Mona Maine de Biran TALKS: on Mother's Day
Mother’s Day is here. Thankfully, today isn’t the only day of the year my kids wake me up by piling into bed and showering me with love. Whether it’s a fist full of dandelions or, on metaphorical silver platter, the last green M&M in their possession, everyday these golden givers make me feel special.
Still, I rejoice in any day that gets me the bonus package— breakfast in bed and a scented foot massage.
The fan fare over, now in quiet moments I can’t help but muse and randomly reflect on motherhood and what kind of mom I have been; which, I expect, on this day is not uncommon. Much like New Year’s resolutions, Mother’s Day seems like a fine day to plan for more.
It’s hard not to notice that society still tells us what characteristics make a good mom, and which make a good dad.
I'm a proud mother of two glorious, happy souls. I'm patient, tender, nurturing – all the things that some think women are "supposed" to be.
But I'm also tough, a coach and companion with my kids – the kinds of things some thing that men are "supposed" to be and do.
Notice that, therein, was not a single reference to my favorite color! My favorite color happens to be ruby red. I can’t remember a day since I was twelve that I was attracted to the color of fragile-as-a-cherry-blossom pink. Ewww!
Can someone tell me why (in the bleep) shop windows are universally pink in Mother's Day?
This pedantic proliferation of the color pink as "the" Mother’s Day color offends me. I am not unique in my offense. There are surely plenty of women in America that reject antiquated and limiting stereotypes of what we mothers are supposed to be, do and like.
Suggested gifts for Mother’s Day range from a blender, fluffy pink slippers, flowers and even day-surgery "mommy specials" to help with saggy tummies and cellulite. Clearly, yet more proof that there are not enough women in the marketing c-suites of America’s corporations. Grrrr!
The pressure to adhere to gender stereotypes in our society is restrictive for both parents and children alike.
Marketing and popular culture play a big role in reinforcing archaic stereotypes - that top priorities for girls should be the way they look and the way they care for others. My ten-year-old daughter has been called pretty and sweet, and, as she's a natural leader, she's also called bossy. That should be just as much of a compliment, obviously. But there are still too many that view assertive girls and women with leadership skills as a negative.
For boys, the narrative revolves around being strong, emotionless and having physical prowess. My seven-year-old son has been told "don't be a cry baby" and "boys don't cry". It’s no wonder, after a childhood of such indoctrination, men can find themselves accused of being non-communicative as adults. As mothers we protect our girls AND boys, true?
Too many parents still do unwitting harm by ‘teaching gender’ and guiding children into stereotypes which, ironically, they will later be encouraged as adults to discard.
It’s hard to blame them, however. Even as adults, the peer pressure exists. Society simply has had a hard time allowing children to just be human individuals. Even the toy aisles have banners directing parents to Girl Toys and Boy Toys. The girls feature a lot of Barbie, pink and dolls while the boys get nerf guns and camouflage.
The pressure doesn’t stop into adulthood. Take perfume, for example. I am directed to Women’s Fragrance, aisle 1 (not aisle 2). Apparently, I am a traitor to my gender for preferring the woody and erotic- notes of sandalwood, oud and leather- over the subdued, white florals.
Segregating smell by gender make as little sense as it does to serve men and women different menus at a restaurant or segregating the experience of art.
Society having now ‘granted’ me the right to vote, wear pants in public without being arrested and use the same water fountain as men, I also rub shoulders in the gallery with men without question. While I”m still direct to aisle one for my fragrances, no more are we women directed in this modern era to Salle 1 “for women” artworks, while the men chuckle in Salle 2 over the Manet nudes.
Stupid stereotypes don’t just limit and harm the few. They harm us all.
Few would disagree that for our country to operate at its fullest potential we need our women, men and children to reach their fullest potential. In order to accomplish this, it’s clear that the only ideas we should enforce on ourselves as parents, on our children, and on others, is respect and equality. For the sake of our girls AND boys, this Mother's Day is a good day to renew a maternal mission to repair our children against the pervasive influences they suffer at common culture's hands.
And, on an ending note, let us not be swayed by that other flavor of male chauvinism— male-hating feminism. This trend which seeks to push our boys and men, without reflection, down into submission on the simple basis of their own gender is err. Just because it is popular, doesn’t make it right. Gender bias, of any kind, will not be the kind of cooperative solution our sons or daughters need for a brighter future.
I wish you an ALL the colors of the rainbow… Happy Mother’s Day! A good day for giving thanks for the love, nurturing and support you’ve received ~ may that have been given to you by your mother or another.
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Author: Mona Maine de Biran
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