To (Feminist) Mama, With Love
In our house growing up, we used the F word alot.
Yea, it's the one you're thinking of. Feminist.
As much as it was back then, feminist is still a loaded word. So loaded this fantastic blog by and for teen feminists is called The F-bomb. So loaded, many people will start statements with qualifiers that go something like "I wouldn't call myself a feminist, but..." and then go on to say something seriously, like, feminist. The word is still so loaded there is actually something called "feminist coming out day" with pictures whose caption is "this is what a feminist looks like."
My mother was a feminist mom when being a feminist mom of color was a rare and wonderful thing. At a time when her consciousness raising group of fellow feminist graduate students actually suggested that perhaps she, an immigrant woman (and the only woman of color in the group) had perhaps been coerced into having a child. After all, being a mom was volunteering a form of indentured servitude, wasn't it? (And my mom had been married at sixteen in an "arranged marriage", hadn't she?) In their eyes, feminist motherhood was a sort of oxymoron. And a feminist immigrant mom? Unthinkable.
My mother didn't buy into that crap. With her gracious smile and lyrical voice, I'm sure she read those colleagues the riot act. And then probably made me some scrumptious Indian dinner and read me a feminist fairy tale to boot.
I grew up alongside my mother's own feminist consciousness. Eventually, she began critiquing mainstream feminist movements for their inability to examine their own race, class, and national politics. To her, this was part of the reason that mainstream feminist was so fraught over motherhood. Women around the world had balanced parenting with politics throughout the ages, my mother argued, for U.S. feminists to think otherwise was simply a form of solipsistic me-feminism - a myopic progressive politics unable to raise a next generation of activists.
My mother began organizing in the South Asian immigrant community. By the time she founded MANAVI, the first South Asian anti-domestic violence organization in the U.S., I was old enough to stuff envelopes and help sell samosas at a fundraising drive. (Yes, really, we sold samosas at our first fundraising drive.) And don't think it was just me doing that envelope stuffing on our kitchen floor, the MANAVI logo and symbol were both drawn by my father - a fabulous feminist parent in his own right.
When my mom became a national leader in anti-domestic violence work, an expert in international domestic violence law, it's not as if she ever stopped functioning as a loving and wonderful mother (and now grandmother). She simply let me grow up watching and participating in her own political growth.
My mother has shown me consistently, in word and action, that parenting and politics are not separate ways of being, but must coexist. That raising socially aware, passionate, and just children is a critical feminist act.
She's also taught me that social justice politics are not simplistic, as neither are our personal identities. All are complex and fluid and sometimes, even seemingly contradictory. Samosas are sometimes sold at protest rallies, family obligations are a part of our feminist commitments, and ferocious political critique can come through the gentlest lullabies.
A mother must put on her oxygen mask first, in order to be able to help her children – I see this instruction on airplanes as an appropriate metaphor for feminist mothering. Mothers, empowered, are able to better care for and protect their children – Andrea O’Reilly.
Janine Cammarata will be presenting this soul filling workshop at the Yoga Lily, 1 Barney Road in Clifton Park this month.
Dreaming for Healing & Self Awareness- A workshop on dreaming for your future, healing, and self-awareness. Work your way through your dreams using easy techniques that anyone can do. The experience is open to those wanting to connect to their dreams and use their messages to improve their lives and connect with their souls. Learn how to recall your dreams, and use them to guide your waking life during this fun and laid back workshop.
Janine is a certified dream teacher, local author and the president of Nick's Fight To Be Healed Foundation www.fighttobehealed.org. Bring a journal/notebook, pen, dream or image, and an open mind. Dress comfy. Suitable for ages 15 and up. Preregister for this program, as it will fill quickly. $15.00, Save $5 when you purchase 1 week in advance. Register Now.