring horrific consequences to people who don’t live up to those expectations–but I will question the absolute need to center white experiences with the word.

    Okay, perhaps I also want some acknowledgment that you are not part of the masses of people that think there is something wrong with me because I don’t want to give birth or raise a child.
    I don’t think you need to raise a child or give birth. I don’t think that there is something wrong with you, and I never have and I never will.

    food for thought: my daughters tias are all childless women. and yet every single one of them agreed immediatly to be my daughter’s tia when I asked–because every single one of them understood the act of being a tia (aka–mami) to be an act of solidarity. an act of love. an act of recognizing that little brown girls are left with little to no resources the vast majority of the time. These women are my children’s mamis, they are my wives, we are acting in solidarity to raise my daughter as safely and with as many resources as we can possibly get her. mama in her post talked about how different women across the world understand “mama” or “mami” or “m/other” to be acting in a similar fashion. that sometimes you wind up in prison with your daughter and no blankets and there’s nothing else you can do but talk to the woman in the next cell over.
    what I need to know is why is that oppressive and being a hippy granola mother that expects all women out there to be mothers or they are shit?

  214. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm |

    and please understnd, when I say “they are my wives” I am speaking from a very specifically queer woman of color point of view, please don’t try to impose some sort of 19 children and counting white point of view on me.

    thanks.

  215. craftydabbler
    craftydabbler July 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm |

    Mai’a, bfp, and other WOC, thank you for blogging here, thank you for being brave and speaking your minds.

  216. Jessie
    Jessie July 28, 2010 at 4:56 pm |

    I respect the point I think Mama Mai’a was making about mama being a term for radical love. I think that it is a hard banner to march under, given that love involves de-centering.

    That said, I really don’t think I can embrace the term mama in that context at this time in my life. “Mama” has a lot of other connotations for me. The only person I knew to be called Mama was my great-grandmother, who had most of her mind claimed by alzheimer’s by the time I knew her. “Mama”, to me, will always have the flavour of being spoken softly, gently, and sadly but fondly.

    To me, “mama” doesn’t have the same fierce-ness it seems to hold for you.

  217. Taylor
    Taylor July 28, 2010 at 4:56 pm |

    I won’t say much about the discussion going on because I’m not quite qualified to participate in it, I realize — the things bfp, Mai’a, and others have said have given me a lot to think about, to say the least.

    But as an aside — Mai’a, I love the aesthetic of your original post. It spoke to me in a very intimate way, almost in a personal way, that I don’t see often enough, and thank you so much for it.

  218. Shelby
    Shelby July 28, 2010 at 4:58 pm |

    @latenac; That’s exactly what being a Mama means to me. Exactly what you said about standing up and fighting against oppression. And please don’t devalue what Mai’a wrote because it’s brilliant. Everything I know about mothering I’ve learned from writers like Mai’a and Brownfemipower along with Mamas from my own community and the kids I’ve cared for. I’m 23, never had children, but I’ve always been called “Mama” and when I was a baby, “lil Mama.” I completely get what Mai’a is talking about in that it’s a term of respect. I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve been able to help out in my community looking after kids or even other adults. And I’m really proud of the folks in my university community who pitch in so mamas & mamis can study or go to functions. Cuz we know how many barriers there are for mamas&mamis and we want them to succeed along with us.

  219. Shelby
    Shelby July 28, 2010 at 5:09 pm |

    @Kari, the only thing I was accusing you, personally, of was telling non white women to be grateful to a movement that rejects them. And then I listed ways mainstream Feminism (an institution, not you, an individual) has helped to hurt racialized women in hopes that you would see how hurtful it is to tell Black and Brown women to “be grateful!” I don’t see how any of that changes if you’re Black like me. I was addressing your words.

  220. ginmar
    ginmar July 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm |

    So feminists aren’t mothers? Fuck you right back. You’re saying that only womanists are mothers and feminists….aren’t. Great strawfeminists there.

    Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you.
    Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.

    Gee, with all these strawfeminists flying around, which feminists? The real mothers and wives who started it, or the mythical child-eating cunts you rail against while you nurture your more-special-than-thou little mini me? Also, if you going to endorse fuck feminism, then stop demanding feminists do shit for you, like pander to your kid at bars and adult parties.

    ——

    srsly, if the common definition for feminism to be treated equal to a man

    Yeah, another strawfeminist. Do you even KNOW what feminism is? Or do you just know what the common myths are? .

    im not interested in feminism. that is not the goal of the women with whom ive worked. 1/3 of black men are in the prison industrial system. i am working for a different world for my daughter.

    A world in which there’s no movement for women that isn’t subsumed, once again, by men? How about the men who AREN’T in jail get off their asses and do something?

    And the most revolting thing about all this shit is the way Maia and her mommy enablers demand that other women coo and fawn and use ‘warm energy’ toward her and the kid she says she won’t control—-when she takes her to adult bars and parties.

    Basically, this whole shit storm is Maia guilting a bunch of precious enablers into buying into the notion that only mamahood can give a woman any kind of moral standing, and the only way you can redeem yourself is to suck up to whatever obnoxious mama that comes along with their screaming, unschooled, undisciplined, uncontrolled kid.

    You can dress up it up any way you want it, but it’s disgusting to see a woman declaring that she’s basically a better woman than you are because she’s not a feminist, she’s had a kid, and she’s going to work on behalf of men who are perfectly capable of doing shit on their own.

  221. Cerebral Magpie
    Cerebral Magpie July 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm |

    I know my voice will be a whisper in the storm, but I just wanted to say I’ve crept in here after feeling resoundly rejected from another feminist space, and that I Am Listening.

    I am glad that Feministe is trying to engage through blogging and moderation along all lines of female social justice, womanism, feminism…whatever you want to be.

    Thank you mai’a for opening this white, childfree woman’s ears and eyes.

  222. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero July 28, 2010 at 5:18 pm |

    @bfp: To get mamá mamí papí I use the HTML character references: á is &#225; í is &#225;

    I haven’t found any one site that has a complete character reference set but amongst these three I’ve been able to cover all my special-character needs:
    http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/html-spec/html-spec_13.html
    http://www.starr.net/is/type/htmlcodes.html
    http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/sgml/entities.html

    One of my moms is Latina so a chunk of my family is Latin@; I’ve run into mamí/papí as an endearment between adults before. (And I personally got called mij@ about a zillion times. Of everybody in my family they didn’t even blink when I started transitioning. I will always be grateful.) I never noticed white people got uncomfortable about that. :( Other white people I mean; I’m physically about as white as a person can get.

  223. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero July 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm |

    Ah shit I fucked that up! í is &#237; sorry!

  224. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm |

    hahaha, i like that–mythical child eating cunts. I think I will put that on a t-shirt.

    anyway. it’s been fun. have a great day to everybody!

    ps. and thanks kaninchenzero for the heads up!
    &#237 i am pretty sure I’ll never figure it out–i’ve tried it now three times, and am just getting the numbers still–but I’ll keep working at it!!! Lolol.

  225. roses
    roses July 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm |

    Ginmar – Mai’a’s comments about feminism were in response to a feminist commenter telling her that feminists are working to make sure her daughter is equal to men. So no, not a straw feminist, a real one. If you disagree that feminism is about making sure white women are equal to white men, maybe you should direct your comments toward the white women who treat it that way, rather than those women of colour who perceive it that way.

  226. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero July 28, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

    @bfp You just need the semicolon at the end of the numbers and you’ll have it. :)

  227. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    I sometimes feel like the “white liberal” US lens of mainstream feminism can’t handle stuff like mai’a’s post because of a really strong emotional attachment to individualism. Which I guess is a “liberal” value, but is it necessarily a feminist value?

    That was Emily at #215, repeated with emphasis.

  228. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    bfp,

    I apologize for the impression that I want to center a white woman’s experience with the word “mama.” I can very much see how my words are doing that. What I am trying to express is that the notion of motherhood, including the word “mama” is being equated with love in a way that I find hurtful and that hurtfulness is not unimportant…even though I am (mostly) white. (Although, this is not just a white definition, as many of my friends and family are experiencing the same thing with the additional pressure that they are not bringing Jewish, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese children into the world. I just get the ZOMG you must be racist because you’re not bringing a mult-racial child into the world.) I am trying to be part of the solution, but this:

    “mama. is just such an evocative word. here, in cairo, the equivalent to mommy is umi. and umi is a beautiful word. but even here. everyone knows what ‘mama’ means. ma. ma. ma. there is something primoridial about it. something that speaks to millions of years of walking on this earth.”

    Makes me feel that I am not just unwelcome, I’m something unnatural.

    “what I need to know is why is that oppressive and being a hippy granola mother that expects all women out there to be mothers or they are shit?”

    I don’t think it is. I’m an auntie to my friend’s kids and my much loved nieces. Where I’m originally from kids are raised more communally and adults do watch out for all the kids they run into. Auntie is used in some of the same ways that Mai’a describes mama, as an honorific for the women who watch out for you. But language like what was quoted above does give the impression that women who are not mothers are unnatural and that nurturing is intrinsically feminine. It connects the primordial motherhood with the love and affection I give to others. But that’s not where my love comes from. It’s not where my SO’s love for our extended family comes from.

  229. Nickelas
    Nickelas July 28, 2010 at 6:03 pm |

    Emily at #215 does make a great point. However, it baffles me that people bring up things like “individualism,” “privilege,” and “unionizing” without ever bringing up capitalism. Emily and bfp are the only ones who come close, other than another commenter who mentioned it in passing. The topic is really conspicuous for its absence. I think there are some forms of privilege people reeeeally do not want to confront.

  230. Ceiteag
    Ceiteag July 28, 2010 at 6:06 pm |

    I doubt that this will be posted — I have tried to post to this site several times.

    I look at the title of this blog and it’s called feministe – And when you have a poster that vocalizes an Anti-Feminist Rant it’s upsetting, then we have to allow it because, why? It’s unclear, and disturbing.

    Feminism to me is about personal choices, of how we live, and if that means that we embrace mother hood, or embrace another employment, it should be respected and honored.

    Not every woman wants to have children, it doesn’t mean these woman are less than a woman or can’t understand the plight of mothers, we can and we do. We may not have birthed a child, nor have taken care of them for a lifetime, but we know the heartaches and joys of it.

    We all have passions and we all want to make this Good Earth better, not all of us want to make it better via our vagina.

    Mother’s don’t have special right or privileges that a non-child woman, they have just made different choices that should be honored and respected.

    IMHO, if one wants to be a mother then it’s their responsibility to raise that child responsbiliy and understand that children aren’t just little people, they aren’t, they don’t have the ability to reason and understand like adults. It’s up to the adults to make choices for them until and when they can make those choices for themselves.

    It’s up to the parents to teach a child that it’s not okay to scream their lungs out in public, it’s called socialization skills. Children will be children, but it’s up to their parental role model to teach them the proper way to act.

    No, I am not expecting the parent to be perfect, in-perfection is part of the human condition. But I expect them to understand that a three year old screaming their lungs out in a restaurant is not natural and is not acceptable behavior, and it’s their responsibility to handle that child, not some stranger. It’s your job as a parent, it’s your decision to have a child. I don’t have to send warm energy to you or that child because the only time in the busy day that I get to unwind is my half hour lunch which your child who is running around slapping people is disturbing.

    I am not saying that a child can’t go anywhere, I am saying that a child needs to be properly socialized and disciplined by their parent (if they act out). They should be taught the word no, and be told that their are rules and respect for others. Just because they are children doesn’t make the exempt from good behavior.

  231. Kaz
    Kaz July 28, 2010 at 6:21 pm |

    I am mulling over the mama thing, but don’t feel I can say anything about it. Too different from my experiences to easily incorporate it for me, but there is something incredibly powerful there. (I am probably never going to be a parent but I read it and I think of maybe, someday, helping little autistic girls.) Thank you for writing this, mai’a.

    As far as the “fuck feminism” thing goes… seriously, people? I read the first part of the previous thread with my teeth on edge about the arrogance and ignorance and condescension of people who DEMANDED mai’a answer to them about why she didn’t identify as feminist, assumed it must be because she was ignorant of what feminism entailed. As if the entire concept of feminism perpetrating other -isms, of feminism being skewed towards privileged people, of alternative movements like womanism, was foreign to them. As far as this feminist is concerned, mai’a’s response is something people would do well to listen to. It may be a bit strongly worded for your tastes, but there is this thing called the tone argument.

    “If you think men and women should be equal, you’re a feminist.” Words cannot describe how much I hate this. Feminism is a political movement, one with a history. You CANNOT divorce it from the history, even – especially – when the history is a bad one. You also cannot divorce it from the bad things it is doing, oppressions it is perpetrating, right now. And you *really* do not get to demand that the people who have been and are being hurt by feminism ignore all of that because *you* think feminism is the best thing ever. (I identify as feminist, but there are times I really wonder why. Reading some of the comments on this thread is making this one of those times.)

  232. frau sally benz
    frau sally benz July 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm | *

    I have to say, I don’t know why people keep bringing up the “please don’t look down on me for not wanting to be a mother” thing. Nowhere in either this post or shorter, cuter, more honest people did Mai’a express this sentiment. Even in the comments, bfp and others have expressly stated that they DO NOT believe women who choose not to be mothers are somehow inferior or bad women or whatever.

    I understand that this has probably come up for you in the past (it certainly has for me), but that’s not where Mai’a and others are coming from, so can we please drop it?

  233. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 6:28 pm |

    @kristen–i think you might enjoy reading Cherrie Moraga’s loving in the war years–where she talks about how being queer for her is *informed by* her mother’s ability to love *her*. she contextualizes the whole thing, talks about the sexism that allowed her mother to show her love for her brother over her, how her parents weren’t in a happy marriage, how her mother may have even been a martyr virgin that so many Latin@s are expected to be. but…in the end, her mother taught her to love women, to love *brown* women–and thus her mother is a part of her queer identity. It is a lot different way of looking at it than–you don’t know how to love if you aren’t a mother. which is how many many MANY of the mommy wars play out. and I think that makes it really difficult for those who have NOT experienced different ways of understanding mamihood to understand, well, the mamihood (or any other ways that any person has claimed “mami”)

    I strongly strongly strongly urge people who think that what mai’a is saying is coming from left field or my child eating cunt (hahahahahaha) to read up on the very very long history of women of color theorists writing about motherhood/mamihood/mamahood, etc. There is a lot of really important and necessary stuff there–talking about the abuse, the violence, the love, the abandonment, the help, the care, the essentialism, the martyr, the force, the refusal–this is something that has been talked about for decades in woman of color communities and thank god the theorists finally put it all down on paper so that people who wanted to learn a little more could find out about it. Alice walker and Rebecca walker have both written a lot about it (neither of which I agree with fully, but both have interesting things to say), cherrie Moraga, gloria anzaldua, toni morrison, and so so so so many zinsters–hermana resist is a good one as is the linked one up top.

  234. Anu
    Anu July 28, 2010 at 6:44 pm |

    Ok, I’m done with Feministe for a while. I’ve read this site for many many years but I hate that I can’t even come here any more to find a place where I can own my feminist identity proudly. Nothing against mamas — I intend to become one some day — and I’m a person of color so I definitely understand that feminism needs to become more inclusive, but I don’t think I will ever feel the need to qualify my feminism with words before it. And I certainly resent the notion that the only way I can contribute to the welfare of other women in the world is through my nurturing qualities.

  235. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 7:06 pm |

    What’s really interesting is if the core concepts of either of mai’a’s posts had been published instead on women of color sites, or even social justice sites, they probably would have garnered at the most 20 or 30 comments. Mostly people saying how well done they were, or taking the points further, adding their own experiences, so on.

    I am kinda astonished that here they are so “controversial” that one already has almost 600 comments, and the other 300 or so with people flouncing off in huffs and all the vitriol directed towards mai’a and her “mommy enablers” and such – I think those are otherwise known to me as support centers for women or communities, or families – born or cobbled together – or sisterhoods and all that, but anyway. Apparently all that is controversial, too.

    I think bfp’s list would be helpful to any number of people. Reading mai’a or bfp or Aaminah or any number of other women of color, in their own spaces – and participating – might also do wonders for expanding minds, hearts and experiences, for those who are interested in doing so.

  236. GinnyC
    GinnyC July 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm |

    Maia, I love your definition of being a mama. But at the same time this post is challenging for me because imagining solidarity around radical motherhood is hard. As a gay woman I will don’t have the experience of fitting into an established community of women. With extremely rare exceptions, I have never been in an activist space that did not reproduce privilege. I am used seeing racism, homophobia, and gender discrimination in radical circles, including among queer women who belittle people like me for being feminine. I will not have children of my own without a good deal of effort, and whether it is true or not, when I think about organizing around radical motherhood my gut instinct is that these spaces don’t want people like me. They don’t want people who upset the norms of the community and solidarity, who cannot relate directly to their struggles. Other women don’t want women like me around their children. Now, I know that the definition that you and bfp and others are proposing does NOT do that. The spaces being imagined here do not reject queerness, but the visceral reaction of needing to be on guard is still there, at least for me.

  237. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero July 28, 2010 at 7:24 pm |

    It ain’t about nurturing so much as it is about solidarity and collective action and giving a hand up. Mainstream feminism is based too much in individual needs and individual actions and the ghastly, pervasive, enormously destructive myth of personal responsibility. We can’t burn down the structures which oppress us and build something new which supports us all on the same foundation of evil bullshit.

    It’s like how no one and no society can end the exploitation of labourers by shopping; it takes action outside the system to change it. And it takes collective action outside the system. We have only gained what we have by working together. Which is why in the US it is so difficult for workers to organise; corporations have paid well to erode the power labour once had. The racist Southern Strategy included criminalising normal human behaviour for reasons; by incarcerating (and disenfranchising again) large segments of non-white populations families and communities and economies are disrupted. It’s enormously expensive and destructive but it makes sure the racial hierarchies are maintained.

    Marijuana used to be known as cannabis before a government-sponsored public-relations campaign to change the name and give it non-white — Black and Latin@ — connotations. Opiates were widely used by white people, sold through the Sears fucking catalogue even, before they were made an “oriental” drug with the help of print and video Westerns. You cannot separate race from women’s issues. Nor can we separate disability, or sexuality, or gender identity, or religion, or nationality and immigration status.

    But so much of mainstream feminism wants us to do exactly that. Wait, we’re told. Be patient. Let’s work on the core issues first — the experiences of a very select group of women — we’ll get to your needs later.

    It’s okay because we’re marginal, right? Outliers.

    Just like with the mental health professions (which is a whole nother rant for another time) it is not for us, who lack privilege, to accommodate feminism. Feminism needs to accommodate us, to reach out to us, and that needs to start with acknowledging past and ongoing bigotries (which includes some frankly genocidal rhetoric I’ve seen waved off with “we don’t have the power to actually carry out a genocide so what’s the worry?”) within the movement and making serious efforts to change behaviour.

    And it starts with shutting the fuck up and listening when people who have been harmed by feminism tell you about their experiences. Not getting out the Wounded Privilege Handbook and abusing someone who’s taken the risk of sharing with you.

    Remedial social justice indeed.

  238. mh
    mh July 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm |

    Maia, I’m reading and rereading your post (I’d even call it a manifesto) and thinking through my emotional and intellectual reactions to it. I want to say thank you.

    As someone who hits most markers of privilege, I’m working on examining my discomfort when challenged and figuring out how to come to terms with with the damage that my movement has done and continues to do, while still believing deeply in feminism. I thought this was genius:

    “The use of feminism as a definition for gender justice bothers many because it is rooted in privilege, and arguably it continues to be associated with privilege.”

    Enough about me! Tanglad, you wrote “For example, the mainstream liberal supposedly feminist interventions like feminist consumption and feminist fair trade make life even more difficult for the Third World women populations who I work with.” I would love to know more about this–I do know some, because I work with MADRE (an interesting organization to bring up in this context), but I want to know more. I’ll put it out there that you would be a great guest poster on this topic, if you chose to do so.

  239. haley
    haley July 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm |

    Great article. It has given me a lot to think about. I’ve always thought of myself and called myself a feminist. But despite my being childless, I do feel an intimate connection to the term mama. I have been working at childcare facilities since I was 14, and even a that age the toddlers would call me “mama”. Young children identify caregivers, nurturers, as mamas….regardless of biology.

    I don’t feel alienated by people choosing to use mama, even if that means rejecting the label feminist. Having a movement lead primarily by poc, woc and wot, will force white people, such as myself, to choose carefully how we wish to identify ourselves and with whom. My hope, is that feminism will become stronger and more radical alongside the mamas.

  240. alawyer
    alawyer July 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm |

    The lack of capitalization doesn’t surprise me, since all-lowercase is common and trendy enough that large corporations like BP have been branding themselves in lowercase for years. But what’s with writing contractions without apostrophes? (Except “ain’t,” which keeps its apostrophe for some reason.) Is it supposed to be a political statement?

  241. shannon
    shannon July 28, 2010 at 8:18 pm |

    I came here to say go radical mamas!

    *is a childfree woc

  242. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm |

    Oh, for the love of…who cares about the damn punctuation. Next people will complain about spelling, pacing, word length, and readability stats. Could you understand her points? Yes, I recognize that these things may makes things more difficult for text-to-speech readers that some use, but I don’t see people complaining about that…it’s just complaining because it’s not written in the style to which you are accustomed. To which I say…get over it. All sorts of stories are told in all sorts of ways. This isn’t a lit blog…we’re supposed to be addressing ideas and listening to experiences…none of which has a damn thing to do with punctuation!!

  243. shannon
    shannon July 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm |

    *navel gazing* Here in TN, at least among black folks, I sometimes see unrelated women be referred to as ‘mama’ by younger folks. I am only old enough to be ‘miss’ or ‘ma’am’, but I don’t think I’ll ever get the gravitas to be a ‘mama’

  244. sadie
    sadie July 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm |

    As I read through this I keep thinking about how it seems like an analysis (or even an awareness) of reproductive labor is just totally missing from the discussion. The idea that the well being and care of kids has nothing to do with people who aren’t their parents or caregivers is just so incredibly shortsighted and ignorant. Some one who is “child free” is absolutely going to be impacted by how the next generation is raised, treated, cared for, because kids become grown ups and moving around in society with you pretty damn quick. I really agree with the comment that pointed out how individualistic this whole thing is, and individualism is such a patriarchal ideology.

