How to Play the #WomanCard for Mother's Day: Be a Peacemaker

Yes, I have a #womancard. Every woman does. This Mother's Day I decided I will take out my #womancard and play it by lifting up the peacemaking history of Mother's Day and by challenging the kind of violent, oppressive patriarchal power that leads to social conflict and ultimately to war.

And speaking of oppressive, patriarchal power, playing the woman card originated with Donald Trump's most recent dismissal of women, as he accused Hillary Clinton of having no credentials for being president other than being a woman. "Well, I think the only card she has is the woman's card," he said. "She's got nothing else going on."

Twitter exploded with the #womancard meme. A frequent theme was that 'playing the woman card,' unlike Trump's effectively playing his 'man card,' gets you 70 cents on the dollar and has never helped elect a woman president.

All too true.

But it's not all we've gotten from being dealt a #womancard in Western patriarchal culture. For theologian Dorothee Sölle, what the oppressed condition of being female can help you understand (if you cultivate awareness and a certain sense of your own social location and your own capacity to abuse power) is the deep structure of oppressive power, both religious and political. It can help you grasp the "god who made himself vulnerable in Christ." It can show you how the future of the world, the future of justice and peace, depends on rejecting the violent, power-over god. She addresses those who demand a violent, abusive, rich guy god:

I remind them
that god didn't come in an armored car and wasn't born in a bank
and gave up the old miracle weapons thunder and lightning and heavenly hosts one-sidedly
palaces and kings and soldiers
were not his way when he
decided unilaterally
to become a human being
which means to live without weapons

To become a human being means "to live without weapons" and thus to be a peacemaker.

Peacemaking and opposing war are part of the historical origins of Mother's Day. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe published a Mother's Day Proclamation. Ward, best known for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," wanted a way to reconcile a divided country reeling from the hatred and carnage of the Civil War and invite people to pledge to oppose war. Mothers were the way to do it, she opined, and she urged women to take an active political role in promoting peace and opposing war.

Howe called on women to "arise" and to oppose war. "From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.It says 'Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.'"

Women's work for peace has continued and changed the peace movement. In August of 1914, 1500 women participated in a protest march, the 'Woman's Peace Parade," organized less than a month after the outbreak of World War I. Solemn, black-garbed women bearing a banner with a dove marched down Fifth Avenue.

These women changed the method of the peace movement that up until then had worked behind the scenes attempting to change policy. These women peace activists made use of one of the methods of nonviolent direct action to build popular support against what ultimately proved to be carnage on a huge scale.

The Woman's Peace Party was formed out of this action a year later. Members of the group, including its president, Jane Addams, sailed to the Hague to participate in the 1915 International Congress for Peace and Freedom. More than 1,000 women delegates met, including 47 from the United States. These 47 American women sailed through mine-infested waters carrying their banner that read, simply, PEACE. The Congress passed numerous resolutions, including one calling for a "just peace." The Woman's Peace Party ultimately became the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

"Mother's Day" is no longer a peacemaking day, but has been captured by commercialism, saccharine sentimentality and individualism. Millions of holiday cards, flowers, restaurant dining and gifts make it extremely lucrative.

We can play our #womancard and change that. Let's insist Mother's Day become a day to lift up justice and peacemaking, oppose war and the oppressive power of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and classism that has so gripped our nation in this political season.

We must regain our humanity, for after all, Dorothee Sölle advised us:

to become a human being
which means to live without weapons