On the first Sunday of May, some countries celebrate Mothers’ Day. Like other celebrations of women, this day left me with a bitter aftertaste, and in a “j’accuse” mood.
There are mothers in my family, and we celebrated them and thanked them. But the whole day is for nothing if we don’t ask all the inevitable questions…
…what about women who are bullied, excluded, abused, or even killed if they can’t give birth—or can’t give birth to the right number of children, or to the right number of boys?
…what about women who become mothers not through reproductive biology but by choice and by adoption—and still treated as second-rate, along with their kids?
…what about women who are forced to give up their children because of extreme poverty or an abusive spouse—and because the ‘system’ chooses to solve this by putting the kids in institutions, rather than fighting poverty and violence?
…what about women who have to give up their work (don’t even mention career) because they choose to have kids? what about those who don’t get employed or for much less money at best—because they might want to have kids in the future?
…what about mothers who have to raise their kids all alone because the father is gone, or is lost to war or illness? Or, what’s worse, what about mothers who have to raise their kids on their own while suffering abuse and violence from their spouses? Especially now, when they may be locked down together for all we know?
…what about mothers who were forced to become mothers against their will through rape, through “more accepted” forms of violence—or simply by being blackmailed or bullied into motherhood by parents or society?
…what about women who choose to become mothers but have to go through years of pain at the hands of a male-dominated “reproductive health system”?
One of the reasons I have to ask all these questions is that we have first-hand experience with some of the above. And I know this: if we let another year, another day, another hour pass by without doing something about them, it will be pointless to celebrate Mothers’ Day. Then it will just be a sorry excuse for all the respect, freedom and power that mothers and women deserve but don’t get.
I want to give you all the respect, freedom, and power you deserve. But I’m also a man and was brought up to be a man, and that means I will slip into behavior… that does not show that respect, to put it mildly. I’m trying—and if everyone who reads this also tries, the world will already become a better place.
What I’m not trying to do is shame men. But I can’t hide my rage at some of them—in my country, just a few hours after Mothers’ Day, government MEPs proposed a bill to withdraw from the Istanbul convention* (which was not signed into law over here and still isn’t enforced).
My words are also imperfect—but if the price for asking questions that need to be asked is that the feelings of some men will get hurt, so be it.
* This is the treaty of the European Council that proposes to outlaw violence against women and domestic violence—and proposes to finally enforce this.