  245. Claire N.
    Claire N. July 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm |

    I really liked what Kristen J had to say–especially at point 109– while I also strongly believe in the principles that Maia is espousing. I bristle at the term mama being applied to me, but that doesn’t have to have anything to do with why I support mamas and want children to be taken seriously within feminism.

    But what this thread says to me is that as women-identifying folks and as trans* folks who are dedicated to social justice–we need to learn how to argue and how to engage in conflict with each other. As people who want social justice, we need allow each other to name and practise our identities and/or our politics without ripping the other apparently ‘rejected’ identity apart. I think my last point is relevant to the words mama, radical woman of colour, childfree, womanist, aunt, parent, mother, [insert birth or adopted name here], feminist. Although some of these politics and/or identities cannot be equated in terms of privilege and oppression.

  246. ginmar
    ginmar July 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm |

    Frau Sally Benz, really? She doesn’t express that? Yeah, well, it’s perfectly plain, in her attitude and in her demands. Bow before her uterus or you’re racist and child hating.

  247. Bhagavati
    Bhagavati July 28, 2010 at 8:54 pm |

    Another woman of color–yes, I’d consider myself “radical” too!–not planning on reading Feministe much anymore if this is the kind of crap you will be posting.

    You know what I resent? I resent being told that “mama” and “mother” mean “unionizer” or whatever when it plainly doesn’t in most of society. I resent being told that women’s main contribution is as primary caregivers of children, and only white women would object to that. I resent being told that if I think “mama” or “mother” means “female parent,” I’m accepting a “white woman’s” definition of motherhood. Actually, it’s MY definition, it’s the definition of most women of color, and it’s your definition that’s both weird and offensive. It’s offensive because it suggests that nurturing qualities are peculiarly maternal. That’s the etymology of the word; you can’t change it around at will without regard for context.

    The idea promoted by bfp and maia is that women of color are inherently a bunch of child-loving, anti-individualist, self-decentering nurturers. Unless we’re insufficiently “radical,” I guess, in which case we’re…white-identified, or something? Otherwise we wouldn’t be objecting to this mama-centric worldview (since they’ve dubbed all objections to this worldview as inherently white)?

    This idea amounts to a big old MAMMY stereotype. It’s a stereotype that women of color are FIGHTING. You don’t get to impose it on me in the name of fighting white feminists and their icky individualism. I don’t decenter myself. I help women in my community who want to stop decentering themselves, who want more than ‘mamahood’ out of life. I would much rather be a feminist than a mama, and I think feminists do much more good than “mamas” who trumpet their own unselfishness.

  248. Claire N.
    Claire N. July 28, 2010 at 8:55 pm |

    And I also think that revolutionary love needs to be applied to oneself within community and that revolutionary love involves healthy conflict–something mamas and non-mamas could put into practice.

  249. Salix
    Salix July 28, 2010 at 9:03 pm |

    @ GinnyC,
    I agree–and that’s the amazing thing about the radicalization of motherhood. THAT is why it’s capital-R Radical. It’s taking motherhood, and mamahood, back from the bigots who want the definition of mother to exclude queer women, disabled women, WOC, poor women, all sorts of marginalized women.

    I really, really do understand where you’re coming from; the first few times I was called Mama I was really uncomfortable and in fact practically made one child cry trying to explain to him that no, I was just someone who looked after him once a week, his real mom would be home in a few hours. I reacted so badly to the word, and to the heterosexist, abled supremacist connotations it usually holds for me, that I completely missed what those children meant by calling me mama.

    I’m still not entirely comfortable with the label–but then again, I’m also not entirely comfortable with bitch, slut, cunt, dyke, or any of the other words that have supposedly been “reclaimed.”

  250. shannon
    shannon July 28, 2010 at 9:19 pm |

    Ginmar, I really don’t like what you said about bowing before her uterus, and stuff!

  251. Sisou
    Sisou July 28, 2010 at 9:29 pm |

    @ Kari

    Shelby was responding your blanket statements about how feminists had helped woman.

    And I like how you are pretending that your comments were not directed at the OP and therefore was telling a WOC specifically to grateful to feminists.

    You said:
    ” Feminists gave your ass the right to vote. Feminists made sure you got paid a decent wage. Feminists gave you the right to choose (to be a “mama”. Feminists gave you the right to control your fertility. Feminists gave you the ability to sit there behind your computer and lower case letters and judge the shit out of something you clearly know nothing about. Women died so that you could be a “mama” at the same time you exercise your right to free speech.”

    Then you got upset that people pointed out your fallacy? and pointing out your erasure of Woc who didnt benefit from the feminist movements in the way you described.

    And Let me be the first to say that it does matter if you are white.
    In US, Whites benefit from the oppression of POC. period! Being a white feminist does not make u less of a oppressor of Poc.
    And if you are white then you as a privilege person told a marginalized women to be grateful. Which is extra wrong! how many times have we, POC been told” we helping u and to be grateful…” When whites were only helping us in ways that hurt us. That proved that they do not and still do not understand us one bit ( including feminists)
    If you not white than you should ask yourself why you attacking other woc for having another feeling towards feminism than u.

    @alltheweshouldbegrateful ppl
    instead of Woc being gratitude for next to nothing you have done for us. How about you be grateful for the benefits you receive today from our suffering?

    YOU are WELCOME!

  252. Ducky
    Ducky July 28, 2010 at 9:37 pm |

    I don’t usually take the time to wade through comment strings like this, because inevitably it comes down to a polarized mass of infighting. But here goes, anyway, ’cause I can’t help myself. :p

    I would never want to be a “mama”. Not because of my want not to have children – while I don’t, I do enjoy helping to take care of my friends kids, so on and so forth. But because the term “mama” means, I guess, something different for me than it does for a lot of people (although it sounds like Lucy @ 222 might have some insight into what I’m saying – I’m sure others do as well, but it’s not especially evident at the moment).

    The word “mama” – which my mother insisted upon being called – means an alcoholic abusive bitch who would come home late at night and beat us. It means being 10 years old and having to clean house, cook dinner, and put my 4-year-old brother to bed every night, and hope that my “mama” wouldn’t find fault with whatever I did wrong that night.

    “Feminist” is a loaded word, for sure. It’s one I’ve self-identified with because it represents a step towards gender equality, and the feminist movement was my introduction to my own self worth, as a person and as a woman – and yeah, it fucking sucks that there are people who get left out of the equation. All I can do is try to make sure I include them, yeah? All I can do is my best to be all-inclusive, even fighting for the women who want to have kids, who want to be mothers and be good at it, and to have their lives and choices and those of their children’s respected and valued for what they are.

    But “mama”, unfortunately, is a loaded word, too, that means about as far from “love” as any word can. “Mama” is almost a curse word in my heart, and I have a hard time reconciling the idea of mama=social justice.

    (Furthermore, I feel “feminist” also encompasses the male half of the equation. I don’t think only women can be fighting for the equality and freedom of choice that everyone on this planet deserves; nor should they – without everyone fighting for the same thing, we’re gonna get nowhere. For some reason I have a hard time envisioning my husband embracing the title “mama”, but he gladly supports the use of the word feminist. Or are we implying that only women are for social justice, love, etc.?)

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, every word has loads of other meaning behind it, and loads of interpretation behind it. I don’t begrudge you your use of the word Mama, although I’ll never be able to want to claim it myself. Please don’t insult my use of the word Feminism. Because I think in most cases, we’re saying the same thing, as flawed as both words are.

  253. R
    R July 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm |

    I feel rather stunned. I thought a lot of things about feminism: I though feminism was standing up for equal consideration and right for everyone. Starting with men and women and then opening to encompass each emerging group. Feminism was to have started by women that said ‘enough’ to being treated as property. Feminism was defending the Civil Rights movement, for people of *every* color. Black white arab eastern native american… I thought feminism was to be able to choose; to leave the kitchen or stay. But not to be chained to one or the other. Is this what feminism has fallen too? My privalage vs yours in a twisted way of one upmanship? Shouldn’t we be saying ‘this is what I’ve suffered and why’ in a way that opens eyes, brings us together and focuses us on changing the why so more do not have to suffer the same way? This is what are predecessors did in fighting for women’s vote, children’s rights (like ending child labour), ect. If this is how my efforts to help are treated, with disdain and no appreciation for sacrifice, then they are indeed in vain.

    Feminism is a movement that is still evolving and defining itself. Saying fuck feminism creates a barrier rather than invitation to molding feminism. It may have been flawed, it can be abused, but saying ‘what has it done for me’ is mind boggling. Again, how can it evolve into something better with a ‘fuck you’. When has someone saying fuck you EVER wanted to make you open a civil discussion?

    And a lot of feminists will be upset at being told what they hear as a woman saying you have to be a mother and make a child the center of your universe to. Kristen J’s comments really said it best.

    “But, the use of the word mama as a definition for social justice bothers me. Because regardless of its current meaning, its derivation is rooted in mothering. It’s attempting to re-center my experience around motherhood. It’s equating motherhood with nurturing. I reject that my compassion, my love for other people is rooted in mothering. That I should be defined by motherhood.

    I completely understand that this provides important meaning for some people…but please understand that when you universalize it, using a word that evokes old prejudices and gender norms…you hurt those of us who do not fit into those gender norms.”

    I am not my uterus, I am who I choose to be by what I say and do. Essentially it comes down to shoshie’s quote which boiled down to ‘women in a men’s society you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
    (A word from the childfree. Because you haven’t had a child does not make you childfree. i makes you childless. The CF are judged as not being ‘real women’ for their choice. Look up how hard it is for a woman under 30 with no previous children to be sterilized. We are told repeatedly with nudges and winks ‘accident’s happen’. And are judged for not keeping ‘our legs shut’ when we go to clinics. But I also know mothers have judgements too. For single parenting, for kids when they act out in public. But we get so involved in ‘me’ we ignore the suffering on both sides. What disturbs me is when ‘oppression’ equates to ‘not agreeing with me’. And so we push and get pushed. This is why the CF feel upset and speak out and get angry with posters like the OP. We get defensive feeling ourselves devalued as women next to those that claim being a mother is being a true woman.)

    Finally, saying you have to be a mother to stand for social justice is incredibly sexist and little better than the patriarchal machine the movement was started to fight. It automatically cuts off the childfree, the LGBT community, and hetero men. Father has actually been implied to be a bad thing. That men ‘can be mama/i’s too’ was tacked in later it felt as an after thought. Because you gave birth does not equal a saint’s status. There’s a lifetime of responsibility that you bear to become a mother in the emotional way and not just by biology. I’ve known men that were better fathers than the child’s mother was as a parent. And vice versa. And honestly I’d prefer Role Model and Parent to mama/i. Anybody can be a Role Model or Parent and it’s a title not bound by gender. Though mama is fine if you choose it.

    And on an ending note, making a child the center of your universe can be a very very dangerous thing. I would not be the person I am today if my mother did that. Because you place a very heavy responsibility on the child and that can quickly escalate into living through your child. Then your child ceases to become an autonomous person and rather a puppet of yourself. If you want to be a famous author/lawyer/save the planet hero work for it yourself. Your child is themself, they have their own hopes and dreams of the future that they develop.

    I hope I this wasn’t Too Long Didn’t Read. I’m just horrified by how divided this all is. A little bit of me that believed in feminism being about equality and selflessness has died.

  254. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm |

    Gee, with all these strawfeminists flying around, which feminists? The real mothers and wives who started it, or the mythical child-eating cunts you rail against while you nurture your more-special-than-thou little mini me?

    *slaps forehead* Doh! So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong! To become a non-useless, non-selfish real-woman “mama” the baby has to go out the cunt, not in! I could have legitimized my bitter useless child-free female existence so much sooner if I hadn’t gotten that backwards. :p

    But, seriously, what the hell’s up with all the double-speak that’s being crammed into Feministe all of a sudden? The word “mama” is not gendered? “Childfree” means “child-hating”? “Fuck you” means “I love you”? “Feminist” means “racist white bitch who only cares about blowjobs”? Was a dictionary of radical love passed around that redefined all these terms and I missed it? Perhaps it’s opposite day? Did everyone wake up this morning being able to read minds and so we can now transcend petty things like words and what they mean?

    Just saying, retroactively, “oh, but I didn’t mean what I wrote like that, I meant it in a loving and childfree-accepting way that you would totally understand if you were a mommy!” doesn’t actually make it true. Even if you say it several times.

    I want other viewpoints on Feministe (even non-feminist ones) but I also want them to make sense and not require constant redefining and backtracking and handwaving and bullshitting. People aren’t flouncing because their privilege is being challenged. People are flouncing ’cause this post makes no goddamn sense and because their privilege is being challenged in a silly and ridiculously uterus-centric way. Though I’m sure someone is going to try and convince me that “uterus” now means “unionizing” or whatever…

  255. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm |

    @alltheweshouldbegrateful ppl
    instead of Woc being gratitude for next to nothing you have done for us. How about you be grateful for the benefits you receive today from our suffering?

    YOU are WELCOME!

    *likes*

  256. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    Oh, good god -

    “This idea amounts to a big old MAMMY stereotype”

    Bhagavati, all I can say is that if you think anything said by mai’a or bfp on this thread about mamas or mamis amounts to trying to go back to or promoting the Mammy stereotype – well, I don’t think that stereotype means what you think it means.

    I seriously don’t see why the concept of mamihood or mamahood, as it relates to, or does not relate to, children and wombs and uteruses is so difficult for many to grasp. It’s not as if it’s a new thing – and no, not something imposed on women by the patriarchy or white supremacy or anything like that. In fact, these are terms/actions that have been embraced by women of many colors in resistance to those things.

    I do understand those who have a visceral reaction to the words based on their own histories (with terrible parents and so on) – that makes sense to me. All this stuff about people wanting to force others to love children or love their uteruses or to decenter women or to denigrate those who cannot, or choose not to, have children is just… I don’t know. A bit beyond my understanding, I guess. If someone is promoting that I missed it. Perhaps some things have not been phrased all that artfully, but surely they have been defined and explained somewhere in the 300 or so comments. At least, so far as I have read.

  257. Shelby
    Shelby July 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm |

    It’s really interesting for me to read other people’s connotations attached to “mama.” To me, it’s not about kind gentle nurturing of families and cooing over junior and neglecting your own needs and desires. For me, mama/mamihood is about GOING TO FUCKING WAR to defend everyone and everything you love. Like strapping on the combat boots and marching, la nena/lil mama on your back, holding Big Mama’s hand as you do EVERYTHING to survive and may Jesus/Lord/Allah/Xangó have mercy on the soul who tries to cross you. That is what I feel when I’m in “mama” mode. And it’s what I feel when the men I love say, “Go’on, mama!” or “Mama, I GOT YOU.” It’s not selfless sacrifice and servitude, but doing work for the survival of me and mine. And going to BATTLE for our right to be happy and free no matter how many white ladies tell us to shut up and sit down. Swear to God, I will birth a child right NOW just so I can go to the whitest, bougiest space possible and have my baby scream at the TOP of her lungs and not let NOBODY tell her to quiet down!

  258. littlem
    littlem July 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm |

    i have written like this for years on my blog and other blogs and never and i mean never gotten this type of response.

    Welcome to your new life.

  259. Nanette
    Nanette July 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm |

    I want other viewpoints on Feministe (even non-feminist ones) but I also want them to make sense and not require constant redefining and backtracking and handwaving and bullshitting. People aren’t flouncing because their privilege is being challenged. People are flouncing ’cause this post makes no goddamn sense and because their privilege is being challenged in a silly and ridiculously uterus-centric way.

    Ah, well. I give up. Almost! But not quite yet.

    People are not redefining and backtracking and handwaving so much as having to backup and respeak to compensate for what is actually the most appalling ignorance among some “feminists” about anything to do with (some) women of color, their organizing, their radicalism, the work they do on the ground among other marginalized peoples, the stuff they write about, the stuff they care about… in fact, anything that is not encased in the worlds and words of, yes, the privileged.

    People are flouncing because rather than have that ignorance challenged, or rather than challenging themselves, or maybe just shutting up and listening and figuring out that no one at all wants anything to do with their uteruses or to force them to be mothers or to love children or whatever.

    People are flouncing because people who are victims of the myth of white feminism as a universal feminism are speaking up and, again, the appaling, self-serving and sometimes willfully blind ignorance of white feminists of their own history necessitates backing up and filling in some of the blanks for them. Which, of course, offends them more and away they flounce! Some.

    Some have stayed, engaged, tried to understand, become offended, came back, come to a point where they may not totally agree but where they could at least accept another viewpoint, accept another’s experience, accept that, just maybe, not everyone has benefitted from “feminism”, and have taken at least the first step towards embracing their “learning moments.” Others… well, not so much.

    If it comes as a surprise to anyone here that many women of color wholeheartedly reject mainstream feminism… you might ask yourselves why. Not why they reject it (though that also is a question to be answered) but why you had no idea.

    If it comes as a surprise to you that many women of color do not feel the same about motherhood and even the fact of being allowed to parent as many mainstream or white feminists do, you might ask yourself why – both why motherhood/parenthood might mean something different or be viewed differently or as a radical act within some nonwhite communites… and ask also why you did not know this.

    Might also ask what else you don’t know. And why.

    Now I give up.

  260. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz July 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm |

    Nanette, I love you. *applause*

  261. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm |

    In the ‘shorter, cuter…’ thread, I suggested people take a look at Mai’a’s writing- not because I thought that would make you agree with her- because I thought it would make you understand her style. I feel like no one took that advice, but IMHO that is essential in understanding a writer. I still don’t agree with her appraisal of bfp’s ‘fuck feminism’ comments as her ‘favorite’ and I definitely have a higher opinion of ‘feminism’ than bfp.

    But some of you are acting like you don’t get the difference between bfp saying ‘fuck feminism’ and some dickhead from a Tea Party saying ‘fuck feminism.’ Well, I’m sorry but reading her other comments I do feel that bfp’s ‘fuck feminism’ comes from a place of love- even though it may sound like the language of hate.

  262. Vanessa Gatsch
    Vanessa Gatsch July 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |

    It’s been ages since I’ve felt comfortable commenting at Feministe, and I don’t really feel that comfortable commenting here now, but |I just want to add some words of support to the WOC whose words are being ignored/twisted at the expense of the feelings of the privileged (as usual).

    If this wasn’t the umpteenth time this has happened at this very blog I’d be more annoyed or upset. Instead I’m just amused (bemused?) at how little things ever change.

  263. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm |

    How does one get from this:

    recently, i was hanging out at a bar, when a friend called and invited me to come hang out for a few drinks and chill time as the sun came up. cool.

    (actual quote from maia in her previous post)

    to this:

    thread in which they had asked for support and admiration for habitually bringing their child into rooms full of inebriated strangers

    (interpretation of what maia’s comment really meant, from a stranger on a blog half a world away)

    Seriously. How on earth did you get from that “point A” all the way to “point B”? Where is all this public drunkenness and boorish behavior, including bar fights, taking place? That isn’t something I see at the bars I go to (admittedly, infrequently—but when I was a regular, I still didn’t see that). I made my own assumption about the kind of place maia was talking about; I assumed a sidewalk cafe-style place (or at least a place with an outdoor courtyard), an intimate, relatively quiet place with a “chill” vibe.

    Why are so many people assuming a really loud, rough, barfighting atmosphere?

    (or perhaps I’m “drinking rong”. If so, I don’t wanna be right!)

  264. Kelly
    Kelly July 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm |

    Wow, I’m flabbergasted by the melt down going on here. How are about half of these comments being okay-ed? I thought this site was better than that.

  265. Salix
    Salix July 28, 2010 at 11:11 pm |

    Re: oppression of childfree women ‘vs’ oppression of mothers…

    You know…it’s a little like how EVERY TIME there is a conversation about fat acceptance, someone jumps up and yells, “But skinny women are discriminated against, too!” Yes, it’s a real problem. So tomorrow, or next week, let’s have a thread about that issue. But maybe right now we can focus on the topic at hand?

    I also would like to point out that the privilege to have children is one thing, and that it exists simultaneously with oppression suffered by women once they/we have children. The Scylla and Charybdis nature of this is a ‘gift’ of patriarchy.

  266. Just confused
    Just confused July 28, 2010 at 11:11 pm |

    “I seriously don’t see why the concept of mamihood or mamahood, as it relates to, or does not relate to, children and wombs and uteruses is so difficult for many to grasp.”

    I tried, I really did. I tried to figure out what the other definitions for mama, mami, and m/other were. I googled, wikipedia-ed, dictionary-ed. Nothing I found made sense in this context, beyond the gendered mother-words and the Spanish words.

    Now, yes, perhaps I am simply ignorant, and this is an example of the white, privileged, US-centric-ness of the internet at large. But, I made an honest effort to try to understand, and it’s not there for me to access reasonably.

    I really appreciate bfd’s most recent comments, as I feel like I understand better where zie and others are coming from, and I wish I had had this kind of context from the beginning.

  267. Aydan
    Aydan July 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm |

    I was surprised and dismayed to see “f*ck feminism” on a feminist site, but not because I’m not used to being insulted as a feminist. Next time there’s language like that, with a word that’s commonly used to express sexualized violence, being applied to a wide section of the readership, please post a trigger warning.

  268. Katie
    Katie July 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm |

    Maia, thanks for writing this. It’s pretty amazing to me that even if people disagree, they can’t be civilized about it.

  269. Jill
    Jill July 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm | *

    Maia, if a random person had come onto this site and posted comments about feminism like the ones you included above, in response to criticism from another thread in which they had asked for support and admiration for habitually bringing their child into rooms full of inebriated strangers, that person would be considered an attention-seeking troll. This is a unique situation, in which the trolling is being done by the thread originator. Congratulations to Feministe for breaking new ground in web controversy.

    Actually no, it’s a situation wherein we assume that our readers are intelligent and well-versed enough to understand that context matters. And that a veteran of women’s rights activism, a woman who has poured her heart and soul and sweat and tears into acting on behalf of women, saying “fuck feminism” is a little different than some dickhead teabagger saying “fuck feminism” because he hates ladies getting all uppity.

    Look: I write for a blog called Feministe. I think feminism is really powerful. “Fuck feminism” is not a sentiment I have expressed, and I understand your hurt or frustration at hearing it. At the same time, we all come into feminism with different experiences and exposures. I’ve had pretty good experiences. Other women have not. That matters. Expressing justifiable frustration at feminism as a “movement” or an ideology or a profession, when you’ve engaged “feminism” as a movement or an ideology or a profession and you have tried your damndest but that effort has not been reciprocated, is not trolling. It’s a legitimate criticism, made in terms that you might find impolite but that you should perhaps sit with, hear, and attempt to understand. And then we can go from there, and realize that embracing feminism as a word is perhaps not nearly as important as embracing a commitment to act on behalf for women, all women, more generally.

