My not-collaborative, daughter-only, very late Mother’s Day post

I wanted to write this post with my mother, who was visiting this weekend for, you guessed it, Mother’s Day. But every time we’d start talking about the post we’d end up in a debate about whether the ideas were feasible or whether they were too idealistic. I think my mother likes to debate with me, even when she agrees with my positions, because she doesn’t get a chance to have a lot of intellectual debates and because we can argue with each other without it becoming personal. Believe it or not, I think that arguing was part of my mother’s day gift to my mom!

So, instead of a collaborative mother-daughter post, you’re getting my list of things I want to see achieved so that mothers — and hence the rest of us really — can have better lives and lives where working for sexual freedom doesn’t seem like such a luxury.

My list, the items on which my mother largely generally thought important but too idealistic, includes the following:

– Sexual openness so that women can enjoy their sexuality and share it fearlessly with their partners. Through sex we express desires, we communicate, we connect, and we feel pleasure. We should continue to work so that women are free to experience the fullness of their sexualities without shame or danger.

– Access to contraception and safeguarding the right to abortion when needed so that all motherhood is by choice. This is a place we need to redouble our efforts, as access to good information about contraception, and access to abortion when needed, is being eroded in this country, and being eroded or prevented in other countries this country’s policies.

– High quality, affordable — dare we even say government subsidized — child care so that all parents who work outside the home — including those for whom work is a necessity and not a choice — can do so without economic penalty or fear for the safety of their children.

– Realistic part-time and flexible work options so that parents have more choices about how to divide the labor of wage-earning and child-care. I don’t mean part time with no stability and low pay. I mean part time with reasonable wages that would exceed the child care costs incurred while working those more flexible hours.

– Universal health care — not just health insurance — so that employers are no longer the ones who provide our access to health care. This isn’t just a matter of concern for the poor, either. Plenty of middle income people end up financially devestated even if they do have health insurance because the part of the medical bills that the health insurance doesn’t cover is still more than they can afford. (This is especially awful for people who have fallen prey to the “two income trap” where two parents are both working to pay for meeting the basic needs of the family and then one gets sick and the other can’t make up the difference.) Oh, and of course this health care has to cover treatment for addictions and mental illness just as it covers physical illness.

– Fair wages for all workers. This means eliminating the wage gap, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, and providing living wages to all workers. Living wages mean that parents can work reasonable hours and spend time with their kids. And we also need reasonable paid leave policies so that people don’t lose out when they need to take care of a child.

– Peace. The costs of wars, in dollars and in lives, is too great to justify, and the paying of that cost is keeping us from doing the kinds of things suggested above — things that would make economic security a reality for many more people.

Julia Ward Howe is often credited with initiating Mother’s Day in the United States as a protest against war, ironic since she also penned the Battle Hymn of the Republic. But she herself was inspired by the work of Anna Jarvis who organized around workplace health and safety issues and then organized women to tend to the wounded in the Civil War. In fact, the Mother’s Day we now celebrate is on or about the anniversary of a memorial that Jarvis’s daughter held in her honor after she died. The holiday, which originally honored women who worked for social justice and peace has become, in the US, a mostly-consumer, mostly-private holiday where we thank our own mothers for the sacrifices they have made and the work they have done. I think it’s time, again, to turn the day around and make it a day when mothers — and the rest of us — call for justice and peace.

Mothers have sex, and they need sexual freedom and economic security. Without economic security it is difficult for people to make sexual freedom a high priority. When people don’t have economic security their first priority must always be gathering what resources they can to meet their basic needs. All people, regardless of economic status, must be entitled to sexual freedom but sexual freedom feels like a luxury when you are too exhausted from working your second job and making sure the kids got to school to even think about having sex with your partner. When we work for sexual freedom we must take into account the needs of the poor and working class as well as the needs of the middle class and the wealthy.

Health care, child care, contraception, fair wages, peace, and sexual freedom. They’re all connected.

Happy Mother’s Day.


Click here for Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation as posted on the CodePink web site.

Click here to watch the Mom’s Rising! Mothers’ Day E-Card
featuring the Infant Aerial Stunt Team and a simple laying-out of the Moms Rising policy goals (several of which are reflected in my post, above).


Filed under activism, culture, Family, feminism, inequality, mothers day, public discourse, reproductive freedom, sex

9 responses to “My not-collaborative, daughter-only, very late Mother’s Day post

  1. Thank you for this post. I’m sending it to my mother as a very late present!

  2. It’s wonderful that you and your mother can debate these issues. I’d love to hear her side of this sometime.

    Little known fact about Julia Ward Howe: her husband had a long-term sexual romance with another man, which was confusing and hurtful for her–no PFLAG back then! She wrote a strange and sort of beautiful book called The Hermaphrodite that wasn’t found and published until recently. The main character is more sexless than two-sexed, but the book is a fascinating exploration of gender and sexuality in the 18th century.

  3. Nice wishes for Mother’s Day. The same wishes could be made for Father’s Day too, as there are a lot of us fathers out there needing the same benefits for our families.

  4. TheCynicalGirl: You’re very welcome. I hope your mother receives it well. And thanks for your comment. I hope you’ll stick around!

    TangleThis: My mother sometimes comments on this blog (and I’ve made reference to her in a few places as well). She writes as Judy or JudyCatch22. The funny thing about our debates is that quite often we are actually in agreement about the principle of the thing, and disagree on the “is it possible” part of the thing.

    Neal: I couldn’t agree more. In fact, everything I want for mothers I actually want for all of us! (Not being a mother, myself, and being a very pro-labor — the other kind of labor — person, I want to improve conditions for all.) Watch for a father’s day post in June.

  5. Wonderful Mothers’ Day post. Much better than flowers or Hallmark cards IMHO.

  6. JanieBelle, how nice to have you back! We’ve missed you around here!

  7. *blush* It’s nice to be missed.


  8. elpolaco

    I agree about the economic dimension. I think there can be no true sexual liberation without adequate free time for play that is essential to sexual satisfaction, which is hardly possible within a society in which parents need to be highly competitive and overworked professionals just to be able to afford childcare. I have also sensed that the range of opportunities for older women to find partners is reduced as the competitive society pushes men to pursue success which then makes them attractive to younger women. Why this is the case is debatable. Karl Bednarik in The Male in Crisis argues that the media is to blame. As the economy grows and gets richer we become more sexually deprived and impoverished, contrary to the apparent sexual liberation promoted by the media. For example, if economic competitivenss leads older men to prefer younger women, there’s pressure for women to remain in an unhappy marriage because the chance of finding partners is significantly reduced. Sexual liberation in principle is pointless if one cannot find partners in fact. So I would say that the economics of sex doesn’t add up.

  9. Pingback: Thoughts on Fathers Day « Sex in the Public Square