For this holiday, where the history is buried beneath piles of Hallmark cards, I feature another woman’s words, a Mother’s in fact…
Written by Beth Berry. A mother of 4 daughters. She’s a writer, adventurer, life coach, and works for women’s empowerment and strengthening the magical, courageous sisterhood that is our birthright.
I share her words, because I couldn’t have written it, nor said it better myself. It’s an incredible read and hits the core of the amazing work women are doing in the world, the incredible mothers they are, even without their greatest support network they so respectfully deserve — the village.
Want to know the history of Mother’s Day in the U.S.?
Mother’s Day was not created by Hallmark, but by a revolutionary warrior for peace. Julia Ward Howe — abolitionist, activist and poet — was the founder of the original Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Tired of war, tired of nationalism being valued above the lives of the vulnerable, her pain became her mission. She called out for revolution. She called the day of the revolution: MOTHER’S DAY.
I would like to begin with an enormous thank you for paving a way in society for Women. I am truly grateful and I acknowledge the privilege I have as a result. I’m committed to help instill even more privilege where it belongs—to all children, no matter their background and “isms” our society places on them. I know your push for the right to enter the workforce and carve out a career like your Male peers was hard won. Your desire for financial independence and need to express your leadership skills in our society are valid and very important to our humanity as a whole. Again, thank you. I cannot tell you enough, thank you. My letter is not only about the celebration of your hard work, it is also to give you some feedback, which I believe is needed in all experience in order to learn from, and arrive to solutions that work for the times. In doing so, I now move on, to not only addressing my dear Feminist Elders, but to all people that take part in Westernized Society, it’s ideologies, it’s practices, and overall mono-culture.
Like many others in my generation, I am the result of the Feminist Movement— every
wave to be exact. I’ve known it as the right for Women to vote, pursue higher education, create careers, achieve financial independence and exercise their leadership abilities in society on a larger scale. I see how being pigeon-held into a role of being a “docile, submissive, uninformed,
consumer housewife and mother” is an incredibly, excruciatingly painful place to always be, as well as trained to be. It is indeed a cage and very hard to break out of as we still experience many remnants of this cage, even in this day and age i.e. Women getting paid less than Men performing the same jobs and young Women who become mothers and carry the load of housework that comes with making a home because their chosen Male-bodied partners were never trained to “make home” or even know how to share responsibilities, the list goes on.
Let me return to my previous statement, I am the result of the great Feminist Movement, which brought me many things. The great things are the privileges I carry with me all the way from being encouraged to pursue my goals, become educated in the ways that society puts much value in, to financial independence and the various freedoms albeit “perceived freedoms” that come with this achievement. All important things within the society we’ve created, participate in, and pass on generation to generation—Consumer Industrial Capitalism.
Along with these, I was taught that being a “good woman” means to be “strong” — don’t cry, getting ahead is the goal (by mimicking hyper-masculinity promoted by media, etc.) and definitely don’t bring up my period. I was also taught to be independent— Learn to stand on my own, not need anything or anyone (especially a man) and that I can (and should want to) do it all. I have found that the latter has become a bit of an issue for myself, and other Women from my generation. The issue being that Women entered the corporate career (Male created/Male dominated) workforce induced by capitalistic values of competition, hierarchy, ego stroking, posturing, and objectification of anything living (animate beings perceived as inanimate objects, products, toys, and things). In this environment Women entered into, the only possibility for survival and carving out a way was to mimic this nature, behavior, beliefs and practices. In doing so, anything relating to being a “woman” was put aside, put down, and pushed away.
I understand that at the time, this was in order to compete, prove oneself worthy, and gain respect. It’s been a hard fight ever since and continues to this day. The problem is, we left out what it means to be Feminine or worst of all, Female-bodied. Since Women weren’t a part of building the career realm, there wasn’t a place in this sphere already made for Female-bodied citizens. Instead of carving out a path that represented the differences between the needs of a Female body and the Male body, we threw it out completely. A movement was created about Men and Women being equal, which means the same, rather than equal in value. In striving to be equal, our foremothers did just that, tried to be “the same” as Male-bodied counterparts and colleagues.
Here’s the reality. Male bodies and Female bodies are different. They have different needs and even differ in some of their functionality. This is not a sexist remark, it’s a biological fact. I honor the attempt to fight for equal rights, but equal rights is not about being the same, it’s about acknowledging true differences, and treating them and recognizing them as equally valuable. Equal Rights is about fairness, fair treatment, equity. To me, the Female-bodied and Male-bodied are not equal, but are equal in value. The lack of this realization and therefore the societal practices that stem from such a misunderstanding are causing major problems for young woman today. With all due respect, I would like to lay them out for us:
- The Strong Independent Woman Syndrome. Learn to harden yourselves, ladies. Compete to get ahead and don’t even think about leaning on anyone or anything for help. If you do, you’re weak. Definitely don’t cry (or show any other emotion other than happy or stoic). Don’t show pain, just pop some pills every month, muscle through, and “man-up.” Put aside your collaborative skills and just focus on working on your own, as well as being on your own, because you can’t trust anyone, especially a man. The real skills of what it takes to “work well with others” is too much of a risk, too weak or too idealistic.
