A Review – I’m the Purplestockings Strangler

going on a trip

I love this review in the Irish Examiner – I have an image of me as a baby-faced Sevenoaks Strangler…

“The solution for women is to formally recognise, once and for all, that mothers working in their homes are among the most vital workers in any economy.

The vast majority of mothers would choose to take time out or go part-time in their children’s early years if they could. At some point official feminism must ask itself why it finds this desire so dangerous and discountable.”

So excited to be launching the book officially on Friday.

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Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement Due Date 23 Septemer 2016.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11165881@N02/1058973076/in/photolist-4UqnQh-A1YbjW-9A6M7w-83F3QH-2BzvNu-nFYL3C-htHdFe-rb8zMB-FjGfKw-wmF22H-9EqA5N-LoY6sZ-KySrkN-GTT41r-a8zKW-BinboA-jm8MZd-kTKjtd-ds7FTU-8T5YR8-kTJkke-hS5axX-jXatGp-8T958s-8T956w-i9kTvM-6zRexJ-2VhNAY-HZQXX6-rGL9Fv-qN2Snv-9CH59S-8Ei7op-r7q7KL-8T5YQz-8T955q-kTKhWA-rqc21y-53C8mc-8T9579-8T957S-8T9565-8htPtU-6o3gAU-2fWedo-h5Hcyn-kTJmKP-91DFsf-8vjs2E-orDrgj

 

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The Birth of a Movement

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The due date for the book is 23 September – it is available for pre-order here! If you want a signed copy – come to local launches in Sevenoaks on 23 September and 10 October, or Calder Bookshop Theatre between 6 and 9 on the evening of 22nd October. There will be wine.

Here is your fifth extract from Liberating Motherhood.

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THE BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT

     So what on earth is this ‘Purplestockings’ business? Well, you may have heard of the terms ‘Bluestockings’ to describe a collection of educated, intellectual, women in the eighteenth century; or ‘Redstockings’ to describe women’s liberationists.42 In the tradition of those sisters, I decided on ‘Purplestockings’ to signify a maternal feminism, as a nod to the Suffragette colours, to invoke the nobility of mothering, and because it aptly combines the hue of its two predecessors. We have to know our history as well as what we want in the future: the stockings movement has a worthy heritage to take us forward.

     As former director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said at the Feminism in London Conference in 2015, sometimes it’s worth remembering that Martin Luther King didn’t say, “I had a nightmare”. We must allow ourselves some measure of hope and optimism. We can imagine “better worlds”. We can have a dream. And mine is one in which our children enjoy fruitful and decent humanity, where mutual love and care abound, responsible society and ethical behaviour are the norm. Mothers can be respected for the work they do as mothers, as well as any work they do outside the home. Whether in combination or in a sequence. I can dream, can’t I? It’s not going to happen, is it? Well, if we had the will, it could … and it should. So rather than give up before we’ve begun, shouldn’t we try to do something about it?

     When it comes to women and mothers, we can do something now. Our task, and something which must urgently enter into feminist consciousness, is the attempt to balance and bring justice to the scales of judgement against mothers, to support mothers in the important work they do and to ensure that isolation, poverty and other struggles faced by mothers are alleviated. It is an injustice, cleverly camouflaged, that the work of mothers can be sabotaged by society or blighted by hurdles they face financially and socially, and yet mothers get the blame. It’s a con trick. And women are sick of being the mark.

        When it comes to mainstream feminism and politics, there has been an abject lack of “nerve and imagination” to push for equitable social and workplace conditions or labour and income redistribution. We rightly address the injustices of women losing their jobs or suffering discrimination in their jobs or career during pregnancy or after becoming a mother, but we forget those who want to step out of the workforce to be with their family. We talk about equality, but we forget fairness: equity. We talk about pay gaps, but we no longer talk about “redistribution of wealth”. We talk about full employment, without re-imagining labour rules and workplace structures which respect family life for mothers, fathers and children. Instead of liberation, we have witnessed strands of feminism becoming footsoldiers of capitalism — itself patriarchy’s recent incarnation.

