“The Battle of all* Mothers (or: No Unauthorised Reproduction)”
Well Jeff, … the fact is that you have the luxury of knowing that you will never ever ever ever EVER be faced with the government bossing you around like a child, simply because you have a parasite living in your body.
– The Law Fairy, Feministing.com
By now people have forgotten what history has proven: that ‘raising’ a child is tantamount to retarding his development. The best way to raise a child is to LAY OFF.
– Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, 1970
In what follows I wish to consider the effects of recent UK health and social policies on women and their children who are labelled ‘at risk’. Read more…
Three Mothers and a Chorus
Factory of Found Clothes, Russia, 2007
The film has the structure of an ancient Greek tragedy. Mothers explain their problems and the chorus which is constructed of the typical social characters is judging her. The film is dedicated to contemporary motherhood.
“On the Woman Question: An Orientation”
Source: An SWP discussion held on 3rd September 1951, opened by CLR James. [Link]
A new stage has been reached. We are finished with endless discussions on male chauvinism. We have no more time for individual attacks against individual men who are backward or against individual women who do not want to be “emancipated.” These people will reorient themselves and will be drawn into their own struggles.
Now for the first time we know where we are going. We did not develop accidentally. The ideas explicit in this document are the concrete manifestations of the movement of capitalism and the reaction of the masses of women today. It is this reaction that we shall attempt to concretize in this document. Read more…
“The Politics of Motherhood”
Chapter Six, The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty, Oxford University Press, 1994. [PDF]
During the first half of the turbulent sixties, child-care policy remained disengaged from the volatile battles raging over race and rights. Rather, improving child care remained the obscure mission of two federal bureaus, the Women’s Bureau and the Children’s Bureau. Before the decade was over, child care, too, became embroiled in the struggle for racial equality. Child care provided through the War on Poverty’s Headstart program was designed to provide enriching experiences for poor children, which in practice meant black children. Day care provided to welfare mothers to reduce the welfare rolls also disproportionately benefited African Americans.
In seeking to build a right-of-center coalition, Richard Nixon seized upon child care as a program that might accomplish that goal. In his first message to Congress, he promised to provide all young children a “healthful and stimulating development.”  The problem was that his welfare reform scheme – the Family Assistance Plan – contained a day-care component. As day-care costs became entangled in the controversy over the FAP, Nixon abandoned his commitment to children.
It wasn’t only the FAP that undermined support for a comprehensive child-care plan. Equally significant was public ambivalence about the escalating numbers of working mothers. If the government embarked on policies that encouraged welfare mothers to work, what implications might such policies have for all families? Federal support for child care was defeated both because of its connection to welfare reform, and thus to one of the most controversial and racially charged issues of the decade, and because of its implied validation of the right of all mothers to work. Read more…
Canadian Woman Studies, Vol 1, No 2, 1978. [PDF]
Women in unions? Yes, Virginia, there are women in unions but … sixty-five per cent of women in the labour force are not unionized. Most unions ignore or discriminate against part-time workers; an elite, removed from the membership, dominates many unions; members often have no direct say in decision-making and it goes without saying that the labour-union movement is overwhelmingly male-oriented and male-dominated.
SORWUC (the Service, Office and Retail Workers’ Union of Canada) is doing something about all those things. The now six-year-old union grew out of the Vancouver Working Women’s Association. Its purpose is to organize workers in retail stores, banks, restaurants, and the other service trades-those predominantly female occupations which have always been ignored by the traditional trade unions. Because SORWUC’S twenty-four founders were tired of insensitive hierarchies and were aware that women need to learn about the workings of unions, they designed the SORWUC constitution specifically to prevent the growth of a highly paid professional bureaucracy.
All important decisions are voted on by the entire membership through referendum ballots mailed to the members’ houses. All officers are elected annually, and there is a limit to the length of time any person may hold office. And all local bargaining units are autonomous: each unit retains control over every aspect of negotiations, and the members of each unit write and negotiate their own contracts.
For the first year after certification by the B.C. Labour Relations Board, SORWUC’S one bargaining unit consisted of the employees of a small legal office. Since 1974, Local 1 has come to represent several social-service agencies, other offices, restaurants, and day-care centres. In addition to the usual provisions concerning job security, promotions, and wages, the SORWUC contracts have included several provisions designed to meet the needs of working people who must also function as members of families and of their communities. These include work weeks as short as 32 hours; full pay for maternity leave; two weeks’ paid paternity leave; an extra hour at lunch-time, paid, once a month to allow women with families to participate in union meetings; protection and prorated benefits for part-time workers; and personal rights clauses prohibiting dress regulations, performance of personal chores for employers, and that most familiar function of the ‘office wife’, getting coffee.
