Video of My Speech at Calder Bookshop Theatre

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A huge thank you to everyone who could make it to the signing yesterday at Calder bookshop theatre. It was lovely to sign copies and chat to you all and what a fabulous space in the Theatre for my little talk, too. Well and truly under the spotlight!

Here is a link to my speech.

The book is now available at lucky indie bookshops, amazon, the book depository and Womancraft Publishing.

Do ask your library and local bookshop to stock it. If you’re enjoying the book then spread the word and get the purplestockings movement moving! Looking forward to speaking and signing copies at the Mothers at Home Matter conference on 17 November in London. Then? Rest!

My Book Baby No Longer Belongs To Me. It Belongs to You.

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I’m now at that point – unfamiliar territory for me as a debut author – where my book baby is out in the world and being read, talked about, critiqued, enjoyed and shared. Yes, I know, probably criticised, too. Even the best books have their worst critics. And I know where mine are to be found – they were part of the driving force behind the book, to be fair! But the launch experience over the past month or so has also brought home to me that there are so many of us who are in agreement and many who are relieved to be reading something which speaks to and for them.

Which means I’ve also confronted something I never anticipated: the good wishes and encouragement from supporters and admirers who don’t know me but who are responding from the heart to my words.

So thank you to the many of you who have taken the time to tell me directly that the book has made you cry, made you laugh, brought a fresh realisation about something painful or emotional, made you angry, made you happy or made you determined to share the message.

I’m excited and starting to feel relieved and a little lighter. Because the book no longer belongs to me. It belongs to you.

If you have enjoyed it, felt a connection or transformed your thinking in any way, please do share your views. Tell others. This is a book which – from a debut author and an indie press – is reliant on a circle of readers sending ripples out into the world. From grassroots it will grow.

Please also do review the book online – it helps encourage people to read it. Get talking in person and online. Proclaim yourself a Purplestocking! I’m amazed to hear of sisters connecting with the book outside of the UK: in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the US and beyond – we are a global movement. And I’m privileged and humbled to be part of it. Thank you.

“… when jobs are being lost to automation; when wealth is accumulating in the 1%; when the workplace increasingly encroaches on family life; and when women remain at higher risk of poverty because they have cared for their families, feminism has to start to ask itself: are we ever going to find creative ways to protect, support and empower women beyond simply pushing for paid employment? We must start to recover some of the intellectual and creative verve of the original women’s movement: we have to return to discussing redistribution of wealth and the fair organisation of labour. We don’t need to agonise over labels of socialism, conservatism, radicalism or whatever. We just need to put humanity at the centre. Because the fact is that many mothers remain trapped by the market either as workers or as unwaged carers, and are marginalised by reason of being mothers. We have to get political. We need to find ways to value care, to support carers, and put money into the pockets of those who sustain and nourish the human race. At heart, we need to support the right of mothers to frame their lives in the way that is right for them: we need to liberate ourselves from conditions which get in the way of this most fundamental of women’s rights. Mothers, our time has arrived”

#MothersOfTheWorldUnite #Purplestockings #LiberatingMotherhood

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Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement, is out now. Get your signed copy at Calder Bookshop Theatre this Saturday evening between 6pm and 9pm, or from amazon, book depository, Womancraft Publishing, and some lucky indie bookshops. Please do ask your local library and bookshops to stock the book, too. 
 

22nd October London Book Signing

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I am overjoyed to be signing Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement, at Calder Bookshop Theatre in Waterloo.

I will be there from 6 til 9 pm. Do join me for a hello, a chat, to buy your signed copy, and a reading – around 7 – in their little theatre.

https://www.facebook.com/events/569320653255136/

#Purplestockings #MothersOfTheWorldUnite!

https://politicsofmothering.wordpress.com/
http://www.womancraftpublishing.com/liberating-motherhood.html

Planes, Trains and Hostility to Children

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Recent news about child-free sections on flights led to an interesting article from one Julie Bindel recently about how, like, annoying children are and stuff.

I wrote to the Guardian. They printed my letter, here.  Granted, they edited the letter to remove observations about hatred, women and cats. And how mothers are being thrown under a (child-free) bus, but the point is made, nevertheless.

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Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement, is out now.

From amazon, Book Depository, Womancraft and some lucky indie publishers.

If you are enjoying the book, please feel free to review it online, eg amazon. And share the word! Do also ask your library and local bookshop to stock it!

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sackerman519/7184867255/in/photolist-bWUjHD-vkPCgF-rAHpAb-aivZxT-cegH5S-tZQy2B-at42i4-7ZJNPs-dYi3Kc-xKdE8H-5WZkiY-5WF5Gz-bAk2zT-5XvP51-cAUokA-y2J8o6-7ZJNLf-7ZJNDQ-5Y3mwz-atd2iS-7BBu1H-xu3Yiq-ier32A-saSezY-Hbm1S-onF2Cc-oiTdAh-ciPVhs-saS9Ru-7m6VX-gmd74z-fhm4NV-iwjJyj-2LYY5Y-HZFFDd-x5GRVd-s5Nmuw-y1Rfkm-uYx2az-9KhW1C-aUBtXP-5AD79U-rt5FiZ-atanpr-daYjjv-cN3PbG-t7V2vP-CYraLF-hbJFvW-65KTa2

For My Nan, My Father’s Mother

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Today would have been my beloved Nan’s 100th birthday.

I miss her. I’m thinking of my Dad and his brother and sisters and how they are missing their mother. This day, especially.

My siblings and I spent much of our childhood with her – before and after school, at the weekend, during holidays. She was caring, loving and warm but tough. Little but fierce. The original spitfire. I still remember her hands. Her voice. Her laugh. Her smell.

I wrote a little about her in Liberating Motherhood. Every time I return to that section, I cry.

So, really, although I write about mothers – ourselves, our own – I just want to honour my grandmother, the matriarch, with a short note. With a thanks and a moment. She was my father’s mother. She was loved.

As I say to my children, those we love will always be with us if they are in our hearts.

Love you Nan.

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Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blumenbiene/29161137836/in/photolist-LqSsjy-GT1eYu-L3qzNE-GT161j-F5V297-eb2QV2-5TrQzM-5TwbPC-5FNe4x-7sauPV-v9eRZr-xgDH2B-cm9XMw-r8WVJq-ArgRmm-81uDBx-iJhZm8-aXq7De-c2wkq3-79d5dQ-w5sUAY-bvWbCn-LjsDCf-58jWfz-wBjNW2-eTN8jf-79UZmg-p9jKae-w66MGM-jJTb7j-KwSV5N-6mAx6D-wB9xmA-r5ktTA-zBjHNo-AgKbF1-4BeUgC-oEtUvF-a4RW9g-c2xazw-kAAQKW-4wAMpw-9eBkqF-c2wJ3w-tbvJe-eTAB8Z-xgxH1s-aCA2Rs-5vCS19-LqSUpE

 

 

 

 

A Review – I’m the Purplestockings Strangler

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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

 

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