     The problem is, there is no escaping the cold hard reality that, throughout the world, girls and women are at risk of being, or have been, emotionally, physically and/or sexually abused. By men. For me, there is no forgetting some of the horrific cases I saw during criminal practice and, later, as a law reporter. They were the proof I wish I had never seen that we indubitably live in a misogynistic culture.

     This is the context in which a mother seeks to raise her family. This is the context in which a mother seeks to improve her conditions of life, mothering and work, and her status and safety. And that of her children. This is the context that a mother has to stride. This is the context in which she does something explicitly and necessarily female (pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding) or something traditionally connected to women. She is mothering in the midst of misogyny: within a culture that dislikes and distrusts women. To quote the RadFem Collective, “our oppression as females is closely linked to and bound up in our roles as the bearers of new life and male hatred of our female reproductive power”. It is all connected: motherhood and feminism cannot and should not be separated.

     The reality is that we cannot expect feminism to succeed until we embrace all women. And that includes mothers. We cannot treat women as being of value and worthy of respect only where they disavow or sideline matters of motherhood. We cannot exile mothering from feminism. We need a triad of human rights, women’s rights and mother’s rights within a prism of social responsibility. Just so you know, this ain’t no backlash. There were never any good ol’ days: feminism hasn’t “gone too far”. Actually, it didn’t go far enough. Patriarchy has had its own triad of capitalism, technology and male domination for far too long. And within it, there is still little room for women, for mothers, certainly not a room of their own.

     We need to start thinking about politics, economics and social policy, despite a potential knee-jerk reaction to groan. We have to connect to those fleshy things: our bodies. And those dangerous things: our minds. We need to take in issues of “sameness and difference”; the place of motherhood and whether we all want women’s responsibility for children to be turned over to delegated childcare, or shared care with men; whether caring for children is part of a significant number of women’s actual desire, rather than a social construction or result of conditioning; how to “create a society in which caregiving is not penalised”; and the diversity amongst women. We need to retain that crucial thing: our heart. This is before we even begin to factor in race and class struggle: factors which can bring profound difficulties and raise significant barriers for women.

     As a woman of working-class upbringing, I heard both my grandmothers’ stories of cleaning people’s houses, working to the bone, working in factories and other things which it is not my place to share. I saw my mother struggle with three children, a full-time job and the second shift on top. Consequently, I have long questioned just how far the frustrations of a privileged class of white middle-class educated women can legitimately speak for those women whose struggles in respect of class, race and disability bring a different slant to the issue of motherhood. Their experiences of mothering may well be completely different in terms of social support, satisfaction, and prestige. Betty Friedan’s frustrated, isolated housewives, whom she depicted in The Feminine Mystique, for example, were not those women of colour who had strong support networks from female relatives but who were exploited in market-labour of low status and low pay, or Asian women who retained the culture of close extended family, or working-class women who lived in built-up areas with thriving solidarity amongst women in their terraced houses and low fences but who did double shifts of factory and home. Their struggles were rarely articulated in the movement, so preoccupied with the assumptions that white privileged feminism spoke for all, and that oppression under patriarchy was the principal source of oppression for all women.

     In terms then of priorities for the women’s movement, opportunity, education and the freedom to flourish in the public realm, the arts, the professions and industry, are important. They are crucial aspects of women’s liberation and empowerment. But compelled employment, low-status and low-paid jobs and zero-hour contracts versus impoverishment for unwaged work? No. We need to restructure the workplace and market-work on the one hand and the freedom to care, without penalty, on the other. We need the ‘private realm’ to be liberated from being somehow ‘second class’.

