Latest posts by Jules Ozone (see all)
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- Finding Mental Health Services When Your Government Doesn’t Care About You - January 31, 2017
- Your Experiences Are Not Universal: On Films About White Men - June 9, 2015
I have this awful habit of forgetting that my mom’s a woman. Like, not actually forgetting, but I’m so used to interacting with her in this very specific parent/offspring way that I forget that my feminist lens applies to her, too. Here’s an example: the other day my parents came down to visit me, and my mom had packed up this huge shopping carriage thing full of non-perishables because she’s worried that I’m starving here in the big city and that I don’t have an easy way to get groceries. And I was just all, “Cool, thanks Mom” and accepted it as just a mom thing that my mom had done for me rather than thinking about how much actual effort it takes to do that much shopping for someone else and how my dad probably never would have thought of that and how all of the burden of providing food for me and our family has always fallen solely on our matriarch. Moms are taken for granted way too much of the time, and in order to include my mother in my constant battle for equal rights, I need to be critically feminist of every interaction I have with her. Especially on a holiday dedicated to her. So here are some ways you, too, can feministly honor your mom this Mother’s Day:
1) Do your own damn dishes.
When I lived at home I used to leave so many of my dirty clothes, dishes, and other chores for my mom to take care of. Because that’s what everyone else did. Because it was expected that our mom would take care of us by cleaning up after us, even if she got a little exasperated about it once in a while. Then in my first women’s studies class in college I learned about the “second shift”, or the double burden that many working women bear, above and beyond the work that male partners contribute. Working women often work for a paycheck full-time, but then come home and continue working around the house (cooking dinner, doing laundry, and cleaning) with little to no help from the men in their lives. I remember thinking how fucked up that was, and then realizing that I had done little to stop that sexist bullshit from happening in my own house growing up. If your mom works and also takes on the bulk of the house work, step up and do your own chores year-round to counteract that societally-sanctioned second shift. And on that note…
2) Don’t buy her gifts that make her do more chores.
I definitely have been guilty of this; I used to buy my mother various kitchen appliances and utensils because I figured hey, she spends so much time shopping and making food for us, so she must really, really love doing that- I bet she’d like a bread maker so she can spend even more time in the kitchen. I came across these lists of sexist, vintage ads a few years ago and had flashbacks to the types of things I had gifted my own mother:
The message here is that women’s entire lives should revolve around their domestic work and caring for their families. Women are often pressured into performing more housework than men because we are socialized to believe that any work that happens in the house is up to us. And buying women chore gifts just reinforces the idea that their joy and purpose in life should come from cleaning. So buy your mother something she can use in her down-time and that’s specific to her own interests, not just some fancy new cordless vacuum that she can only use when she’s cleaning up after you, ya messy punk.
3) Don’t buy her flowers (unless she actually really loves flowers).
The whole tradition of buying women flowers, candy, and jewelry is rooted in benevolent sexism. These gifts operate on the premise that all women are exactly alike and therefore can universally be impressed by receiving the least creative gift ever. I’ve always felt like flowers and chocolates are kind of cop-out gifts to buy the woman in your life, because they probably have nothing to do with her individual personality or interests but are this one generic gift that every woman is supposed to swoon over. And some women obviously really do love cut flowers and that’s totally cool, but it’s sexist to assume that your mother loves flowers just because she’s a mom. I suggest doing research and coming up with a creative, thoughtful gift that you didn’t buy last second at CVS.
4) Talk to her about feminism/women’s issues.
This one is actually super important, and I’m challenging myself to do it all the time, not just on mother’s day. My mom doesn’t really have the outlet, like I do, to talk about women’s issues that affect her, and I’ve had some really awesome experiences bringing up these topics with her. I recently took a class on pregnancy and birth from a feminist perspective, and the assignment was to talk to my own mother about my birth; I learned that she had felt really rushed and distanced by her doctors (perhaps the corporatization of child birth is to blame?) and that she was pressured to use an epidural even though she knew it might not be right for her. That was exactly the kind of thing I had learned about in class, and it was awesome to talk to her about it and to hear this perspective from her that I had never bothered to ask about before.
Even as a feminist whose purpose in life is to make the world more equitable for women, I have a surprisingly narrow understanding and set of expectations for my own mother. I love her to death, but I just think of her as, you know, my mom: the person who changed my diapers as a baby and made me roll my eyes constantly as a teenager. I forget that she’s had really fucked up experiences in her life because of her gender, and that she’s had some other really empowering ones that I don’t even know about. This Mother’s Day, I’m reminding myself to apply my feminism to my dear mother and to give her the day she deserves.