by Chanel Dubofsky
I was once what you might call “bad” at Mother’s Day. When my mother was alive, I would constantly forget it, make plans on the day of, not call, etc. This was due to the incredibly complicated relationship I had with my mother, to her long illness and me not being the kid she thought she’d have, and also because I thought Mother’s Day was stupid.
Everybody calm down – I also think Father’s Day and Thanksgiving and Arbor Day are stupid – but Mother’s Day gets to me in a particular way, and it’s not just because my mother is dead (that essay has been written already). It’s also because of the elaborate co-opting of what was a feminist action, and is now a conflagration of capitalism and sexism.
It’s a pretty convenient move to erase, or at least bludgeon to the point of obscurity, Julia Ward Howe and the Mother’s Day Proclamation from popular memory, especially if what you replace it with is pink, lacy, smells like really expensive flowers. Mother’s Day marketing is about femininity and not the ass kicking sort. Instead, the kind that’s self sacrifcing to the fullest extent possible, that erases desires, goals and personalities in favor of the ultimate demonstration of womanhood-being a mother. And of course, we have to reward this, even though it’s dangerous and unrealistic and unattainable, because if you love someone, you buy them stuff.
Mother’s Day, of course, is only one example of how capitalism thrives on the distortion and co-opation of feminism and all movements for liberation. It perpetuates lies and essentialism – women need children and men to give us purpose, without these things, what else would we do? Who would we be? Father’s Day isn’t exempt, by the way – it’s just different. Those gifts celebrate traditional notions of masculinity and stereotypes of fathers: Sports! Meat! Work!
Capitalism is based in the practice of manufacturing and selling us dichotomies-success/failure, male/female, love/hate, married/alone. These are packaged and we buy them, for many reasons, one being because it’s easier to accept that things are simple than it is to look deeply for radical truth.
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,” Julia Ward Howe wrote in 1870. “Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.”
Let’s take some shit back, shall we? Instead of putting money into an economic system that hurts all of us, isolates us from each other and profits from keeping that isolation going, let’s refuse to participate in the structure in the way we’re told we should. (Don’t worry. Being part of the revolution doesn’t mean you don’t love your mom.)
(photo by Michael Prudhomme, CC licensed via Wikimedia Commons)