     Within the dominant ideology of twenty-first century Western cultures, it often feels that no one is actually listening to what mothers would prefer. Certainly not our politicians and policymakers anyway. There are clear (and fairly persistent) divisions amongst women as to what they would prefer: some would like to work full-time; others part-time; others to care exclusively for their families. We all have different personalities and inclinations, after all. Yet, when politicians do hear women’s preferences, they have a terrible habit of reformulating the answers to meet their own agenda and suggesting that we all want to combine market-work with care-work or to work full-time. So it is that we face insidious ideological attempts at social engineering and a failure to reflect our true choices.

     The reality is stark: mothers — as a class — are, in gradual steps, losing the rights, freedom and economic ability to raise their own children, within the patriarchal and capitalist project. If current trends in social and economic policy are anything to go by, there will be greater and greater barriers against our ability to care for our own families. And conditions may well become so intolerable owing to lack of money, security, support, respect, freedom and autonomy (or exhausting second shifts) that we, and the next generations of mothers, will struggle; but the blame will be placed on motherhood. Not politics. Not economics. Not patriarchy. Not neoliberal pathological market-driven environmental and social destruction. Not misguided attempts by some feminist camps to eradicate mothering. But becoming a mother. And that script is being written right now with the sanction of women, female politicians, and of course, patriarchal neoliberalism. We may not speak our own line: that being a mother by desire is, for many women, one of the most precious experiences of our lives. When it comes to the popular script that we need liberating from care and children, it comes down to ‘she who shouts loudest wins prizes’.

     It is no stretch of the imagination to see a link between the occupation of the public arena, fought for and won by women as a result of feminism, and the accompanying privilege of having a voice that is heard and respected. However, just because a voice grabs the mic doesn’t mean that it is either right or in the majority: a woman at home raising her family, happily or not, will not have her voice heard. Democracy, eh? She will be conveniently ignored, her silent scream about the lack of recognition of her work will ring in her ears alone. Social media can only go so far: yes, we can blog, we can chat on Facebook. We can even meet other like-minded mothers in real life at baby and toddler groups. But ultimately, there has to be a political, visible, active, in-yer-face movement. We need to move beyond a “feminism of uncertainty”.

    The more voices we raise the better, and we need our sisters to join us: it’s our lives and the lives of our children. What can be more important than that? There is a wealth of skilful research, theory and analysis out there. Do read it. And add your voice. Because it matters. Not just to us as individual women, but to our culture, our species and the quality of human existence.

     Carl Gustav Jung, the father of analytical psychology, famously talked about the “unlived life” of parents. Whatever one’s view of Jung’s attitudes towards mothers (about right, questionable, blaming or pernicious, say), we cannot, nowadays, avoid the suggestions that a “happy mother = happy child” and that we must have our “own lives”. Yes, parents are people, too — we all have loves and interests to explore which have nothing to do with our children. However, the biggest lie, which so many commentators, politicians and policymakers have perpetuated, is that value, self-worth and fulfilment for women can only come from paid employment outside the home, even when their children are young. The message sent and received is that to be raising one’s children is not to be living one’s life, as though the two are discrete, separable and antagonistic. This has fed into another message: that only work performed in exchange for money is worthy of recognition as ‘work’ and that it is practically every mother’s duty to ‘get out to work’. Both of these messages are absolutely wrong. Both contribute to perpetrating unfairness, inequality and vulnerability in mothers. Yet feminism, the liberal and corporate varieties especially, is failing to see this injustice or, if it does, is resisting it. Because mothers are, even in feminism, bottom of the heap, less important than the bottom line.

     It is also important to note at the outset that when I talk about life-creating power, biology and difference, I am not saying that one type of human being is better. It is not a matter of supremacy or dominion over another. That is the whole problem of patriarchal culture: its preoccupation with dichotomy, domination and destruction. I’m talking about humanity: respect for difference, service to others, the cultivation of happiness and wellbeing, and respect for life rather than destruction of it. We have to begin to prioritise humanity. When I speak of difference, I am also talking about differences between individuals within the sexes.

