Is there room for motherhood in feminism ?

Date: November 17, 2009
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Now, I have never called myself a feminist, because I would rather think of myself as a humanitarian. I fight for everyone’s rights, including those of women. So in as much as I do not wish to be limited to a particular cause, I still feel I qualify as a feminist.
That is why Alice’s pitiful relationship with her only daughter Rebecca Walker left me wondering if, as a feminist, I am trading in my ability to be a good mother to the children I wish to have one day. Is my apathy towards marriage going to mean one day a dysfunctional relationship with my children? I should hope not.
Rebecca feels that her feminist mother was so concerned with being the heroine for all women, she forgot about being her heroine, and that her refusal to subscribe to the world’s patriarchal societal norms subsequently became her refusal to be her mother. She describes her mother in her most recent novel Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood after a Lifetime of Ambivalence as a dispassionate woman who neglected her.
This may be true of Alice Walker, but is it true of all feminists? Do we forget our obligations to our children the second we set that Victoria’s Secret 34 D on fire? Ours is no walk in the park, and it most certainly requires a certain amount of dedication and a few sacrifices along the way, but is that still a justification for us turning our backs on our duties as parents for those of us who make the choice to bring a child into the world?
The obligation to be a good parent is one that rests on both parents and is no more the mother’s obligation than it is the father’s. However, in the same token should feminist mothers relinquish this obligation when they feel that they are not being met halfway by their partners and will therefore be found guilty of playing into a role delegated them by men?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that women should spend their lives bare foot and pregnant standing at a kitchen sink. Yet, a child should never go through primary school and high school with you never having attended a swimming gala, dance recital, rugby match or prize-giving night because you are too busy writing a report, or appearing on TV or having dinner with clients.
It is great to establish good professional relationships, but never at the expense of relationships with children. Gender equality is something close and dear to my heart. My dream is to see the day when men start to value women as their equals, and likewise women start to value themselves as men’s equals, and not view feminists as a bunch of westernised, immoral, self-serving and superior women.
I will fight for that day for as long as I am still breathing. However, when I have children that fight will have to make do with coming second to my fight to give my children the very best of me.
I will fight for a child’s rights before the rights of any adult. I strongly believe that when a person, man or woman, makes the choice to bring a life into this sometimes harsh and cruel world, then their priorities change as a result of that choice. If one can go through life balancing their roles as a parent and as a professional or spouse, then that is ideal indeed.
Yet, if a person ever reaches a crossroads and finds themselves having to pick one or the other then the lot should fall to the child. Rebecca Walker believes that one should not let feminists tell themselves that it’s impossible to be a mother and stay sane, active, creative, and productive. It is possible, says the younger Walker.
Women like Alice Walker give me hope as a feminist through her writing (as an aspiring writer myself). Her work with Women for Women International, a non-profit organisation that supports women survivors of war, shows much a woman can do in the fight for the rights of women the world over.
However, her relationship with Rebecca presents another side of feminism. One that shows that there is a delicate balancing act in realising where the struggle against patriarchy meets with the celebration of motherhood.
Doreen Gaura is an intern with the Gender & Media Diversity Centre. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service which offers fresh news on every day news.

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