Monday, 17 October 2011

A Blog of One’s Own….and my Dreams for a Common Language

 No one lives in this room / without confronting the whiteness of the wall / behind the poems, planks of books, / photographs of dead heroines. / Without contemplating last and late / the true nature of poetry. The drive / to connect. The dream of a common language.

-  Adrienne Rich, “The Origins and History of Consciousness” from The Dream of a Common Language

This quote by Adrienne Rich hangs above my writing desk. I look at it every time I sit down to write.

I believe some of the best blogs  about feminism and motherhood are those which do not declare themselves to be unique creations; singular  births.  To me, the best blogs in this area of  focus are those that believe in the power of  communal thinking … "so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice" as Virginia Woolf stated in  A Room of One's Own.
My belief  is that the feminist mother who never writes  a word  because she is currently buried at the crossroads  in her life still lives. She lives in us all reading now , and in many other women who are not  reading this post , for they are either  washing up the dishes  or putting their  children to bed. Amongst other acts they are doing as mothers, feminists, activists, etc.
 I want my blog to be my “room of one’s own” but I also want it to be a space where MANY  women can speak their truth , connect, and express their unique voices.
I don’t feel any mother should feel lost in a tunnel of isolation on their own without the potential possibilities for connection and community.   

In my chapter entitled “ Mother Outlaws: Building Communities of Empowered Feminist Mothers in the Mother’hood “ in The 21st Century Motherhood Movement: Mothers Speak Out on Why We Need to Change the World and How to Do It,  I describe  how important a "community" of like-minded individuals means to feminist mothers:
" It has been understood by many feminist scholars of motherhood that having a community or network of supportive peers is essential for women who choose to challenge and resist dominant discourses.
 In her  book, Feminist Mothers, Tuula Gordon  emphasizes this point:
 …'feminist mothers have been able to develop critical orientations towards societal structures and cultures, stereotypical orientations and myths of motherhood. They do that in the context of exploring how the personal is political, and with the support of the networks of women which place them beyond collective isolation'.
For this reason, the provision of  a judgment free space for mothers to share their personal experiences in challenging dominant discourses of motherhood was not only central to the mission of Mother Outlaws,  but also built on the history of earlier feminist consciousness raising groups of the women’s movement.  
In speaking collectively about how personal mothering  challenges are linked and connected to larger social and political structures, Mother Outlaws strives to operate on the level of 'changing minds to change the world'.  And, in building on the work of feminist theories that call for a transformational consciousness to mobilize mothers into inclusive maternity coalitions , Mother Outlaws was designed to transform the way  feminist women talked to one another about their mothering experiences and to develop  strategies of community activism that could lead to making life better for all mothers."

Changing minds to change the world.
This may sound like a big endeavour….but I believe in the power of a community of those who  can speak a “common language”.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Why I am a Mother Outlaw...

My first blog post ever ! 
How exciting! 
I have to admit however that I was  a little hesitant to hit send….I have a tendency to  (over)worry  (standard Cancerian trait) about where my writing will end up in the blogosphere and the world  wide net.   I guess a big part of me wants to ensure I am connecting with an audience of readers  I hope will  appreciate and  value the  posts I am putting out into this world.
My hesitation also stems from the fact that I have two very distinct writing voices….one that is more academic and  political (proudly left leaning and feminist) and the other being more literary,  personal (often very self-revealing) and disjointed in the way I narrate a topic.  Although both voices are representative of my authentic and sincere self-– I did wonder which writing voice to use for my introductory post. 
I have decided to just write without thinking about IT  too much and leave it to my readers to decide which voice they are hearing.
So …..

My name is Linn…which is a self created moniker  from my given name Linda.  I decided to change my name  about a decade ago   to reflect exciting new transformations that were happening to me professionally and personally.  I did not want to abdicate my parent’s chosen name  too much  as it held a herstory of cultural heritage, being that it was the  English version of the Polish Linka .  I  decided on a name that would be  “similar but different” and held personal meaning.  And I took the “similar but different” vein even further by deciding on Linn vs Lyn (an English Literature graduate, I have this “thing’ for hononyms)

The Norwegian actress and film director,  Liv Ullmann wrote a memoir  in 1977 simply and eloquently entilited Changing .  While many young girls were given either a complicated and boring  "This is your Body"  manual or a copy of Judy Blume’s  Are You There God? Its me Margaret (albeit, a  favourite of mine, too) by their mothers  upon  a certain age , my mother gave me Liv Ullman’s  personal story of womanhood on the occasion of my  10 th birthday  and on the year of the memoir's  world wide  publication.  

