We’re in the second decade of the 21st Century. Is it time to rethink this obsolete holiday and just respect women everywhere, at all times?
I am about to rain on your Mother’s Day parade. Don’t get me wrong. I love moms. I loved my mom, she was the best. Why would I or anyone want to begrudge mothers their annual appreciation extravaganza?
I am not a mom. You’re probably thinking: of course! Here’s a sad, fruitless woman telling us to cancel Mother’s Day.
Hear me out:
Mother’s Day helps remind us that mothers have it really rough; that housework and rearing children are challenging and underappreciated all year round. If normal circumstances are already difficult for working moms (particularly in a country with no affordable childcare) the lockdown has made conditions even worse. Many Latinx moms and dads are essential workers. What happens now that their kids can’t go to school? Even mothers who can stay at home are expected to do most of the housekeeping and childrearing. It can’t be easy.
But one measly day a year we get all mushy and appreciate everything that our heroic mothers do for us. If they’re lucky, this earns them breakfast in bed, or flowers, or a last-minute greeting card; if they are unlucky, they may get a home appliance for their sacrifice. Mother’s Day is is no different than Valentine’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Father’s Day: it’s nothing but a marketing ploy devised to separate consumers from their money.
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In our Latinx culture, however, Mother’s Day is about much more than spending. It’s the celebration of the mythical figure of the mother as an angel, savior, and repository of all that is good in the world. In Mexico, and I bet that across most of Latin America, mothers are one step away from sainthood. This makes them the best pretext to trot out whenever you are in any kind of trouble with corrupt traffic cops or sadistic bureaucrats. All you have to do is invoke your sainted mother and you may very well be spared. “My poor mom is in the hospital”, usually does the trick. No one cares about Father’s Day but Mother’s Day is a national holiday.
I suspect that it’s a massive guilt trip.
How can we reconcile that a culture that reveres mothers is the very same culture that has some of the highest statistics for domestic violence and femicide across Latin America and Spain? A 2016 gendered analysis of violent deaths reported that 14 of the 25 countries with the highest femicide rates are Latin American. One thousand women were murdered in Mexico in the first three months of 2020 alone. Reports of incidents of domestic violence have increased dramatically in Latin American countries during the coronavirus lockdown. One in three Latinas in the US experiences domestic violence. So spare me your sentimental Mother’s Day baloney. Tremendous hypocrisy is at work.
Latinxs are far from the standard-bearers for gender equality. After all, we are the culture that invented machismo, which is, in essence, the belief in the supremacy of men over women.
Cultures that oppress women need them to conform to traditional gender roles like housewives or mothers. Men want to keep women in the kitchen and bearing children because this is how they rule the roost and by extension, the world. But we live in an age where women have finally been able to gain some economic independence. Women today can work, graduate college, be entrepreneurial, creative, and contribute to the scientific, cultural, and economic advancement of society. Motherhood is no longer perceived as the sole justification for a woman’s existence, nor is it a barrier for women’s emancipation. Women have been juggling motherhood and work for decades even though society has not really kept pace. We need equal opportunity, equal pay, better benefits, a better work/home balance, and better access to healthcare and childcare. Still, women do it all.
Childless women are no longer objects of pity or scorn. Women who choose not to have children are no longer considered societal pariahs. Remember the word spinster? No one uses it anymore. Moreover, gender roles have expanded. Enlightened fathers are sharing housework and child-rearing duties. As we have seen from non-traditional couples, people of any gender are perfectly capable of nurturing and raising children, just as women are perfectly capable of running businesses and even countries.
Other than biologically, being a mother is no longer relegated to women, and women are no longer relegated to only being mothers. A better way to appreciate mothers is to advance the cause of women every single day. Respect women everywhere, at all times. What a perfect and perennial gift for Mother’s Day.
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