- No respect and support for Women’s natural & biological make-up in the “working-world.” Menstruation, Ovulation (Women’s entire 28-32 day cycle), Pregnancy, Menopause, childbearing and rearing, emotional health and well-being have no place, no understanding for, support or knowledge being passed down from generation to generation, between the sexes and in the mainstream job realm. Example: No paid maternity leave & sick-leave for periods.
- No respect and support for more “Feminine” leadership qualities and characteristics. Examples: The ability to soften, provide emotional support, celebrate others strengths & achievements, offer help simply to see another succeed without an agenda to financially capitalize on or profit from later, and the ability to see and feel into generations ahead, and therefore make long-term-gain based decisions, rather than short-term (financial) gain decisions with long term loss (i.e. the current state of our environment).*
- No respect and support for what is needed to make a good home— a stable,
supportive, nurturing environment for building a strong, resilient community, family unit and place for children to thrive and become quality adults and engaged citizens. This is actually an area where neither of the sexes are respected and supported.
- The suppression of the “Domestic-Goddess” and devaluing of the abilities & talents to make a good home. The realm of domestic work kept it’s significantly undervalued trademark leftover from The Cult of Domesticity (beginning of Industrial Revolution duties/roles). When Women entered the modern workforce, they shook off their domestic past and roles (understandably so!), but along with it, they conformed to their Male-bodied counterparts ideas of it, and denounced the value of domestic work as well. A conflict formed within Women that still stands today:
between work to make a home and work to make a career.
Women put themselves and each other down for choosing to be a housewife, a mom, or anything domestic for that matter. Instead of fighting for domesticity to be an equally valued career, education, or dare I say it,— paid work!! It was left behind in the shadows. It became something Women use against ourselves and each other to measure “being a good modern woman.” Those that feel more “domestically inclined” rather than “career driven,” and care about making a good home with their partners and family, face guilt accompanied with societal pressure and condemnation (whether subtle or obvious) for choosing to be “just a mom.” For those who try to do both, they are drowning in an overwhelming pile of responsibilities that separate work and home, while also feeling the anguish of their children being raised by others via daycare or nanny. Needless to say, it’s a complex, tumultuous mess. I guarantee most, if not all, are feeling it — parents and children alike are suffering for it. Our entire society is suffering for it.
As a result of these major issues, I wonder sometimes, “What if it had been a little different?” What if the Feminist Movement had been a stand that Men and Women made together, fighting for their right to make a home together? The right to create a stable, nurturing environment for their family? The right to make their home a place of interdependent productivity and community-resiliance, rather than a place of excessive externalized consumerism? What then?
No one knows, but one thing is for sure, only because of the Feminist Movement can we now imagine the adjustments and changes to make within it, in order to take it further and fulfill what I believe it meant initially — a constitutional right being upheld in word and practice that ALL are created equal in value. Not the same, but have the same value and shall be treated as so. With this, I leave you with great reverence for our whole story —from the mistakes made along the way, to the great achievements already made, to those currently underway and yet to come. For the grand learning amidst it all, now, let’s go forth…together.
Your Sister, Confidant, fellow Feminist and Collaborator.
*The author understands that “feminine” or “masculine” characteristics are found in both sexes. The reason we culturally call them Masculine or Feminine is simply because one sex generally shows that characteristic more often or more strongly. Of course, this is due to society induced imagery & narrative, creating deep stereotypes, as well as pigeon-holing each sex in “masculine” or “feminine” boxes, when in reality, each sex has both Masculine and Feminine qualities. Horomone levels and quantities also play a part in these characteristics, but that’s another layer of complexity we won’t get into.
A short piece of heart-writing
Is this how the one before me felt
when I posted pictures of us?
I can’t tell what hurts most, missing you
or my damaged pride. You are the first to move on
and now others know.
It was warm when we met.
Not this unseasonable warmth. It was the perfect season
for walking the city, laughing and holding hands.
In this warm night air my body is flooded
with memories. I feel you on my skin.
Can I love what we had
without pining for more?
You left. I let you go.
I am ready for something else.
I am scared to start anew.
