When I was growing up, I never saw my mother, because she was working three jobs in hospitals and doctor’s offices. As a result, I have to admit, as a teenager I was incredibly angry with my mother. I resented having to care for my younger siblings, and hated the fact that I had to do all of the household chores AND keep my grades up so that I could get a scholarship to go to college, because that was the only way I would be able to go. We were poor, and now I understand much more clearly that she was operating under conditions not of her own making. She had to work so hard because her work in a feminized, caring profession was undervalued, just as mine as a teacher is today.
I have my own daughter now. When she was born eleven years ago, I understood immediately that my child would suffer from the perpetuation of the systems of oppression that made the lives of my mother and other women so difficult. My child, because she was born female, was not safe, and I understood that there was little I could do to really protect her. I knew that my child, as a woman, would have to work twice as hard to be successful and find her own path. Her birth motivated me to start becoming more active, to be engaged in changing the political landscape. And this recent election, for me as for so many women of my generation, has been a different kind of terrifying experience. All of us with young daughters have had to face our daughters, to try to explain how such a person could be elected to the highest office in the free world, and to start figuring out how this is “going to be OK.”
My daughter is a young historian. Last year, her project on the Birmingham Children’s March examined how young black children resisted attacks by police with fire hoses and dogs. This year, she is studying the resistance of hunger-striking suffragettes to police violence in the early twentieth century. She pointed out to me that it was only when the unseen and unheard were willing to lay their bodies on the line, to become disobedient and subject themselves to verbal and physical attack and police violence, that public sentiment really shifted.