     We are women and we are mothers, yet, at heart we, like all others, are human. And that is where we have to go, in feminism and in our societies. We need to discover humanity and put it at the heart of our society, our relationships and our economies. I will introduce and advocate a progressive, humanist, maternal feminism and politics which puts the interests of human beings first in policy.

     We must push for economic and social change, moving away from neoliberal capitalist inequalities and exploitation and environmental destruction. As Julie Stephens argues, “actively remembering the bodily and emotional aspects of nurture, including the physical demands of birth, lactation and the postnatal experience, will pave the way for more just social policies for women and families”. It is this need for appropriate social policies for mothers and children, extending throughout the family life cycle, which lies at the heart of the Purplestockings Movement. This feminism and politics must value mothers, the life-givers, the creators of human beings, in the unwaged work of family that they have done for generations, while recognising the changing family life cycle and a mother’s individual humanity. It must push for a society in which women are liberated from barriers to full participation in society on our own terms and status as worthy human beings. We face more than “economic exploitation”— our challenge extends to our politics, our society, and our culture.

     In this book, I dare to suggest that we could begin to restructure our societies and revaluate our priorities. We could insist that fathers contribute more to family life, whilst demanding that market-work frees up more time to family life too by restricting how much of our lives are taken over by the machine of economic workplace productivity and exploitation. Joan Williams has some very interesting points to make in Unbending Gender, How Work and Family Conflict and What to Do About It. She advocates a “reconstructive feminism” which doesn’t try to fit mothers into a system that is predicated on “ideal workers” (read: men with no caring responsibilities and an abundance of overtime capacity and dedication to the job).

     Rather, a reconstructive feminism would seek changes to the structure of market-work. Because the fact is that the modern set-up in Western economies requires mothers work as though without family responsibility (or are penalised for having caring responsibilities which are presumed to be solely theirs) and that mothers face tremendous strain doing it all, never mind having it all; or mothers are expected to care for their families without financial support or recognition. And when something goes awry, we get the blame. As things stand in Western capitalist patriarchy, mothers are held accountable on the one hand yet ignored and devalued on the other. Our work as mothers is deemed unimportant and delegable to the market; yet it is elevated to the crucible in which our children’s happiness and wellbeing are forged.

     We are in a double bind. We are hostage to unrealistic expectations; to a punitive economy; to unattainable standards; tied to the modern stake of moral judgement or, worse, decisions of (mostly secretive) family courts which are failing to do justice by women. So we need to demand it ourselves. Not quietly. Or politely. But loudly and with grit. We are mothers. We have it in us.

     I have felt frustration, hopelessness, resignation, powerlessness and anger about the situation that mothers face. I know that many women share these feelings: ordinary mothers at home or in jobs they resent, not just campaigners and activists. But then, as mothers, our feelings rarely get top priority, do they? The question is: how can we harness this anger and this need for change with the positive traits of motherhood? How might this spark a storm? This is the aim of Liberating Motherhood. We need to put on those purple stockings and release our thunder.

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Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement: Due Date 23 September 2016.

Available for pre-order here: http://www.womancraftpublishing.com/liberating-motherhood.html.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite/2446192045/in/photolist-4JanEV-8d8dqt-6FXA3B-9eqCsD-nLaFPa-t5GJ2W-byjyA8-sjb4kd-4wV7hq-9yr6xt-dVifwZ-dVifgZ-dVi84V-dVi5jV-dVoEmf-aryBBZ-aM4TRX-9eqzUF-9et5cG-9etrNS-9eqmhZ-9eq8cV-26guUj-zo3res-7QTroU-j57cg2-9BuaEb-9yr7AD-9yr6r8-6FXzvP-838b2z-dVoPN1-dVidrv-dVoLRs-9TCFHq-9Hq4LY-dMhvGT-aM4QYe-6G2FXj-qnsuhf-6wed4y-9eth7o-9eqmRt-9etrdh-9etMYG-9etFmG-74DVAf-CUQp5K-CUQosH-bH1qFc

7Oaks Children’s Party Launch of Liberating Motherhood @raffertys_cafe

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From the moment I thought of doing a launch for the book I knew that I wanted to provide a space for mothers or carers whose commitments meant that an evening event would be out of reach. I’ve been there…!

