As I was still trying to shake off the Voldemort Day hangover this morning, I ran across an interesting post on the New York Times’s Motherlode blog. Guest blogger Bettina Elias Siegel was recently named to an online women’s magazine’s list of the “Top 15 Most Important Moms in the Food Industry.” But when a fellow food-policy advocate – a childless/free woman – responded to her tweet about the award with the comment, “Congrats. Does having a cat count?” it ignited a Twitter debate about the fairness of recognizing “moms” over women without children (or, for that matter, fathers).
Siegel admits the term “mommy blogger” drives her nuts, since it’s often used by critics in a disparaging, minimizing manner. However, she acknowledges, “sometimes I even quite knowingly play the Mom Card to advance my goals,” even though her professional credentials alone would more than qualify her to comment on food policy matters.
“Motherhood and activism often go hand-in-hand for a reason,” Siegel argues. “From Mothers Against Drunk Driving to the Vietnam-era Another Mother for Peace, to the post-Sandy Hook Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, mothers have often been the “accidental activists” who have led our country forward. But for many founders of these and other successful, mom-led campaigns, the personal became the political only when a societal problem affected, or was poised to affect, their own children.
“In my case, the flaws in our food system didn’t truly hit home until my own children came along… Motherhood doesn’t lend me any special moral authority in addressing those issues, but it has driven them home in a uniquely profound way… a child’s primary caregiver (and in our country, that’s still almost always the mom) can share insights that others can never acquire firsthand.”
I would agree that having a personal stake in the issue at hand can be a terrific motivator. When did any of *us* pay much attention to infertility or pregnancy loss (or the marginalization of the childless/free perspective, for that matter) until it happened to us, or at least to someone we were close to?
But I don't think that moms or parents have a monopoly on (or even a great inclination toward) this kind of insight & motivation & activism. Many activists & influential public figures don't have children -- some as a deliberate choice, in order to fully devote themselves to their chosen cause(s). (Gloria Steinem, Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey and Ashley Judd spring to mind, off the top of my head. Heck, even Anna Jarvis -- the founder of Mother's Day -- did not have any children of her own.)
As one early commenter noted, “Where I think the "Mom Card" label probably chafes some people is when it's used as a "trump card"-- as in, I'm a mother so my opinion counts more.”
Read the whole column -- what do you think? When (if ever) are moms justified in playing the “Mom Card”?