“The most subversive thing a woman can do is talk about her life as if it really matters.” So writes Egyptian journalist and feminist activist Mona Eltahawey in her stirring book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution.
God did those words resonate with me.
Because, see, that’s what we do here in the blogosphere. We tell our stories. We claim our words and we insist on our expertise as mothers and parents. And for once in our goddam lives as mothers and women, we refuse to apologize for what we know. We do not dismiss our experiences as frivolous, or silly, or somehow secondary. We fight – by our very existence, by our very act of being in this space – a culture that consistently belittles that which belongs to women. As the wonderful writer Jennifer Weiner has pointed out time and again, if it is coded as female ( in her example, so called “chick-lit,” or here, “mommy blogging”) then it doesn’t matter as much. It’s not as important, it isn’t – it shouldn't be – taken seriously, and it can be easily mocked and dismissed.
Weiner says hell-to-the-no. And so do I.
So I’m here today to say that I salute you, I salute us, mothers and writers. No matter why we are here. Maybe we write because we are going crazy in our house and need to reach out. Maybe we write because we luxuriate in words, are utterly alive in language, and get totally seduced by putting together gorgeous paragraphs. Maybe we write because we are angry and need to vent. Maybe we write for the money. Maybe we write for the audience and the community. Maybe all of the above. Maybe none. It doesn’t matter. Whatever the reason, I salute that we show up here and tell our stories. I salute that we take ourselves and each other seriously, even when we joke, even when we write the most frivolous of things. Because that’s just fine. That’s important too. We’re experts on all aspects of being mothers, from the weightiest to the most absurd. And there’s plenty of absurdity in parenting. We know that: just ask us. We know because we are the experts in this. And this – this parenting gig, this being women and mothers – this absolutely matters. And we’re really freaking good at it. And it matters that we say that – that we insist on saying that. (And blogging dads out there – hey! It’s totally fine that you’re here! It’s just great! You are totally welcome! But you are also welcome everywhere else in the freaking world; op-eds and articles and blogs and everything else are overwhelmingly written by men. Positions of power are overwhelmingly held by men who continue to offer them to the men around them. But in the mommy blog space, among few writing spaces – it’s overwhelmingly women. And overseen by women. And that’s even greater than the fact that you dudes have popped by.)
Eltahawey’s context is different than this – she writes about sexism in its most violent and oppressive forms. And the stakes for the women she focuses on are different than my own. The dangers they face are more immediate, and often more life-threatening, and sometimes quite, quite terrifying. Their fight is not my fight. But I stand in solidarity with all women – of colour and white, trans and cis, straight, lesbian, queer and non-binary, rich and poor, able-bodied and disabled – and I support them with my own fight. Because things are rough out there for women. And things aren’t so great right here at home either. Right now, women around the world are forming alliances and fighting back on their own terms. And it’s important that I, as a white women in the global north, stand with other women and also let them dictate these terms. And it’s equally important that I fight my fight. Our fight.
And telling our stories – and insisting that they matter – is part of that. Because here in the US women still don’t make as much money as men for the same – or even more – work. Because we don’t have any kind of parental leave. Because we are penalized for the mere fact of having children. ("We" being women; for men, kids are a career boost.) Because there are four times as many “s’’s in Mississippi than there are abortion clinics. (Thanks for that one, John Oliver.) And because that one abortion clinic is under threat. Hell, because all abortion clinics in our country are under threat. Because there are those who want to make even more laws to take away our control of our own bodies. Because we are beaten and raped. Because we are sexualized and infantilized and objectified, which makes it all that much easier to ignore us when we say what we want.
Or what we don’t want.
Do you disagree with me? Good! Great! Let’s discuss. Let’s argue. Let’s even fight. And then our sons and especially our daughters will hear us women refusing to embrace the culture of politeness that teaches us to be compliant and accommodating. That encourages us to say yes.
That ignores us when we say no.
And blames us for whispering, even if we are screaming inside. Or outside.
But here, we scream together. We sing together, and laugh together. We cry together. Here, we can’t be ignored. We are not being ignored. Because we are here together, and we hear each other. And that alone is a subversive act. And it’s one I take very, very seriously.