Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Telling our stories

One of my favorite feminist teachings is the oft-repeated mantra that the personal is the political. This doesn't, of course, mean that George W. Bush offers us advice for daily living (whew!) but that the power structures outside our homes don't necessarily stop at the doorway. We don't like to remember that, always--sometimes we want our decisions to feel free, open, disconnected from political realities. But they rarely are. This week in the Mama, PhD blog over at Inside Higher Ed I tell a little more of my story of balancing academe and family. Like all such stories, it's both idiosyncratic and representative, personal and --possibly-- political. Let me know what you think.

But don't stop there. In Capital-P politics, as you already know, there's a lot going on right now. Literary Mama columnists Ericka Lutz (Red Diaper Dharma) and Shari MacDonald Strong (The Maternal is Political) have terrific columns up now about the election, both telling different, but important, stories.

Two more columns at Literary Mama tell stories that don't feel political at all, stories of farewell. But Rebecca Kaminsky (Down Will Come Baby) and Vicki Forman (Special Needs Mama) know well how their stories of love and care are connected up with larger concerns--of how we treat women's particular health care needs, how we care for disabled children, how our families form part of a larger community of love and care.

The first time I ever wanted to take a political action was when, six months pregnant with my first child, I went to a meeting about doing clinic defense. Heavy with a chosen and deeply-loved child, I knew in my bones, my joints, my aching muscles, just how important it was for all mothers to have that same choice, to know their children were chosen as well. Organizers wiser than I dissuaded me, realizing that my condition would be a distraction, a potentially dangerous one. I've mostly stayed behind the scenes since then, hoping that my words and example in the classroom would be seen as the political statement I knew them to be.

This year I've been a little more mobilized--in July I walked a precinct with my newly-registered-to-vote daughter, and we signed up new voters together in the summer heat. She's spending part of her gap year doing more of that, registering voters and phonebanking and trying to be a part of something bigger than she is. Yesterday she finished working on a voter guide for a local progressive organization, and I saw the pride in her eyes as she told me of sending it off and getting it approved. "People will use my work to help them decide how to vote!" Seeing her and other young people get excited about this election is one of the things that gives me hope for the future--as does this new project, YA for Obama (check out Judy Blume! check out John Green!).

Listen to the stories around you--tell your own--you'll make a difference.

(cross-posted at the other blog)

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