Most importantly, I wanted to provide a fun event for children to enjoy – with face painting, pass the parcel and toys.

So – you are invited to a children’s party* downstairs at Rafferty’s on 10 October, 9.30 til 11.30. I would be over the moon to see you and any little ones who might enjoy a fun Monday morning.

You will be able to get your signed copy of the book (RRP 14.99) while the children play with toys, have their face painted, play pass the parcel and watch a short entertaining film of music and dancing. Spread the word!

Children will also get a small goodie bag and a purple balloon to take home and enjoy.

There will be a surprise treat in the goodybag courtesy of my mum *Indie authors have no budget*

Tickets are £15 on the day.

*Child not obligatory

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Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement

http://www.womancraftpublishing.com/liberating-motherhood.html

https://politicsofmothering.wordpress.com/

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bearpark/5799969405/in/photolist-9QwmQv-6DCxEj-jQ64wS-7osuXm-9bEmwK-6Ajrxj-5dCktx-9iqZcS-8MDQUm-8djfVX-4uJgZj-4apWzz-ausR3L-9hyZtW-2arcVr-6Y9Kid-86xqvT-auq9QM-diUjSC-iVWfYt-5dnCZY-72CqHS-8RxnQ5-6QyuPL-84t8tV-yx35KQ-9ovH4f-tbyJ2o-6Y5Hua-shhqk-rNdX7-9nY5jw-2Q5jew-oQQdcX-81ZXF1-ausQJ3-diPpBP-a5LdRr-eZnjCY-ad3Ud7-CdpTo-aEN77F-4W4pnL-fuukq7-jicut9-PgvJW-8i7mpG-6oTwjD-ps9Tq-5p7H1h

7Oaks Evening Launch of Liberating Motherhood Now at Home…

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The book has arrived!

So births are sometimes not straightforward. We can have our plan – and then the waters go.

Well, this morning, the waters broke on my evening launch.

It is no longer at Otto’s. It will no longer be a ticketed event.

That’s right. It’s about time I had a house party in my home which did not involve musical bumps or pass the parcel. And my daughter was born here – makes sense that my book should be, too.

The book’s here. Come and give it a cuddle.

(PM for address).

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http://www.womancraftpublishing.com/liberating-motherhood.html

https://politicsofmothering.wordpress.com/

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/67228090@N00/5569597076/in/photolist-9uaDaN-sK4TR-x42C6L-GhywHX-2cdcg-8ESQMc-rfufHh-4w2ZV1-29of5-tK84Et-Ghqhnu-HcVbtF-5bqfH2-HcViaB-HcVg92-7avDyu-H4A1jW-B3SJJm-HcVeTM-5buxth-5bqgnp-HcVhmx-5buzpS-GhprSJ-8dJpt2-g6Vjz-99ZGT6-U5Fm-eYoMpD-6fvxCR-9oiL14-aEyznT-sMwot-7x6tqu-quPAfT-Ghpraw-2k3my-GCVAfw-7hAup7-4w2ZHS-satqcT-rSUN4C-5buALh-s4h2A6-GGcmpq-GbWvXa-8vA6QR-cvLxdo-oqRwwe-H9Zzsh

Feminism 101 – Purplestockings Style

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The due date for the book is 23 September – it is available for pre-order here! If you want a signed copy – come to Calder Bookshop Theatre between 6 and 9 on the evening of 22nd October. There will be wine.

Here is your fourth extract from Liberating Motherhood.

