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…and our home is the whole wide world

I was going to post this on Mother’s Day itself…but since I know there are a few other mommas following my blog, I thought I’d post it in time for us all to do some thinking on the matter.

This year, I would like to take the time to thank my mother and make a promise to my daughter.

Thank you mom, for raising me to think critically and independently. Thank you for valuing education, and for teaching me to value education for myself and my children. Thank you for being willing to sacrifice your time, your energy, and your effort to show me what a woman is capable of achieving. Thank you for showing me that I am powerful, no matter what I choose to do (and even when I forget). Thank you for showing me the right way to treat others–with compassion and respect, regardless of their differences from myself. Thank you for teaching me that I am in control of my body and my destiny and for valuing both. Thank you for loving me as I am.

Most of all, thank you mom for raising me to be what this man considers a shameless slut–considering the source (really multiple sources at this point), I’m taking it as a compliment.

(“I am opposed to woman suffrage, but I am not opposed to woman.’ — Anti-suffrage speech of Mr. Webb of North Carolina.)

0 WOMEN, have you heard the news
Of charity and grace?
Look, look, how joy and gratitude
Are beaming in my face!
For Mr. Webb is not opposed
To woman in her place!

0 Mr. Webb, how kind you are
To let us live at all,
To let us light the kitchen range
And tidy up the hall;
To tolerate the female sex
In spite of Adam’s fall.

0 girls, suppose that Mr. Webb
Should alter his decree!
Suppose he were opposed to us-
Opposed to you and me.
What would be left for us to do-
Except to cease to be?

source

Ninety two years ago, on August 26, 1920–my great-great grandmother’s era, women in the United States finally won the right to vote.   I don’t know if the women in my family fought for suffrage or not, but I know we take pride in wielding it.  Since then, there has been a long struggle for equal acceptance, not just in the workplace, but in society as a whole.  And it seems that we are in a backslide, led by the likes of pundits, preachers and politicians wanting to return America to a non-existent mythical golden age where women know their place (barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen), gays know their place (in hiding), minorities know their place (back in their “own country”), non-Christians know their own place (in hell), and kids know their own place (being taught ignorance and bigotry, and maybe working in a sweatshop)– and all of us silent, and without rights.

Its recently come to my attention that taking away our reproductive rights hasn’t been enough…now some conservatives are starting a whisper campaign against our voting rights.   That all that is wrong in America and the world is the fault of women, and it all started with women getting the vote.  Really? Are they insane? That’s a brand of misogyny that I have never seen before, at least not in this country.  No one ever told me that first they’d take away my vaginal rights and next they’d take aim for my voting rights.

Its a brand of misogyny my mother didn’t know to prepare me for.

Its a brand on misogyny even my grandmother thought was over.

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Sojourner Truth, 1851

So it seems I have a promise to make to my daughter…and to all of the daughters of women that have fought for the right to have equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I promise to raise you to think critically and independently. To value your education, and to teach your children to value education. I promise to sacrifice my time, energy, and effort to show you what a woman is capable of achieving in life. I will make sure you know that you are powerful, no matter what you choose to do. I will teach you the right way to treat others, by showing you compassion and respect, regardless our differences and disagreement. I will teach you that you are in control of your body and your destiny, and I will teach you to value and love both, by valuing and loving you.  And I will always, always love you as you are.

Oh, women, women! When will you cease to be blind? What advantage have you received from the Revolution?

A more pronounced scorn, a more marked disdain.

In the centuries of corruption you ruled only over the weakness of men.

The reclamation of your patrimony, based on the wise decrees of nature–what have you to dread from such a fine undertaking? Do you fear that our legislators, correctors of that “morality”, long ensnared by political practices now out of date, will only say again to you: women, what is there in common between you and us?

Everything, you will have to answer!

Olympe du Gouge, modified from her Declaration of the Rights of Women, 1791

Chickadee, I promise you that if this nation, that I spent six years defending, manages to stray so far from the ideals upon which it has been founded, that it takes away your right to determine your own sovereignty, that I will fight for you, for us, until my dying breath. And I promise you that I will have raised you to be a strong, independent thinking, beautiful young woman that knows the equality of opportunity is worth fighting for.

You will know that there will always be people that want to silence your gender and take away your right to cast a vote and to remove your right to determine your own destiny.

In this day and age, being a shameless slut is something to be proud of.

It seems to something of a family tradition–as your granny said, it takes one to raise one.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman

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