    Again: Context matters. The voice of the woman saying “fuck feminism” matters.

  270. Kai
    Kai July 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm |

    Seems like feminists who don’t grasp the history — and present-day social realities — of white feminism and women of color are kinda like US Americans who don’t grasp that the country they live in was founded on genocide and slavery. They’re out there, they’re loud and pissed off, and they want their country back.

    Nevertheless, it’s a great post, mai’a, I’m glad you shared it.

    1. Jill
      Jill July 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm | *

      Seems like feminists who don’t grasp the history — and present-day social realities — of white feminism and women of color are kinda like US Americans who don’t grasp that the country they live in was founded on genocide and slavery. They’re out there, they’re loud and pissed off, and they want their country back.

      Please stop painting all white feminists with the same brush — a lot of us are good feminists! Like me! Please like me. It is reverse-racist for you not to like me. Also, porn is empowerful/awful, lipstick is empowerful/awful, high heels are empowerful/awful, I love/hate blowjobs, I am/am not changing my name when I get married, don’t tell me I have to have babies and what about the menz? Also you say I am privileged but you are also privileged and here is why, so you don’t get to call me out and also white people have it tough and what does race have to do with this anyway?

      Have I hit every stereotype and potential de-rail yet? Can we now move on to the productive portion of the conversation?

      [Thanks, Kai, anyway, for trying].

  271. caprette
    caprette July 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm |

    Honestly, at first I was absolutely appalled by the OP. I am, more or less, a “mainstream feminist,” and clearly this post was meant to push away people like me. After all, I’m a cis, white, Ivy League-educated, upper-middle-class, conventionally attractive urban childfree woman, and I really don’t want to be primarily defined by my reproductive state and/or nurturing capacity.

    But as I was going through the comments, I came to the conclusion that it really isn’t about me. If there are women out there who feel most comfortable identifying primarily as mamas, I want to listen to what they want and need and do what I can from my position of relative privilege to help in the struggle. I just don’t have the personal life experience to necessarily know what that is unless I listen to the women who have. Clearly maia has had a very different life experience than I have had, but this doesn’t make one of us somehow morally superior to the other–it’s OK that we prioritize elements of our identities very differently.

    But the hostility here is really troubling. There are a lot of people feeling personally insulted, when it really doesn’t need to be that way. Though we might see it in different ways and have different priorities, I think we all have the same goal: reducing/ending oppression. Telling people to essentially go fuck themselves really does not help anyone.

  272. kdel
    kdel July 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |

    “and if the op does not make sense, aka you dont understand it. then why are you writing paragraphs of comments? i do not understand your goals. if it doesnt make sense to you, skip it. you know? there are plenty of posts that dont make sense to me, i dont get angry and vile, simply because i dont understand it. i work to understand it, and if that doesnt provide any insight, i skip it.”

    Yes, yes yes… pls understand, as I know you all do, that the choice to be or not be a parent is sooo complex…and no one here is saying otherwise. meanwhile, mama in all its forms is a strong women’s word, one that a lot of us can be proud of, and are proud of, whether we are birth-mamas or mamas-by-love, and really its the love that counts.

    if you are comfortable claiming the word mama…take it! it is empowering, loving, enlivening for many of us who have spent our lives giving to kiddos, to children in any form. if it does not fit you, no one will try to force you. but how does our claiming this word as a point of power diminish you?

  273. C.E.
    C.E. July 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm |

    @Just confused: “I tried, I really did. I tried to figure out what the other definitions for mama, mami, and m/other were. I googled, wikipedia-ed, dictionary-ed. ”

    You could read the original post, in which Mai’a <i<clearly explained what she meant by the term mama: “i love the word: mama. when i was doing research in east africa, mama was my name. mama maisha (which means life in swahili). mama works as an honorific there. it replaces ‘miss’ and ‘maam’ and whatever ways of respectfully addressing women. it is not dependent on whether or not the woman has children. … i know that when i have been seen as being helpful to another’s liberation, that is when they start calling me mama.”

    I’m rather confused myself at this point as to whether many people read *anything* in the OP aside from two words in the quote from bfp.

  274. Ceiteag
    Ceiteag July 28, 2010 at 11:30 pm |

    For me – the article was offensive because it suggested that the only way that woman can be woman is if they have a child, and only through that child could a woman can know what love is. This to me goes against everything that I believe in. This smells of social conservatism view of woman. That woman are only valued by how fertile their Uterus is. For me, Feminism is about Choice and giving a woman choices in her own destiny. It’s about empowering woman, giving woman a voice, giving them a place of their own. It’s about allowing woman to choose and among those choices that she can make is whether she wants to have a child. Women don’t have the same needs and not all woman can or want to have a child, and that doesn’t make them any less than a woman who can biologically make a child. The article tells me that as a woman that the only interest I should have is children, because only children are our future.

    There is nothing wrong with being a mama but that’s just only one aspect of being a woman, not the only one.

    If I had a dollar bill for a person who said — I didn’t want a child until… You will change your mind — Yes, that’s an option, but having a child doesn’t make you anymore special or make you any better than not having a child. I still don’t want a child. I still can love, be loved, and have loving feelings. I can still be whole and wonderful without having produced a child. A child doesn’t give me me those things automatically, as with everything it has to be earned. There are a lot of woman out there that have birth children, who don’t deserve to be called mothers, are they special to? Sorry, but your argument doesn’t ring true with me. It’s not because I am privileged, it’s not because I am child-less, not because I don’t get it or see the specialness of it. I just disagree with your theory. Again, I am sorry, but calling people privileged because they don’t get your article is condescending, you don’t know who is posting what their background is, how they were raised or what they had gone through. You don’t know their life story — so calling someone privileged in defense of an agreement is a straw argument. It leads no where.

    It’s cool that people have that ability to change their mind, but that doesn’t mean that every childless woman will change her mind and decide to use her Uterus.

    I don’t want to be called Mama, because I am not, I choose not to be one, period. If you want to be one that’s good on you, but a woman shouldn’t be defined by her Uterus and her ability to pro-create, because that’s kicks out a lot of people, by choice or by biology.

  275. Sappho
    Sappho July 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm |

    I actually really love to have my privilege challenged and I really am grateful that we can have such a thought provoking post, but there is something I don’t understand about this argument.

    In the OP mai’a says “srsly, if the common definition for feminism to be treated equal to a man. im not interested in feminism.”

    I understand that this is due to a long history of the word feminism meaning this, and I can see why you would want to reject it. However, when people point out that the meaning of the word has changed, the response they receive is that they are privileged and don’t understand the history behind the label and how it is used (especially for WOC). Ok.

    The OP promotes the label of “mama” and how it is a way to change the world. Good, I’d love to hear more. However, some commenters say they feel there is a long history of the word being used in a heterocentric, cis-centric or “you are only good if you are a birth mother” way in history. A decent point, but these commenters are met with “No. Didn’t you read the OP? The meaning of the word has changed! Check your privilege!”

    So, the word “Feminism” is the same and we should all say “Fuck You!” to it, but the word “mama” has changed? Why can’t they both have different meanings for different people? Why do we even need a label at all?

  276. Diz
    Diz July 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm |

    Has anyone on either side of this argument stopped to think about the other side and where they’re coming from?

    Seriously though, when you hit an emotional hot button like children, the concept of nurturing and beliefs that people hold dear (the “fuck feminism, it’s doing nothing for me” as an example), then yeah, people are going to get offended and upset. Maybe because they don’t know any better or because NO ONE no matter how privileged/not privileged they are likes to be told that their life and their experiences don’t matter. I work hard to make this world a better place not only for my daughter, but for everyone’s daughter. So does it sting when someone says that what a lot of us do isn’t helping her, yeah, it stings and I feel for non-mothers who work hard to make sure every girl achieves her dreams and can go somewhere.

    However, my understanding of feminism is that it’s supposed to be for every woman, so then why are most people getting pissy about the experiences of women who feel that they don’t have a safe space? Tell them to make their own spaces or throw a fit about leaving? How inclusive is that?

    It’s hard to be slapped in the face with things you may not understand, especially from a cultural standpoint. I admit to the fact that I am an Acadian woman living in the Canadian prairies who has never felt the hand of oppression. The closest I can possibly relate is the fact that my culture was once nearly erased, but that was in 1755 and I’d be a douche to hang on to that. I am white, cis and straight. I have a 4 year old (I was 21), another one on the way. I had my education basically written off due to being a mother thanks to scholarships and grants. In Canada you get money once a month for having kids, the less your income, the more you get. I have the freedom to work and a husband who stays home, this works out because he is more of the “mothering type” than I am. I think the only privilege I DON’T have is financial. My experience leads me to believe that if it wasn’t for feminism, I wouldn’t be so lucky. I’ve got a stable of horseshoes up my behind, so yay me. NONE of that gives me the right to tell another woman to be grateful to what is handed to her, because chances are if she isn’t as pale as I am, she’s had to deal with a lot more shit than I have. Chances are that if she tried any of the same things I did or made the same choices in life, she’d be criticized in some aspect that I never had to experience.

    And you know what? I admit that I have NO idea what marginalized communities go through, so I’m gonna sit back and not have a complete shit fit about the fact I was bummed out in some ways due to my own personal feelings and experiences, but I’m going to ask why they feel they have to say something like “fuck feminism” and try to learn from it…..if only anyone could put their proverbial pitchfork down long enough to not be so condescending on EITHER side. Everyone just wants to silence each other and it’s making a lot of noise and confusing the hell out of us who are clueless.

    As an aside since I couldn’t wade through the comments on the guest blogger’s last post…yes, kids should be allowed in places…BUT if my little one can act appropriately in public (and we are not the world’s most authoritative parents by a LONG shot), there is no reason why other little ones can’t mind their manners. That shit is taught, not absorbed by some behavioral osmosis. If anything a lot of mothers and the childless are not giving kids enough credit on the learning curve.

    I also don’t hold anyone in higher esteem because they gave birth and have kids. It’s pretty much a “so what” point to me. Being able to reproduce doesn’t always automatically make you better, smarter, wiser, more compassionate or loving.

    Sorry if this was long, ranty and disjointed, I get in a huff when grown adults can’t have meaningful dialogue.

  277. bfp
    bfp July 28, 2010 at 11:48 pm |

    It’s interesting to me that so many people have such a hard time with a woman of color saying the f word. Context: no, this is not the first time a woman of color “triggered” half the damn white feminists in the world by saying “fuck” something that is precious to white feminists. (see: seal press). it’s also interesting to me that people are triggered and need trigger warnings for fuck feminism–but nobody really really quite remembers the stuff leading up to the fuck feminism.

    a little refresher:

    so we have a bunch of feminists mocking children, telling parents they shouldn’t be in public, calling children *things*, saying “race nor gender matters” etc etc etc etc—AND–AND to top it all off, we’re all also OUTRAGED that a mother doesn’t call herself a feminist because–*supposedly* feminists are all about equality for little fucking girls???? You all do realize that the “it” and the cellphone and the pain in the ass and the obnoxious shit that set the woman’s hair on fire up there (ZOMG) are GIRLS, right?

    Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you.
    Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.

    so…there’s context right there in the original comment and we can all choose to see that or not see it. and we can all choose to see or not see the several outright offensive comments about race from dawn, which seem to have been deleted oh, and the one that is still there saying “stop bringing race or gender into it” and “if you want to see real oppression try being a minority from a different country” or something like that (i can’t find the quote, it’s in there somwhere). Oh, and being told by countless white women to be “grateful” for what they’ve done for us, when we’re the ones raising their damn kids so they can go out an organize–and that’s not mentioning the idea that “mama” must always alawys always be read through a white US dominant lens, and YOUR PUNCTUATION MAKES ME ANGRY!!!!–do we want to back up and talk about any of that? ooooor…….is racism not triggering to anybody?

  278. aislingtheach
    aislingtheach July 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm |

    Mama Maia, if you appreciate that comment: «Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you. Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.», it means you approve of attacks against all brands of feminisms – even though you later mention «mainstream feminism» (hello doublespeak).

    That is, you agree with a comment that disapproves of marxist feminism, liberal marxism, radical feminism, radical women of color feminism, black feminism, radical materialist feminism, postmodernist feminism, subaltern feminism, transfeminism, lesbian feminism, lesbian of color feminism, and so on and so forth. That disapproves of all and every person who identifies as a feminist, regardless of the analysis and the attitudes this person holds.

    With such an encompassing judgment being passed, I can hardly see why I should listen. If even black feminists and woc feminists are not good enough, there is no room for improvement. I can go past lots of anger and listen. But not this.

    I will keep listening to critiques, but not to destruction… er, radical love… have to get used to the doublespeak.

  279. Roscoe
    Roscoe July 29, 2010 at 12:00 am |

    Ceiteag

    Here we go again with the complete lack of understanding of mama. You stink of privileged USness.

    You say you don’t agree with OP cause a woman should be more than her uterus.

    You say that you don’t agree and it’s not because you are privileged or don’t get it.

    You clearly don’t get it.

    logicfail

  280. astronautgo
    astronautgo July 29, 2010 at 12:03 am |

    Hey solara, if you’re still reading this, I hope you’re doing okay.

  281. Roscoe
    Roscoe July 29, 2010 at 12:03 am |

    and to Diz

    the word mama has never changed meanings. You should really understand that in different cultures and countries it can and has meant something completely different for a LONG time. That you think mama automatically means motherhood and only recently has changed because of people like OP shows your ethnocentrism.

    CHECK YO SELF

    FFS I’m a dude and a conservative (I’m also Hispanic, so I kinda understand the whole mama thing more than I think people who have never been exposed to it do) and for me to understand and have to call out privilege is kinda scary and telling….

  282. Roscoe
    Roscoe July 29, 2010 at 12:05 am |

    and by Diz I meant Sappho….sorry?

    fail on my part

  283. Roscoe
    Roscoe July 29, 2010 at 12:11 am |

    “and that’s not mentioning the idea that “mama” must always alawys always be read through a white US dominant lens”

    So goddamn true. Except for the always’s, some people do get it, bfp, and that should at least be heartening.

  284. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 29, 2010 at 12:15 am |

    feminist is to mama like yellow is to:
    …the colostrum nectar that i breastfed my daughter her first days after birth
    the color of my mixed race daughter cheek as she sleep at night
    the crushed wildflowers that aza picks in the park and then brings to me saying in her singsong voice: mama i have a present for you!

    First of all, the author starts out by making it very clear that life as a non-mama is drab and lifeless compared to mama-hood. Feminism, particularly, is unfulfilling compared to having a daughter. This is made explicit right from the start.

    mama works as an honorific there. it replaces ‘miss’ and ‘maam’ and whatever ways of respectfully addressing women. it is not dependent on whether or not the woman has children.

    Second, this makes it really, really clear that “mama” is gendered. The OP says herself that it’s how women are addressed. It replaces “miss” which is for girls and women, and “ma’am” which is for women… “Mama” is definitely obviously referring to women. At this point, the claim is that children are not necessary to be a “mama” but womanhood is.

    MOTHERS did that, not you.
    Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.

    Thirdly, the OP’s cosign of this statement reinforces that “mama” means women (all those other “m” words are gendered, commonly) and also introduces the idea that, actually, previous assurance aside, having a kid is an important and necessary part of being a “mama.”

    being a mama is not a description of one’s biology or genitalia. … it is not a description of age or even male/female gender.

    And then this disclaimer is tacked onto the end. What? That completely contradicts everything she said earlier. What are we supposed to think? That she genuinely respects non-parents (contradicted in the “fuck feminism” rant she quoted unreservedly) and that she really believes “mama” is an ungendered term (contradicted in the world-wide examples she gives) and life can be fulfilling and lovely without kids (nope, it’s just “yellow”)? How can we, when every other thing she says gives lie to that?

    Look, if you honestly think women who don’t parent are useless selfish bitches, just say that. If you think that having a working uterus gives you +5 attack power to your activism, just say it. Don’t try to bullshit and dance around it.

  285. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 12:31 am |

    ha! well, never mind my previous post about “talking” about possible racism. the comment at 298 just shows me that this is a completely different world than mine. anybody who has read alice walkers essay about feminism is to womanism knows that she is saying womanism is informed by feminism but it’s still different. and so mai’a starting off her post that way and comparing feminist to mama is saying that the two inform each other, but it’s still different. this is just a different world–one that hasn’t read the very basic foundational texts of non-white feminist type action.

    the idea that not wanting to be equal to men is not a worthy goal–because half the damn men are in jail? That is not a sign that she is privileging men’s lives–that is a sign that she wants something more and better for her daughter–she doesn’t want her daughter to be in jail at 21 like 1/3 of black men are.

    the reason there is so much explaining and backing up and reexplaining is because fundemental things like alice walker’s essential texts are assumed to have been read, understood. But at this point, I get it. there is too much to (re)explain and most of it, nobody wants to hear anyway.

    so. fair thee well feminists. may we meet a different point in time under better circumstances.

  286. Fuck off « blue milk
    Fuck off « blue milk July 29, 2010 at 12:34 am |

    [...] have begun to think that it borders on masochism for me to read those threads. My heart goes out to all the good people fighting the good fight, thank you. Plus, honourable mention for this over at Speaker’s Corner and this over at Strollerderby. [...]

  287. littlem
    littlem July 29, 2010 at 12:35 am |

    Bagelsan, I’m not sure you’ve wrapped your head around the irony of using a principally Caucasian European literary theoretical model as a medium to attempt to deconstruct the OP.

    Never mind that you’ve ignored the author’s suggestion at #281 to skip it if you don’t understand it.

    Never mind that you’ve ignored Jill’s note at #286 that context matters, and her note at #290 concerning some rather well-worn tropes (that show up, yet again, in your posts here).

    I just don’t remember you from Shapely Prose as being quite this closed-minded.

  288. GinnyC
    GinnyC July 29, 2010 at 12:59 am |

    How is it so hard for certain people to realize that words like feminist have loaded and hurtful meanings because of how they have been used to marginalize, exclude, and dehumanize certain communities? Please learn the history people.

    Here’s an comparison for you. I’m gay, I identify as a gay woman. I would be very hesitant to call myself a lesbian and the term womyn makes me flinch. Can you guess why? A lot of women who use these labels treat trans women like they aren’t people, and belittle feminine women like me. A lot of self-identified white upper/middle class feminists treat women of color and poor women like shit. Words and movements have painful unpleasant histories. Is this really so hard to grasp people? /rant

  289. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 29, 2010 at 1:09 am |

    Bagelsan, I’m not sure you’ve wrapped your head around the irony of using a principally Caucasian European literary theoretical model as a medium to attempt to deconstruct the OP.

    Is there a literary theoretical model in which she is not saying mutually contradictory things here? I mean, there’s value in taking things in context but the contradictions are literally between paragraphs in the same piece. Is there a “context” to take this in where saying that “mama” is an honorific for women and then saying that it’s not a description of biology/gender is totally consistent?

    I’m not trying to do some huge close-reading class assignment kind of foolishness. But people keep saying “she never said it was just for women/women with kids!” or asking “did you haters even read the post?” and I wanted to point out exactly where she said things in the OP I took issue with.

  290. Chally
    Chally July 29, 2010 at 1:14 am |

    Bagelsan, mai’a just explained. Please go back and read through, and if you still can’t understand, please just accept that you can’t understand some things, and maybe a bit of time or reading similar pieces might help. Obviously it makes sense as it makes sense to a lot of other people and it has been re-explained, it makes sense, if not to you.

  291. Emburii
    Emburii July 29, 2010 at 1:22 am |

    Wow. People stayed around for the Seal Press drama and its pearl-clutching defense by white feminists (including some of the mods), but /this/ is something to flounce over?
    So now it’s pearl-clutching over ‘fuck feminism’, because it’s very easy to forget that the people posting such a sentiment may very well have reason to show such anger. What’s next, a tone argument? (oh wait…)

  292. Ceiteag
    Ceiteag July 29, 2010 at 1:25 am |

    I don’t get it — and this will be my last point. People who don’t get the OP are privileged, they don’t understand, they aren’t reading it right, because we don’t see it in the same conceptual light as the author intended to.

    I am sorry, but I don’t see any reference to Mama not being gendered – It clearly is, even by the video that the person posted in their blog. We see woman of all ages who are called Mama, but I don’t see a men being called Mama –

    Yes, maybe I am viewing the article from a US perspective (but that doesn’t mean that it’s a privileged perspective)

    Yes, I have read Alice Walker’s work – But I still thought that your *writing style* suggested that only woman who have children are worthy to be woman.

    Yes, I am familiar, to some extent an it is limited, to how rape victims are rebuilding their communities.

    However, none of that came off in your OP – For me as a reader, and for others as well. Great wonderful that some people got it, but others are clearly offended by it.

  293. Naila
    Naila July 29, 2010 at 1:50 am |

    So does all this mean that Third Wave feminism as failed and we’ve been stuck in the Second Wave all this time?

    1. tigtog
      tigtog July 29, 2010 at 2:31 am | *

      ADMIN NOTE: This thread has been placed into full moderation of all comments.

      There may be some delay before new comments can be approved. Please be patient.

  294. Xy
    Xy July 29, 2010 at 1:55 am |

    @Bhagavati

    Yes 100% from another woc.

    @ mai’a

    You’re surprised that this post blew up? and stunned that some people might take offence to your definition of ‘mama’ as an empowering term connecting you to communities of women around the world? and the best way for people to respond to your post if they don’t understand it (because as it stands it’s a ‘lyrical’ but not particularly coherent mixture of ‘what this word means to me personally’ and ‘people all around the world use this same word to mean the same thing’ and ‘mama is primordial and natural and everyone knows it means mother’ and ‘mama transcends gender and age and it’s all about love’) is to sit and think about it themselves instead of engaging in dialogue? Seriously. I can understand telling people spouting white privilege to stfu but saying that you should skip something if it doesn’t make sense to you is NOT THE WAY TO FOSTER UNDERSTANDING. jfc. also exhorting women to learn in silence/pass over what they don’t understand has some pretty fucked-up connotations. As I said, I can understand the ‘privileged people, just try and understand another viewpoint for once’ side of it, but a) we’re not all cwp here, and b) that certainly doesn’t mean your views can’t be privileged and wrong in other ways e.g. that the relationship between the term ‘mama’ and its connotations re. motherhood and gender essentialism are somewhat problematic and have not been adequately addressed by you.