 I can still remember unwrapping the book eagerly  (I knew it was a book and this in and of itself   was thrilling for me …a passionate  reader). And I can still recall turning to the dedication page- Ullmann had written “To my daughter, Linn” and underneath that line, my mother had written in her fanciful scrawl and  utilizing her Yorkshire  dialect  – “To my daughter, Linda….luv Mum xoxo”

That book changed my life!
It was the most honest and soul-searching writing I had ever read.  It was about being a woman, an artist, a lover,  and a mother.  I imagine if it was to be published today, it would be termed a “momoir”  and relegated to a parenting shelf at  a big  box bookstore  as opposed to being given its ideal prominent location- the front window !
At the time I received that gift from  my mother,  I never imagined how that book  would predate and foreshadow the life I would lead as a woman, as an academic, as a mother and as a writer. I also never knew until many years later  that my mother  was reading and discussing that book at the time of her gift giving with her Women’s Book Group- meaning a Feminist Consciousness-Raising Group during the heart  and heat of second-wave feminism.
Changing is chockful of meaningful insights into the ways in which both men and women have been limited by traditional views of masculinity and femininity. Ullmann’s  view of the  relations between the sexes belongs  to a feminist ethos that insists that  the liberation of women will also free men.  Strangely, it never appears on many Introduction to Women’s Studies reading lists. Odd  too that it was never mentioned once during my own undergraduate and graduate university courses in Women’s Studies. 
Some may argue that its omission in the feminist canon was because it was at variance with certain (mis) understandings of  second wave feminism - that this movement suggested women cannot be free until they are free of men.
 Furthermore, there was- and still remains-  further (mis) understandings about  the connections between motherhood and feminism….more specifically the potentially empowering relationship a woman has to her experience of mothering.
Indeed the central relationship in Changing is between Ullmann and her daughter Linn- her “love child” with  Ingmar Bergman.
(Added thoughts: don’t you just love the term “love child” as opposed to the oft-used term “bastard”???…I hope to address my own experiences of mothering a “love child” in future posts about the patriarchal dictates of the institution of motherhood versus the empowered and feminist experiences of “actual and lived" mothering)
 Ullman  returns again and again in her memoir  to the subject of maternal guilt- how a woman should and  can reconcile seemingly opposing conflicts between art/work and mothering.  Interestingly, the term now used in the media and popular culture about what I (and Ullman) would agree is a false construct  of such a dichotomy is  the mommy wars.
Myself and other current  researchers of  feminist motherhood would debunk   such notions of    inevitable maternal guilt , while at the same time acknowledging the  possible  (but potentially empowering) experiences of what Rozika Parker has termed “maternal ambivalence”.
I also love that the Norweigian translation for “maternal guilt” is "bad conscience” !!!!
And so you may be wondering where I am going with this long and winding post about my name change???
Just over a decade ago, I made a decision to change my name to reflect the awe-inspiring transformations that were happening to me in my personal and professional life. I chose the name  “LINN” and that name change remains  both extremely  serendipitous and profoundly meaningful.

ALL of my  work, research and writing is  about feminist motherhood. 
For further details , see The Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement 
I am  currently the Community Outreach and Promotions Coordinator for MIRCI , which includes  the development and coordination of our Mother Outlaws Initiative.

I am  also  the feminist mother of a 10 year old son.

In 1977, Adrienne Rich announced in her classic text, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Institution and Experience, the following statement: ""We were conspirators, outlaws from the institution of motherhood; I felt enormously in charge of my life"

I am a proud and defiant  MOTHER OUTLAW…. this is my blog.....and I have a  logo and T-shirts too!