18th March: Mother’s Day Post
It’s Mother’s Day today, and although there have been lots of influences in our lives which might have turned us towards feminism, we’ve found that lots of feminists ‘blame’ their mothers for starting them thinking about things like gender and equality. I asked some of the BadRep team about their mothers…
“I would say I was raised very feminist. The family has a double-barreled surname because my folks hyphenated their names to negotiate the whole names and marriage thing. (Pro tip: don’t hyphenate – people will assume you’re really posh, and if both names are unusual you’ll spend the rest of your life spelling it out to people.)
“I always identified with feminism and was never scared of the word. I was brought up to believe I could do anything I wanted and my mom made a point of giving me and my brother equal access to all types of toys – like having boy dolls as well as girl dolls. She also always named sexism where she saw it. This was a real gift because growing up I saw sexism as a bad thing and a lazy assumption, rather than just the status quo.
“As I’ve grown up I’ve realised retrospectively just how rad my mom was – she went to Greenham Common, she bought Spare Rib magazine, she had rainbow shoelaces (which I’ve stolen) – but also I’m profoundly grateful that she never ever let me become fucked up about food and body image, or to correlate body-image with self-worth. I really feel like I’ve dodged a massive bullet with that one and am a lot better off than many women because of it.
Love you, Mom (now quit pestering me about grandkids).”
“My Mum didn’t really raise me in a ‘feminist way’, but the cumulative actions of my parents together has helped to shape my views on the world and, more specifically the concept of equality. As I understand it, my Mum took time off work to look after me when I was very little and after my brother was born too, but when he was old enough, Mum and Dad essentially swapped. Mum went back to working in the City and Dad became a househusband right up until I was 12 years old. Having a mother who worked full time in London and a stay-at-home dad is bound to have an effect (insert some philosophical/psychological insight into strong independent female figures and role models), but that wasn’t the only thing.
“My parents told me once that before they had me (their first child) they sat down and made the time to discuss and agree that there would be no greater importance placed on one parent or the other based on their gender. So if Mum was looking after us and we did something naughty, there would be no ‘just you wait until your Father gets home!’ threat of punishment… you just got punished by whichever parent was there. Or, indeed, my Grandma when we lived with her for a while (who is also a huge influence on my feminist tendencies).”
“Let’s be clear on one thing: my mother (who is Bulgarian) is a farmer’s daughter. Whatever else she became later on, she can still kill and pluck a chicken, cure many common ailments with mysterious herbs, and pick tobacco leaves with her bare hands (no lie: she still has the scars). Of course, that’s not all she is. For one thing, when the local doctor decided to try bloodletting to cure my infant aunt’s colic, my mother snatched her from the doctor’s hands and ran away with her, reasoning that the doctor was a fool and that at nine years old she was clearly more qualified to treat her sister. (Who was fine, by the way, due in no small measure to my mother’s interference.) By the time my mother was thirteen, she had outgrown her local village school, and so she simply packed her bags and moved out of the family home to a nearby city to continue her education.
“At eighteen, when the rest of her friends were getting married and having children, she stayed resolutely single and enrolled at a university instead. A few years later she scandalised polite society by taking up with an older divorcee who – shockingly – was both Armenian and a dissident. When he set off to sea in that dreadfully romantic way that makes sense only in films, she ran the household, raised two children, led the local community group and dealt with the persistent interest of the secret police. She taught me to cook, and to sew, and to knit, and explained that while it was nice to see my father every once in a while, fundamentally I’d have to be prepared to run a household – a community – a country – all by myself.
(The one thing she ever forbade me to do was to become an accountant. Her reason? “Boring.”)
“In this different country, with Communism a fading memory from far away, my mother blends into the background, no different from any of the millions of women in our cities and villages. But when the light is right, and if you know how to look, she is still the twenty-year-old in the pictures: the one with the long hair and the wide smile, who shimmied down the side of a building to sneak away from the secret police and escape, laughing, on the back of her dissident lover’s motorcycle.
I think we can all be grateful she decided to be a mother, rather than an Evil Overlady.
As for the accountancy? I hate to say it, but I should have listened to my mother.”