It was a special time we had
though not always easy. I want to honor it,
honor us. But how do I love our past
and live in the present?
Do I feel honored?
“We can be just as free as we are responsible.”
— Fred Rogers, The Cosmic Shed
These are not just words of wisdom to speak by, they are a practice to learn how to live by. The next step in learning the dance of Collabortive Relationships, we feature:
Accepting personal & social responsibility.
We know the “blame game” all too well: “you did this… you did that…you started it.” We spiral down into a hole of tit-for-tat exchange. Truth be told—this is verbal abuse and this is how many are communicating through conflict with each other. We are hitting, smacking, kicking, and beating each other down with our words. This is why we feel so hurt when we walk away from arguments that are based on a reactionary social model. I call it verbal violence.
I remember when I realized my responsibility in participating in verbally abusive interactions, even if I didn’t intend to, or was unaware. I found myself in screaming matches with my partner at the time and one accusation led to another. All the while, I was a self-acclaimed peace activist. Something wasn’t adding up. If I wasn’t finding a way to resolve a conflict peacefully with someone so intimate, I couldn’t claim to be a peace advocate. I went searching for answers.
Non-Violent Communication (NVC) developed by Marshall Rosenberg has shined the light on our socialized communication tactics that we (often unconsciously) use with each other. Culturally, through media, social norms, and relationship examples around us, we are constantly witnessing unhealthy communication styles rooted in reaction and violence. NVC was a wake up call to accepting my responsibility with how I interacted with my partner. It was hard to face the truth of how my intention (peacefulness) didn’t line up with my behavior (unhealthy communication). As an activist for peace, I was actually doing so much to help the “other side” so to speak—literally. I would be a phony if I didn’t pay tribute to Rosenberg’s NVC work and how it has contributed to my own education in unlearning a violent communication style (which is a constant work in progress).
In my own work, I found that the violence perpetuated by our cultural communication model exists due to the inability to accept personal responsibility i.e. the unwillingness to admit to a weakness, confront a truth, or apologize for one’s actions. I have found that when people accept personal responsibility, it
» removes the roles of a villain vs. victim dynamic.
» allows us to be truly honest with ourselves and speak from that place.
» builds trustworthiness and integrity.
» strengthens our vulnerability muscle.
» engages conscious participation in the creation of our lives.
» opens the doors to thinking about creative solutions, rather than re-living destructive problems.
» invites people to be accountable in the creation of a situation or conflict.
» creates openness to hear, respect, and understand one another.
» engages learning how to navigate healthy conflict.
» creates a feeling of deeper connection and being known unto each other.
When we admit to our personal responsibility in interactions and find resolve by doing so, we are taken out of the confines and cages that blame, dishonesty, verbal violence, assumption, and unconsciousness create. We stand strong in owning-up to who we are with grace. We speak our personal truths. We claim our self-respect. We expand our ability to understand. But most importantly, we open-up and we let each other in. Responsibility is part of how we find the freedom to love and be loved as we truly are.
Last week, in Intro to Collaborative Relationships, we explored the idea of collaboration as a way to work together and move in harmony with one another.
This week, my plan was to begin highlighting the important building-blocks in cultivating Collaborative Relationships, beginning with:
The Willingness to Meet Each Other
But, before I opened up my blog to begin writing, 3 things happened:
- A friend sent me a video that described the very essence of my message—the first step in the willingness to meet each other exists when we remember our humanity first.
- I noticed the running theme of DANCE throughout all my articles.
- I chucked my original plan…
This week, in support of keeping my theme going, I decided to let my own words rest and let this video do the talking. Enjoy!
We Came To Dance, by Tasha Blanks
Experience both freedom AND commitment within a relationship of your own making.
This week, I’d like to share the kind of relationships I participate in and help facilitate for others to enjoy. It’s about learning to move together, rather than all on one’s own. It’s about asking for what you need, rather than wishing another could read your mind. It’s about owning your desires, rather than keeping them a forbidden secret. It’s about following through in making your dreams come true, while receiving total support. It’s about taking responsibility for your life, while being lovingly held accountable through it. It’s about Collaboration.
Being collaborative ensures that the individuals involved create a relationship that has the ability to shift dynamics based on their needs, desires, and circumstances that arise through life. People can safely adapt when needed, and allow for individual growth, both together and apart. Collaborative relationships encourage a willingness to work with each other, rather than against one another. Unfortunately, the modern, competitive social model for relating fosters the latter. The collaborative approach is a social model that fosters teamwork & partnership. This way of relating includes ALL kinds of relationships – from romantic to familial and from monogamous to polyamorous.
∴ Dear Readers, what does collaborative mean to you?
Please submit your answers. With your permission, your submissions may be used in future articles.