Has having children made you feel more empowered? Welcome to the feminist Motherhood Movement
When I became a mum, I found myself caring more about everything. From what I saw on the news to the way my neighbour copes with five children. Most of all, I became concerned about how the world perceives, treats and judges women – and mothers, in particular.
I’d feel outraged if I saw a new mother being tutted at in public because of her crying baby, frustrated at the lack of gender-neutral sleepsuits available – and I became surprisingly outspoken about both.
Yes, I had joined The Motherhood, the latest wave of feminism. Chances are, you have, too. Like millions of other mothers, you’re an example of a new collaborative movement and cultural shift towards equality.
Taking it online
The aim of feminism is the same as it ever was – to give women equal legal, political, financial and social rights to men. But today’s activists have buried the man-hating stereotypes with chatty, mum-dominated websites, where women focus on empowering each other. Media-friendly campaigns have also made waves. The Pinkstinks movement against ‘sexist toys’ saw Sainsbury’s removing labels stating that a doctor’s fancy dress outfit was for boys, while girls had a choice of beautician or nurse. Meanwhile, top businesswomen, such as the chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, are speaking out about being working mothers.
A recent survey discovered that 59% of British women now proudly identify themselves as being feminist, compared to 28% who don’t. Sometimes, this is about how we raise our children – choosing not to adopt stereotypes, such as pink for a girl/blue for a boy – but it filters into every part of our lives, including the workplace. ‘As a mother, inequality in your earning power and status at work has a direct impact on the financial future of your family,’ says Victoria Smith, aka feminist blogger Glosswatch.
This variety of concerns is the key to The Motherhood. Although there are still political placards to be waved and challenging demos to attend, it can also be as simple as supporting another mother in an internet chat room. ‘There’s nothing more feminist than being a mother,’ says integrative psychotherapist Johanna Sartori. ‘When you have a baby, you have something in common with all the other mums out there – you’re “all in it together”.’
"I became concerned about how the world perceives, treats and judges women – and mothers, in particular"
This means feeling a sense of solidarity. ‘I’d never really thought of myself as a feminist until my friend was shamed for breastfeeding her baby in public,’ says Alice Wyld, 27, from Birmingham, who’s mum to Ella, one. ‘A middle-aged couple in a café moaned about it. She was so upset that another friend and I started breastfeeding our babies, just to show our support. The feeling of standing up for our rights as parents connected us.’
Meanwhile, it was motherhood that led Claire Stevens, 33, from London, who’s mum to Billy, three, and Gemma, one, into more traditional protest. ‘Politics have always left me cold but, when our local maternity ward was threatened with closure, I just couldn’t let it happen,’ she says. ‘I’d had two safe births there and I wanted to make sure other mums could do the same. I signed up to a protest group, joined marches and meetings, and I felt so proud when it was announced the unit was being saved.’
Passing on the F-Gene
And it’s not just mums who will benefit from a more equal society. ‘Our thoughts and actions help to model the behaviour of our children,’ says Johanna. ‘Increasing mothers’ sense of worth and self-belief will directly influence their daughters and sons, as well as generations to come.’
Addressing gender issues would also mean all women (with or without children) would stand to gain equality with men in the workplace, while fathers could enjoy further legal recognition of their role in the care of their children. ‘If a society allows inequality, and a huge section of its members – namely women – are prevented from fulfilling their potential, everyone in that society misses out,’ says Victoria.
So, what changes could we look forward to if this new wave of mother-driven feminism has its way? ‘I’d like to see an end to mums being judged on how they raise their children,’ says Victoria. ‘I’d also like more respect for the unpaid work done by stay-at-home mothers, and more fathers involved in childcare. Most of all, I’d like to see a pregnant Prime Minister.’ Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, take note – change it is a-coming…
Are you part of The Motherhood Feminist movement? Let us know in the comment box below.