Well, what a weekend! Thanks to 3 years of tireless work by Heather Ticheli, representing Mothers At Home Matter, to get an opportunity to speak out, maternal feminism entered the collective feminist conscious at Feminism in London, and how! MAHM had planned everything so well, and shared their fab stall on the 3rd floor with All Mothers Work and the Politics of Mothering. Alongside Heather and Mel of MAHM, who also chaired and opened our panel, Kerry and Alex gave their time to woman the stall, and help out and support non-stop, and it was just so fabulous to be there together that we didn’t actually venture out into the event as much as we might have done if we were just there as individuals.
But when we did, we strategically made sure that there were maternal feminists in key sessions. Vanessa Olorenshaw had everyone talking about the brilliant way she tackled Sophie Walker of the WEP about certain issues (read her blog on WEP at www.politicsofmothering.wordpress.com), and me and Heather made sure that caring was intrinsic to the list of demands for women when drafting a bill of rights, namely that women’s unpaid caring work be counted alongside paid employment, and that the point that only covered the demand for better childcare was changed to read that supporting and enabling greater choice for mothers, including childcare or staying at home with them, was demanded.
The panel itself, on Sunday, went really well. It was so great to see so many members of All Mothers Work and MAHM in the audience, and some dear Twitter friends too. M & K of AMW sat crocheting and knitting on the front row, and it was v calming. Mel spoke first, in her customary open, confident, friendly way, laying down the economic facts about mothering and what mothers want, in easy yet powerful terms. Vanessa spoke next, confidently blending personal testimony with hard-hitting facts and analysis, particularly rousing everyone by recalling the words and actions of Eleanor Rathbone. Then I spoke, getting a bit shouty at times, as I broke down why neoliberalism is failing mothers so badly, and what radical steps we must take (I’ll post the transcript after I post this). Finally, Karem spoke about her home country, Ecuador, moving seamlessly from evocative childhood memories, to her love of being a mother, onto testimony about what poverty & desperation, created by patriarchy and capitalism can force mothers to do, ending with scientific and sociological facts to back up her assertions.
Then we opened the floor up to the attendees. Nina of Global Women’s Strike spoke a little about the history of the Wages for Housework campaign, started in the early 70s, and more, S of AMW gave moving personal testimony, and spoke out about the urgent need to dismantle the model of the patriarchal nuclear family and provide matriarchal options of child-rearing for mothers, and Louise Pennington of A Room of Our Own (and much more) made some fantastic points about how the mental and emotional labour of women in keeping a home and family afloat is so stressful yet acknowledged (because men’s brains apparently can’t contain facts like the name of their children’s teacher, or make dentist appointments, etc.). One mother spoke about how the mothers of children with disabilities and/or additional needs being doubly invisible and trapped, and it made us realise that this is an area that maternal feminism must focus on and support better than we do at the moment.
There was a slightly ho-hum moment when one audience member asked about men doing mothering (a linguistic issue) and not liking our answer that men can only do fathering/parenting, but a quick shout of “can we not focus on men?” from the back soon drew that line of discussion to a halt. All in all, it couldn’t have gone better, and the discussion and buzz went on for ages afterwards. The poor photographer could barely get us to stay still and quiet for a few mins to take out picture!
I think I can speak for everyone involved, from all the various sister groups, that it was a success, that we feel like we’ve really got our ideas and aims into the minds of many people who’d never considered them before, oR thought there was just one way of thinking about mothering within feminism, ie paid employment, etc., and even changed a few minds too.
On a personal level, it was absolutely wonderful. It was amazing to meet so many women face to face for the first time who I’ve got so close to online, as well as reconnect with ones I’ve met before. My voice is a bit hoarse today from speechifying AND squealing with joy at meeting so many kindred spirits in the flesh. Special thanks to Heather for feeding me, putting me up for the night and letting me nose through all her beauty goodies, and to Kerry for a very special lunch together. And to Julian & Janie at Feminism in London for all their support, enthusiasm & help.
We must build on all we’ve achieved so far and push things further. I’m going to be making some exciting new changes to AMW and the website over the next few months, so keep supporting me and our group, and together, we are going to achieve so much.
Huge thanks to you all for your love, support, kind words, and donations to my GoFundMe appeal to help me produce my flyers and other stuff, and travel to That London and back. Again, thanks to MAHM for financial support and giving AMW the opportunity to join them in this vital work.
See you next year! XX – EP
PS If I’ve left anyone out, please don’t take it personally. The weekend went like a fantastic blur!