    While there are lots of people out there not even trying to understand you and what you’re saying, I hope you can overcome your inital shock at people not understanding and see what the obstacles are between you and them, and thus, hopefully, work together to break them down…

    @ all those whiners out there

    Many people have already listed the many legitimate reasons why someone might want to say ‘Fuck feminism’, so I’ll refrain. And while you might not like hearing people say things like ‘Fuck feminists’, the relationships many marginalised people have with the systems that opress them – which are, still, the systems they inhabit – often contain legitimate anger (among various other emotions), and in a good anti-oppression space the expression of said anger should not be stigmatised. Of course, if someone takes this opportunity to spout something that reeks of privilege along another axis, e.g. white woman complaining about how white men oppress her by treating her ‘as if she were some primitive tribeswoman who had never been exposed to civilisation’ (when clearly she’s CIVILISED and CLEVER, unlike THEM), they should be called out. But complaining about the expression of anger itself, or a statement such as ‘x movement has done nothing for me’ is just ridiculous. Perhaps the speaker has weighed up ‘what movement x has done for me’ versus ‘the ways in which movement x has contributed to my oppression and/or ignored me’ and they’ve found the movement sorely lacking.

    If I say something like ‘fuck white people: they’ve buggered up the world’, that’s not because I don’t love my home and my country (UK!) or that I think that no actions of white people EVER have EVER had good consequences, but that all this nice shit (“culture”, relative luxury and safety, compared to the rest of the world, for its citizens, etc) has come at an extraordinary and horrendous price which has been paid (and is still being paid) by colonised/exploited peoples the world over and poc in majority white societies.

    So while this line of thought might not have occured to you this time (which is fine… there’s a first time for everyone…) keep it in mind the next time you come across someone saying that your favourite movement has done nothing for them, instead of immediately going into ‘But why?’ mode.

  295. Allison
    Allison July 29, 2010 at 2:56 am |

    Okay, so the first time I read through this, I was ll hurt and angry. I said fUCK YOU aloud and, like, banged my fist on the table and cried. Then I read the comments. Then I went and walked the dog, then I came back and read the OP again. Then I read your other post and the comment thread. Then I read this post and thread again. It is now almost 4 in the morning and I think I’m in love with you. t lest in loe enough to wite this nd pste in the lettes tht e missing on my keybod… but t this point, uck it. This shit spoke to me. Eentully.

  296. Evie-lu
    Evie-lu July 29, 2010 at 3:08 am |

    Mai’a, thank you for generating a lot of complicated thoughts for me with your posts here and the subsequent response that resulted. My partner went on a hike tonight and we spent more than an hour talking about your posts. All day, I’ve been tracking these comments, reading over your blogs, and looking over other bloggers’ writing on these topics. I really am listening, even if I simultaneously feel kind of alienated by the language and confused by what seem like contradictions. I still want to listen more, so I’m definitely staying tuned for your next posts. Thanks.

  297. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 29, 2010 at 3:53 am |

    If you made a choice to have children, then you were never, ever child-free.

    Who says it was a “choice”?

    And aren’t you the one who said you know EXACTLY what it is like to be a parent?

    Which way do you want it? Both ways?

  298. Naila
    Naila July 29, 2010 at 4:11 am |

    Why has there been no discussion of the OPs points on zapatista, or Palestinian or Congolese women? I think examining feminism and related women’s movements in a global vs local context could lead to some really interesting discussions.

  299. Maripoya
    Maripoya July 29, 2010 at 4:29 am |

    I just finished watching Pray the Devil to Hell; this documentary illustrates Maia’s post about mama/mami beautifully. The women in Liberia organized across religious and ethnic lines to end a 20 year civil war. Why did they organize? Both to help women who were being brutally attacked and to give their children a chance at living a decent life.

    Standing up to a warlords, resistance fighters, and a dictator was a profoundly radical action. But this action didn’t take place in a vacuum. I’m paraphrasing but the leader of this movement–Leymah Gbowee–said a deep motivating factor for both the Christian and Muslim women in the movement was to provide something our daughters can look back at and say we are proud of our mothers.

    WOC (African, Asian, Caribbean, Latina, First Nation) all around the world are pushing for changes that literally mean the difference between life and death. In this context being a mama/mami is not about going out to your SUV, driving to hospital XYZ, providing your Blue Shield insurance card, and delivering a 6, 7, or 8 lb newborn. However, it is the coming together of a community of women who often find themselves profoundly under siege.

    One of the most endearing images of the documentary was after these women all but forced the different factions to sign the peace agreement and returned home, the local children followed them around singing the movement song, very happy, proud and joyous. The ending of the war meant a better life for everyone, but the women were always very clear that a central tenant of the new peace was creating a better future for the children of Liberia.

    As a black woman (Panamanian/Barbadian) I don’t find that mama/mami has anything to do with stereotyping. To me the term applies to women who are radical, fighters, a source of nurturing-strength, passionate, and well who are just there for their sisters-in-arms. It means community. In fact, while watching the documentary so many times when I was inspired I was actually thinking that woman is my mother (imagine my surprise when I clicked on this post). Not in the simplistic child-bearer sense, but because each woman inspired me, re-energized me, and just gave me the simple joy of seeing an example of black womanhood that is positive and powerful. I won’t be able to have any of my own children, but I’m psyched to claim the mama/mami label and join with other women who fight the hard battles.

  300. Claire N.
    Claire N. July 29, 2010 at 4:35 am |

    Maia, I am the only Claire commenting…I am genuinely perplexed about what you are talking about? Are you talking to the right person?

    What did I put in quote marks? I put the word ‘rejected’ in quote marks which was not verbatim from you but part of my sentence.

    This is really ridiculous.

  301. TeriSaw
    TeriSaw July 29, 2010 at 4:54 am |

    solara, I know how hard it can be to see your support system appear to crash and burn. These are just growing pains, necessary ones. There ARE people who care about maintaining a safe space for you and everyone else who needs it. I hope you are ok.

  302. Astraia
    Astraia July 29, 2010 at 5:47 am |

    Mai’a, I just want to thank you for your post, which I found very moving and inspirational.

    One of the things I had to come to terms with in accepting that I wasn’t heterosexual was the idea that I’d probably never be a biological mother. I believe very strongly in the idea that ‘children are the future’ and I consider myself an alloparent, a teacher, a nurturer.

    I’ll never forget the first time I was adressed as ‘Mama’ while working in East Africa – this was the term, in love and respect, I used for the older-generation women I lived and worked with, and to have someone think of me as a mama, in that role, was significant to me. It made me feel stronger.

    I realize this is ‘all about me’ and I *don’t* claim to speak for anyone else, feminist, mother, or otherwise. I just wanted to share my experience of the term, as someone who isn’t a biological mother.

  303. Salix
    Salix July 29, 2010 at 5:52 am |

    bfp asked one of the more interesting questions which is why is it that feminists will reclaim words like bitch and cunt, but not mama?

    I thought this was an amazing question yesterday, and I still do. I also suspect that someone–I’m sorry, I can’t find the post right now, I don’t–might have come very close to answering at least part of it. The commenter pointed out that resistance to the use of the term mama is linked to the centering of the WHITE concept of “mother” and “mommy.”

    Understand, please, that I’m not saying All individual WOC have Belief A and all individual white women have belief B. However, the definition of ‘mother’ that seems to be shaping the resistance is very much a definition rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy: motherhood is framed, by the feminist movement, as the font of [white] women’s oppression. Also there is just the general resentment of the Strawparents that get brought up in the “I don’t hate kids but” argument–the proverbial ‘obnoxious parents’ who think they and their kids are Entitled to be brats. No one wants to be associated with THAT, right? (Again, a sign of how parents-and-children are an oppressed class).

    So embracing the term mama? In the face of all that? Saying eff-you to white patriarchal definitions? Yeah. That’s why it’s radical. I should think that we’d at least all be up for saying ‘fuck patriarchy,” right?

  304. Salix
    Salix July 29, 2010 at 6:02 am |

    P.S. (Sorry) Before there is pearl-clutching about ‘forcing an identity,’ let me clarify that (a) I don’t mean that everyone MUST claim mama as an identity in order to “properly” say fuck patriarchy (b) that would be silly, b/c I don’t use it for myself, usually. I think supporting the use of it as a radical identity, and as a grounds for progressive organizing, is a way to say fuck patriarchy and white supremacy. I’m surprised there is resistance to this idea. Although I guess it’s a very white thing to demand to be included in everything, and if one feels ‘mama’ (especially mamá) excludes hir…okay, no longer surprised.

  305. Xy
    Xy July 29, 2010 at 6:11 am |

    @maia

    If you can’t tell the difference between quotation marks used for emphasis/summarisation and direct quotes that’s really not my problem tbqh. Everyone has their own writing style on the internet: you choose not to capitalise and cut down on the punctuation and write ‘poetic’/’lyrical’ reflections (which is quite fine OK. Just to make it clear I do think your posts here are v. useful and interesting and feministe needs more interesting perspectives like yours around, but that doesn’t mean I think your writing and thoughts are beyond criticism..), I choose to use quotation marks to denote summations of ideas as I see them. Really, I don’t think you’re in a position to castigate others about their use of language in a way you feel is inappropriate and confusing for the reader, given the mass confusion your own posts have caused…

    I don’t deny there can be queer, non-heterosexist use of the word ‘mama’, and in queer communities etc ‘mama’ is/can be used in a subversive way, but your presentation of the term was a mix of your redefined/queered/degendered definition and the concept of what looks suspiciously like an appeal to a shared, world-wide concept of motherhood, which, if we’re going to look at it in general, global terms, is pretty gendered. (of course there are exceptions to this. I am sure you could find many examples. But on the whole world-wide, ideas of ‘motherhood’ and ‘womanhood’ etc are very much interlinked)

    When you say that ‘mama’ is used/recognised the world over, and that in Cairo ‘…everyone knows what ‘mama’ means’ and you speak about how it’s ‘primordial’, I take it you’re refering to how the vast majority of people who use the word use it, and i v. much doubt that they are all lgbt-friendly. In many, many societies, trying to queer/degender(?) ‘mama’ is not going to be very well received. (which, by the by, is why anti-oppression movements are still sticking around.) Your experience of the word might be lgbt-friendly and not a glorification of traditional motherhood, but many don’t have the same experience, and you should at least put some kind of note to let people know where you’re coming from (not because OMG we have to cater to ‘majority’ interests all the time, but to avoid already marginalised people being hurt and excluded). And instead of saying it’s someone else’s problem if they don’t see that your idea of the word’s power doesn’t stem from a transphobic and gender-essentialist place perhaps you ought to address the fact that ‘everyone knows what ‘mama’ means. ma. ma. ma. there is something primoridial about it. something that speaks to millions of years of walking on this earth.’ sounds a damn lot like it and saying at the end that ‘being a mama is not a description of one’s biology or genitalia. it does not describe how many children we have nestled in wombs. it is not a description of age or even male/female gender.’ doesn’t immediately mean that the fact that this kind of ‘primordial’ (natural), ‘everyone knows’ (common sense) attitude has been used in oppresive rhetoric time and time again to buttress the gender binary and heterosexist ideas. It’s not the audience’s job to give you the benefit of the doubt here. Seriously, that kind of stuff needs clarification from the author.

    I just want to know how you reconcile the ideas that a) to you, as far as I can see, the power of the word is all tied up with your own feelings of being able to experience ‘home’ and similar respect/attitudes in different places in the world, along with how in many places the word is used to mean mother and you like that etc etc but b) the importance of ‘mamas’ in movements and your definition of mamas as people who practise ‘love by any means necessary’ is not tied in with idea a) would suffice. Or an explanation that reconciles these ideas in some other way.

    And of course people will misunderstand your writing! Srlsy, there are misunderstandings everywhere, that’s just how language is. It’s just a fact of life that we can’t get inside each other’s heads and see all the thought process and ideas and stuff that prop up what comes out onto our keyboards, and so of course there will always be people who will not immediately understand your position.

  306. Xy
    Xy July 29, 2010 at 6:31 am |

    also: ‘bfp asked one of the more interesting questions which is why is it that feminists will reclaim words like bitch and cunt, but not mama?’

    Might be partly because ‘mama’ isn’t even a term that (white? us?) feminists are particularly familiar with (as seems pretty evident from all of this mess, and a few swift google searches that yielded pretty much no immediately obvious results on the use of ‘mama’ by any big english language feminist blogs), so perhaps they aren’t comfortable with ‘reclaiming’ it, as it never was really theirs in the first place. I guess for them it is not something that has to be destigmatised. Perhaps they see it as an incomprehensible imposition instead. Or maybe some people see it as coopting a struggle that isn’t theirs. /speculation

    also: is ‘mama’ really an insult in the same way ‘bitch’ and ‘cunt’ are? Idk too much about this, so.

    On the other hand, quite a few commenters here really do like the whole concept, despite the virulent backlash from others, so if ‘feminists’ as a whole become more familiar with the term perhaps more people will join in in self-defining as ‘mamas’.

  307. Mamita Mala
    Mamita Mala July 29, 2010 at 7:03 am |

    I chose and choose mami on purpose. I am not a mommy. I am not a mama. I am a mami : mami because it has been cooed at me by ancestros who have passed as a term of love even when I was a child and clearly not a mother. mami because as soon as decided to identify as a young woman of color it was hissed and yelled at me in the streets by men across racial/ethnic lines, mami because it has a sexual context attributed to women like me: poor single women who have had children and are struggling. Mami because my mentor helped me learn how to work in the streets with other mamis whose children had been murdered by police and racists (which usually have been one and the same). Mami porque yes, I have two hijas but oh so much more. Mami for all the white men who wanted to call me that as their way to trying to own my ass. Mami for all the men I give my ass to.

    So yeah: if peeps think that this is about excluding as opposed to expanding then maybe feminist is a better title. Call me a M/other, call me a mama, call me mami, but I am not merely a mother, a parent, a poeta, an activist, a mujer, a puta. Mami encompasses all of this.

    And for me mami is not gendered. I want to be clear on that. In my community mami is not gendered. Yes, I identify as a cis-mujer pero I can think of sooo many people whom I call mami with love and soo many people whom are called mami with love who are not.

    so yup, Maia got it right. Mami = love y lucha

  308. Aydan
    Aydan July 29, 2010 at 7:47 am |

    Let me try to explain my take on trigger warnings, because we’ve had at least one poster (Solara @ 108) having very strong problems with this language. Also, this comment in and of itself may be triggering:

    The anger is not the trigger. If the OP had quoted someone saying “d*mn feminis[m/ts],” I don’t think anyone would have been triggered. But saying “d*mn feminis[m/ts]” is not the same thing as saying “f*ck feminis[m/ts],” because no one goes around saying, “Oh, all she needs to set her straight [about feminism or her sexuality or both] is a good damning.” No one talks about damning someone as an act of sexual violence. No one talks about hate-damning someone as a synonym for rape.

    F*ck DOES have those connotations, connotations of sexual violence against all sorts of people. It’s routinely used that way against feminists, womanists, and anyone else who challenges the patriarchal paradigm, simply BECAUSE we challenge it. People use f*ck to imply desired sexual violence against feminists, womanists, etc. And for someone who’s experienced sexual violence, to come here, to a feminist blog which is supposedly a safe space and have that thrown at them?

    I’m a little taken aback by feminists using f*ck as an expression against anything, given its connotations; what makes this particularly distressing is that the readership here, to whom the term was being applied, a) includes survivors of sexual violence and b) comprises people who have had sexual violence threatened to them, “even” just metaphorically, because of their work with feminism and womanism.

    Trigger warnings are a two-way street. If something is triggering and doesn’t have a warning, you ask for a warning. You don’t go around disparaging other people’s requests for trigger warnings on other material.

  309. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 29, 2010 at 8:02 am |

    “bfp asked one of the more interesting questions which is why is it that feminists will reclaim words like bitch and cunt, but not mama”

    I avoid responding to this initially because the question made me angry and I did not think bfp meant it in the way I was hearing it. I’ll put this out there now, since you asked. Still, I acknowledge that you don’t think the term “mama” is gender essentialist (that was the word I was looking for earlier…I hate when that happens..argh), but I disagree. I don’t think you can take a “primordial” word and change it so dramatically to fit into a non-gendered model of social justice without a lot more change to how societies view the primary role of women as mothers. To the extent that you were just describing your experience and not advocating for a redefinition/reclaiming, I apologize for misunderstanding.

    Bitch and cunt are socially unacceptable to say in the U.S. People say it, but they know the words are hateful when they do so. They say them from a place of intentionally inflicting harm. Reclaiming them IMO is saying I will take your anger and hate and use it to refuel. It’s a fuck you to the people who hate women.

    On the other hand, it is not at all socially unacceptable to publicly chastise a woman for not having a child. It happened to me yesterday at the grocery store when I stopped to help a little girl who had tossed her stuffed cow and was very unhappy about it. Her mom and I chatted for a bit and I of course commented that she was a lovely child…blah…blah…why don’t you have kids…you should be a mother…you’ll regret it…who will remember you…blah…blah. Same song, different moment. And I don’t think it comes from a place of hate or anger. It comes from a lack of understanding maybe. Perhaps from a place of defensiveness. Sometimes if I am adamant and don’t let the comments flow passed me, it becomes hostile, but I don’t think it starts there. So I’m not willing to say fuck you to the woman in the grocery store. I’m not willing to say fuck you to my mother who thinks I am a failure as a human being because I don’t have children. From my perspective the word isn’t ready to be reclaimed in the US until we at least address the gender essentialism inherent in it. When the people who use it as a sword know that its hurtful and do it anyway…then maybe, but not yet.

  310. Charlotte
    Charlotte July 29, 2010 at 8:10 am |

    So I admit that reading this I was kind of offended. However, reading the comments and thinking about it I’ve come to understand it a lot better and I definitely know where it’s coming from. However, I do have one question that I’m not sure has been addressed (it’s possible it has and I missed it but I at least didn’t see it): I know you said at the end it’s not necessarily about gender, but I wonder if this is a term men have felt comfortable using, too? I guess it’s not terribly important but I would be interested to hear the answer. Thanks for your posts because they’ve really made me think.

  311. Emily
    Emily July 29, 2010 at 8:31 am |

    Kristen – wouldn’t it be potentially powerful for you to say to those women who suggest you “should” bear children that you ARE a mama/mami/m/other, from the interest you take in other people’s children to the love and solidarity you feel with a/the world community of women? Couldn’t it be really affirming to have a word that expresses that you already ARE what they think you should be because of your love and solidarity and kick-ass advocacy for women and girls? That you already are that mama, with or without children of your own? That you have experienced that radical love and your strength as a woman without bearing children of your own?

  312. Charlotte
    Charlotte July 29, 2010 at 8:32 am |

    Okay that helps a lot thanks for explaining.

  313. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 29, 2010 at 8:45 am |

    Emily,

    Nope. Saying that has no disernable impact on the conversation other than to (1) make people angry that I consider that equivalent to motherhood or (2) make people think I’m further in denial about my choices.

  314. jessi
    jessi July 29, 2010 at 8:54 am |

    maia: ok.
    to take a word, like ‘mama’, and look at it through a single lens of experience would be highly disingenous.it requires a multi layered reading interpretation to begin to see the fullness of the word.it requires a global perspective.a perspective that centers the marginalized voices of history.when one does that then one can see how a word can feel primordial, in that it is one of the first sounds that a child makes when they are learning to speak. ma. ma. ….  

    But the reason that children say something like “mama” is because they hear it all around them. If a child hears “dada” all the time, they start with that, “mama” is not a sound that babys just instinctively say, it just what they hear most and then try to repeat. And as nurturing is still primarily seen as a womens job, it often happens to be some word for mother.

  315. Faith
    Faith July 29, 2010 at 9:00 am |

    “Telling people to essentially go fuck themselves really does not help anyone. ”

    If it got your attention and made you stop and think, can you really say that it didn’t help anyone?

  316. Emily
    Emily July 29, 2010 at 9:06 am |

    Kristen – That may be true with the woman in the supermarket, but it’s clearly NOT true with Mai’a or the women that she describes in her OP. Why does the fact that it “doesn’t work” in the supermarket mean that it’s not a beautiful, powerful concept that can apply to you just as much as to someone who has birthed children?

    I know I set it up in my comment as “something to say to those women who…” and obviously, some people are judgemental and not really open to listening, and nothing you say to them will matter. But I really don’t see the concept of mamahood, as presented in Mai’a’s OP, as necessarily excluding you, and, for those people who might listen and be open to argument, it could be another way to explain to those who do highly value motherhood that you already feel that you experience the joyful and powerful aspects of motherhood without having children of your own.

    I think Mai’a’s post expresses that there ARE joyful and powerful solidarity-building aspects to motherhood, while also acknowledging that motherhood is not the only route to joy, power, and solidarity. But divorcing joy, power and solidarity from motherhood completely – saying that they are separate concepts and should be talked about separately – denies, overlooks, ignores a significant experience that many women identify as a source of their power/animating force. I think Mai’a’s post and comments have described in detail situations in which women have drawn strength from their position as women and as mothers to fight oppression. And she explicitly talked about how she felt that power and that bond before she ever had children herself.

  317. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 29, 2010 at 9:09 am |

    @maia:

    2. you are responsible for the paradigms and frameworks that you come to this piece with. you. are. responsible. for. them. if you come to this piece with a gender essentialist, heterosexist mentality, i cannot be held responsible for that. if you are for whatever reason incapable of a queer reading of the op…then yeah, maybe you should realize that ‘dialogue’ is only possible when you listen. because yeah i am perplexed by you not being able to handle complex perspectives such as: while mama has been used to denote certain women, it is not necessarily a gendered term, in that men, boys, and genderqueer folk have, in certain communities, been addressed as ‘mama’ as a term of respect and endearment. if this is not your experience, im not sure what you want me to say, except maybe you should expand your life patterns.
    the connotations that you bring to the word ‘mama’ are yours to work with. enjoy.
    kthxbai!

    Okay, this? This is not okay. Telling queer and trans people that homophobia and transphobia are only in their heads because you didn’t meeeeeean it that way is not okay.

    Remember when that group performed in blackface on whatever Australian variety show it was? Would you have said that people’s failure to accept it was because they were imposing their racist American paradigm on another culture, and that the performers weren’t responsible for that?

    You are responsible for what you write. If what you write excludes people, examine your privilege. It’s what you’ve been asking others to do this whole time. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult.

