Tuesday, April 29, 2008
It’s not often that I allow myself to stop moving, but just recently, I took a brief break from laboring over the one-woman show I’ve started writing based off of my book Raise the Red Teddy: A Single Mother’s Guide to Dating. Without hesitation I popped in a movie I just received from Netflix called, Rabbit-Proof Fence. I had never heard of it before, but the title sounded interesting and the cover looked intriguing so I added it to my queue.
I wasn’t prepared to be heartbroken. Rabbit-Proof Fence is about a 14-year-old Aborigine girl named Molly, her cousin and sister in the 1930’s when the Australian government tore Aborigine families apart in order to stamp out their native blood by placing half white Aborigine children into orphanages and grooming them for servant positions where girls can be can be taken advantage of sexually to ensure their children (who would also be taken away) are even whiter.
Molly, a clever, strong willed girl who had not grown to know her white father, escapes the orphanage, and uses her native tracking skills to guide her, cousin Gracie and little sister Daisy back home to their family. While Gracie decides to take a detour to find her mother who is nearby, Molly and Daisy trek over 1,500 miles through the desert without any supplies trying to allude a government employed Aborigine tracker and the Australian police. And what’s more amazing, is this film is based on a true story.
After watching this film, I was left wondering, “Where was this in my history books?” Why am I just now learning that these were the conditions that Aborigine people were living with all the way through the 1970’s? Why did I not know that there were countless Aborigines known as the “Lost Generation” who experienced an identity crisis because they found it difficult to relate to both white Australians and native Aborigines?
After a day of pondering this, I felt like slapping my hand against my forehead – but I didn’t. It had a lot less to do with the simple oversight of a broken school system that I was cattle prodded through and more to do with a control mechanism set in place particularly with my own government. The things I’m exposed to as a child and a young adult is part of a network of metallic spider webs flashing news in front of me that my government deems appropriate and important. This is where my parents should have come in, if they had known.
There is a not-so-subtle mix of racism blended in this pot of manipulation that many Americans believe have been long since boiled away. I felt so sad about this – similar to what I imagine it would feel like if your father, who you adored died, and then you find out that he used to beat your wonderful mother.
Reaching past this new knowledge, I saw Molly as inspiring, so much so, that I had my own daughter watch it as well; hoping that Molly’s willingness to take on all authority, without a paralyzing fear of punishment and a determination to rival anyone’s – man or woman of any race, would trigger something in her as well. This was my tender moment to teach as a mother – and then, my break was over.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
What Does Being Single Have to do With Being a Mother?
A few months ago, while attending a book club meeting some of the women in my family organized, I was pulled into an in-depth discussion about the title, “single mother.” My cousin, we’ll call her Anna, was up in arms about being called a single mother, even though technically she would be defined as one.
“What does my marital status have to do with being a mother?” She just wanted to be called a “mother,” yet, when I first heard this from her; a slight frown furrowed my brow.
I was thinking to myself, what in the world is wrong with her? Didn’t she know that being called mother was just as generic as being called human? The title, “single mother” implicated a different type of walk of life, with unique struggles to those of married mothers; that though neither being single nor being a mother defined us as women, it gave people a glimmer of insight into our character and the routine of our daily lives.
She wanted simply to be called a mother – and she is one – so who am I to argue about the adjective she removes from her title? I did attempt to share my views on the matter as graciously as I could – after all, I did have an opinion, and she is family.
After writing, Raise the Red Teddy: A Single Mother’s Guide to Dating, I played back Anna’s thought on “single mother” again. Once I played devil’s advocate in my head and enlisted some logic of my own, I reluctantly began to see her point. What did being single have to do with motherhood?
Okay, I’m not in denial about the fact that for most mothers, the difference in marital status greatly affects the experiences of motherhood. I don’t sway on this point. My latest question is: but whose business is it? Surly we don’t refer to mothers who are married as “married mothers” – so why should our business get blasted? Is it a subconscious attempt to evoke sympathy? Criticism? Is it a way to gloat our strength? Maybe it’s some strange exotic cocktail of reasons, but either way, I believe we should bring this subconscious thought to the front of our minds to speak consciously.
And will I refer to single mothers in the future? Come on, you know I will! I have a book to promote, but at least it is now in front of me as a conscious reference, so that when I do stop referring to myself as one, it is beyond making a statement and simply principle and truth.