“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12 NLT)
"Why is it so much easier to identify and name racial and religious hatred than misogyny?"
Kristina Lucelle-Peterson in Liberating Tradition
Every year, we take time to honor Motherhood and the people who have mothered us through the celebration of Mother's Day. Of all of the traditional secular (and I am hesitant to use that description as Motherhood is truly sacred!) holidays, I believe that Mother's Day is the holiday in which is most needed and most desecrated. The holiday is currently a consumer bonanza, both in the retail industry, and the church (People are more likely to attend church services on Mother's Day, along with Easter and Christmas). We buy flowers, candies, expensive dinners, have BBQ's, pamper our mothers with spa treatments, or maybe even travel with them to an exotic locale. All of those things are wonderful and largely appreciated by mothers who have literally given everything to form and foster us.
What occurs to me this morning is not whether you purchased the right gift, or gave the right card, or whether you are experiencing the tension of cultural consumer pressure to get "something". That is all superficial. Not that these are not appreciated and desired by our Mothers, but that they are shallow, token expressions. Our true measure of honoring mothers, is our esteem for them and our value of them as a gift of God and person made in God's image who is not defined by our images and limitations towards women, but by the greatness of God.
I know, you may be saying: "Mike, I think that you are making too much of this. Its just a holiday!" However, I realize that as a man, writing about the treatment of women, that I have consciously and unconsciously participated in the dehumanization of women and its hideous and disasterous consequences. Now, that may seem strong as I loved my mother and I think she would characterize my affection towards her always respectful and always supportive. Yet, our society, as a whole promotes the objectification of women where they are reduced to sexual objects of desire, to be used by men (and other women) and their success and status is not based upon the giftedness that God has endowed spiritually and intellectually but their success in fulfilling the roles of objectification that we have promoted for women.
Men may read this and say, I never saw my mother as a "sexual object". My response is that none of us did, but we have all seen other people's mothers in that way through the constant media portrayals, over-sexualized TV and movie demonstrations, and the ever present pornography industry (which made more money than Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey put together: what are men really watching?).
“The reduction of a female human being's value to her sexual attractiveness comes at a terrifically high price: dehumanization, which makes probable all manner of violence. Over and over again, in history we observe that once a group has been dehumanized, anything can be done against them with impunity.”
– Kristina Lacelle-Peterson in Liberating Tradition
Many people will say that women willingly take roles of being overly sexualized and participate in these things by their own choice. This is always the argument that seems to alleviate the consciousness of those who are thriving off of the degradation of others. WEB Dubois, in his classic "Souls of Black Folk", spoke about the ability of the Negro to see himself through the eyes of those who hated him and controlled him. It was a double-conscience. What we now see is the internalization of misogynystic portraits of feminity that has been promoted through our male-powered cultures.
Yes, as a man, when I watch, support, encourage, or endorse something that celebrates violence against women, objectification of women, or the humiliation of women, I am teaching it to my daughter, projecting it upon my wife, and promoting it as a society.
So, the first step in truly honoring Mothers, is to simply stop dishonoring mothers. Lets stop participating in systems, products, and practices that degrade and dehumanize women. Lets stop allowing consumerism to dictate the identity of women and what is beautiful. Lets repent of all of the misogynystic values that we have coveted and are still derriving pleasure from.
Lets honor mothers by removing every obstacle that seeks to minimize, ignore, and marginalize women of all shapes, colors, political perspectives, and ideologies. Let that start with your mother, your daughters, your neighbors, your community, and it will spread organically to our nation.
Lets honor mothers by standing in solidarity with mothers against those things that seeks to destroy them or objectify them: Pornography, violence, and discrimination of every sort. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justic everywhere". To do this assumes the painful reality that you, male or female, may have to accept your collusion with destructive powers
Its time that we actually celebrate a Mother's Day that truly honor's mothers and that begins by challenging our own assumptions on maternity, femininty, and equality.
Have a Great Mother's Day!
Pastor M Traylor