  318. Camie
    Camie July 29, 2010 at 9:15 am |

    Late to the party, but thank you for this post. I’m a queer woman, and being a mama— mothering others, nurturing children, being that mother-body (that’s capable of so many miracles) means more than the empty political posturing I see so often in feminism (if not the violent centering of white, middle-class cis interests). I hope beyond reason to be a mama to a child in my family. But even so, I want mama to mean trans women, queer women, women who are infertile, that deep, rich meaning of mama.

  319. Jenna
    Jenna July 29, 2010 at 9:16 am |

    I know you wrote your response to why you do not identify as feminist due to a barrage of strangers asking you, but I loved your explanation. I felt it. Thank you for sharing.

  320. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 9:21 am |

    here’s the thing–why do men have to be the default gender when wondering if it’s a gendered term? I am butch, identify more with “fathering” than “mothering” don’t identify as a “woman,”– does that count as “proof” that it’s not just straight femme motherearth granola vagina power type total feminine women identify as “mami”?

    also. re: trigger warnings. If you want to put a trigger warning on my comments–go a head. the editors have my permission. what I would like to focus on– I mean, let’s talk about all the women of color that mai’a has on her twitter/facebook and email telling her–girl, i love you, i gave it a try, and I want to stick with it–but I just can’t anymore–regarding commenting here.

    Let’s talk about the fact that I was told by feminists *in the name of feminism* that my kids, the the child of another woman of color, are things. Objects. “its.” a telephone. that I was told by feminists *in the name of feminism* to “stop bringing race and gender into it” *even as* disability (which is something white women can experience, as compared to race) is centered as a legitimate reason to continue calling my kids objects and things. I was told by feminists *in the name of feminism* that having kids is not a political (or radical) thing–that it’s getting sperm put inside me and pushing a child out of my loins.

    do you know who else objectifies my kids? And dismisses my political right to have a child? And says that my getting pregnant is the same thing as sperm being inserted into me? A queer chicana border crosser migrant worker child of an immigrant?

    And yet, my saying fuck this “feminism” and “feminists”–my children are human beings and I am making a political choice to be a mami–reminds people of being told that feminists need a good fucking?

    I will say it again. Editors are more than welcome to put “trigger warning” on every single one of my comments. Please do it. Because I want the issue taken of the table. So that we can discuss more important things. Like what it feels like to be a black mother of a multi-racial black child and be surrounded by 900 comments saying that “you are just trying to get out of parenting and youre a bad mother and your (black girl) child is not so precious.” I wonder how many times throughout the existance of black motherhood, black women have been written as bad mothers that just want to dump their children on kind considerate innocent white people so they can go out to the bars and sex shops.

  321. Shake the Shit Out Of ‘Em! « She Has My Eyes

    [...] blogger Mai’a said a lot of things in her post entitled “ain’t i a mama?” on Feministe yesterday, but for some reason, “fuck feminism” seems to be the [...]

  322. August
    August July 29, 2010 at 9:27 am |

    I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing, Mai’a!

  323. sara
    sara July 29, 2010 at 9:29 am |

    So beautiful, love it, let’s continue to engage critics who have something awesome to say and make bridges. I advocate feminism, as bell hooks says, and I am for everything in that poem.

  324. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 29, 2010 at 9:32 am |

    i see the performance of blackface as being multi layered performance. if and when a black person tells me that black face can only be interpreted as racist, no matter who uses it and no matter the context. i will disagree with her. my experience has taught me that black face can be used in incredibly anti racist ways.

    I referred to a specific blackface performance, and I referred to a specific blackface performance for a reason. Were the people who objected to that Australian performance just imposing their racist American narrative on the non-racist Australians?

    comparing blackface to the word ‘mama’…THIS is not okay.

    This is not about comparing blackface to the word “mama.” This is about the way in which you wrote about the word “mama,” a way which some queer and trans people perceived as excluding them. This is about what you are doing. Own your words.

  325. Athenia
    Athenia July 29, 2010 at 9:32 am |

    La Lubu: How does one get from this:recently, i was hanging out at a bar, when a friend called and invited me to come hang out for a few drinks and chill time as the sun came up. cool.(actual quote from maia in her previous post)to this:thread in which they had asked for support and admiration for habitually bringing their child into rooms full of inebriated strangers(interpretation of what maia’s comment really meant, from a stranger on a blog half a world away)Seriously. How on earth did you get from that “point A” all the way to “point B”? Where is all this public drunkenness and boorish behavior, including bar fights, taking place? That isn’t something I see at the bars I go to (admittedly, infrequently—but when I was a regular, I still didn’t see that). I made my own assumption about the kind of place maia was talking about; I assumed a sidewalk cafe-style place (or at least a place with an outdoor courtyard), an intimate, relatively quiet place with a “chill” vibe.Why are so many people assuming a really loud, rough, barfighting atmosphere? (or perhaps I’m “drinking rong”. If so, I don’t wanna be right!)  (Quote this comment?)

    I think this is where the confusion began:

    sometimes she is loud. but frankly, she is normally one of the quieter people in a room full of inebriated souls.

  326. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 9:34 am |

    @rebecca. I’m sure you remember the case of Tiwonge Chimbalanga? I mention this woman because it was a case almost all the major feminist blogs discussed. So you know i’m not making anything up or trying to give anecdotal evidence.

    Tiwonge called herself mama. Her community called here Mama Tiwonge. They didn’t just decide to do that because they were playing along with some sort of game that Tiwonge made up all by herself. They did it because there is historical precedence in their community and it makes sense.

  327. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 29, 2010 at 9:36 am |

    Mai’a,

    one can read and note throughout history in various cultures that the role of mama, while primarily performed by women, was not exclusively done so.

    I suspect we could debate whether this statement proves gender essential use of the word “mama” until the end of time, but I don’t think it will be productive. So, I’ll let it go if that’s acceptable to you.

    This:

    i am asking for a recentering from the perspective of marginalized communities that play with words like ‘mama’ in ways that require a multi layered, polyphonic, polyrhythmic understanding of love and revolution.

    sounds to me that your goal was to prioritize/highlight the work being done in certain marginalized communities not to specifically exclude other marginalized communities. So, while we might disagree over some descriptions here, I appreciate you highlighting this and I very much respect the work being done.

  328. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 29, 2010 at 9:39 am |

    Oh, and:

    what she is not free to do, without a good helping of intellectual disgenuity, is to say that experience of blackface is steeped in privilege, simply because she does not have the same performance arts experiences as i do.

    Yes, a non-black person telling a black person what she has and doesn’t have the right to be offended about is exercising privilege, actually. Saying that she just doesn’t understaaaaand and her experience of racism is unimportant? Yeah, that’s privileged. She may be more privileged than you on other axes, but on the black-nonblack axis, you are exercising your privilege against her.

  329. Salix
    Salix July 29, 2010 at 9:40 am |

    @ Kristen,

    But isn’t that reaction what we’re trying to change? And we’re not going to change society’s reaction if we don’t make the shift ourselves, first.

  330. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    another relatively well know woman that most feminists should be aware of: Wangari Maathai, who is called Mama Wangari or Mama Africa. She has three children that she left with an ex-husband out of economic necessity. She would be consider a “bad mother” for that. And yet she’s still called Mama Wangari. because “mama” is understood outside the context of her personal life and decisions. It’s a title given to show respect for her activism and mobilization.

  331. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 9:54 am |

    Miriam Makeba is somebody I didn’t know about–but all I did was google “mama afrika” and her name came up. She is called that again, not because of her role as a mother (she had one child that died) but because of her activist/singer role in confronting and bringing down apartheid in south africa. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7719318.stm

  332. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 29, 2010 at 10:00 am |

    Also, Miriam Makeba is awesome.

  333. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 10:01 am |

    and i am pointing these people out not as a way to say “look, three people, my point is proven!” but to say–it is sitting there right in front of the eyes of US citizens. Feminists spent weeks talking about Tiwonge Chimbalanga. Mama has me linked right up top where I say specifically that I do not identify as woman. My god, Oprah is all excited on her show that she’s called Mama Oprah by the students in her school. It’s right there in front of us. So I’m not sure why it’s so astronomically completely obscenely foreign?

  334. Xy
    Xy July 29, 2010 at 10:04 am |

    maia: ok.
    to take a word, like ‘mama’, and look at it through a single lens of experience would be highly disingenous.it requires a multi layered reading interpretation to begin to see the fullness of the word.it requires a global perspective.a perspective that centers the marginalized voices of history.when one does that then one can see how a word can feel primordial, in that it is one of the first sounds that a child makes when they are learning to speak. ma. ma. and one can read and note throughout history in various cultures that the role of mama, while primarily performed by women, was not exclusively done so.and furthermore in our contemporary life, that mama is not used simply as a descriptor of gender.this does require (as a sister of mine put it) more than a sociology 101 perspective.and i do assume that you come to the convo with more than that.
    i am not asking for a redefinion/reclaiming (even though i think bfp made a very interesting contrast), i am asking for a recentering from the perspective of marginalized communities that play with words like ‘mama’ in ways that require a multi layered, polyphonic, polyrhythmic understanding of love and revolution.  

    Thanks for this, it was really great and thought provoking. :):)

  335. Claire N.
    Claire N. July 29, 2010 at 10:07 am |

    Rebecca, I’m a black Australian who was angry and fucked off over the Hey, Hey blackface performance. Anyone who tells me that I shouldn’t be regardless of their race can go get fucked.

    Does that answer your question–even though I’m not Maia?

    However why are you creating analogies and comparing racism to homophobia and transphobia? I understand the fear of transphobia in the term mama, but why do people–especially whites–compare oppressions to racism as if everyone in the world understands racism unlike the other oppressions?

  336. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 29, 2010 at 10:12 am |

    Salix,

    But who gets to demand that I make that shift in language? But more to the point I’m not comfortable pushing back with anger particularly towards women who face pressure for their motherhood. I’m probably never going to be comfortable pushing back with anger towards them. Their prejudice is rooted in a kyriarchal system that treats them like crap too. Just like I don’t push back with anger at my female mentors who have counseled me to wear a skirt or wear make up or “not be so aggressive with my opinions.” You can hear hate in those words and react with frustration…or you can hear hundreds of years of social conditioning and react with patience. I don’t want to take my frustration out on someone who I don’t think is acting out of hate. To me that’s what reclaiming that word, in that particular context, would be doing.

  337. a lawyer
    a lawyer July 29, 2010 at 10:16 am |

    For what it’s worth, from my ultra-privileged standpoint (I’m a white cisgendered male American lawyer born to and raised by well-off parents), I agree with the point Maia is making when she favorably quotes “fuck feminism.” I’m still confused by the point she’s trying to make about “mama,” but that’s more a reflection of my own limitations than of the OP.

  338. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 29, 2010 at 10:20 am |

    Claire N. (should this comment get through) – at the time I wrote that comment, I didn’t know Mai’a was queer, so I tried to think of a notable example involving sexism or racism, since those are two axes of oppression she’s told us she faces. When I try to explain to other people how it’s wrong to wave off other people’s complaints of marginalization, I find it sometimes helps to compare it to a marginalization they face. That was one incident that occurred to me, but I could have found others.

  339. so_treu
    so_treu July 29, 2010 at 10:24 am |

    i just came across this great oral history excerpt with Civil Rights Movement organizer/activist Ella Baker. she’s talking about caring for her sister’s child and juggling that with organizing. it’s short, but i think it’s one example of what Maia’s talking about – love-centered engagement with one’s community, where raising a child is not separate from being an active member of that community because the community is also involved in raising the child.

    oh and lookee, she’s also referred to as “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” howzabout that.

    http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/G-0008/excerpts/excerpt_8581.html

  340. Anna
    Anna July 29, 2010 at 10:26 am |

    hahaha maia’s last comment made me laugh so hard. you tell her, girl!

  341. Anna
    Anna July 29, 2010 at 10:29 am |

    Okay, here it is everybody. Here’s the final word:

    “being a mama is not a description of one’s biology or genitalia. it does not describe how many children we have nestled in wombs. it is not a description of age or even male/female gender.

    it is who we are. it is what we do. it is love by any means necessary.”

  342. Anna
    Anna July 29, 2010 at 10:34 am |

    Thoughts on the post I link to below? You don’t have to allow this comment through to the general thread, but I was wondering if you’d take a look at what I wrote here (about children): http://annanettie.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/taking-responsibility/

  343. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni July 29, 2010 at 10:41 am |

    Kristen- the first thing that was said to my partner when she told her (female) boss that my brain damage and sight-loss had forced me out of work, was “Brilliant! You can be mammies now!”. My partner said “No we can’t, don’t you understand what I said?”. The reply she got was “But your people can do that now. And you’d be great parents”.

    Her boss had never met me, knew her only through work, but felt confident enough to say that we’d be great parents purely because we are women.

    ‘Mammy’ is the word I screamed as the person who gave birth to me kicked and choked me. When I’m scared I’ll cry “I want my mammy” and then correct myself, “I want A mammy”. I want that word to represent kindness and nurturing, but my experience of it is that it means hatred, resentment, starvation, the taste of blood in my mouth., and guilty love for someone I hate.

  344. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 10:45 am |

    to be clear, when I say “reclaim” mama, I am talking in the white centric US centric sense of the word, I am NOT talking about mama in the way mai’a is using, the way I am using, the way mamita, etc are using. mama, mami, mamita, m/other, etc–all these call for a decentering of the US white heteropatriarchy dominant imposition of “mommy” on the entire world.

    When I say “reclaim mama”–I am asking white dominant US centric feminists who think I am calling them a stupid lazy bitch or a mythical child eating cunt because I *do* organize around mami–to consider why “mama” is so infantilizing, offensive, horrific, etc to them. And if you can reclaim a word like cunt, when it is used to hurt you, why can’t you reclaim a word like mama when it is used to control you and hurt you? I am not saying “embrace your inner granola girl”–i’m saying, if sexist pricks don’t get to control “cunt” then why do they get to control “mama”?

  345. bfp
    bfp July 29, 2010 at 10:48 am |

    and finally, for those who still are astounded that anybody could possibly say that kids of color are treated differently than white kids, there is this post from racialicious: http://www.racialicious.com/2010/07/28/framing-children’s-deviance/

  346. Salix
    Salix July 29, 2010 at 10:48 am |

    @ Kristen,

    Actually, I agree–that’s why I don’t usually claim ‘mama’ as an identity for myself; I don’t want to seem like I’m stepping on the toes of the amazing women I know who do the work of being a female parent.

    But that doesn’t mean that mama shouldn’t be used for such a purpose by anyone. Nor that, when the person telling me, “How come you’re not married with kids” is an obnoxious anti-woman ass, I don’t shoot back with, “Let me tell you about my kids” or some such. (I may be auntie/tia, but damn straight they’re my kids).

    I guess I fail to see why it’s a problem to have a female-centric identity floating out there that not all women claim for themselves. Not all LGBT people claim the identity of ‘queer’, but that doesn’t mean that *none* should.

  347. gadgetgal
    gadgetgal July 29, 2010 at 11:26 am |

    Hi – never commented here before but I’ve been reading the website on and off for a year or two now, and I just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed both your pieces and your blog. I don’t come at it from a mothering perspective as I’m a childless woman, and I have all sympathy with both the childless like me and the CF (who very much get it in the neck more than people seem to realise, two of my best friends are CF and they have to deal with the confused & angry people rather than the sad & pitying ones I get) but I think your use of the words “mama” and “mami” are inspiring! I don’t think I would use them to describe myself just now, the pain of my situation and the western connotations I live with kind of stop me from doing it, but I also don’t think you’re excluding anyone by using them to describe yourself – I think self-defining can be a place of power for anyone, I do it myself when I say I’m a feminist (lower-case “f”, I’m disenchanted with certain areas of Feminism too). And you’ve really made me think a lot, and I’ve spent the last couple of days looking into aspects of feminism and womanism that I never really had before, so I just wanted to say thank you :)

  348. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 29, 2010 at 11:36 am |

    Salix,

    Then I think we’re talking about the same thing. I definitely don’t see why other women who find that word empowering shouldn’t use it. The question presented was “why don’t you use it/reclaim it” and I responded with why I wouldn’t use it and don’t think it’s appropriate to reclaim. But now I see that bfp was referring to women who find the word “mama” hateful, rather than women like me who find the centeredness of motherhood exasperating.

  349. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm |

    Paraxeni,

    the first thing that was said to my partner when she told her (female) boss that my brain damage and sight-loss had forced me out of work, was “Brilliant! You can be mammies now!”.

    It’s not the same, but I can commiserate. When I was laid off (along with a disproportionate number of hetero/married women at my firm) last year I heard over and over from partners and associates as I was wrapping up my affairs that “now you could have a baby.” I was also told that I *should* have a child to explain the work gap. o_O And of these comments were from people who knew me well enough to know that while I love children and am more than willing to entertain them if you bring them to the office and need a moment for a conference call or whatever…I don’t intend to have any…ever. But no…a woman without a job, even temporarily, must fill the awful void that is her life.

  350. Gajasimha
    Gajasimha July 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm |

    Anthropological anecdatum re: mama as ‘nursery talk’ for female parent: in Tamil, it means uncle, which, traditionally, was/is a very intensively parental position. The female parent is amma, which can also be used for any woman or girl and is the standard suffix for non-Sanskritic female names. (I have no idea whether it’s used for third gender or trans women.)

    Incidentally, mami is an aunt/ie.

  351. Kai
    Kai July 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm |

    @bfp, thank you for bringing up Miriam Makeba, whom I’ve written about at some length (on my old blog). When I first started reading mai’a’s lyrical riff, obviously the first name in my head was Sojourner Truth, but it didn’t take long for Miriam Makeba’s name and face and *voice* to leap into my mind. And I mean that as a very high compliment, because any piece of writing or art that evokes Miriam Makeba is touching something deep in me and is solid gold in my eyes.

  352. Saoirse
    Saoirse July 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm |

    Bhagavati:
    The idea promoted by bfp and maia is that women of color are inherently a bunch of child-loving, anti-individualist, self-decentering nurturers. Unless we’re insufficiently “radical,” I guess, in which case we’re…white-identified, or something? Otherwise we wouldn’t be objecting to this mama-centric worldview (since they’ve dubbed all objections to this worldview as inherently white)?

    OMG YES. Whilst I broadly agree with a lot of stuff that’s been said in this thread, reading the comments you have this weird assumption that ALL women of colour are/would be pro-mamahood and antipathetic towards feminism. a lot of this is coming from white posters, and I know it’s being said with the best intentions, but vast generalisations like this are kind of patronising and alienating.

  353. MRC
    MRC July 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm |

    Chally: Bagelsan, mai’a just explained. Please go back and read through, and if you still can’t understand, please just accept that you can’t understand some things, and maybe a bit of time or reading similar pieces might help. Obviously it makes sense as it makes sense to a lot of other people and it has been re-explained, it makes sense, if not to you.  

    Nothing OBVIOUSLY makes sense. That’s not how meaning works, at all. The OP has used a term which she gives a specific (and internally contradictory) meaning. The word has a meaning already, it has baggage, like all words (I am a linguist and this is my particular area of study, it’s particularly interesting to me). There is a multiplicity of meanings within this word particularly, as has been pointed out a few times, and those meanings tend to refer to birth, mothering- the word’s history is inextricably bound up with motherhood as such.

    You can’t just decide that YOUR definition erases all the previous meaning the word had, language doesn’t work that way; and it’s reasonable to ask, when someone redefines a word for their own use (ESPECIALLY when they invest it with so much personal meaning) why they have done that, what goal they had, and how the can reconcile the contradiction between their use of the word and its historical meaning.

  354. GinnyC
    GinnyC July 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm |

    bfp: GinnyC

    bfp: Thanks for mentioning this. I did not know that her community accepted her, and it makes me really hopeful and happy today to find out.

  355. Cat Lady
    Cat Lady July 29, 2010 at 3:09 pm |

    I’m a woman. I wanted to be respected as a person and treated as a whole person, just me. I’m not a mama, not a mother. I’ve never given birth to anyone, raised anyone, or started a revolution. I’m self-centered. I care about myself and my loved ones more than strangers, even woman strangers. There are aspects of feminism that appeal to me and aspects that don’t. It’s not all about me, it’s not all about you. I must admit that most of my own actions are about me, but I really don’t expect other random strangers to be overwhelmed with concern for me and my problems. However, I do expect enough mutual respect for my issues to not be erased or disregarded or openly mocked. We can all at least do that for one another.

  356. GinnyC
    GinnyC July 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm |

    bfp: Tiwonge called herself mama. Her community called here Mama Tiwonge. They didn’t just decide to do that because they were playing along with some sort of game that Tiwonge made up all by herself. They did it because there is historical precedence in their community and it makes sense.

    This is what I was trying to quote last time. Thanks again for publicizing this.

  357. feministjen
    feministjen July 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm |

    Maia, thanks for posting here, and continuing to post here. Thank you for your writing and thank you for your persistence. I love what you have to say about mama-hood and about feminism. I love that you do not back down.

    I love mamas. I love anger. I love being called on my shit.

    I’m going to sign this like I always sign communications from e-mails to blogs to comments, even though I haven’t seen a whole fucking lot of it shown in the comments left on your posts.

    feminist love,
    Jen

  358. Shayne
    Shayne July 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm |

    Perhaps what many US centric feminists haven’t caught onto is the following:

    They have indeed gained the right to do this that and the other thing. For AMERICAN women, not women of the world.

    Even as a white US centric woman, I am not at all surprised that other women in the world have no interest in US brands of feminism. I’m not even surprised American black women aren’t impressed by it either. Because they have other issues that are important to them that aren’t to white feminists. How hard is this to understand?

    What surprises me is the egos of some who seem to believe that feminism is only about their way of seeing it, and all about how much the US feminists have done for feminism.

    Well, no, it really doesn’t surprise me. It’s been the face of US feminism since the seventies that I recall.

    1. Jill
      Jill July 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm | *

      FYI to AJ who keeps leaving rude comments and then complains about Mai’a deleting them: It’s not Mai’a. It’s me. Be respectful with your comments and quit obsessing over the “fuck feminism” thing and we will let them through.

  359. prosaica
    prosaica July 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm |

    I self-identify as feminist. I usually am finicky, outrageously finicky about orthography. And I still respect every line, every word you write. Because it feels so honest. I can’t share it all, because my life is so different from yours, but you open windows, show perpsectives. Thanks for writing here.

