Motherhood is Political


Women around the world speak different languages, practice different religions, and live in an endless variety of circumstances, yet motherhood is a significant unifier. It is perhaps the greatest common experience in our global human endeavor, and it is women alone who share it.

Motherhood can be a radicalizing event, notwithstanding the pastel colors, teddy bears, and fluffy blankets advertisers surround it with here. Hitting the maternal wall and encountering gender discrimination following motherhood is something I hear about (and talk about!) quite a lot. Becoming a mother can, and should, make political actors of all of us.

Motherhood instantly ups your ante in the human sweepstakes. It gives you a very personal stake in the future, and makes you vulnerable in every way. It can also empower. Women who hesitated to speak for themselves may find their voice and advocate energetically for themselves as mothers and for the welfare of their children. Motherhood, it must be said, has the potential to be the single most common transformational experience in the world.

It has made political activists of several dozen mothers in Iran, who were arrested over the weekend for demonstrating in opposition to the government. Their children were killed in the riots following the disputed June 12 election, made famous by the viral video of the shooting and death of Neda Agha-Soltan. These mothers have gathered to protest in central Tehran every single Saturday since. They have been harassed and attacked by government forces before, but this was the first time they were arrested and jailed.

I know the mother of a seriously handicapped child here in the United States. She is the married mother of three, runs a graphic design business from her home office, and cares for her disabled 10 year old when he is not at school. She never reads the paper, watches “Meet the Press”, and can barely squeeze in an exercise class. However, she found herself walking the halls of Congress every day for a week, meeting her legislators to argue that federal education legislation actually undermines the aiblity of her son’s school to maximize his functioning and effectively address his needs. So surprised by the rush that came from articulating her personal expertise to policymakers, she subsequently signed up for acting classes and flexes her personal power muscles now on a regular basis.

Motherhood changes you and makes you realize that in this country, in this world, you see things differently than you did before. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, says women the world over tell him the same thing. “We don’t want our babies to die, and we want our children to go to school.”

How will you unleash your motherforce today?


  • Ginger Garner MPT, ATC

    One word. Yes! Thank you for this post today. We need more positive action.

  • talkbirth

    This was a great post. Thanks! Love the motherforce concept :)

  • Rosanne

    From someone who cut her political teeth in the late 60s/early 70s — right on!

  • lor

    Right on Valerie!
    Carework has a lot to do with the devalued position of women all over the world. How to make women more able to stand up for themselves? I think what is needed is a strong sisterhood of mothers, knowing the truth and appreciating the worth of the carework and conscious human development work mothers do in addition to all the rest of the work needed in life.
    Joanne was right,it is still invisible work. Even to ourselves.

    Valerie, you do a lot to shed the light through your public policy work. There are many mother organizations which all have to find more ways to keep the mothers movement growing.
    I remember the words you said you keep in front of you.
    "Failure is Impossible",and despair has to be kept at bay.
    So, as always, onward,
    Lor Slep

  • Heather

    Inspiring post, Valerie! I love how you connect mothers' activism in different places, even under very different circumstances.