December 13, 2008 § 3 Comments
a comment yesterday to my post about ‘the definition of motherhood’ got me thinking about how we define family and love…
Why does motherhood have to be centered when we talk about primary care-taking? I’m an adopted person. I think of the people who raised me as my parents. But why do I have to? Would I love these folks any less, would our relationship be any different, would they love me any less, if we didn’t all play the charade of trying to approximate a biological family? It’s kinda silly really (and not just because I’m black and my a-family is white). I think of my biological mother and father as my parents as well, even though I’ve never met them. They just are. And while I see the good in expanding our definitions of motherhood/parenthood, I also wonder why these are the only terms we get to use when we speak about primary caretakers.
this got me thinking about my resistance to prop 8. my resistance to the fight for gay marriage, as in marriage that is legally recognized by the state, is that i dont think that any marriage should be acknowledged by the state. marriage for the most part and by origin is a religious sacrament. and having the state certify a religious sacrament seems a blending of state and religion that makes me uncomfortable. why can’t all people simply apply to the state for a civil union (for the legal recognition) and not have ‘marriage’ be under the control of the state? there are plenty of churches that perform marriages for all types of unions, so every state in the union already has ‘gay marriage’. so honestly i have never understood the fight. back when i first came out, it wasnt about marriage, it was about love and sex and attraction and the responsibility we have to be honest about who we are and the responsibility we have to be honest about who we are with. so rather than fight to make the term ‘marriage’ more inclusive i kinda want to fight to abolish state-sponsored marriage.
i know that the term ‘motherhood’ (like marriage) still brings out some archaic romantic notions that are smell sweet and salty and soft and rugged, bitter and beloved for me. but when i first got pregnant with aza, i remember thinking: i dont think i am a mother, i will be more like a big sister. at the age of 27 i still felt weird to be a mother.
but i like the idea of dropping the term ‘mother’. and rather than expanding our vision of who ‘revolutionary motherhood’ includes, simply embracing ‘revolutionary caretaking’. perhaps sooner or later we are going to have admit that the institution of motherhood cannot simply be reformed but must be deconstructed and probably discarded.
because caretaking is revolutionary. actually, i think that caretaking must be apart of our post-revolutionary vision. as in ok, after the political revolution is over and we have achieved political freedom…then what? the skills and art of being able to take care of each other, of the earth, of ourselves is primary throughout the process of creating community
it seems to me that de-centering motherhood (especially the ways it centers women’s biological connections or centers the attempts to re-create women’s biological connections to their offspring and partners) is a communal liberation. honestly, i see that all members of the community need to be able to be and engage in being caretakers. i see that this is essential to creating community, to care for the members of that community, to be responsible for them, to deconstruct the nuclear family unit…
my mother says that when she was growing up it wasnt just her mother that she was responsible but everyone in the community. everyone was ‘family’ whether they were genetically connected or not. she could be praised or punished by any of them. there were dozens of eyes and ears watching her. which sounds a bit creepy to me (having grown up in suburbia) but also allowed for my grandparents to know their children were safe and loved outside of their purview.
so i am trying to think of more words to describe this vision. revolutionary caretakers? revolutionary family? i am not sure yet about the nomenclature. but lets keep the conversation going…