  360. Chally
    Chally July 29, 2010 at 5:05 pm |

    MRC, if you reread my comment, I said that it made sense to some readers. There is sense to it. And no thanks for the splaining, but I understand that meanings are attached to words. If you reread any number of comments, you will see that this word is not being defined by some individual for their own use. These are established meanings, just not ones that have existed in all communities, and therefore differing histories, not just meanings around birth and mothering.

  361. Butterfly
    Butterfly July 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm |

    I am turning away from “feminism” very quickly. I read your post you had the other day and people attacked motherhood. Feminists are so busy supporting the right to have an abortion and to be child-free when they can’t even respect those women who choose to be mothers. I don’t know if I will ever have children, but I will not act like a “Liberal feminist” and say a child is not allowed at this place and this place and this place. Are YOU ALL at Feministe going to hire the mother’s babysitter? I don’t think so. It’s funny how people claim they are for human rights and social justice and blah blah but they can’t even sit at their computers and take a marginalized person’s view into consideration. If you don’t have kids and don’t want them, that’s your choice, but don’t berate people for having kids…And if you have kids, learn how to respect a woman’s decision not to have children. What is so hard about that? I really wonder where this “new wave” of feminism is going because it’s looking pretty scary to me right now…

  362. insomniac
    insomniac July 29, 2010 at 5:46 pm |

    I don’t have anything to add in my own words to what’s going on here. I’d like to link to someone else’s words actually which I read for the first time today and immediately thought of this thread:

    Those women who are used to having their tears work
    rage at us
    when they don’t
    We are not real Feminists they say
    We do not love women
    I yell back with a wet face
    _Where are our jobs? Our apartments?_
    _Our voices in parliament or congress?_
    _Where is our safety from beatings, from murder?_
    _You cannot even respect us to allow us_
    _60 uninterrupted minutes for ourselves_

    Your tears are chains
    Feminism is the right of each woman
    to claim her own life her own time
    her own interrupted 60 hours
    60 days
    60 years

    Full poem here

  363. Div
    Div July 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm |

    I really want to give a big, hearty thank you. Thank you for saying what needed to be said. Thank you for trying to explain your point, when you really should not have had to do so. Thank you for still being here, and refusing to be pushed out the door by Feminism. And most of all, thank you mai’a, bfp, and Aaminah for unashamedly being mamas.

  364. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm |

    so much YES to comment 360. THANK YOU.

    and just for the record, i bowed out of this – although i see a lot of people think i was the one being abusive – because rather than asking how i identify or what informs my understanding of terms like “mama”, i was called names and called out for assumed things that not only did not reflect what i had actually written, but more importantly go directly against my own identities. i don’t feel like i, or anyone else, should have to list out all of our identity markers before we share our experience. i was called out as a hater of identities that i personally possess. and you know, sometimes it is privilege to be able to publicly acknowledge those identities. i am pretty open, pretty accessible, for anyone who wants to “know” me – what i write about, who i am, what i believe etc. BUT, there are still things i reserve, that i don’t share, for my own safety.

    i’m not trying to make this all about “me”. i’m saying this because i have been triggered and traumatized and attacked over and over in these threads for things that it isn’t safe for me to answer to. AND I THINK THAT MAY BE TRUE FOR OTHERS AS WELL. and yes, i do think, if you are so tied to your identities and experiences that you don’t even understand that not all of us are free to share the breadth of our identities and experiences, that is a feminist issue.

    also to clarify, when i said that radical love is about de-centering yourself? i did not say “never center yourself”. radical love also encompasses the very real need to center yourself sometimes, and if anyone knew me and my writing, they’d know my stance on self-care. what i was attempting to add to the mix is that it is also necessary to decenter our own individual needs at times – to look out for community, for our loved ones, and to fight against oppression. sometimes doing so goes against our self-centered desires but we still know that in the long run it is the right thing to do. this is what mamas, of any gender, do. it’s not ALL they do, it’s part of what they do – center those who are often taken advantage of by society etc. i may not personally take the title of feminist, and i have lots of issues with *F*eminism, but even i recognize the intrisicely “feminist” value of this role – whoever takes it on.

  365. ana
    ana July 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm |

    Because this thread needs another comment…
    THANK YOU, maia, bfp, Aaminah, and so many others. Keep writing, I’ll keep listening. Maia, can’t wait for the post YOU think is controversial…

    Oh, and Shelby (258 right now, though the comment #s have been shifting), that brought fuck-yes tears to my eyes in the best possible way. Reminds me of my own mamas.

  366. Amelia
    Amelia July 29, 2010 at 8:34 pm |

    Thank you so much to mai’a for writing this post and for speaking her mind. And thank you to the commenters who realize — whether they agreed with the OP or not — that this conversation, while heated at times, is so very necessary.

  367. Naila
    Naila July 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm |

    Yes, Miriam Makeba and Wangaari Maathai are called “Mama” just as any woman of a certain age is (whether or not they have children), in Eastern and Southern Africa–and for them the term also refers to their massive influence on their countries and regions. I’ve been called “mama” while living in Kenya, but I was more often called “sister,” which I loved.
    But to take one regions conventions and honorific terms as global is not always accurate. Similar concepts are described differently in different cultures. Actually, I think the terms/concept of sisterhood and brotherhood are almost more universal, and more inclusive as well.
    By the way, Egypt’s most famous singer, Um (“mother of”) Kalthoum did not have children.

  368. cheshire
    cheshire July 30, 2010 at 12:56 am |

    I love this piece, and the last one thankyou.

  369. SaraDee
    SaraDee July 30, 2010 at 11:07 am |

    Mai’a, this was a great post – I’ve been chewing over it since I read it.
    I share a lot of Kristen J.’s perspective, and have really appreciated Faith’s responses to that.
    Motherhood, and all the meanings and connotations and idealizations and pressures that have been coming up from everyone in this thread has been so fraught for me lately – and clearly, I am not alone. Boy, howdy.

    I am really loving the concepts of motherhood brought up by the WOC on this thread… it’s in stark contrast to the concept I’m acquainted with as a white Canadian woman, and is a vision of motherhood that I find refreshing. I have been despairing under the pressure to give up important aspects of myself when I have children – which I want to do, but not at the expense of all other aspects of my personality, which seemed to be the choices being laid out to me. I kept being told my dedication to science, politics, social justice was “selfish” because I keep hearing from women in my social circle “you think those things are important now, but you won’t have time when you’re a mom!” – ie, the time I had to focus on other people, which…I thought was the opposite of selfish… was selfish because the people of focus were not my biological children. The WOC here have really eloquently pointed out that the narrowing of focus my demographic thinks is “good mothering” is the opposite of the way mothers, mamas, what have you, are conceived of elsewhere in the world – and is a vision of motherhood, and, frankly, society, that I would much rather get behind. Thank you.

  370. Jigae
    Jigae July 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm |

    MRC:
    Nothing OBVIOUSLY makes sense. That’s not how meaning works, at all. The OP has used a term which she gives a specific (and internally contradictory) meaning. The word has a meaning already, it has baggage, like all words (I am a linguist and this is my particular area of study, it’s particularly interesting to me). There is a multiplicity of meanings within this word particularly, as has been pointed out a few times, and those meanings tend to refer to birth, mothering- the word’s history is inextricably bound up with motherhood as such.You can’t just decide that YOUR definition erases all the previous meaning the word had, language doesn’t work that way; and it’s reasonable to ask, when someone redefines a word for their own use (ESPECIALLY when they invest it with so much personal meaning) why they have done that, what goal they had, and how the can reconcile the contradiction between their use of the word and its historical meaning.  

    I think this is a beautiful and nuanced comment. I support the reappropriation and redefinition of words, but one has to understand it’s a slow and deliberate process and that many people are going to initially misunderstand your new meaning. It is not their fault. Granular definitions and explanation are so much more necessary than the defensive position I’ve seen many people take here.

    There are all sorts of privilege here. Claiming a subject position as the ultimate defense against criticism is incredibly problematic for the free flow of meaning. Claiming your redefinition of a word as obvious or beyond reproach is still a form of privilege, even if it’s a “more real experience” generated by victimization.

  371. flip flopping joy » Blog Archive » Mama

    [...] black immigrant mother with children? Do you really think that theres no difference at all in how we treat certain children compared to others? Even though we are not “accusing the police of racism” or that they “used [...]

  372. nathan
    nathan July 30, 2010 at 8:57 pm |

    A few thoughts.

    A lot of the tussle here points towards the huge tension between community and individuality. What I see Maia attempting to do in her post is to recenter all of us into a potentially more healthy and vibrant way of living together – one that respects and honors people who have children and those who don’t. In fact, she’s going further, if I’m reading her correctly, to proposing a way of being where everyone, regardless of age, gender, ability, etc. is honored and revered. It’s sad that so much of that is lost in this discussion, but I can understand why it has been lost.

    Community has, both historically and still currently for many people meant being oppressed in some way. Humans have struggled terribly at community, and yet so desperately want and need it at the same time. Beautiful, life affirming communities do happen, but often in spite of, or even counter to other communities. So, I can imagine a certain number of the posters on her who are reacting so forcefully against Maia’s post are touching that long history of misery that has come from being in communities where it meant being oppressed.

    On the other hand, I can see in the post about children and spaces Maia made, as well as in other writing on her blog, that she’s seriously trying to examine how privatization, uber-individualism, and patriarchy are intersecting in the world in terribly damaging ways. And some of the other comments on this post, as well as that post, are doing similar things – pointing to how the very liberation some people have had through individual rights has not only failed to extend to many others, but also in itself spawned new problems – such as a lack of healthy communities (an idea I totally agree with).

    There has to be a place of intersection in all of this because if it’s just a fight between individual vs. communal rights, the status quo will continue to win out.

  373. April
    April July 30, 2010 at 11:53 pm |

    Oh man, my router breaks for a week and I miss all this!

    Not sure how I feel about your post, but I agree with the commenters who were really offended that you say “fuck feminism,” because that’s just ignorant. You don’t know anything about what “feminism” means to anybody but yourself. Feel free to reject the word to describe your identity, but ffs, why would you even want to bother going on a vilifying rant about how everyone who chooses a different word to apply to the part of their identity that says that she is not inferior to a man is in some way wrong for doing so?

    I’m personally just plain sick of the word “feminism,” and what it seems to mean to the loudest ones who call them that. I’m growing more and more disengaged with Mainstream Feminism(tm) and many parts of your post, such as:

    srsly, if the common definition for feminism to be treated equal to a man. im not interested in feminism.

    I mean, it was short, but I feel like all of the things you didn’t say in that sentence were really apparent. I’m not looking to be treated identically to a man, and that informs much of my personal fight for gender equality. Much of those things are not currently embraced, or even talked about, among Feminists right now.

    I just wish you wouldn’t have been so blatantly dismissive. Not only is it disrespectful to a great majority of your current readers, it also seems really disrespectful to Feministe. I certainly can’t speak for them, but I know I’d be a little hurt to see a blogger whom I invited to post on my site, who agreed to do so, shit all over the whole basis of the blog itself.

  374. April
    April July 30, 2010 at 11:55 pm |

    Uh, part of that didn’t make any sense. ” I’m growing more and more disengaged with Mainstream Feminism(tm) and many parts of your post, such as:”

    can be finished with, “(quote)…really resonated with me.”

  375. Sisou
    Sisou July 31, 2010 at 1:37 am |

    @april

    i think you should read the shorter people article and the comments to get a better understanding of what cause the ” Fuck feminism” statement

    But I will do my best to summarizes ( and others can correct me)

    ” Fuck feminism” comment came after a lot of anti- child, anti mother comments. It also came after many commenters got upset about maia not claiming to be a feminist. To which some (probably white feminists) told her to be grateful for what feminism had done for “all women”
    These statements were unacceptable to many marginalized women who have as a group have been abused by feminism. After many refused to stop these rude comments. The fuck feminism statement was made
    ” Fuck Feminism” was stated by bfp and I can’t speak for her.

    But I will say I tell people who are waving their privilege in my face, Fuck off all the time. Because they don’t need a nice tone… they deserve a wake up call. Victims of oppression have a absolute right to be pissed off and stand up for themselves. period.
    And the

    April: srsly, if the common definition for feminism to be treated equal to a man. im not interested in feminism.

    This was a response to another commenter on shorter people who actually said feminism was to be treated equal to a man.

    Which made nonsense cause it was directed at Maia who is black. and being treated equal to a man would not help her much.

    I believe maia was pointing out the silliness of that comment.

    Hence why I think these statements need to be taken in context.

    But that’s just my take after 1000000000000000000000000000 comments.

  376. Noelle
    Noelle July 31, 2010 at 1:45 am |

    This post resonates with me except for one major sticking point: nowhere does this allow for a redefinition of gender and masculinity to allow for men and women to work together as world nurturers. The word mama (which I have been called before) comes off as so exclusionary to me, as if men can’t possibly also exhibit this kind of love and nurturing that is so important. As someone who wants desperately for the men around me to begin to deconstruct the masculinity that society sells them, this post frustrates me.

  377. Sitara
    Sitara July 31, 2010 at 2:18 am |

    Well, April, no, you clearly CAN’T speak for Feministe since THEY INVITED Mai’a and continue to intervene in these threads.

    And the “fuck feminism” bfp quote out of context–It’s been said a zillion times already that I cannot believe the point has not been conveyed— THERE IS CONTEXT TO THAT ONE PHRASE. Good grief.

    There is so much fail all over this place, but I will say I have been impressed that the moderators have been intervening and not leaving Mai’a to be picked apart by people willfully reading their hegemonic stereotypes into her whole being and self and worth as a mama and a person and a human being.

    I am baffled by the response to this. I am baffled that this is what people’s lives and “fights” consist of, the right to have public spaces devoid of children and the right to assume whatever they want about Mai’a and what kind of bar and how she treats her children. I just cannot even fathom what is informing all of this. I’m from a Pakistani Muslim background and cis, so yeah, I get the hegemonic pressure to marry and have kids but it has never ever occurred to me that this is oppressive (and btw, there is plenty of energy and resistance even in having kids, esp when i think of the strength of my mama– and oh, it kills me how so many of you would condescend to her and her life choices), when I know what struggles my parents went through to have children, when I know how all my high school friends were pathologized, and I know the struggles my friend faced when she chose to have her baby as a single mama, when her black, queer, working class self wanted to join a “left/feminist” childcare collective– AND THE FIRST MEETING WAS CHILDFREE SO THEY COULD GET MORE WORK DONE– assuming that they had partners or family or other people to take care of their kid? When I see my comrades struggling to do leftist work but it’s not accessible to people w disabilities or people w children or working class people– it is just BAFFLING to me that some people’s height of struggle is to not have children and DEMAND that children not be in public spaces and DEMAND and control and regulate mamas of color and pathologize them as bad mothers. THIS, this by self-proclaimed feminists. Not strawfeminists.

    This right here? This is why I have NEVER organized or felt comfortable in a “feminist” space or frequented “feminist” blogs or been a part of the “feminist” movement and will never, ever, ever identify as a feminist.

    I identify as a Muslim, even though I don’t like the dogma or entrenched hierarchies of much of the mainstream idea of organized religion, because I find it useful to identify with people with similar spiritual orientations, because I find solace and strength in that community. I identify as an anarchist, though there is so much fail in US-based anarchist groups, because there really isn’t much else that describes the transformative organizing and community-building politics I believe in and struggle to practice.

    But feminist? Why? I have met and worked with and continue to work with and be friends with people who ID as feminist, of color or not. But the feminist spaces, the feminist “communities”, the women’s centers, the feminist organizations, the feminist blogs, all have entrenched hegemonic practices that spout racism and condescension against me and my family and my people, (that comment about those poor “arab mothers” who take on the honorific of “umm” when they have children is still making my stomach hurt) assume their experiences to be universal and right, criticize grammar and playing with words and created new ways of being that RESISTS hegemony and out of necessity creates new ways of being and thinking and ugh– just not relevant to me at all. And those feminists that I do work with and are friends with? Would never, ever, question why I don’t ID as feminist.

  378. Miss S
    Miss S July 31, 2010 at 3:02 am |

    the only reason that i know what a feminist is if because of my mom. it was my mom who insisted that i always ALWAYS speak, even when i was too scared too, ESPECIALLY when i was too scared too. it was my mom who told me i could do whatever i put my mind to, and NOT, i repeat NOT *regardless* of what’s between my legs or the color my skin, but because my gender and my race meant that i was heir to a lineage of strength, of beauty, and of mountain moving ability.

    This was so beautifully said, so true for me and so many other women. I come from an amazing line of women who are not in history books, who have not written any books- women who were radical just by women of many colors.

    Maia, this
    1/3 of black men are in the prison industrial system. i am working for a different world for my daughter.
    Thank you. Like you, I want a better world for everyone’s daughters and the ones I may have.

  379. roula
    roula July 31, 2010 at 3:44 am |

    hm, but Sitara, as an arab-american woman i DO feel that “Umm [son's name]” rubs me as identity-erasing (as much as replacing my family name with a husband’s would be)…doesn’t seem like the problem is so much the interpretations by outsiders of specific practices, but their tendency to draw culture-wide conclusions from those, which drives me nuts of course.

    my main reason for this comment was just to point out there are as many different ways of being a woman-for-justice [whatever one calls oneself] from “Over There” as there are of doing it as a white american, and just as wide a range of positions on cultural practice x or y. and i feel frustrated and limited BOTH by western conceptions of oppressed brown women who either are dying to be like americans or don’t know any better, AND by woc/anti-imperialist responses that (though i’m in great agreement mostly) seem to speak on behalf of “all of us” in defending certain things i actually can’t get down with. so, yeah, just wanted a countervailing voice to exist when it comes to the Umm thing, then got carried away talking.

    in general: i want to say that i’ve really thought and learned a lot from lurking on this thread — some of it substantive, and some of it about the *process* of how we all interact and, sometimes, get productive conversations out of conflict — and between the many different positions expressed here there isn’t anything left for me to add, only that it’s really difficult to agree with any one position to the exclusion of the others, so i won’t. thanks to so many people here for being willing to talk it out, re-explain themselves, patiently patiently, even when patience hasn’t been earned.

  380. Chally
    Chally July 31, 2010 at 3:57 am |

    April, no. For the billionth time, we invite people of varying perspectives on here for varying perspectives. Critiques of feminism are very important, and they are certainly something I engage in pretty constantly. People who have found feminism hurtful or not in line with their experiences are more than welcome here. Hopefully, by engaging varied perspectives and critiques, the movement can grow, yeah?

  381. Claire N.
    Claire N. July 31, 2010 at 6:34 am |

    nathan and Sitara just wrote pure poetry. love to you both.

  382. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 31, 2010 at 7:50 am |

    join a “left/feminist” childcare collective– AND THE FIRST MEETING WAS CHILDFREE SO THEY COULD GET MORE WORK DONE– assuming that they had partners or family or other people to take care of their kid? When I see my comrades struggling to do leftist work but it’s not accessible to people w disabilities or people w children or working class people– it is just BAFFLING to me that some people’s height of struggle is to not have children and DEMAND that children not be in public spaces and DEMAND and control and regulate mamas of color and pathologize them as bad mothers.

    THIS. Exactly this. This, and again with a feeling.

    This is where I feel some, if not the most unnecessary burdens of being a mama. You can have your 3AM closing time, alright? I won’t be there with my kid. But dammit, why am I barred from your feminist meeting, your environmental meeting, your political meetings, or your slow/local food/support farmers gathering, or…whatever? Why are those spaces considered “inappropriate” for children? And why do you sigh and complain about public apathy when you have this arbitrary rule about “appropriateness”? Why is it so “inappropriate” to raise a child with political consciousness and knowledge of power dynmaics? Especially when she is already encountering this stuff in her own life, and needs a framework to put it in?

    It boggles my mind. It especially boggles my mind because I remember when it was not like this in the US. I grew up going to political gatherings of all stripes….and protests, and picket lines. I did phone banking for the ERA and for political candidates when I was my daughter’s age (heh. no one knew. I had a low voice even then). I walked precincts with literature—this was not unusual in the environs I grew up in. I had no idea this would ever change.

    When and why did left-leaning people buy into right-wing ideas of parenting and the role of mothers? Why are left-leaning people participating in the backlash against women’s growing political strength?

    Bfp, maia, and other women of color present stories and images of women doing it differently. Standing in solidarity, even with their children. The way it used to happen here, in the US, as well. All I’m saying is, WTF happened? It’s not a rhetorical question. I’d really like to hear responses from women of all walks of life, mamas and the childfree. Did your mother take you to organizing events? Did she educate you on the political issues of the day? Was this a part of your upbringing? Are mothers (with their children) welcome in the organizing spaces you participate in? If not, are you open to that….or if not, why not? If mothers with their children aren’t really welcome, do some come anyway? If so, what do they do to try to bridge the gap, and how are they treated by the rest of the people at the gathering?

    This was our history; having mothers, children, families as part and parcel of political action. On the ground political action. Look at any history book, especially any labor history book. Ask the elders; the nonnas and bisnonnas (grandmothers and great-grandmothers). This was who we were. Why is this disappearing in so many communities, when our presence is still so desperately needed?

    I wish I could say this attitude hasn’t infected the labor movement, but that’s not true. It has. Even so, the labor movement is about all I’m actively politically involved in because there is still a critical mass of people that recognize we can’t afford to turn our backs on anyone willing to put skin in the game. And I’ve been putting skin in this game my whole life. It will be my greatest joy if my daughter grows to do the same. I “get away” with it here (where I live), because I built a name and place for myself long before I became a mother. I stay and take the occasional slings and arrows for it in order to make space for other women who would need to do the same (bring their kids) if they wanted to be active, or sit on/chair a committee, or take office.

  383. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 31, 2010 at 7:52 am |

    (damn, screwed up the HTML!)

  384. Chally
    Chally July 31, 2010 at 8:10 am |

    Fixed it for ya :).

  385. Love Bites: Clarisse Thorn | Time Out Chicago » » Reasons people aren’t feminist

    [...] better-thought-out (I don’t agree with it, but it’s better-thought-out). It’s a contrarian opinion posted to Feministe, a top feminist group [...]

  386. AdrienneVeg
    AdrienneVeg July 31, 2010 at 9:28 am |

    @ La Lubu:

    Did your mother take you to organizing events? Did she educate you on the political issues of the day? Was this a part of your upbringing? Are mothers (with their children) welcome in the organizing spaces you participate in?

