Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mothers' Day?

It seems odd that I, a mother, dislike Mothers' Day (and yes, the apostrophe IS supposed to be after the "s").

Some history, may I? Under the guise of legitimizing what is basically a holiday intended to celebrate women who have remained happily in "their place," numerous versions of the history of mothers' day exist.

In my personal favorite fiction, Mother's Day has been celebrated since before recorded history, in the guise of worship of feminine mother-deities. Sorry, no. While such deities have certainly been celebrated, it's a pretty awesome stretch to say that mothers were thus celebrated and therefore we need to buy things from Hallmark. There is no straight line (nor even a curvy dashed one) between the two.

Mothers' Day Proclamation - 1870
by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

And yet, it is the saccharine Anna Jervis version (a pale shadow of the Mothers' Work Days that her mother, Anna Reeves Jervis, promoted and celebrated) of the holiday that made it into the hearts of the (male, durh) lawmakers. By the time Mother's Day had (apostrophe appropriately moved) made it just a few years, even Anna Jervis who said: "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," was more than a little sickened by what was developing. Which isn't even why I dislike Mother's Day (although I certainly don't like the commercialism).

So why do I dislike Mother's Day? I dislike the celebration of ideal-woman-as-domestic. I am passionate about the FACT that women deserve respect. How is this respect? This tradition of a pat on the head and a few flowers and a "job well done!" congratulations for "all that woman-type work" we do?

Well, damn, I'd rather have my husband hand me a martini on the way in the door every evening. And keep the kids quiet...I've worked hard and need my rest, after all. Dinner should be warm too, in appreciation of the hard work I've done.

You see? SEE how it comes down? Men get this respect. Women get a breakfast in bed once a year. Little hand-scrawl-imitation greeting cards showing stick women with vaccuum cleaners. And doesn't every woman love watching flowers slowly wither and die in a vase on the kitchen counter?

Give me a fucking break.


~L~ said...

P-Daddy says "Happy Mother's Day!"

This is really well written, and a defense of good men, as well, like the ones we married. I think you should submit it to Salon. Seriously.

Aimee said...

Niki, you fucking ROCK. That's all I have to say...