There are sayings about power that seem true.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
But, I think, these are mere shiny rhetoric because the truth is much uglier.
Power reveals who a person truly is.
Most power in the U.S. remains in the hands of men, white men. And we routinely hear male politicians invoke the “I have a mother” or “I have a daughter” to justify the truly horrible things they do to the detriment of women and girls.
Yes, we have mothers. But that doesn’t guarantee anything, any more than having power guarantees that having that privilege means the power will be used in the service of those without power.
For all her very human flaws, my mother was wonderful to me. Far from perfect, often wonderful, formative, of course, and ever-present in my being, even (or maybe especially since) after she died.
I am not stooping to the petty and dishonest “since I have a mother” argument, but I cannot in good conscience do anything other than advocate for complete body autonomy, complete human dignity and freedom for all women and girls in part because of the life my mother lived—especially her early life in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
And then my life with her in the 1960s and 1970s as I grew up—watching her daily live the reduced life of women, even as she enjoyed the privileges of being white and having the advantages that came with being working class in the South.
As elected officials—often white men and then occasionally joined by white women working anti-woman adjacent—continue to dismantle the autonomy and freedom of women in a country that shamelessly claims to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” I am emboldened by the weight of my own mother sitting there in the knots of my being that I daily try to ease.
She did give me life and she also passed on our shared anxieties—the racing mind, the never-ending “what if” thinking, the erosion of our bodies because our minds simply will not leave us be.
Motherhood is not the defining feature of womanhood.
Motherhood is the defining feature of motherhood.
Dishonoring womanhood is spitting in the face of all that defines womanhood, including motherhood.
Power reveals who people truly are.
In the U.S. in 2022, that truth should shame us all.
“This one’s like your mother’s arms when she was young and sunburned in the ’80s/ It lasts forever”
“I’ll Still Destroy You,” The National