Berta is 19 years old and she is from Spain. She is currently taking a gap year to participate in volunteer projects. She is interested in political activism and would love to study political science in the future. We met on social media through our shared interest in gap year plans and have talked quite a lot about gender equality.
When Liv told me that I could write something for this amazing project, at first I thought about my experience of when I cut my hair, but then I thought of another feminist topic that I really need to talk about: the invisibility of motherhood as work, while at the same time is being irrationally judged. I want to talk about this topic because I’ve been watching how my mom has been pressured for years.
First, I wanted to talk about the invisibility of mothers’ work because we live in a society that promotes and celebrates productivity and the accumulation of money, while it does not value the efforts of mothers. I recently read the book How to Suppress Women’s Writing, by Joanna Russ, which exposes how women’s work at home has always been an obstacle in their working life and how it has never been taken into account. I wanted to talk about this because it is a factor that has affected my mother since I was little, and it is something that makes me really angry.
A lot of people do not see her as a successful woman because she did not have a professional career, although for me she has been an example as a mother and as a woman. My father died when my sister was four and I was seven. The rest of my family couldn’t give her a lot of help because we lived far away from them, but we received a lot of support from other people in the village. However, it was very difficult for her to combine work with the house by herself. She was also attentive to the fact that my sister and I went through a process of healthy mourning: she paid attention to my sister whenever she needed her, as well as chased me to tell me that it was okay to cry, while struggling with her own pain. With that I’m trying to say that she made an amazing career as a mom that will never be recognized as she deserves.
Also, I would like to talk about how easy it is for this society to both make motherhood invisible and to criticize it. Many people criticize the way they educate others, but the criticism is not repeated the same way. Fathers are not criticized as much as mothers, as the role of father has always been seen more as an optional job rather than as an obligation, while mothers are imposed an impossible standard to achieve. That is, fathers are congratulated for doing the bare minimum while mothers are criticized for doing whatever they do. To better express this idea, I wanted to quote a monologue that I really like, which is from Laura Dearn in her film History of a Marriage:
We can accept an imperfect dad. Let’s face it, the idea of a good father was only invented like 30 years ago. Before that, fathers were expected to be silent and absent and unreliable and selfish, and can all say we want them to be different. But on some basic level, we accept them. We love them for their fallibilities, but people absolutely don’t accept those same failings in mothers. We don’t accept it structurally and we don’t accept it spiritually. Because the basis of our Judeo-Christian whatever is Mary, Mother of Jesus, and she’s perfect. She’s a virgin who gives birth, unwaveringly supports her child and holds his dead body when he’s gone. And the dad isn’t there. He didn’t even do the fucking. God is in heaven. God is the father and God didn’t show up.
This is something I wanted to comment on because I’ve always seen my mother being judged because of the way she educated her children. In spite of living in an environment that gave her a lot of support, my mother has received a lot of negative comments about her decisions as a mother, from strangers and people within the family. Why do you pay attention to her instead of letting her cry? Why did you leave him there crying? Why don’t you tell them to stop behaving like that? Once my mother came in to the dentist cabinet, because she heard me screaming as they tore a tooth out of me, and the dentist told her that she was a bad mother. Then I was annoyed by this comment, but now that I see it as a symptom of a systematic problem it makes me very angry.
I want to end this text with two conclusions that I need to expose. The first one part of a very certain idea that Liv shared with me : developed countries still could learn and improve a lot of aspects about gender equality. The obvious invisibility of women’s work as mothers, as well as the constant criticism on the other side because of the impossible standards that men must not endure, clearly show that there is no gender equality in the western countries. Second, I just want to say that I am very proud of my mother, to overcome the obstacles that are imposed on her every day, while at the same time she inspires me and helps me keep going.
– Berta, October 25th, 2020