I can’t believe how time has flown since MIRCI and CRIA held a joint conference on ‘Mothering and Motherhood in the 21st Century: Research and Activism’ in Lison, Portugal on 18 and 19 February 2011. I can’t believe how time has flown since MIRCI and CRIA held a joint conference on ‘Mothering and Motherhood in the 21st Century: Research and Activism’ in Lison, Portugal on 18 and 19 February 2011.
The conference explored how scholars and activists challenge normative motherhood and develop new experiences, practices, identities, meanings, activisms, ideologies and policies for empowered mothering. In the context of this I learnt about how women from around the world are making inroads with their brand of feminist mothering which is making incremental changes globally.
Dr Andrea O’Reilly,, MIRCI, opened the session with an analysis of what the 21st century motherhood movement looks like ahead of her book which is due out this year on the same subject. The shape shifting scenario, she said, alludes precise definition. Dr O’Reilly spoke of a diffused motherhood movement which champions rights in areas such as pre-school and social security. In other words, women in all spheres of life are acting as champions. She contrasted this with the male model of leadership which holds central power. The female model, instead, is dispersed but nonetheless strong and effective and uses new media technology to spread the message i.eg Twitter, email, bloggin and Facebook.
My participation at the conference certainly backed up Dr O’Reilly’s theory that the movement is diffused. I sat in on events in which women spoke about:
a) ‘A New Generation of Mothers Reshaping Their Communities, one email at a time’ by Ann Wallace, USA, on how her activism centres on who she was as a mother and how silence wasn’t an option for her.
b) ‘Searching Feminist Perspective To Mothers’ Substance Use Problem’ by Ritva Natkin, Finland, who spoke about how there is a problem in fairly describing and naming the different problems that mothers experience. As an example, ‘addicted’ could mean poor, tired, depressed or traumatized. She said the media is guilty of categorising and stimatizing women’s problems by their careless use of language.
c)’Motherhood, Radicals and Cold War Politics in the Voice of Women, Canada’ by Marie Hammond-Callaghan who used the life history of Barbara Roberts, a Canadian peace historian, to demonstrate that maternalism may have been used to embolden mothers in their fight back against injustice.
d)’Learning to Mother Ourselves:Nurturing the Self Through Improvised Role Enactment’ by Arlene Vadum, USA, who spoke about the need for women to try an experimental approach to life by learning to look after themselves as a person. I think most mothers would identify with this need.
The above is a microcosm of the women and subjects presented at Lisbon.
My talk was titled ‘Chocolate & Contemplative Discussion on Ambition in Your Mothering’. I handed out a box of chocolates as a metaphor: you don’t know what style of mothering you will adopt till you become a mother yourself. Mothering is a subjective persona.
Many thanks to MIRCI and CRIA for this wonderful conference which showed attendees the layers of mothering that goes on around the world and the diversity within it.