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FEMINISM 101

        Just as we mustn’t fear talking about our needs as women, and mothers, we needn’t fear talking about feminism. We are women. We are mothers. We might well have daughters. Just think about the wisdom of Maya Angelou when she said, “I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

        Feminism is not dead (rumours of its demise are always exaggerated). So before I go on, perhaps a short iteration of what feminism is and what it is not. One of the biggest challenges is the fact that so few people seem to agree about what feminism means, what it is seeking to achieve, and what it must do.

          First things first, feminism is certainly not a system or a theory which wants to see the obliteration or oppression of men. Rather it illuminates the fact that our ‘history’ is a censored, photoshopped, patriarchal history of ‘Man’. The reality is that women have to live, work and love within a culture and under the rules of the Father, the Son, the Husband, the Male, the worship of the masculine, and the prioritising of destruction over creation of life. Hey, nobody said this was going to be about unicorns. To quote Andrea Dworkin, “I’m a feminist, not the fun kind.”

     Feminism is about a quaint notion: that women are people too. And with that understanding, that women should have basic human rights, the right to autonomy and self-determination, freedom from inhumane treatment, oppression, gender stereotype, and all the rest. The thing is, much of the human rights message has been lost in translation. Equality became the buzzword: which is interpreted by many to mean ‘the same’. Equality is, in truth, a massive red herring. The overwhelming preoccupation with ‘equality’, to quote academic Eva Feder Kittay, “misses the importance of the symmetries and differences that are unavoidable and even desirable in human intercourse”. The debate about ‘special treatment’ has been raging for long enough. Time for some humane treatment: the recognition of a diversity of needs and the acknowledgement of discrimination and exploitation of women by virtue of their becoming mothers. The standpoint of mothers cannot be minimalised in feminism any longer. We are a beating heart. We are strong arms. And we need to march our way into politics, feminism and economics. We need to demand that the persistent and institutional discrimination against mothers is exposed and levelled with creativity and humanity.

    There are numerous ‘schools’ of feminism, and tensions between them, ranging from liberal, Marxist, socialist and radical. We also have a de facto corporate feminism which is predicated on ‘more women at the top’. Come on now! That ain’t feminism: it is capitalism. And under it, there will always be women at the bottom. Then there is a feminism which is clear that what is between our legs is irrelevant — it’s how we identify that matters. Clearly, feminism has many shades.

      Personally, I agree with Rebecca West’s sentiment in 1913 that “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat …” And a doormat I ain’t. The rights and challenges of women are central to my feminism. I will also address the needs of children. I am very clear that mothers are important to their children, and that our children — our flesh and blood — are important to us. If a feminist mother cannot say this, we are in trouble, aren’t we?

     However, when it comes to mothers, some schools of feminism seem to evoke My Fair Lady and Professor Higgins’ lament “why can’t a woman be more like a man?” sung to a minor melody of “Capitalist Patriarchal Neoliberalism”. I will discuss this poxy trinity, and the meanings of its components throughout the book, but for the time being ‘money, men and selfishness’ will probably give a good enough idea of what these mean.

     Feminism was the movement that was supposed to free us from patriarchy and lead us to the promised land — not necessarily Herland, but one where we could enjoy human rights, equality of opportunity and dignity. But somewhere along the way it got lost and confused. It has become seen as, and is, for some women: “I want what men have”. In reaching for that, we have lost touch with what women have (or could have). The baby has been thrown out with the feminist bathwater and, in doing so, some women have indeed got what men have: power over other women.

     If we struggle to speak of the issues that remain for all women under patriarchy, we are even more bound when we try to articulate the mother issue. There is an awkwardness about women’s reproductive and mothering experience. They are seen as more private and personal. In her work, Jean Bethke Elshtain explored issues surrounding the ‘private sphere’: why do we devalue the ‘private’ over the ‘public’? Why is a ‘public’ role effectively seen as more worthy and a marker of citizenship than private, family or community work? Why do we continue to deny broad differences in the lived experience of men and women? To quote Elshtain, “To recognize that women as a group experience their social worlds differently from men as a group complicates feminist thinking, deepens female self-awareness, and calls attention to the complexity and richness of our social experience and relations”.