SORWUC is working to evolve policies to improve the quality of the life of working people. One area of study is child care: ‘We want to explore the possibilities of unions having more control of day-care centres and child-care facilities. A union of parents/working people will care for its children as industry/government never will.’ Policy proposals presented to the SORWUC National Convention in February 1978 included free 24-hour child care; centres which the child can reach by her/himself and, when necessary, free transportation for both parent and child; nonsexist, nonracist training for childcare workers and salaries at parity with those of school teachers and the funding of these facilities from corporation profits. Underlying these policy proposals, which contain a statement of the rights of children, is SORWUC’s view that children are part of society and, as such, are the responsibility of society as a whole. Read more…
Genora Johnson Dollinger, “‘This Is the Pressure That They Used’: Genora Dollinger Recalls the Flint Sit-Down Strike”
“‘This Is the Pressure That They Used’: Genora Dollinger Recalls the Flint Sit-Down Strike”
Genora Johnson Dollinger
Oral history courtesy of Sherna Gluck, Feminist History Project.
Strikes affect an entire community, and in the end they need that community’s support to succeed. This is especially true in the case of a sit-down strike like the legendary sit-down strike at Flint, Michigan, in 1936, when the strikers occupied the GM plants. The strikers, isolated at first inside the Fisher Body Plant Number One, needed food; they also needed information and advance warning on what management might be up to. The Women’s Emergency Brigade, formed during the Flint strike, proved indispensable to the union effort more than once. Genora Johnson Dollinger helped found the Women’s Emergency Brigade and became one of the strike’s key leaders. In this interview, conducted by historian Sherna Gluck in 1976, Genora Johnson Dollinger described first how the strike affected her family. [History Matters]
Genora Dollinger: During this period, I was renting an apartment above my mother, on the third floor of the building that my father – or the building I was raised in. And I had one little boy in school and the other little fellow was only two. Now, I started leaving him downstairs until my father became so anti-union, they’d cut off all of my father’s funds at the bank, all of his business transactions. That included not only his real estate building, but also his photograph studio. He had no funds that he could write any checks. He was frozen. And he went down to see them, and they said, “Until you get that communist daughter of yours out of your apartment building, we’re not going to -” This was just pressure, when I stop to think about it. Just his daughter moving out of the building? This is the pressure that they used. And it was – I remember the banker’s name very well because the son-of-a-beehive was a KKK member with my father through the church minister where I belonged. And so he told him, “You get your daughter out.” And so my father marched home and he said, “For God’s sake, I’m frozen here. I can’t move in any of my business enterprises, and your nonsense, so you’ll have to move.” And I said, “I’m sorry. I haven’t got time to move,” and who would take care of my kids anyway. So then he said, well, then he was going to shut the heat and water off, and I said, “You do that, and I’ll issue a statement to the press that their grandfather is-” you know, from their grandchildren,” and call the health department.”
So my mother at this point didn’t dare to defy my father, but she let me know that whatever I thought was right for working people, you know, she would be in agreement. She may not understand, but she understood that I had my reasons.
And what would happen is that – you know, I had two young sisters, remember. One was eight and the other one was twelve. And they would take turns. They would get up and eat breakfast with mother and dad in the morning, and then they would kiss them goodbye and go off to school. One would go to school and the other one would go up the back stairs and stay with my children during the day, and then they would take turns. And that was primarily how my children were being taken care of.
Chapter 13, Feminism is for Everybody, South End Press, 2000. [PDF]
Feminist focus on children was a central component of contemporary radical feminist movement. By raising children without sexism women hoped to create a future world where there would be no need for an anti-sexist movement. Initially the focus on children primarily highlighted sexist sex roles and the way in which they were imposed on children from birth on. Feminist attention to children almost always focused on girl children, on attacking sexist biases and promoting alternative images. Now and then feminists would call attention to the need to raise boys in an anti-sexist manner but for the most part the critique of male patriarchy, the insistence that all men had it better than all women, trickled down. The assumption that boys always had more privilege and power than girls fueled feminists prioritizing a focus on girls.
One of the primary difficulties feminist thinkers faced when confronting sexism within families was that more often than not female parents were the transmitters of sexist thinking. Even in households where no adult male parental caregiver was present, women taught and teach children sexist thinking. Ironically, many people assume that any female-headed household is automatically matriarchal. In actuality women who head households in patriarchal society often feel guilty about the absence of a male figure and are hypervigilant about imparting sexist values to children, especially males. In recent times mainstream conservative pundits have responded to a wellspring of violent acts by young males of all classes and races by suggesting that single women cannot possible raise a healthy male child. This is just simply not true. The facts show that some of the most loving and powerful men in our society were raised by single mothers. Again it must be reiterated that most people assume that a woman raising children alone, especially sons, will fail to teach a male child how to become a patriarchal male. This is simply not the case. Read more…