    My mom was a labor organizer throughout my childhood and did take me and my sister to events. One of my fondest early memories is of holding hands in a huge circle of people and singing “Solidarity Forever.” She was a mediator between growers and migrant farm workers and I loved going to the picnics the farm workers held: the pinatas, standing in line for beans and rice, listening to the music, chanting Si se puede. It was definitely good for me to be the only white kid at an event (my rural town in the US South was almost entirely white). My mom brought me and my sister to see a young boy give a lecture about child labor around the world and from then on I’d give my own lecture to the kids at my school when they talked about what brands they liked to wear, or bragged about the new soccer ball they’d bought. My mom would bring me to NAACP meetings and set me on the floor with a pen and a legal pad to draw. She took us to protest Oliver North when he was running for Senate in our state. She criticized the parents who slapped anti-choice bumper stickers on their babies or coached young kids to chant hateful things on the other side of whatever rally or picket line we were at. She said she felt proud to bring us and have us participate because we knew the issues and felt (almost) as strongly about them as she did. This was all in the late 80s to early 90s.

    The activism I participate in now is pretty focused on young people and queer people, and none of us has children. I don’t know if any parents have wanted to come but felt unwelcome. I guess that’s the thing about people feeling excluded: if you feel included, you rarely know about those who don’t. For the most part we are fairly economically privileged white people who either don’t ever want to have kids or not for another 5-10 years. Some of my friends who live elsewhere are starting to have children and some will surely involve them in activism as my mother did.

  387. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 31, 2010 at 9:58 am |

    I don’t know if any parents have wanted to come but felt unwelcome. I guess that’s the thing about people feeling excluded: if you feel included, you rarely know about those who don’t.

    See, that’s the thing I’ve been thinking on ever since Klonke’s post on the East Bay Meditation Center and its commitment to inclusiveness. In my response, I said I didn’t feel welcome in any community that didn’t deliberately send signals (spoken or unspoken) that I was welcome—and when I wrote that, it was an epiphany to me. That’s my initial assumption—that I will not be welcomed, because that’s been a constant in so many spaces in my life. And why I feel differently about the labor movement, is because of that bedrock of experiences that I had as a child. I feel like…..hey, pal, you can’t kick me out of my movement, capisce?

    But there is not a lot of participation by younger union members, and I wonder if this relates to this assumption of unwelcomeness. The I-don’t-fit-XYZ-template, therefore I just need to hang back. That has to change.

  388. Dw3t-Hthr
    Dw3t-Hthr July 31, 2010 at 11:57 am |

    Venturing forth from the foxhole from which I read feminist blogs …

    Did your mother take you to organizing events? Did she educate you on the political issues of the day? Was this a part of your upbringing? Are mothers (with their children) welcome in the organizing spaces you participate in? If not, are you open to that….or if not, why not?

    I was raised in the privileged white woman’s separate sphere. My parents raised me “feminist” – by which I mean that they did not attempt to circumscribe my choices on the basis of my sex – but the political awareness I had came from listening to the news on the radio with my father, not anything active or engaged. My mother could pursue her desires (to the extent that such was possible aside from the bit where she “sacrificed [her] life for [you] kids” and didn’t “get it back” until we were in our twenties – not something she verbalised to me before Little Foot was born, but I sure noticed) and that was the extent of her politicality.

    Why didn’t she? She didn’t feel she had to. Aside from her profound sense of entitlement as an individual, she had class-jumped out of the working-class union background and didn’t need to worry about that; she is white; she had a comfortable middle-class life without further significant ambition.

    I was raised in a very politicised apoliticality. No awareness of feet on the ground activism, but this sort of moral angel sense that I had to Do Something To Fix The World. When I showed interest in practical things – when I was eight or so I was Very Concerned about the Federal budget – it was cute, not something that led into a useful conversation about how to affect the real world outside the private household that I was trapped in because I was a Child and Children aren’t really people yet.

    (And I was told I wasn’t really people yet, straight up. Often, by my mother.)

    So yeah, I was raised in that fucking white middle-class ivory-tower feministish environment in which people can really, honestly believe that the theoretical crap is the whole picture.

    Now I’ve got a baby. A baby girl, as far as we know at the moment. Her first birthday is tomorrow.

    Now I’ve got the fire in my belly to do something. Because yeah, it’s about doing it for the children, because it’s fucking too late to make a world where my mother wasn’t shattered by alcoholism and rape and abuse. It’s fucking too late to make a world where I wasn’t assaulted, bullied, berated for having the temerity to have depression bad enough to affect my fucking schoolwork because schoolwork is how we change the world, right?

    It’s not too late for my little girl, because that hasn’t happened to her yet. She’s cradled in her other mother’s arms and going to sleep right now while I type this, and the great tragedies of her life include things like “being tripped over by the clumsy cat” and “in the car on the highway with a wet diaper” and “mama went to the loo and left me in the living room with my toys”.

    It’s not too late for her. If I can change the world so she’s never brutalised, if I can change the world so that none of the children are brutalised, then when my generation passes there will be a world with less brutality.

    That’s centering the children. That’s what I hear when people say that the movement needs to center the children. Because it doesn’t have to happen to them, we have to do better by them than was done for us.

    And I don’t fucking have the slightest idea how to do it, because I don’t know where the people are with their feet on the ground, because I was raised listening to the radio, not going to rallies.

    I don’t fucking have the slightest idea how to do it, because I don’t know what I can do between the wrestling with childcare and the needing to manage my own resources that are still limited by depression and other ability issues, whether I can do “enough” to be worth the effort of figuring out how to get the fuck out of the house of a day.

    And I don’t know if I’m welcome, because I have social anxiety issues, because I was treated like I didn’t belong, because I remember what it was like to be an unperson because I was a child and the scars from that have never fucking healed (and there’s something to damn well consider in all this – yeah, children learn they don’t belong in the public sphere, I sure did), because I’m white and middle class and the people who actually talk about the stuff I understand down in my guts, for the most part, aren’t, and I know that special white women tromping in and wanting to be part of other people’s movements aren’t exactly greeted with enthusiasm.

    Maia’s posts here have had me on the edge of tears since I got linked to them, because she writes about the community that I feel belongs in the world, in my world, and I don’t know how to get there from here. I can’t even remember my neighbors’ names, you know?

  389. April
    April July 31, 2010 at 4:55 pm |

    Sisou: her commenter on shorter people who actually said feminism was to be treated equal to a man.Which made nonsense cause it was directed at Maia who is black. and being treated equalto a man would not help her much.I believe maia was pointing out the silliness of that comment.
    Hence why I think these statements need to be taken in context.But that’s just my take after 1000000000000000000000000000 comments.  

    I was in agreement with her about this part in particular. Apparently this wasn’t clear. And my point is not that “feminism” is open and welcoming to everyone, or that anyone should call themselves a feminist. My point was that making a sweeping statement about “feminism” and “feminists” is ridiculous, dialogue-halting, and unnecessarily othering. Her experiences with feminism are her, mine are mine, yours are yours. Deciding that one has the right to deem every single facet of a personal identifier as a negative is pointless and ridiculous.

  390. belly-deep
    belly-deep July 31, 2010 at 6:03 pm |

    the f*ck feminists comment cuts me in two directions……

    i hold to my radical queer feminism in the face of heavy exclusion from most other radical queer feminists partially out of a sense of anger; how f*cking dare they think that because I have a child I am any less queer or radical, how dare they show the classist and borderline racist recoil/withdrawl they begin to show once i am ‘outed’/ ‘out’ myself as a mother in supposedly safe queer and/or radical spaces. so much for that radical village i wanted to be a part of to help raise my child. i live in hope of it appearing somehow someplace but in the meanwhile i will keep marching.

    i love that in ma’ia’s essay the radical de-centering of self and the radical love that comes from becoming a mother is given praise. The radical struggle of WOC to mother, the near insurmountable odds many face is erased, belittled, patronized and pitied.

    A truly radical movement for social justice would honor mothers, not only for their mothering, but because they are as multi-faceted as ALL women are and deserve to have those facets respect based upon principles of radical love and not the dictates of kyriarchal norms.

    Faith: “being a mother is privileged over not being a mother.”That where so many people are so greatly mistaken. I promise you that there is no privilege in being a mother. None whatsoever. The pressure that you feel to give birth is not because the people pressuring you honestly think so highly of mothers. They do not. They are pressuring you to give birth in order to force you into a position where you are easier to control. Becoming a mother did not give me more privilege, it took away a great deal of my privilege. It forced me into a position where I was and am just as dependent on my kids as they are on me, in certain respects. As a mother I am just expected to give up any other aspect of my life. The ironic thing is that all the so-called feminists on the threads about kids who are complaining about kids and telling women where they can or can not go is that these feminists are HELPING misogynists to control us. They are doing the job of the radical right for them. I promise that conservatives and MRAs reading these comment threads are laughing their asses off at that comment thread and this one.  

  391. Eghead
    Eghead July 31, 2010 at 6:29 pm |

    You know, part of the reason some of us are balking at “Fuck Feminists” is because it is super triggering for those of us who have suffered from verbal abuse in the past. I understand the anger, I understand if you wanna say “Fuck whiteness” or “Fuck feminists who don’t __” or a million other things. But just saying “Fuck what you are” and also “You are a mama”– you are this or that and fuck you if you say otherwise? No, I can’t get behind that.

    And I don’t wanna be told that it’s just because I’m privileged or whiny or whatever. It’s actually because I’m an abuse survivor and I cannot tolerate being spoken to like that.

    It’s a real shame, too, because there are so many great points and beautiful ideas in this post that I just can’t get to because “fuck you” has me shaking in fear again like Pavlov’s dog.

  392. Eghead
    Eghead July 31, 2010 at 6:32 pm |

    I couldn’t figure out how to edit that comment, so I wanted to add:

    This post, to me, is like the definition of using the master’s tools to dismantle oppression. And it’s a damn shame.

  393. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig August 1, 2010 at 2:31 am |

    I’d just like to chime in while this post is still going. In the U.S., in my opinion,(white) motherhood and (white) family life has been co-opted by the Republicans and their whole back to the fifties schtick. In my case, I look at that and go, ‘well, I’d have to vote Republican and go to church if I got married- no thanks.” And well- if a woman’s got three+ kids and a hubby, chances are she’s got nothing in common with me, and my existence would just offend her.
    One thing I fail to understand is how is love ‘radical?’ It’s just one more way to weaken and control a person, especially if she’s a woman. I personally refuse to be a victim, (again) and so I don’t think love’s for me.

  394. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 1, 2010 at 9:12 am |

    Thank you for your statement, politicalguineapig, because it touches on an important part of this conversation; a part that often goes by unspoken.

    We are all being truncated into reductive stereotypes via media imagery. When did this happen, and who is at the controls? Why are we allowing this to happen?

    See, you said something similar on the other thread, and it really jarred me. That thread was “hot”, so the point ended up getting buried in all the other stuff going on, but what you said was: that if someone has a child, it indicates class and political views. And your strong inference was that it indicated higher social class and more conservative political views.

    And that jarred me, because that isn’t true in my world (the Rust Belt). Having a child, and especially having three or more children, is indicative of lower socioeconomic status. Political views here can’t be assumed by the presence of children or not—that goes across the board. Union membership, or membership in a certain church or temple (or vocal atheism!), is a pretty accurate indicator of political views (not so much for the Muslim community; there’s only one masjid here).

    These assumptions were not made when I was growing up. At all. What happened? Is this merely a reflection of the media monopoly by a handful of corporations? Corporate intrusion at all levels? The pushing of images of wealth and status at every turn?

    Here: I’ll leave you with this. Something I’ve noticed throughout the years is how the “sets” on movies and sitcoms have been amped-up to reflect “things” that the actual characters, in the actual story, would not be able to afford. Don’t believe me? Go check out the whaddya-call-it, the tv nostaglia station, and watch some old shows like “All in the Family”, or “Alice” or whatever. Sets that actually looked like how people lived. The only time I can remeber seeing that recently is with Ugly Betty. Aaanndd….”Twilight”. Yeah, Twilight. (my daughter wanted to see it. it’s not like I was there to look at Jacob’s pecs and abs or anything, ahem). The teenagers in that film actually wore clothes that….teenagers in real life wear. Drove old beaters that teenagers actually drive. Part of what differentiates the vampires from the human populace is their wealth. When was the last time you saw a teen movie that didn’t feature extreme designer wealth in it?

  395. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 1, 2010 at 9:24 am |

    One thing I fail to understand is how is love ‘radical?’ It’s just one more way to weaken and control a person, especially if she’s a woman.

    I’d also like to address this. That’s another gap in understanding I often see: That in the white, middle-class world, family is mainly seen through the lens of oppression; in marginalized communities, family can also be oppressive—but it’s also seen as a site of liberation. The source of the necessary solidarity one needs to get by. There was a long thread on radical love I took part in…when? Last year? Year before? Time flies. Anyway, basically my participation (edited for brevity—not my strong point) was “love is what you do. It’s not a warm feeling, it’s action. Meaning: you have to have the trust necessary to put your ass out there at risk; take the same slings and arrows your companeros are taking. Those relationships of trust are built over time, and born out of necessity. There are no shortcuts. You have to know in your bones that your liberation is indelibly intertwined with theirs. And then you act.

    And yeah, being kinda talkative and such I told a whole boatload of stories from my relationship over the past twenty years in my union hall. Man, did I use a lot of bandwidth! But seriously—in my bones, I know that we will all walk through that door together, or we won’t walk through at all.

  396. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig August 1, 2010 at 11:14 am |

    La Lubu: I think one of the reasons I see (white) children as an indication of political/religious beliefs is the growing Quiverfull movement. A lot of the white kids I knew growing up also had smaller families than I did (one or two kids, compared to three) and more luxuries. It shaped a lot of my views about “proper” family life. Including the utter conviction that my parents were doing everything wrong.

    Of course, I know a little better now, but I was absolutely shocked when I found out that suburbanites could be poor.

    About the teen movies, you’re right. I don’t watch much of them, but in the Princess Diaries, Mia was leading a fairly ordinary life, living in a brownstone apartment, wearing clothes that one would see other teenagers wearing, until Grandma swept her away.

    I get your point about radical love, but it’s difficult for a lot of people to do. Women are accustomed to other women trying to stab them in the back, especially in political movements. There aren’t enough rights to go around, and each movements gotta get the concessions they can.It hardly promotes an atmosphere of trust.

  397. PJ
    PJ August 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm |

    Eghead (#410) thank you for that. That same reaction first spurred me to comment on this thread (many days ago, now) and the responses I got pretty much scared me off.

  398. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl August 1, 2010 at 12:39 pm |

    Where are all the men then, and what is their accountability? Where are the cousins, uncles, brothers, fathers, husbands and boyfriends that should be watching the children while the women go out an organize? Liberals being assess about children at organizing meetings is only 1/2 the issue. The other half is “why is childcare not shared”? There is solidarity in family bonds and shared oppression; but liberation? Not as long a women can’t get help. That game’s been played across race and class lines for thousands of years.

    So, why is it easier to say “fuck feminism” than it is to say “fuck men”? Why do women keep re-aligning themselves with men, over and over and over again without the game changing? How is liberation possible when men pay respect to the mamas in their lives, but don’t honor the daughters they’ve created?

  399. Nanette
    Nanette August 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm |

    Eghead: It’s a real shame, too, because there are so many great points and beautiful ideas in this post that I just can’t get to because “fuck you” has me shaking in fear again like Pavlov’s dog. Eghead

    Eghead, I’m sorry for your troubles and your fears and in fact I sympathize with them, but I’m afraid that, in my estimation, you do not get to use bfp or her words as an excuse to not engage – in some way – the “great points and beautiful ideas” in this post. If you want to engage the ideas and points, do so. If you need to, first do a search on this thread for “bfp”, read the context of the comment, read up about bfp herself, go away, take care of yourself, stop shaking and come back. If you want to. If you can.

    I don’t want to make this into a “strength of mind, body and soul” competition or anything and, of course, I don’t know what edges anyone is teetering on, but I’ll tell you – many women of color start the shaking, get sick to their stomachs, all that before they even get to this site. Some won’t come at all (which is why I say come back, *if you can*.)

    bfp, who was triggered before she even set font on the site, after posts full of patient engagement was hit with so much soul destroying rhetoric from “feminists” that she lashed out in an entirely appropriate way, speaking the feelings of many (mostly) non-white women towards mainstream, traditional feminism. Shocked some, really angered others and, thankfully, got some to think, to question, to look beyond their small windows on the world and seek out other information and views.

    Still, bfp continues to be attacked by “feminists” who latch on to TWO words of all the ones she took the time to type, “fuck feminism” and who continue to use those two words as an excuse to disengage entirely – and to blame their disengagement on bfp. Sorry, but no. Particularly not when bfp herself is still here in this hostile space, still triggered, still engaging, still trying to explain what are apparently completely foreign concepts to some white feminists, still trying to give mai’a and other women of color here support – no matter how much she is shaking, and dealing with remembered fears and anger and hurts.

    Or not as long as mai’a herself is here, day after day, after posts are written all across the internet about what a bad mother she is because of something she didn’t even say and which wouldn’t have been bad even if she had said it, posts and commenters attacking her daughter, her baby, or making fun of her way of writing or this or that and the other thing attacking her *personally* that would make some people just want to crawl in a hole and pull a cover over it –

    Perhaps she is shaking. I would be. Heartsick and stomach sick, too. By the time I left this site the other day, I was all of the above, and that was just from wading through what felt like – in that triggered sort of way – hordes of angry, screaming white women to comment.

    Yet through all that mai’a returned and brought with her, in her posts, some amazing women, amazing organizing going, some amazing gifts – of her perspective, her experience, her personal knowledge of many of events and women and mamas and mamis organizing across the world (and even there, some or one try to use the excuse of one word to disengage from the conversation entirely) – and bfp returned, right there to engage with the people who have the capacity to enrage her, to frighten her (in a triggered sort of way, don’tcha know) and perhaps when she leaves here she is still shaking, but breathing deeply and using the tools she’s learned over the years to deal with interacting with white feminists.

    So anyway, this whole long yap is to say – I understand, I grant that you have reason to hate that phrase and you have a perfect right to do whatever you want as pertains to this or any other thread on the internet … but you do not get to – *none* of you get to blame bfp for your own decisions, your lack of engagement – not without pushback anyway.

  400. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm |

    Why do women keep re-aligning themselves with men, over and over and over again without the game changing?

    From my perspective, the idea that organizing meetings have to be child-free is aligned with patriarchal ideals—the “in order to get anything done, you have to keep the women and kids out of here” tradition. I want my daughter to have a bedrock understanding of organizing, and that means sharing as much of that space as is possible—so that she also grows up knowing this is something she can do. Look above at Dw3T-Hthr’s comment. This is difficult to learn from scratch, as an adult. Especially if you have a disability or another status that makes the hegemony of the pre-existing group you’re considering be a part of uncomfortable. Part of my responsibility as a parent is modeling, and for me that includes modeling how to organize and participate in political action. My daughter can’t effectively carry on that tradition if she doesn’t see it in action.

    Note I said “effectively”. Sure, she can learn to be a public speaker who is unafraid of crowds or speaking to people she doesn’t know—but will she learn to listen? To people different from her? Will she learn that admitting you are wrong is not a sign of weakness? That sharing power is not a sign of weakness? That pantomimes of “alpha dominance” alienate and offend more people than are soothed by them? That being tired or burned out isn’t a sign a failure? That change doesn’t happen overnight? That this is the long haul, a generational haul? The important lessons one really learns in the trenches? No, I think not. And I use as my evidence the large number of younger people in my Local, or anywhere else I take part in organizing, who aren’t inclined to step up to the plate into positions of responsibility. It isn’t that they are lazy; for the most part they are hard workers. But they are intimidated by having no prior acquaintance with positions of leadership, and having too many examples of leadership synonymous with “assholishness.” A side effect of limiting the number of people who can take part in organizing means fewer people to challenge assholes or assholish behavior.

    So to me, where are the men? isn’t the question. We shouldn’t have to take turns on different days when we could just as easily be in that same room together. It is also a fact that if someone doesn’t have a co-parent available, it’s usually because the person who would/should fill that role is, for whatever reason, incapable of doing so. The onus of that shouldn’t be monday-morning quarterbacking of the parent who chose to step up to plate and be a parent to his or her (yep, usually her) child.

  401. Sitara
    Sitara August 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm |

    @roula — I never said no Arab women felt the use of “umm” was an identity-erasing aspect. Nor did I even say if *I* thought it was an identity-erasing aspect. What I said was the comment made me stomach sick IN CONTEXT of this conversation (and the person clearly identified themself as NOT Arab, saying, oh god, look what happens in those Arab countries, I would hate that), where people of color and families are pathologized within the context of a larger hegemonic system. Nowhere did I say that all women of color think this way, and I didn’t even say what I thought of the practice. Your point is fine, I agree with it, but to use my post as an example of homogenizing women of color is not reinforcing your point– because I simply never said any of that.

  402. Sitara
    Sitara August 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm |

    Didn’t mean to bold all the rest of that for emphasis, forgot the backslash in between my last two sentences…

  403. Interesting posts, weekend of 8/1/10 « Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction

    [...] has called upon some guest bloggers for the summer, and Mai’a's posts about children and motherhood have been generating a lot of discussion. It ain’t all pretty, you may not want to read the [...]

  404. Faith
    Faith August 1, 2010 at 3:55 pm |

    “Where are all the men then, and what is their accountability?”

    While I certainly believe that’s a very legitimate question, I also do believe that there is a flip-side to that coin. See, not all of us want a man in our lives to help us raise our children. Part of the reason that I made the decision to become a single mother was because I wanted to raise my children without the help of a man. I wanted and still want to see a movement away from the idea that women need men to help us raise our children. I appreciate that this is a highly controversial way of viewing things, but it is my honest personal experience and perspective.

    The idea that women need men to raise children has been used against women – and single mothers – for thousands of years in order to justify pressuring us into marriages and committed relationships with men.

    So, yea, I’m personally much more concerned with helping women with children navigate society alone than I am concerned with getting men to step up to the responsibility of parenting. Women are going to have to raise children with or without men and it’s beyond time society finally recognized that and starting working to actually accommodate us instead of trying to force us into the shadows at every turn.

