Last semester, I read a book that transformed my political thinking. The book, Maternal Thinking
, claims that the behaviors associated with mothering can be transformative in today's political world. Turning militarism into a politics of peace. Sara Ruddick argues that Mothers bear the brunt of the job of nurturing, protecting and caring for children, and the maternal instinct can be tapped to galvanize a nonviolent, anti-militarist politics. She argues that the everyday chores of mothering foster a distinctly maternal style of thinking that fuses feeling, reflection and action. Maternal thinking breeds respect for individual differences, as well as a commitment to resolve disputes without fisticuffs. Importantly, Ruddick does not claim that maternal thinking is "natural" to women. On the contrary, she argues that this type of thinking is learned. And can be learned by all. But we don't learn these behaviors because Mothers are often ignored, under-valued and minimized in today's world.
I'm not a mother. There have been many years of my life where I wasn't sure I would ever be a mother. I may never be a woman who gives birth. But since reading the book, I've tried to become maternal. It is a life ideology. A commitment to revaluing behaviors that foster peace rather than violence.
Obviously I thought of Ruddick's book when Sally Field gave her Emmy's acceptance speech
last week. Field cried that her award, "Belongs to all the mothers of the world....The mothers who stand with an open heart who wait for their children to come home from war...Let's face it, if mother's ruled the world...."
But we don't know what would happen if mothers ruled the world. Fox cut her off. Presumably because there were some GD's dropped in the speech. But the reasons for censorship are deeper than that. If maternal thinkers ruled the world, the world would look different. Our philosophies would be different. Our leaders would be different. I can imagine that world looks scary and impossible to many. And when faced with difference--different ideas, philosophies and orientations, we silence it. Minimize it. Ignore it. We don't work through it. We don't call attention to it. We certainly don't talk
about it. Audre Lorde argues that "It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."
Last week, I talked to my Women's Studies' students about maternal thinking. I told them that all could stand on the margins with mothers who fight for peace--all could be nurturing, nonviolent and reflective. And this week the Sally Field example showed them what happens when they heed the call. The challenge is for maternal thinkers to keep trying to be heard.