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Mother Activism on the Rise

Mother Activism on the Rise
Wed, 4/4/2012 - by Jane Chelliah
This article originally appeared on The Occupied Times of London

Photo: Ann Kruetzkamp. Zuccotti Plaza 2011

What do you think your child’s life will look life in 10 years? My daughter is 12 years old now and in 2022, at the age of 22, she will have taken her place in the world as an adult. My hope is that she will be living in a world in which opportunities for people will be distributed fairly and evenly, and one in which she will be treated equally as a woman in every sphere of her life.

This is my dream for her. But dreams can be shattered by many variables. One of those variables is an environment in which inequality acts as a barrier to our ability to fully participate in society. As a feminist mother, it is not just my daughter I worry about but other children too. Feminist mothering is about creating a level playing field for all our children.

A mother’s instinct when confronted with a problem is to try and solve it. The Occupy Movement has enabled me to convert my worry about the obstacles raised against our full participation into positive action. The movement’s focus on inclusivity and equal access to its resources has let me convert my raw maternal instinct to redefine the terms of inclusion in modern society into mother activism. I launched a feminist mothering group, UK Outlaw Mothers, at Tent City University in November.

Occupy the London Stock Exchange is an unparalleled opportunity for ordinary people like me who are seeking a platform from which to make a mark. Before October 15, there was no other place at which a feminist mothering movement would have been accommodated. Gender equality is a never-ending struggle – when one throws mother equality into the mix, it often sinks to the bottom. To be an ambitious mother in UK mainstream society is viewed suspiciously. Fathers are allowed to be ambitious for their sons but the same does not apply to mothers. Yet having ambition is part of being a feminist mother, and I am fed up with girls being viewed as only good enough to have ambitions of being WAGs or are expected to shop incessantly. I wanted to be part of a community where the debate was extended beyond these narrow confines. There isn’t anywhere else where my daughter would be able to participate in discussions about political governance and money structures.

I now have the means to contribute to a worldwide movement that is the engine for global debate in which terms like "capitalism" and "equality" have all become part of the Occupy discussion. In a single week in January, three British political leaders, an American President (Bill Clinton in the Financial Times), Bishop Desmond Tutu and an international gathering of world political and business leaders in Davos discussed capitalism.

This is the success of the Occupy Movement. It has brought into mainstream discourse debates and arguments over fairness that once were only discussed at local levels over local areas where, for example, certain low-income groups of people lived together in underprivileged circumstances or in areas of high unemployment. The Occupy Movement does not just recognize equality but, far more impressively, addresses equality as a diversity issue. By this I mean that women have been recognized in debates and discussions as being single mothers, mothers on welfare, working mothers and disabled mothers. The UK feminist movement has not been able to achieve this much.

The Occupy Movement has globalized a mother’s worry, and I am thankful for this. As a feminist mother, I deplore the patriarchal notion of motherhood which places a mother’s worry firmly in the private sphere of the domestic domain. The difficulties that our children face require a solution that will emerge from a coalition-building consensus that reflects the fact that some of the drivers of global inequality were directly caused by global actions or inactions.

Feminist mothering is about reshaping societies so that mothers are recognized as both contributors to, and recipients of, global justice. That, it seems to me, is also the aim of the Occupy Movement. Mothers have an interest in how dividends are paid out in areas such as climate change, monetary inequality, allocation of natural resources and government policies. Being the mother of a starving child is a political as well as a humanitarian issue. Being a mother is always wrongly talked about in the narrow terms of "choice": A mother either stays at home or goes out to work. There is so much more to mothering than that and this is why mother activism is on the rise in the Occupy Movement.

Occupy provides a strategic opportunity for mother empowerment and it has brought a vibrancy and dynamism into my life, which has led to a genuine positive transformation in the way I am bringing up my daughter.

Jane Chelliah is a member of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement

 

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