Solidarity with mothers (and all women) on Mother’s Day

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

By Sharon Miller

Although I plan to celebrate Mother’s Day with my own mother (hi, Mom!), I have to admit that my knowledge of the experience of motherhood is somewhat limited: I am not a mother. I have never been pregnant, and I have never participated in childrearing. While I like kids, I go back and forth about whether I will ever have children.

I also have some serious reservations about the ideology of gender essentialism: the assertion that all women are destined to be gentle, nurturing, and accommodating of others’ needs. There are many women who have participated, knowingly or unknowingly, in the oppression of other women—including mothers. Failure to acknowledge this reality amounts to ignoring many issues that are important to women, particularly women who have been marginalized by mainstream feminist movements.

Finally, I have to admit that I regard the Hallmark version of Mother’s Day with a great deal of contempt. As a feminist, I take issue with the incessant gender essentialism in mainstream depictions of mothers in commercials for jewelry, greeting cards, housewares, etc.

However, I respect the original intent of Mother’s Day: a feminist call to action for disarmament and an end to war. In her 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation, Julia Ward Howe had the following message for American women:
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

These sentiments might not fit on a Hallmark card, but they certainly apply today. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the plight of women, particularly mothers and their children, used to justify the inexcusable wars and occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. How telling that none of these warmongering justifications acknowledges that it is these same wars and occupations that have resulted in death and devastation for these mothers and children!

I may not agree with gender essentialism or generalizations of all women as peaceful, but I know that war hurts mothers in so many ways. Mothers have been killed in the US-led wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere; so have their children. These wars have devastated mothers’ livelihoods and created enormous burdens for their children, and have led to a crisis in mothers’ access to food, clean water, health care, shelter, freedom from violence, and other basic human rights. Showing support on Mother’s Day (and every day) for mothers around the world by opposing war and militarism is an act of feminist solidarity.

I am not a mother, but I support the right of mothers, and all women, to be free from the devastation of war.

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