This month, in honour of International Women’s Day, Women's History Month, and the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, our theme is “Revolutionary Mothering”. Revolutionary Mothering is the idea that mothering not only means taking care of one’s own children but it also means building community and ensuring survival for the future generation. It is this radical act of care-taking and supporting life that is fundamental to raising kids who will become equity champions and builders of revolutionary communities of love, diversity, and inclusion. Our MAR Blogger Becky Leyva, who is a descendant of colonizers but mom to biracial children, looks at how we can become revolutionary motherers.
I am reminded of the “welfare mother”; the racialized and highly politicized term given to mothers of colour who are blamed for all the problems of society. Their entire existence is demonized; the oppression they are up against is not seen as a societal issue in need of reform but rather as something they deserve because of bad choices. They are beat down by society and then blamed for the beating.
What is Revolutionary Mothering?
Revolutionary mothering is a concept based on the anthology: Revolutionary Mothering: Love On The Front Lines co-edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams. It examines what it means to mother when mothering is itself an act of resistance. When simply caring for children, categorized as “other”, is in opposition to systems that work to destroy them. It discusses what it’s like to go up against racism, homophobia, class discrimination, and a patriarchal capitalist society and, instead of being crushed by these forces, raising children and whole communities to survive and transform the next generations.
“The radical potential of the word "mother" comes after the 'm'. It is the space that "other" takes in our mouths when we say it. We are something else. We know it from how fearfully institutions wield social norms and try to shut us down. We know it from how we are transforming the planet with our every messy step toward making life possible”- Alexis Pauline Gumbs
In learning about the concept of Revolutionary Mothering (which relates to my ongoing anti-racism learning), I am once again faced with my position and privilege in our society in that my experience of motherhood is the one that is deemed “acceptable” and I am afforded power and privilege because of this. White, cis-gendered, middle class mothers like myself are given the space and the freedom to exist in motherhood. We are told our babies are a gift and fawned over. Motherhood is not weaponized against us.
In opposition, I am reminded of the “welfare mother”; the racialized and highly politicized term given to mothers of colour who are blamed for all the problems of society. Their entire existence is demonized; the oppression they are up against is not seen as a societal issue in need of reform but rather as something they deserve because of bad choices. They are beat down by society and then blamed for the beating.
To be revolutionary is to challenge the status quo. It can mean to participate in acts of political revolution and force dramatic change to a system. It can also mean challenging oppressive social constructs and healing intergenerational trauma. To be revolutionary is to actively fight for a better world. By raising children that both personally reject white supremacy ideology and exist to disrupt the status quo, together we can extend our own acts of revolutionary mothering into future generations.
I think the steps to being a revolutionary mother, or someone who embodies revolutionary mothering, depends on where one sits in their position of privilege in our society. For many, raising children in a society that doesn’t believe they should exist is itself already revolutionary. For those of us who have been celebrated and given all the privileges to be mothers however we want to be, no questions asked, it means uplifting and supporting everyone in mothering roles. We can use our privilege to make changes in the motherhood space so the mere existence of Black, Indigenous and Mothers of Colour is not an inherent act of resistance.
I have sourced some additional ways we can connect to our sacred power as mothers, and as motherers, to support our mothering communities to be truly revolutionary.
Be a Mother to ALL Children
When we see our position as mothers as integral to building a more equitable future, all of our actions to raise loving, strong, anti-racist, and self-assured humans are powerful contributions to creating a better society. In this way, they are not other peoples’ children. We have a duty to mother, care for, and hold space for ALL the children as they will become our future. In the simplest way, this could look like supporting your fellow mothers by caring for each other’s children; a community-creating, community-caring act.
Remember Your Privilege
Honour the place in motherhood that you sit. Take stock of your position in the systems of oppression by examining your own race, class, gender, sexuality, and age biases and privileges. Think about if you have judged a mother for some perceived ”bad” behavior and instead consider the societal racialized programming that has brought you to this place of judgment.
Fight for those who have been told their existence is wrong (Black, Indigenous, immigrant, single, poor, queer, and young mothers) using whatever privilege you have. Learn about the Radical mothering that occurs in the face of police violence, state violence, incarceration, and oppression. There are many organizations like MAMAS: Mommas Activating Movements for Abolition and Solidarity where we can learn, discuss, and support mothers and others facing systematic oppression.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs writes that (self) love is possible even in a world that teaches us to hate ourselves. When we recognize that mothering can mean healing and challenging the status quo through caring for, nurturing and nourishing, giving love, grace, and attention, we can more easily see we not only mother our children but we can also mother ourselves. Through self-love, and being what we needed but was not given, we are revolutionary in the mothering of ourselves.
What does it mean to uplift the voices of mothers? Use your unique position of privilege to advocate for those in mothering roles. Speak up when needed and fallback, to center the voices of mothers affected, when possible. Supporting those that are oppressed by systemic injustice can mean different things in different contexts but includes financial contributions, volunteer work for existing organizations, ongoing self discovery in anti-racism learning and continued uncomfortable conversations in workplaces and family environments.
“It is an act of love to participate in the resistance work of child-raising “ - Revolutionary Mothering
Ready to Be Revolutionary?
The connection that I feel towards people in a mothering roles deepens my drive to fight for and with them. Reading the accounts of Black, queer, feminist, schloars and the teachings of marginalized mothers in texts like Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines, I am learning how my own mothering can be revolutionary.
Revolutionary motherers envision a better world for the children they are raising up; one that is not a world of oppression. This presents in their own parenting practices such that they treat their children like human beings to nurture and not objects to control. Revolutionary mothering can include listening to the thoughts, dreams, and desires of children on how to dismantle the systems that harm them. It can mean loving them in a way where you work together to heal intergenerational trauma. We can all embody mothering ways that centre love and leave behind traumatic child rearing practices that no longer serve us.
As revolutionary motherers, it is not just our own children that we are raising but our entire community. If we, as a collective force of motherers, prioritize equity, inclusion and social justice and are committed to change, we can build a world for our descendants where everyone is valued.
To be inspired by all our Revolutionary Mothering interviews, head over to our YouTube Channel and check out our Revolutionary Mothering playlist.
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