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The Mamafesto: Where motherhood and feminism collide

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

Tackling motherhood, feminism and everything in between

I am an unapologetic feminist. I'm also a wife and mother. And for some people, they're not quite sure how that all fits together. As for me, I can't see any other way for it to make sense.

When I was in my early 20s, I was hard at work on my thesis for my master's degree, which looked at the status of feminism in the lives of women in their 20s. I was interested to see if women in this age group still felt a need to identify as feminists and was curious to see what role the movement had — if any — in their lives. While knee-deep into my thesis and holding down a full-time job, I got pregnant. Six months into my pregnancy, my husband and I found ourselves moving out of state for a job opportunity on his end. Only a few months after settling in, our son was born, and just a couple of months later, my thesis was complete. I graduated with my hard-earned master's, my baby in my arms, and immediately thought, now what?

I had left my job in another state, just completed a huge academic endeavor and was now home with a tiny baby and unsure of anything. My year pre-baby I was a loud and proud feminist, taking on activist volunteer work, mostly surrounding reproductive health. But now? I was actually enjoying being home with my son and wondered where that left me. My various identities were floating around, trying to figure out how to piece themselves together.

It took a few months until I finally found my groove again. I was able to weave together feminism and motherhood until I felt comfortable navigating both worlds. And then I realized how intrinsically connected the two are (and started writing about it frequently). Feminism, at its core, is about equality and getting to the point where people have equal rights at all levels, from the personal to the political. What I started to see was that mothers — despite being told how important they are for the well-being of families and society — were being treated as less than equal in a number of ways. Women being paid less than men is very much a feminist issue, and one for mothers as well, since they are most impacted much of the time, especially mothers of color. Reproductive health, from contraception to birth, impacts mothers at many levels, and while not everyone likes to talk about it, abortion (and access to it) is very much related to motherhood, since the majority of women who access abortion care already have at least one child. Policies like mandated, paid family leave (Hello! How are we still one of the last countries out there with nothing in place?) and paid sick leave all impact mothers and are being pushed by feminists.

Then there are all the social issues. I'm raising a son in a country where a bunch of high schoolers think nothing of sexually assaulting a girl, videotaping it and sharing it on social media. That frightens me to no end, and you bet I'll do my part to destroy rape culture. Sexism hurts boys and girls, and as a mother, I want girls to grow up without limitations, the same as I hope for my son. So you better believe I push back against gender stereotypes that box kids in and sexualization that exploits and harms them. This column will take a look at topics that span feminism and motherhood and explore the places where they collide. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for topics to cover, and can't wait to delve into them with you all here at SheKnows!

More on feminism

Why I'm raising a feminist
Being a feminist is not making other women feel bad for their choices
Why a fight about video games and feminism should matter for parents

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