  405. eleven
    eleven August 1, 2010 at 5:01 pm |

    I am fascinated by the use of ‘mama’ or ‘mother’ (in whatever language) as a title denoting extreme respect, but not particular to gender or a biological state of motherhood. When I was about 18, an essay by Paula Gunn Allen about her mother’s people, the Laguna, rocked my world. The essay is called “Grandmother of the Sun”, and I still have it. Here’s one part that blew my young mind: “All Laguna, all entities, human or supernatural, who are functioning in a ritual manner at a high level are called Mother….The cacique is addressed as mother by the war captain, as well as by Arrow Youth….When the cacique goes to consult with the k’apina shamans, he greets them saying ‘how are things, mothers of everything, chiefs of everyone’….A strong attitude integrally connects the power of Original Thinking or Creation Thinking to the power of mothering. That power is not so much the power to give birth, but the power to make, to create, to transform.” [emphasis mine]

    As I understand it, in traditional Laguna culture, people are not circumscribed by their status as child-rearing individuals, so the word mother has no coercive, oppressive, confining connotations. A man may just as well have the title “mother” as a woman, and a man would accept this title with honor. This notion is completely radical in he culture that I grew up in–the idea of a mother would be so revered by the entire society, that it could become a blanket term for anyone.

    That the word mother is rejected by women as almost disgusting really speaks to the denigration of women in general in my/many cultures.

    Like many above posters, I have been entirely unwilling to identify as a feminist because of feminists’ continual and systematic marginalization of many women. This post by Mai’a brought me to the site (first thing I’ve been here to read since the Seal Press nonsense) and I look forward to reading back to the recent comments about motherhood and public space, as this is an idea that is VERY central and interesting to me, and I’ve been, again, continually unimpressed by so much feminist dialogue around mothers and children.

  406. Chally
    Chally August 1, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

    Sitara: Didn’t mean to bold all the rest of that for emphasis, forgot the backslash in between my last two sentences…  

    Hope I fixed that for you okay. :)

  407. Shrew
    Shrew August 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm |

    I must admit, several hours ago when I first read this, I was filled with a seething rage.
    But a few hours from then, I think I understand, at least moreso than I had before. I think that, though I may not fully understand, what you have written here makes a lot of sense and it makes me want to learn more.
    But there is something that I’m very upset about, and I do hope you (the author and the general community) don’t mind me airing that here.

    Judging by what you’ve written both in your lyrical piece and your comments, I should be your enemy, and you mine. I’m a white feminist. Almost every other comment supporting the the author is decrying me and the evils I have committed due to my sickly pale skin and adjective-lacking political viewpoint.
    I must admit I started crying.
    This the place I found that helped me gain my feminist identity and gave me to courage to start tackling sexism, racism, ablism, homophobia, transphobia, and all manner of other hate that I apologize for forgetting the name of in my highschool community.
    But despite that, despite the fact that I try so hard to confront hate, I am hateful. I am an oppressor and I don’t belong here.
    I am aware I am ignorant. I am aware that I am not very bright and not capable of doing much good, for feminism’s sake or otherwise. But I can change those things. I can’t change being white and privileged.

    This was a safe space for me. A space where I could find the spine and grit I lacked. I space where I could learn about the things I was ignorant about and, with luck, teach others.
    And, for the first time, I feel unwelcome here.

    It’s… demoralizing. Demoralizing because I feel like I can’t do anything to help. That I can’t get over my privilege and that women everywhere would benefit if I dropped out of feminism and didn’t do anything at all.
    Feminism used to be such a source of strength for me.

    Maybe this is supposed to be the thought-provoking reflections everyone is talking about. But I can’t be a mama or a mami or a m/other.
    I don’t really have anything else. I want to help.
    But apparently I can’t.

    I’m sorry if I’ve taken this all the wrong way. I really hope I have.
    But this is the first time I’ve really ever felt hated in a supposedly feminist space.
    Is that because I’m privileged? I guess so.

    Please excuse my outburst.

  408. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 1, 2010 at 9:24 pm |

    You know, my first instinctive reaction to this post was angry rejection, too. But then I went away and thought about it for a bit, and came back and read all the comments, and then thought about it some more. And you know the conclusion I came to? She’s basically right. Even for me, and I will never have a child, by active choice. The basic idea still rings true.

    In my daily life I spend a lot of time in very male dominated environments (I’m a rock journalist). And there’s a lot of shit that bothers me, and most of the time I have to just let it go, but you know when I refuse to let it go? When the safety of a child is involved. I’m forced to overlook all kinds of nasty shit (if I want to keep my job), but the moment I see sketchy behavior towards a young girl, then I will step in, regardless of the potential consequences. And that instinct? Well, I don’t usually think of it as maternal, and I’m only barely old enough to be the mother of a teenager. I usually think of it as more big sisterly, but really, it’s the same instinct that bfp and mai’a and aaminah and Dw3t-Hthr and la lubu are talking about.

    I think in that natural course of events this is part of becoming an adult, gaining this sense of children as precious and vulnerable and in need of (and deeply worth of) our protection. And what I see a lot in people who strongly identify as childfree is a refusal to let go of that childhood sense that one is the center of the universe oneself. And I think that’s part of what’s playing out in these threads. People don’t like being told that maybe they aren’t and shouldn’t be the center of everything.

    It was Dw3t-Hthr’s comment that really made it all clear in my head. Which is funny in that it has nothing to do with my experience. I don’t have kids, never been pregnant, and I hope I never will be. But that feeling? Yeah, I know that. It’s been there since I hit maybe my late twenties. I can’t look at kids without having that feeling, that it’s my responsibility to try to keep them safe and try to leave them a world where some of the shitty things that happened to me growing up won’t happen to them. And that really is a pretty strong thing that can drive people towards activism where without it they might see the problems but not actually be moved to act.

    I think men often go through this change too, and that ideally that feeling would be as strong in them as it usually is in women. The fact that it demonstrably isn’t doesn’t indicate a flaw in the theory that it’s the job of adults to protect and make a better world for children, it indicates something very wrong with the way men are socialised. All adults should feel this way about children, even if we don’t want any of our own. All of us.

    To all the people asking why feminism should center children, I understand why you’re asking that. Far too often we’re asked to put ourselves last, and that’s not an acceptable thing for us to be asked. Thing is though, the real problem isn’t that we’re being asked to do this in the name of children, it’s that often we’re basically being asked to act in a parental way to adult men, and that? That’s totally unacceptable, and we should fight it tooth and nail. But the idea that we can and should center children and their safety and protection and work towards a better future for them?

    Well, shit. If we don’t do it, who will?

  409. roula
    roula August 2, 2010 at 4:07 am |

    OK, sitara, i shouldn’t have said “countervailing” then, just “more verbose”. sorry. the comment you said made your stomach hurt (I personally find it in someways awful that in Arab society once you have a kid your name becomes Om or Umi whatever your child’s name is.) was a fairly uninformed generalization accompanied by a vaguely-painted value judgment, which makes it annoying. but you’re right that you never said one way or another how you feel about the practice so vaguely described here.

    i’m not saying it’s your duty to be super specific about why a certain comment is fucked up — especially if the basic reasons ought to have been obvious already, like here. it was just that in a thread so full of assumptions about others’ intents (and clearly i played right into it myself), i personally wanted to be specific about what’s wrong with those comments vs. what legitimately requires space for conflicting views or just ambivalence. idunno. i didn’t feel like i was disagreeing with you as much as just expanding on complexities, but sorry. didn’t mean to cast your comment as anything more than it was, really.

  410. Sisou
    Sisou August 2, 2010 at 5:33 am |

    @eghead and some others talking about abuse.

    It’s sad that I even have to say this. As I feel it should be obvious.

    The majority of people who abuse women are MEN. The people who often abuse POC are WHITE ppl. If you are white and reading this you are probably doing something right now that is harmful to us. Yup I just said that.

    I have survived verbal abuse from a White male who I was in a relationship. Though I sympathize with all people who have gone through verbal abuse. IMHO even verbal abuse is not just about the words. It also about the context and the power.

    Abusers are able to abuse because they have figure out how to use their power and rage against someone else.
    If there was not a person who had more power, than the abuse would be escapable. Even if someone is attacking your esteem, they are usually their power to keep you in the situation.

    WOC dont have power over the White feminists. period.

    I say this because Woc are verbally abused Nonstop. There is no escape for us. and then on this blog White women trigger us. ignore us or push our buttons. And then complain about our tone. Pfft.

    Who is going to tell a woman who has been abused by men. That they shouldn’t say “fuck men.” But Woc should be nice to those who attack us?

    Once again…. White people including white feminist abuse us!!!
    Sometimes I avoid my friends and stay at home to recover from the daily abuse I have to deal with just to survive in this racist world. I only get peace when I AM ALONE.

    If you are white you probably ( definitely actually) say crap daily that harms POC. Just like I do stuff on a daily that harms people who dont have privileges I have.

    I totally be ok with someone saying ” fuck straight people” ( though that sounds weird?) or” fuck able bodied people”. Even though I have been verbally abused in the past.

    Plus, the comments were directed at feminism not individuals so the reactions dont make much sense to me.

    And if u still think bfps is mean or maia is mean or Woc should watch that harsh language.

    Just google White women tears before you comment.

  411. I was a kid in a bar « blue milk
    I was a kid in a bar « blue milk August 2, 2010 at 8:11 am |

    [...] them in Paris to see Nina Simone perform. She didn’t come out to play until almost midnight. Hooray for Irresponsible Parents. The nightclub was smokey and people were drinking alcohol and dancing a little too. Gasp if you [...]

  412. Shelby
    Shelby August 2, 2010 at 10:41 am |

    Sisou: @eghead and some others talking about abuse.It’s sad that I even have to say this. As I feel it should be obvious.The majority of people who abuse women are MEN. The people who often abuse POC are WHITE ppl.   

    @Sisou; thank you so much for saying this. I tried to write a reply to Q Grrl but just couldn’t pull together the energy.

  413. AdrienneVeg
    AdrienneVeg August 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm |

    @Shrew

    Judging by what you’ve written both in your lyrical piece and your comments, I should be your enemy, and you mine. I’m a white feminist. Almost every other comment supporting the the author is decrying me and the evils I have committed due to my sickly pale skin and adjective-lacking political viewpoint.

    I know it’s hard, but you have to try not to take the criticism so personally. It’s good that you’re applying her words to yourself rather than saying, “Well I’m white and I’m a feminist but I’m not part of the problem.” You are part of the problem. So am I. But I didn’t get the feeling from any of the posts or comments that they hate me or that they think of me as an enemy. Rather I took their words as a wake up call, as if to say, “Look- most people in your group are treating us badly and causing us harm. What are you going to do about it?”

    …despite the fact that I try so hard to confront hate, I am hateful. I am an oppressor and I don’t belong here.
    I am aware I am ignorant. I am aware that I am not very bright and not capable of doing much good, for feminism’s sake or otherwise. But I can change those things. I can’t change being white and privileged.

    No, you can’t change those things about yourself, but you can choose to disengage. Are you going to do that? Our privilege gives us the option of giving up at any time, just washing our hands and walking away. Is that the kind of person you want to be? Or do you want to be one of the few who will take the criticism, digest it, and keep going, trying to improve yourself and help others do the same? Every single person who is knowledgeable about their privilege has to make this decision, whether the privilege comes from being White, male, wealthy, currently abled, cisgender, heterosexual, or all of the above. I know a number of White cis-hetero men from wealthy families who are just incapacitated by guilt over their privilege. They simply cannot have conversations about systems of oppression without shutting down completely. What good does that serve?

    People have committed evils in the name of Feminism. If we are to continue to use the label we do have a responsibility to address those issues as best we can. We can choose to either try our hardest, knowing we will fail sometimes, or we can just give up. I hope you make the right choice.

  414. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl August 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm |

    “As I feel it should be obvious.The majority of people who abuse women are MEN. The people who often abuse POC are WHITE ppl. ”

    Granted. I don’t see how this changes the fact that “mama” is very clearly being celebrated in the absence of. One of those absences, just like the absence of clue-ed in white folk, is that of the men that have fathered children/communities. If “mama” stands *against* feminism, then my question is pointless. However, if “mama” stands for radical love, then, damn-skippy, the question is valid.

  415. Sisou
    Sisou August 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm |

    @Q grrl

    Q Grrl: “As I feel it should be obvious.The majority of people who abuse women are MEN. The people who often abuse POC are WHITE ppl. ”Granted.I don’t see how this changes the fact that “mama” is very clearly being celebrated in the absence of.One of those absences, just like the absence of clue-ed in white folk, is that of the men that have fathered children/communities.If “mama” stands *against* feminism, then my question is pointless.However, if “mama” stands for radical love, then, damn-skippy, the question is valid.  

    I have no idea what this means to be frank. But from ur earlier posts I am assuming that you are not American. I am assuming that you live in honey-land where Poc have the exact same Family systems as whites…

    Why Do I assume u are not American? Because then you should know that Some of us women aint got the time to worry about “fathers” nor do we have Husbands to rely on.
    BLACK AMERICAN Women as every one likes to tell us aint got a chance in hell of being married.

    Where are my fathers?Where are our husbands,brothers?
    I don’t know because they were ripped away from their families starting IN SLAVERY.
    They are killed, throw in jail, forgotten in education and told by the media that Black families, Black romance, Black Love does not matter…

    So regardless if we held hands with our white feminists counterparts and demand men be responsible. Our men would still be mostly unavailable to us.

    I am quite sick of feminists who tell us join with us against men.
    And then… Black men want us to join with them against racism and forgot our gender issues.

    So, seriously neither of the sides are getting my loyalty. Ok?

    Btw, I dont want kids and yet I find no reason to get anger about mama

    The real problem is that some of you can’t understand the words written by people who are from different backgrounds. You have lived your life seeing and reading about like YOU. Your books and your history is written people you can relate too. So these guest post are always going to confusing to you. So sit back and listen and learn!

    @the ableism problem

    I think its possible to acknowledge both ableist language and acknowledge the racist tendency whites have in correcting POC’s language skills.

    Both can be truth. Both can be talked about w/o a oppression Olympics.

    Just ask yourself how to call attention without silencing or demeaning…

  416. overstars
    overstars August 3, 2010 at 6:05 am |

    @CassandraSays

    i really wish you wouldn’t start up with the childfree = selfish/childish/not grown up argument here, especially because it’s own that gets thrown in our faces constantly and to see it on a post like this is actually kind of disgusting.

    you know what, i identify childfree and while i don’t disagree with most of mai’a’s post, and i get that empowering the mama identity is revolutionary and necessary for so many (and that being good allies to these mamas is how other women can be part of that), but that situation you described?

    i’d do the same thing if a young girl (or young human being of any gender) was in trouble like that and there were other human beings looking to take advantage, and it wouldn’t come out of a maternal place or a sense that i have to be a “mama”, it would come from a sense that things like that are wrong and letting them happen right in front of your face is not something a moral, ethical, decent human being does. it would come from knowing that all human beings of ANY age are entitled to compassion and respect and dignity and that when someone gets in the way of other, other human beings need to step up. not just for children.

    and the revolution for me is that it doesn’t have to be about me being a woman, it can be about me having a sense of compassion and ethics. my compassion can just be compassion. my justice can just be justice, not some thwarted maternal urge because obviously, i’d be much better off if i just had babies or it’s a secret sign that i want to have babies.

    if a lot of childfree people are giving kickback, it’s because every day we’re faced with messages that tell us that we’re not REALLY childfree, we’re just selfish people denying our real identity or that we’ll change our minds, or that we’re just not grown up, we’re playing disgustingly at being children because we may not want to be near children ever.

    and i wish the childfree vs. parents baiting in comment threads would stop, because a lot of the most disgusting stuff doesn’t come from CF people.

    the thing is? no one kind of feminism/womanism/*ism fits all women because not all women live in the same situations. what’s oppressive for one group is empowering for another, and the trick is to strike a balance so that we’re ALL empowered in the ways that are best for us and our communities.

    i have no problem with a post that expresses that this is how this person and their communities empower themselves by reclaiming what so many oppressors have taken – the right to have and express and own their motherhood/mamahood and use it to build themselves and each other up. i have no problem with showing why or how mainstream/white feminism has been of no service to these women and, indeed, is often harmful.

    i have no issue with “fuck feminism”. indeed. fuck feminism for all the transphobia and anti-WOC attitudes and class barriers inherent in it.

    fuck white feminism for telling communities of women they should be demanding things of men when those same white feminists are part of the system that imprisons and demeans those men.

    in fact, fuck any system that tells WoC that what worked for upwardly mobile white women with college educations should work for them, too, and if it doesn’t, then it’s their failure and not the failure of feminism to meet their needs.

    i’m right there with her. fuck feminism.

    and i have no problem with a post that tells those of us who don’t need this kind of mama-fueled empowerment to remember these mamas when we go about our lives and activism and to make sure we’re being good allies, that we’re not excluding them or burdening them or keeping them out of spaces or just generally making things worse for them in their struggle.

    i just have a problem with being told that i, too, should find empowerment in this. because this does not empower me (nor should it). and i think youre doing that more than mai’a.

    for me, personally? my empowerment as a woman comes from knowing i am not automatically tied to children just because i’m a woman, that i can lead a life where i can choose the center that best helps me do good things. and that means that i don’t have to feel warm, fuzzy maternal feelings towards children because i don’t have those. i’ll never have those. i can still act compassionately, respectfully, and recognize that yes, children are more vulnerable and the vulnerable should be protected – but i can do that out of a sense of justice that i’d use to say that elders being abused and neglected in communities need protecting and the homeless are vulnerable and need protecting.

    my compassion can just be compassion. my justice can just be justice. not a metaphor, not a thwarted maternal urge that’s proof that my reproductive choices in life are wrong, because i really should be having babies because, hey, i’m a woman, that’s all i’m good for, right? wrong.

    but for women who have been told they can’t be mamas, shouldn’t be mamas, won’t be mamas – centering children and being a mama in whatever form that takes must be the ultimate evolution and revolution. i respect that, i honor that, even if it doesn’t apply to me in my situation.

    and just because i don’t lead a child-centered life, just because i don’t want/have/seek out children to interact with doesn’t make me less of an adult. women for a long time in many places have struggled to be viewed as adults, not just larger children who produce and take care of other children. so don’t perpetuate that by accusing childfree people of being juvenile. you think it’s selfish, fine. call us selfish ADULTS, but we’re not children or childlike. you don’t get to take away someone’s adult status just because you don’t like how they act. don’t pull that crap here.

    i center myself on justice and compassion, and that’s what informs my interactions with children and mamas even when i get uncomfortable. but if i find myself avoiding some situations that i know i’d be making things worse for them, or if i’m honest and declare that no, child-centricity would turn out to be a bad thing for me and everyone around me (including/especially the children themselves) that DOES NOT MAKE ME A CHILD. I AM A GROWN, CHILDFREE WOMAN. YOU DO NOT GET TO TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

  417. read it. « Never Kept Quiet
    read it. « Never Kept Quiet August 3, 2010 at 4:08 pm |

    [...] Jul I blogged about a Feministe! post yesterday (found here). The post, itself, is important to read. But the ensuing conversation is at least as important, if [...]

  418. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays August 3, 2010 at 10:41 pm |

    @overstars – So you missed the part where I mentioned that I’m also not a mother and have no intention of becoming one, then? It’s entirely possible to choose not to have any children yourself and at the same time believe that children should be centered by social justice movements. This does not mean that you yourself need to give birth to and/or raise them. Nuance, it’s a good thing.

    But, you know, feel free to continue having an argument with the imaginary person in your head rather than the actual person you are supposedly addressing.

  419. RachelA
    RachelA August 4, 2010 at 6:12 am |

    I completely understand the desire to be critical of feminism. I identify as a (post-modern, academic) feminist and I am VERY critical of a lot of what passes for feminism, both in academia and in mainstream contexts. However, I am quite offended that you would endorse and reproduce someone else’s “fuck feminism” and the claim that feminists did NOTHING to help your daughter while suggesting that ONLY mothers/the maternal have done such great things.

    Individual mothers do not make the societal conditions in which their children grow up. Mothers do the best they can for the people who depend on them but, as an individual mother, you cannot force your daughter’s employer to pay her a fair and equal wage; you cannot stop her being objectified by catcallers as she walks down the street; you individually cannot ensure she has access to all the medical procedures she might need; you personally cannot guarantee that the legal system takes her claim that she was raped seriously; you cannot hide her from all the images of female bodies being sexualized, made passive and waif-thin.

    I know you wish you had that power but you, as a caring, maternal individual, do not have that power. That kind of power doesn’t come about as a result of individual people’s actions, it comes as a result of group consciousness and collective action by men and women, some of whom identify as “mama” and some of whom do not. Just because they may not identify as “mama” doesn’t mean they have done nothing to help your child or improve the general social conditions in which you raise and nurture your child. To suggest that only “mamas” have done such good work is a willful obfuscation of history.

    Also, while I agree that “mamas” have been and still are mistreated and undervalued – and that that is HIGHLY unjust – I like many others here, am also skeptical of romanticizing, mystifying, or over-glorifying this positionality. It is a positionality that many people cannot take on and that many people do not want to take on. And that does not make their contributions to a world that is more socially just any less worthy. You are definitely not inferior because you are a “mama” but you are not superior either. I feel like much of your post implicitly advocates the creation of a new hierarchy – mamas/non-mamas. And as a feminist, I have been taught to be skeptical of all hierarchies – one of the positive contributions of feminism.

    I think it is very important to draw attention to the ways in which feminism has failed. Feminism has failed WoC, mothers, trans-people, working class women, lesbians, children, the disabled – the list goes on. And you are VERY right to point that out. It kills me that this movement that I am so dedicated to has so often operated with racism, transphobia, homophobia, classism. But I would be very cautious about your impulse to throw the baby out with the bathwater – after all, ain’t you a mama?

  420. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig August 4, 2010 at 10:20 am |

    La Lubu: I see your point about radical love, but again, I can’t see myself doing it. All of my political decisions are made from the head, not the heart. I cannot bring myself to trust my emotions, nor can I really believe in the ‘goodness’ of people. People are not good, they do the wrong thing more often then not, so they should be regarded as untrustworthy. (People here equals: masses of, not small crowds.)
    On another note: why do I get the feeling that the two sides of the commentariat are speaking two different languages?

  421. Beekeeper & Schwartz
    Beekeeper & Schwartz August 5, 2010 at 8:57 am |

    [...] when I linked to the 2010 Feminist Blogwars: Babies On A Plane or Wherever a couple of people noticed my post and said what I think are lovely things about it. Not that I [...]

  422. Blog Roundup: Editors’ Picks, August 2-6 : Ms Magazine Blog

    [...] at Feministe, Mai’a critiques feminist privilege and identifies as a “mama”: “When i have been seen as being helpful to another’s liberation, that is when they start [...]

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