Thursday, May 11, 2006

MomsRising and the Motherhood Manifesto

MomsRising is a new campaign from MoveOn.org that is "is working to build a massive grassroots online resource to move motherhood and family issues to the forefront of the country's awareness, and to provide grassroots support for leaders, as well as organizations, addressing key motherhood issues." MomsRising was founded by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, authors of The Motherhood Manifesto.

While I support the organization in theory (and there are numerous aligned organizations), something about it rubs me the wrong way. The mission statement is a blanket thing a lot people can get behind:
"There is a silent crisis in America. Mothers and families are in trouble. A full quarter of families with children under six live in poverty, at least 9 million children don't have any health care, and far too many parents can't afford to stay home with sick children. Working toward common sense family-friendly policies like those covered in The Motherhood Manifesto will help all families."
However, the only real opportunities on the site for getting involved at this time is to 1) provide your contact information; 2) buy the book; 3) buy other stuff from the site; 4) sign the petition, although the petition page itself does not make it at all clear what exact text you're signing onto or who will receive it; 5) take one of a few disparate actions provided by already existing organizations. I know, I know, it's a new group - however, they've been doing a lot of email promotion of the campaign, yet the site left me feeling decidely uninspired. I'm not a mom, but I didn't see any items that I felt would affect real change.

Elsewhere on the site, there is a petition to media outlets asking them to Stop the “Mommy Wars” and Report on Real Issues, although this is an effort of the Mothers Ought to have Equal Rights group. MomsRising provides little explanation, except to tell us that "all moms are in the same boat." I think that is where my main problem with this site is - are all moms really in the same boat? They may have chosen an issue that too big, too complex, for individuals to form a unified community around.

MomsRising also uses the M.O.T.H.E.R. acronym from the book to define its purpose. Let's take a look, and ask some questions:
M - Maternity/Paternity Leave: Paid family leave for all parents after a new child comes into the family.
Okay, solid idea, but I don't see any discussion on how to fund this.

O - Open Flexible Work: Give parents the ability to structure their work hours and careers in a way that allows them to meet both business and family needs. This includes flexible work hours and locations, part-time work options, as well as the ability to move in and out of the labor force to raise young children without penalties.
Can't we give everybody more flexible hours? People who are not parents need/want to care for their own sick parents, volunteer for community service, help with the other children in their family, etc. and these, I think, are fairly equivalent social goods. Advocating only on the behalf of parents may lead to more of the "mommy wars" they want to end.

T - TV We Choose and Other After-School Programs: Give families safe, educational opportunities for children after the school doors close for the day, including: Create a clear and independent universal television rating system for parents with technology that allows them to choose what is showing in their own homes; support quality educational programming for kids; increase access to, and funding, for after school programs.
Seriously? You have 6 planks in the platform, and TV is one of them? Aren't there already options (V-chip, turning it off, supervising kids, no tv at all...) to deal with this? Isn't there already a rating system and accompanying technology? I really don't get it, and would have stuck with the after school programs. No thoughts on funding are provided.

H - Healthcare for All Kids: Provide quality, universal healthcare to all children.
I'm fine with this, if you actually talk about how to do it, and give people actions to take to move this forward. And don't those mothers need healthcare as well? Again, show me the money.

E - Excellent Childcare: Quality, affordable childcare should be available to all parents who need it. Childcare providers should be paid at least a living wage and healthcare benefits.
Again, solid idea in theory, but the wish-list is getting tiring. How would this be arranged? Funded? Who determines who "needs it?" Shouldn't everybody get a living wage and healthcare?

R - Realistic and Fair Wages: Two full-time working parents should be able to earn enough to adequately care for their family. In addition, working mothers must receive equal pay for equal work.
Gah. At this point, I'm just so overwhelmed by the complexity of the problems listed and the vastness of possible ways to address the issues that I can't go on.
You know, maybe the book explains all these things and answers my questions in greater detail, but I really wanted more available and up-front discussion of real, possible solutions and how to bring them about in reality. When people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues, and see few solutions presented, it's really hard for them to want to dive in. Perhaps I'm just a childless (for now) crank, but I can't get past the feeling that this is a catch-all feel-good thing with very little substance. Perhaps in a few weeks they'll have a more defined presence and stronger identity/ideology. I wish them well in bringing better organization to the effort and clarifying their proposed solutions, because these are important issues.

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