Butch Mama chum representing along SF LGBT Pride route, June 27, 2005.
So, where did we leave off, from Mommy wars, the lesbian episode, part 1? Ah, yes: how it comes to be that spawning kids, or adopting them, or any other parental variant, manages to be both radical and conformist and transformational of queer politics all at the same time. And also: shouldn’t one path be the right one, and another path be the wrong one? In the yawning maw of time that opened up since part 1 (okay, a week), several gals, in their comments, eloquently made the point I was going to make in part 2 here. Which (when stretched and pulled to a buncha more words) goes a little something like this:
The playgrounds of today are the streets/courtrooms/what-have-you of tomorrow. In other words, quiet yet ultimately consequential changes occur when something so innocuous as a suburban school begins to see more same-sex (sure: even monogamous, middle-class, nuclear, racially normative) parents ferrying their kids to school in mini-vans. It’s not the big, Civil Rights Act-scale change, but hell’s bells, we need change everywhere, people, in the streets, in the urban centers, in the rural outbacks, and yes! yes! even in the suburbs. As a survivor of the suburbs, yay verily I say unto you we need change especially in the suburbs! And while I don’t believe that switching the genders or sexes of the heads of otherwise nuclear households drives a stake in the heart of nuclear family units generally, apparently the anti-gay marriage/family contingent thinks so, and this is what cedes the whole issue back to the larger one of queer civil rights. I also believe that the larger-scale change is facilitated by a hundred smaller shifts. Drop by drop is how an iceberg begins to melt. Yes, an unfortunate metaphor this Global Warming Weather summer, but it can’t be helped: it’s a true fact.Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to sit around and wait for change at a glacial pace. But I believe it all works together, the slow drip-drip-drip setting the stage for the dramatic moment, triggered by you name it, when a huge-ass chunk of iceberg drops off. You could explain this with notions like the butterfly effect or systems theory or whatever you like. But the point is all things are interrelated, and all movements in the direction of more love, rather than less, work toward the good, sez me.
I’m with Gramsci. And he said our work is more a war of position than a war of maneuver. I will resist the morbid temptation to parse left social theory here. (Eek! The horor, the horor! After which I would wind up with more than my knickers tangled up in a knot, with paper clips in my hair and ink stains all over my person, fingers all slashed-up with paper cuts, the cat, the dog, and the kid all buried under crumpled up pieces of paper, my framed portrait of Karl Marx frowning down upon me disapprovingly in that spooky, the-eyes-are-alive, scary movie kind of way. I left grad school for a good reason, people, a good reason.) I will, however, say that in a nutshell, I read that strategic distinction as one between slower, infiltration-y, long-haul kind of battles and the more large-scale, dramatic battles for which the smaller ones actually prepared the ground. More to my point, and I do have one (thx, Ellen), is that in order to keep up the long haul work here, I think we need to let people follow their hearts, even as we YELL IN THEIR EARS about the political and social consequences of what some of us might believe to be their retrograde impulses.
Coupla more chums working the crowd along the SF LGBT Pride route, June 27, 2005.
While we’re at it, we might also consider the merits of interval training, wherein bursts of intense activity are supported by intervening periods of lower intensity activity. Works for distance runners. And we have a distance to cover. Take your pick: the strategy can apply to one’s own work, over a lifetime, or over the larger corpus of movement change, or even the different ways that various of us apply our energies toward social change at the same time.At the second Empowering Women of Color Conference at UC Berkeley in 1987, poet/playwright/activist Cherríe Moraga asked the audience, “How many of you here, ten years from now, will still be activists?” I took her challenge deeply to heart, and also laid it directly next to the burn-out I was beginning to feel even then as a campus activist. How to manage the long haul, indeed? Her question has haunted/inspired me over nearly two decades, and I have given a lot of thought to the matter of how to keep up the good fight. At times it’s not easy, but lately, finding inspiriation for my public-sphere social change work in the very stuff of my private-sphere fulfillment has been extremely invigorating. Since now the most precious aspect of my private sphere is about the future, and that’s what long haul social change work is about. Parent upon parent before me has made this connection, and now I get it.
I might note to us all, in closing, that sister Cheríe spawned her own kid, and wrote beautifully about the process of becoming her kind of mother, in Waiting in the Wings. Let’s be sure to add her name to the lengthy list of revolutionary change agent female parent gals, the lesbian sub-list.
