Mothering Rebels and Rebellious Mothers: The Women's March

Little Red Riding Hood from Deans A Book of Fairy Tales.
Illustrated by Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone. 1977.
If 2016 ended in a dark cloud of anxiety, 2017 has begun with a snowstorm of sisterhood and a tidal surge of rebellion.  On Saturday 21st January, we’d usually all go swimming or I’d head to the shops while my husband takes the boys to the playground.  It's also Trump’s first day as President.  Because of this, we’ll be joining millions of people across the world's cities to march together in the name of justice, equality and the rights of all humans, present and future.  This is the Women's March.

As a human, woman and feminist, I support the march.  As a mother, I feel it is fundamental for me to join the protest, to show solidarity with people the world over, to register discontent with institutionalized prejudice and casual misogyny, but also to feel good about our children's future.  There's nothing like that wonderful feeling of marching with hope and tenacity at your side, empowered and encouraged.  True, we currently have a female PM, female bishops, recognise equal opportunities and have laws to safeguard individual choices, including abortion, same sex marriage and transgender rights.  Brilliant, but I'm also marching because I’ve been inspired by the zeal of Jo Cox; because the Headmaster described his new female staff team as a “pretty bunch”, in front of the pupils; I’ve been told that what I was wearing (a sleeveless high-neck blouse and knee-length A-line skirt) was distracting; that my friends and I still say “text me when you’re home safely” and I was once asked to sign a professional contract that stated that my job would terminate if I got pregnant.  We're also marching to support our American sisters and brothers, whose new President may not recognise the need for equality or respect choice; it is a reminder to those in power that we care, we listen and we all need progress.

Mothers force progress, rebel.  It is in our nature to seek out a better world for our young, to secure a better environment.  We may have to cross borders, make perilous journeys, do a paid full-time job or stay at home, face judgement or criticism for simply trying our best.  My own mother challenged the expectations of what she should study, who she should marry, learning this strength from her mother, an unsung hero who allowed her children to dream and to be who they wanted to be.  My mother-in-law defied tradition by leaving home to study abroad, paying her own way because if her brother could, so could she.  Her mother, an inspirational great-grandmother, with six children by 28, self-taught Dressmaking, English and Mathematics to allow her to supplement the family income.  These choices weren't always popular, at times divisive, but were made in the spirit of integrity and betterment.

My childhood is remembered by a sequence of rebellious acts.  At birth, I was not Christened even though my brothers were both baptised and Confirmed.  "Until women have an equal standing to men, at the highest levels of hierarchy", said mum, "my daughter will not be baptised".  I remember refusing to wear a ‘pretty’ red coat that my mum loved seeing me in.  I didn't want to look like Little Red Riding Hood, though, I wanted to look like the wolf or the woodcutter.  By eleven, friends 'went shopping' on Saturdays, or wore Adidas sweatshirts or Kickers shoes.  When I wanted something, my reason "but everyone else does" was annoyingly, now appreciatively, met with "why do something just because everyone else does?"  And then, "Will you be paid to advertise their logos?!"  Family dinners were usually loud affairs, arguing about the latest Neighbours plotline, or laughing at John Major's cone hotline.  We weren't shielded from the history of slavery, or the realities of sweatshops, scars of war or the bloodshed of Empire; we were left to play ghoulies in the dark and build dens after sunset.  We knew the meaning of 'Holocaust' and 'Apartheid' before we left primary school.  We applauded the heroism of Boudica, David, Luther, Joan of Arc, Gandhi, Emmeline Pankhurst, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Mandela and Phoolan Devi, the Bandit Queen.

Children force progress, rebel.  In the spirit of my own fortunate upbringing, I hope to instill this energy for advocacy and plan to take my boys on Saturday’s march.  I don't mean to romanticise my toddler’s occasional stormy tantrums, but I do see that when he absolutely refuses to wear trousers, or insists that "No! I can do it myself", it’s this natural tenacity that will equip him to take his first steps in claiming his identity as his own.  As grows, I hope that he can channel this determination to try and make the world a better place and can challenge me to adapt as I age.

After years of keeping quiet, observing, reading, night feeding and hoping, while our babies have snuggled in happy ignorant bliss, blessedly naive to the demons of war and the powers of democracy, beginning this blog broke my nighttime silence.  Reflecting on the public and personal, refined into words.  But now it’s time to take my voice to the streets and midday air, to shut the laptop, paint the placards and polish my boots.  Women, men, mothers, fathers: all humans who value respect, dignity and progress, show your support and join us on Saturday in a city near you.  For, like Emmeline Pankhurst, “I would rather be a rebel than a slave”.


 

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