    There is an unspoken rule that one may not engage in biological essentialism (biological essentialism is about bodies. Feminism has traditionally argued that women are more than what is between our legs. Under some schools of feminism today, what is between our legs is irrelevant. Somehow, the point in between, namely, we are bodies, minds and worthwhile human beings all at the same time has been missed.) or exploration of difference. In Motherhood in Patriarchy, Animosity Toward Mothers in Politics and Feminist Theory — Proposals for Change, Mariam Irene Tazi-Preve calls this the “taboo of physicality”. As Patrice DiQuinzio frames it, “the dilemma of difference and its resulting paradoxes are most salient and most difficult to resolve at the site of mothering”. She talks of the “problem of maternal embodiment”. Mothers are the square peg in the round hole. A reminder that individualism has its limits and that denial of difference fails to reflect substantial issues relating to mothers and motherhood.

     When it comes to politics, socialist feminism has become somehow old-fashioned, talking as it does of redistribution of wealth, capital and accumulation, when nobody talks like that any more. In fact, some feminists resemble the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm: it is hard to tell them apart from the patriarchal capitalist farmer. And in our farm, some women are more equal than others. Indeed, as I have said, some women are more equal than mothers. Two legs (individualism) good — four legs (mum’s two and little un’s two), bad. The “occupational elite” — those who, quite frankly, seem to live in a different world, immune to the issues facing many families today — are wilfully blind to the everyday existence of women outside their domain.

     Our modern feminist and political dialogues obscure the desires and needs of the majority of mothers: those unimportant ones reproducing the human race and raising them to be decent future citizens. This tension leads many women on the ground to think that feminism is irrelevant to their lives or their struggles. As Ann Crittenden writes in The Price of Motherhood, “changing the status of mothers, by gaining real recognition for their work, is the great unfinished business of the women’s movement”. Well, sisters, time to finish the job. Time for a movement in our language: The Mother Tongue.

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Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement: Due Date 23 September 2016.

Available for pre-order here: http://www.womancraftpublishing.com/liberating-motherhood.html.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/drainrat/16213421094/in/photolist-qGJ2e1-2NxkgF-75vWZF-KtTBDZ-7hZqcg-gfVCaP-rzESJ7-rDCKSB-Bsq5Mg-5AAf77-bqhiyW-HKPcbE-62Vd54-sSW18u-bm3tor-cx4Vrf-2jMqwe-g2PZRr-93UtPK-3PWU8U-8xWrnp-866peT-5tczqG-fezo9A-rcGUx-HKWBJh-fezmqw-3A1SZP-5yPRfL-9YHUd6-boZr1-ehqXBK-o1Lqcb-yfBUAq-hQ2P4A-mDjGk-6ujc7u-7MhWRg-vwWcgr-9KD6Jv-FbXWwp-FbXWrK-9avW2t-qqLBk-i8i7RB-r89Nnm-hgMR8M-vRQ4Pa-uga12Q-KpeHvh

Dear Jeremy: We Are Mothers. We Too Are Women. We Could Be Labour.

Jeremy, it is admirable that you have taken up the ‘women’s’ issue. It is necessary for women’s position in society to be free from discrimination and for equality of opportunity and treatment to be the norm. However, what is missing is the recognition of equality of worth for those who work, unwaged, outside the paid economy.

 What the mainstream parties – and The Women’s Equality Party who no doubt influenced you in your policy on women – continue to forget is that there is more to life than the ‘public sphere’, that many women are desperate for greater choice in how they set up family life, including caring for their babies and young children themselves instead of compelled employment and childcare. Childcare has its place – but for women who would prefer to care for their own children, but cannot, they are being offered a wooden spoon. Those who sacrifice an income to care for their children are cut loose and marginalised – we don’t even feature, yet our financial and personal vulnerabilities are huge. Please think more creatively about the Right to Care, the need for recognition of the unwaged work of care, and abolition of the family tax penalty, for starters. Mothers are women too. Equality – when predicated on masculine concepts of work in the public sphere – is, in this context, a poor sister of justice.

