No matter how it might seem sometimes, feminism is not a movement for the young. Historically it seems that so long as feminism has had a name, the following generation of women has wanted to exclude her parents and older women in general. There is a misplaced belief that becoming a mother gives into the patriarchal system. Under this belief, mothers cannot be feminists.
This is one of the largest problems feminism still grapples with because although there are critics of feminism for being straight, white, and middle class, motherhood is discussed far less often. If each new generation of feminists is content to believe they are the only ones who are oppressed, and that because they are young and radical they are at the core of the movement, then feminism is limiting itself.
I understand that motherhood is a slippery subject with feminists asking questions such as: is giving birth and settling down accepting your biology? and Can this choice ever be a feminist statement? A woman named Kathleen M. Streater wrote a feminist critique of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening in 2007 and summed up feminism in perhaps the clearest way I have ever heard: “Today, more than ever, feminism is about choice.” Without going too much into detail about Streater’s critique, I need to point out that choice is exactly what feminists are fighting for. We want the choice to be engineers, executives, or athletes. At the same time, what about the choice to fall in love, be in an equal relationship and raise your children as feminists?
Motherhood is often mislabeled as unfeminist, without anyone really understanding what unfeminist means. Does anyone stop to consider that motherhood does not kill feminism? I want to praise the mothers who want a better world for their sons and daughters. I want to praise the mothers who live in a world that dismisses them once they have fulfilled their biological function and given birth.
My mother has been influential in my life, and I know that she has has always put my brother and myself first, before any career options, and that employers are never happy with this. Women are supposed to raise families, give birth, and put aside their identities for the role of mother. The commonality of woman-as-mother puts her in direct opposition to feminism. But it shouldn’t be this way. If feminism is for equal rights, keeping mothers closeted as the uniformed generation of the patriarchy is not going to bring any unification.
The next step for feminists needs to be accepting mothers as the strong women they are, understanding that we are all women, and finally dismantling the stereotype that mothers are only identified by their children.