Anyone want to add some more? Maybe your own?
[Update, October 16, 2006: Prime, hyper-current e.g. for the Hetero/Non-denominational sub-list: MomsRising.org]
5 thoughts on “Mommy wars, the lesbian episode, part 2: free to be you and me”
Part 2 was great too. Thanks for the food for thought.
I think perhaps Schulman and others who seem to be fretting that we can’t be activists or radicals if we’re too busy being mommies legitimately question whether their goals are the same goals of “lesbian mommies.”
And indeed, I suspect that most lesbian mommies are probably not committed to — or even interested in — driving a stake through the heart of the nuclear family unit. Maybe not even heteronormativity. But that isn’t because they’re too busy being mommies. It’s because most people aren’t working towards those larger goals.
As people all along the liberal-progressive-radical spectrum, IMO, we need to make sure that we’re respectful of our allies, working together where we have common ground, and not acting like some Leninist splinter group declaring the Maoist splinter group “the enemy” because their doctine has a different hue on this issue or that one. More radical than thou is a lose-lose game, distracting everyone from actually making a difference.
Of course, since I fall on the liberal-progressive end of the spectrum, I suppose it’s fair to say “you would think that.” But I just don’t see anything to be gained by rejecting all “drip drip drip” change and insisting on waiting for the whole iceberg, all at once. From each according to her talents, right?
Yes, and to each according to her needs!
Another discarded thread of Part 2 in its drafty form was an ill-substantiated meander into power-law and Zipf’s law as ways to understand your point, above, that “most people arenâ€™t working towards those larger goals.” I discarded the thread because (a) I never got to calculus or statistics in school and I mistrust what I’d do with either, and (b) arguing that only a small percentage of people will ever genuinely advocate for radical change seemed a bit fatalistic for a wannabe optimist such as myself.
Then again, we all know the oft-quoted Margarate Mead remark, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Thank you for your acumen, Liza, and for sharing it here.
And another thing. This piece by Rimjob on Daily Kos couples an excerpt from Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot with iconic photographs to help cast perspective and reanimate motivation. Go see.
Lovin’ your words.. As you know, i’m from oz.. and over the last few months, while looking into the possibility of my patner Rasta and I adopting (not a possibility in oz).. ..during that process, i’ve discovered blogging, and just lately, your blog and the queer others that you’re linked to.. the internet makes it a significantly smaller world.
I’ve been checkin’ countries where its possible to adopt as a lesbian couple with the thought that Rasta and I might get about the world, do a little work somewhere overseas, experience the good bits and try to adopt..
..in the meantime though, we are tryin’ our hand at a home grown baby.. no luck yet..
..some of the localised content of your post is lost on me.. but the sentiment I get.. most ppl, lesbian or not are related to Norm.. or secretly would like to be.. i’m sayin’ here that a suburban life fits with most ppl, dykes included.. and truly radical spirits, committed to the fight in a long term enduring way are hard to find..
..thats why i like your blog.. lovin’ your energy and your spirit.. looking forward to your next post.. i’m a fan.. Mace
Thank you for not trying to quantify radicalism and other related activism with the power law and zipf law analogies. I like your academic slant, but that might have put me into the eyes-glaze-over territory. The concepts work for me, but not the details. 🙂
I believe that the current firefight we are in over same sex marriage and parents is a necessary, if horribly unpleasant, phase during change. I’m sure there are some good theorists out there who can describe the phenomenon better, but here’s what I mean in a nutshell.
When massive change is about to become inevitable, ie, legal equality for people of color in the civil rights movement, or economic gains for blacks in the south during reconstruction, the opposition pulls out all the stops to fight the change, ie Bull Connor & the fire hose & beating/killing civil rights workers, freedom riders, black civil rights leaders, and earlier, the heyday of the kl*n. (I don’t want you being found on icky search results.)
Right now, we’re going through a similar state of severe and dramatic social resistance to the fact that all that drip drip drip of the LGBT movement (since 1969? since the mid-80s?) has eroded institutionalized heterosexism to the point where the iceberg is near the breaking point.
Maybe my job is to try to keep the anti-change types from digging their heels in and preventing the iceberg from breaking off, and yours is to keep hammering at the iceberg to try to make sure we get the biggest piece possible to break.
And thanks for the nod to my radical sympathies! I’m not a real marxist, but some of the ideas are so lovely.