Thursday, July 30, 2020

"A sainthood not extended... virtue (not) bestowed"

Further to my recent post about Portland's "Wall of Moms" (and the "Auntifa," lol),  Lyz Lenz, an Iowa-based writer whose work I like (really! -- my comments below notwithstanding, lol...), authored a piece in today's Washington Post, about "How America weaponizes motherhood." 

I agree with what much of what she has to say. It is worth a read. It's very true that we afford white middle-class mothers a status that is denied to black mothers, and other kinds of mothers. 

But!! Oh, how I wish she (&/or the others who have written about the "Wall of Moms" and what it says about motherhood in America) would have taken the rhetoric one step further!   

But since they haven't, I will do it here. Some quotes from the article -- and my responses:  
  • "The experience of motherhood in America is a political question just as much as it is a question of flesh. We allow white mothers a sainthood not extended to other types of mothers."  (And a sainthood that, with few exceptions, is not extended to non-mothers at all.) 
  • "Historically, white motherhood has been used as a cover for inciting racist policies, white flight and school segregation...  And it’s not just women who use motherhood as a shield. Powerful men, when called out for their sexism, often resort to using their wives and daughters as evidence of their virtue."  (And those of us who do not have children have no such cover or shield to protect us, no such easy way to show evidence of our virtue and social worth.) 
  • "In America, the sanctifying role of mother is not given to everyone." (Tell us about it...)
  • "The dog whistle is always the purity and sanctity of white women, who get to be pure, who get to be holy and who get to be virtuous as mothers." (True. But when you're not a mother at all, whether by chance or by choice, you don't get to be virtuous either.) 
  • "In America, we do not allow women to attain motherhood equally...  America scorns a fat mother... America also scorns single mothers..." (This may be true... but America (and other countries) also scorns non-mothers -- regardless of size, colour, marital status, etc. -- simply because they are not mothers.) 
  • "It’s not that you are a mother, it’s how you mother that bestows virtue... in America, virtue is bestowed only upon mothers who are white, heterosexual and married." (There may be a scale of mothering virtue -- but my childless/free peers & I would beg to differ that "it's not that you are a mother." We know only too well that being a mother bestows virtue/social approval on a woman that we will never have or be able to earn. It is a virtue that will never be bestowed on us.)  
  • "So, when we talk about motherhood and the “Wall of Moms,” we need to talk about who is being included and excluded from that privilege. Because for better or worse, in America, motherhood is a weapon, a tool that has long been used to perpetuate systemic racism and exclusion — not alleviate it."  (Motherhood is indeed a weapon, but I would add that it has also been used by some to perpetuate patriarchy, pronatalism and exclusion of non-mothers. When we talk about motherhood and the "Wall of Moms," we need to talk about who is being included and excluded from that privilege -- and that includes women who are not moms at all, but who also care deeply about children, and about democracy, and about the future of our planet.) 


  1. Brava! I missed this when you first posted. I particularly like your comment "it has also been used ... to perpetuate patriarchy, pronatalism and exclusion of non-mothers." Because I feel this sanctifying of mothers also restricts them, stereotypes and objectifies them, keeping them "in their place," and that hurts ALL women.