Red State Feminist Commentary:

The Call Beyond Home

Red State Feminists have thought long and hard about the call beyond home. Many Red State Feminists are mothers, and many are women of faith. We have long been told that our place is in the home, nurturing our children and families, and that we will have our greatest influence there.

Well, yes and no, we have concluded. As mothers, our greatest responsibility is to our children. yet consider the following passage from a short story by Julie Olsen Edwards written during the Cold War, when almost 50,000 strategic nuclear warheads were ready to strike across the North Pole:

There came a storm at night (he was away--at study work in a far-off place) when an early storm came across the Pacific . . . I woke from a deep sleep to the sound of a siren, the air-raid alert . . . It was a short circuit, a meaningless accident. But that night I did not know. And I believed. . . . We stand there you and I, body to body. And wait. I believe it is the end. I know this holocaust will take not only you and me, but all the world, all children, all trees and songs, all promises. The sirens have sounded and I believe. . . . I hold you and can do nothing. Nothing to give you tomorrow, nothing to save you, nothing to protect what might be. There is no gesture of defiance, no gallant last battle. Just you and I in this room with the wind and rain against the window. . . . I hold your pulsing wrist to my lips, feel again your struggle to be born, and know I must promise you the only thing I have left. If we live through this night, dear chld of my body, if we survive these moments of ultimate madness, I will do what I can to shift the balance . . . And if, in the end, we lose, I will look at you, straight at you, and say I tried.

There is something deep and true here, something that has been rediscovered over and over again by women. If you leave the world solely in the hands of the men, you will find that your children are imperilled. This is not because men are evil (though some are). It is because men and women see the world differently in some ways. And one of the most important ways that women see the world differently is that if something hurts the children, then it is important to question why it is national policy. And if something could be done to help the children, but it isn't done because our priorities are elsewhere, then it is important to question the order of our priorities.

One of the most eloquent examples of this is the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. During the dirty civil war of the 1970s, young adults suspected of opposing the regime were being "disappeared" by the military junta. Long afterwards, it was discovered that these young people were tortured and murdered. Some were buried in mass graves; others were drugged, flown on an airplane over the ocean, and dropped into its waters to drown. Some of the young women gave birth to children who were then adopted by the wives of those who had murdered them.

At first, the mothers found each other as they searched the prisons and police stations for their children. They gained strength through their common experience of anguish. They began to march, once a week, around the large square in the capital--the Plaza de Mayo. They wore white kerchiefs, and held candles and photos of their children. The police harassed them, dragged some away to be tortured and imprisoned. But still they marched. And eventually, the shame they brought upon the regime was instrumental in its overthrow.

They then insisted that the mass graves be uncovered, and memorials erected so no one would forget the children, nor what happened to them. Though the junta leaders initially won immunity from prosecution, the Madres eventually got that immunity removed, so that the butchers could be held accountable for what they did to the children. the Madres seet up a DNA database, so that even if they died, a grandchild could one day find their true family, and know that they were loved.

These women shook Argentina. And they did so because they dared to ask what a nation was for--was it for kidnapping and murdering children of the mothers of Argentina?

And then their concerns widened . . . "In the beginning we only wanted to rescue our children. But as time passed we acquired a different comprehension. We understood better what is going on in the world. We know that when babies do not have enough to eat that, too, is a violation of human rights" (Rene Epelbaum). They began a broader political agenda of improved conditions for the children of every mother in Argentina. Some of the mothers sought election so that their voice would be heard in the highest councils of decision-making in the land.

In short, what the mothers learned is that while it is true that all mothers teach their children how to be safe in the world (Look both ways! Don't talk to strangers!), it is also true that mothers whose eyes have been opened understand that they must remake the world so that all children can be safer within it.

Where were the mothers when the great nuclear strategists of the Cold War aimed tens of thousands of warheads at each other's country? They weren't in the room, period. Mothers whose eyes have been opened understand that the strongest voice that the children of the world have are their mothers. And if their mothers hide their heads in the sand, and refuse to raise their voices, and decline to qualify themselves to speak in the councils of the nation, then their children are in danger.

And women are not only the strongest advocate for children in the land; they are also the strongest advocates for women, mothers, and caretakers. Without women being willing to enter the public square, women would never have obtained the vote. Custody laws, which gave fathers automatic custody of children in divorce, would never have been changed. Laws that ensured employers could not discriminate against women in hiring or pay would never have been passed.

Though we love men, we cannot assume that they have the eyes and the heart of a woman and mother. We must help our men by taking our rightful place as their equal partners in the making of our society, our laws, and our government. If men and women were equals in the councils of human decision-making, Red State Feminists believe that nations would be healthier, more prosperous, and more peaceful.

A very great man once said, "A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." A woman filled with the love of God feels that same calling--and we believe that God wants her to honor that call. We women have a sacred obligation to lift up our voices in the public square in defense of our children and in defense of women's equality. In this age of new technology, doing so is easier than it has ever been. It is incumbent upon every women to keep abreast of what is going on in her country, raise her voice with her opinions, and vote for those whose positions are closest to her own.

And some of us--not all, but at least some--must qualify themselves to be in the rooms of power, whether those be in government, in bureaucracy, in the school system, in the religious sphere, in the sciences. All important issues need a women's perspective to be comprehensively considered. Some of us must be mothers and legislators, mothers and department heads, mothers and school principals, mothers and religious speakers, mothers and scientists. We mothers are part of this world; if we pretend we are not, or that we can safely close our eyes and shut our mouths, we place our children in danger. We place women in danger. If no mother is qualified to sit in the councils of human decision-making, then we deserve what awaits us and our children.

But how? How to do justice to our mothering and put in the time to become qualified to sit in the rooms of power? Some principles are in order:

If a woman feels the call, there will be a myriad of ways that God can show her to accomplish what has been asked of her. Yes, it will be tough. Yes, there will be sacrifices. But if no mother is willing to qualify herself, then mothers are, for all intents and purposes, mute. Some mother must be in the room when the important decisions on health care, school standards, welfare, and even "masculine" issues of infrastructure, finance, and military matters are discussed.

And when these women need the support of the rest of us to reach those rooms of power--when they need votes or contributions or assistance--the rest of us should be there to help them. Whenever women have changed the course of their country, they have always done so together and united. To that end, Red State Feminists hope to find women candidates to support, and list them on our website as time goes on.

We mothers can no longer stand on the sidelines of our world . . . Our children are counting on us!


May 10 , 2009 by RedStateGal