For context, 40% of 6,200 mothers told the Department for Education last year, published in March 2016, that if they could only afford it they would stop working outside the home to provide the care to their children themselves.

The WEP party may quote stay at home mums who told them that they were desperate to get back to work, and those who want to share care, and those who want affordable childcare. They have conveniently neglected to tell you of the thousands of women who ALSO told them that they want more support to be able to care for their families themselves: they told the party this individually and through the sub-group I headed of the policy working group, via their mouthpiece of Mothers at Home Matter Too (Marie Peacock, Lynne Ann Burnham).

In response to your facebook post on this issue yesterday, Suzi Rodriguez, for example, said: “Please help to start to recognise caring in the home as a valuable contribution to society. Stay at home parents and carers are forgotten about, in the race to get everyone out to work. Parenting and caring is important and valuable and not everyone wants to outsource childcare to go out to work, and many are forced to #mothersathomemattertoo”   – many have taken the time to agree with her. 

Mothers are calling out for political recognition and economic policies which recognise the value of what we do when we care for our children, the way in which we are prevented financially from doing it and the need for family life to be respected. 9 million women were missing from the 2010 general election – the Labour party launched its 2015 women’s manifesto in a children’s nursery. : at some point, please, Labour, ask yourself: why are we neglecting the wishes of many many women in this country? Why is the ideology of universal childcare (to free us to capitalist exploitation) so universally accepted by politicians when it is far from universally desired by families on the ground? 9 million missing women. I wrote a pamphlet for 2015 General Election entitled The Politics of Mothering in which I explained that mothers who want to care for their children but cannot – or those who do but are marginalised and financially struggling – are disenfranchised. Equality? It can’t even begin so long as the wishes of so many women are neglected, dismissed or silenced and when the honour of equality is only bestowed with a paycheck.

Please expand your ‘women’s’ agenda. Don’t be confined to ‘equality’: think equity, justice and fair distribution of wealth and labour. Unwaged care is the biggest proportion of theunpaid economy. It is crucial work, for the benefit of society and the future wellbeing of our citizens. Yet, to use the terms of the left: society freeloads upon our labour, It marginalises those doing it. Yet we are continually ignored in policy – recognised only in ‘human capital’ and ‘economic productivity’ with a PAYE code attached. We are disenfranchised and ignored by the political class. Time for someone to recognise this.

After all, don’t you want our votes?

I will be speaking at The World Transformed on the Future of Work panel. Jeremy I would like to speak to you: mothers at home might not get the mic; mothers in their jobs with the second shift on top of small children and a home to run might not have the energy or time or networks or opportunities to convey all this to you. But please listen. We are here. We are mothers. We too are women. We could be Labour.

In solidarity,

Vanessa Olorenshaw

Author of Liberating Motherhood and The Politics of Mothering.

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Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement – Due Date 23 September.

If you don’t think you can make an event to get a signed copy direct from me at the launch events below, then do feel free to pre-order from Womancraft.

Launch events: More dates to follow, but here are some for your diary.

Friday 23 September: Daytime and evening events in Sevenoaks – venues to be confirmed. Daytime: kids and play; Evening: WINE!

Saturday 24 September: Workshop at Labour Conference Fringe http://theworldtransformed.org/lineup/

Monday 26 September: Speaking at ‘The Future of Work’ panel at the Fringe http://theworldtransformed.org/lineup/

Saturday 1 October: Stall at Women’s Voices Conference https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/womens-voices-conference-201…

Saturday 22 October: Evening signing and reading at Calder Bookshop at Waterloo http://calderbookshop.com/pagecontactus.html

Thursday 17 November: Speaking at Mothers at Home Matter Conference http://www.mothersathomematter.co.uk/