Recently, some of my Instagram favourites (Candice Brathwaite and Nicola Washington from Too Much Mothering Information) started a new campaign called Make Motherhood Diverse. It’s something I embrace wholeheartedly so I wanted to get behind it and tell you guys all about it.
Make motherhood diverse
Make motherhood diverse is an Instagram campaign that aims to make motherhood on Instagram more diverse and representative. It aims to represent every experience equally, democratically and inclusively.
Now you all know I’m a feminist and we all know ‘if your feminism isn’t intersectional then it ain’t shit’. What does that mean? It means, we fight for all our sisters and if we are leaving any behind, then we aren’t doing a great job.
There are lots of different types of discrimination, when these types intersect, the impact can be more profound. So you may be discriminated against if you are a woman, gay, black, differently abled. What if you are some of those or all those at the same time? The discrimination is multiplied. Your opportunities are fewer and the challenges increase.
This is why modern feminism, and my brand of feminism isn’t just about fighting for women’s rights. It fights for equality for all. We fight against racism, ableism and homophobia. These issues are all interconnected and have interdependencies.
“I had a medical abortion when I was 20. I open with that to set the tone for this space. No topic is off limits, no story will be regarded as shameful • Whilst I know it was the right choice for me I’ve spent a massive portion of my motherhood trying to put that decision to bed. I lie awake everyday thinking ‘right, I must out-parent yesterday because I’m in it to win it this time.’ For a long time I connected Esmé-Olivia’s traumatic birth to that decision. ‘Surely I suffered that way as retribution for my past life?’ I often wondered. As the years went on I realised I didn’t deserve that baggage and neither did Esmé • So here I am pregnant with my second but already a mother to two as I inherited a step daughter years ago. And as I edge towards thirty I’m excited to see what motherhood without guilt feels like. I really think I’ve earned it • I want #makemotherhooddiverse to not just be about the differences we see but those we are perhaps not so keen to share. Because it’s in unearthing those truths that the Mother you’re destined to be is born.” Candice, @candicebrathwaite, Co-Founder of @makemotherhooddiverse . . . #representationmatters #blackmotherhood #mmdteam
I think any woman who has had kids knows that motherhood can be isolating. Personally, I felt isolated, and that’s as a white (arguably middle class, with strong working class roots) woman with no disabilities. I can only imagine how much more isolating it would have been had I also not seen anyone who looked like me or was having the same experiences and struggles I was in the media – TV, print and social.
Representation matters. There has been lots of research done on this. If you are a child and all the heroes are, say, a different colour, or the opposite sex, then you are less able to visualise yourself as a hero. If say, that little girl is black and sees Doc Mcstuffins being all badass and her mother as a successful doctor and her dad as a stay at home dad – then those roles make sense to her. She can visualise herself in those roles more easily than she could if the family didn’t look and act like hers. Not only can she see herself in those roles but then others, who have also been exposed to that diversity can see her in those roles and give her the opportunities she needs to take up space in the world.
When we see ourselves in the media, it makes us feel more accepted, like we are ok. During motherhood, those are the things you need to feel the most.
Reclaiming the media
And this is the fantastic thing about social media. Social media is our time to reclaim the media – we are in control. ‘Normal people’ are grabbing representation with two hands. For years, most of what we saw on TV and film were size zero white girls and muscled men in lead roles.
But now, the stars of today aren’t just in film, they are on YouTube and Instagram where they control the narrative. You can see someone who is just like you. They may be plus sized like you and posting a video of themselves proudly dancing in a bikini, and by watching the video you too feel yourself start to love your wobbles more too.
You might be a recent divorcee following the Instagram account of the divorced single mam and following her on the peaks and troughs of navigating her way through her new life, taking heed that if she can get through it, then you can too.
Basically, however you self-identify, there will be someone out there who is just like you and who can make you feel good about yourself. Fill your feeds up with that shit. But fill them up with difference too. I’m learning way more on my intersectional feminist journey by following people who are different to me. I learn about their triumphs and troubles and I learn how I can be a better ally to them. It’s what I love most about social media.
“I dislike the phrase, “working class done good” because it implies there is something wrong with being working class. I also dislike when people say social elevation is a result of hard work alone, because it feeds into a narrative that people are only poor because they are lazy • I am “first generation” middle class (if such a thing exists) thanks to the emphasis my parents placed on education – they were able to change our family outcomes because of their attitude • And that to me exemplifies white privilege. • Because if you are white it is possible to get an education, work hard, change your clothes, your hair, even your accent (as my aunt did when she came to London in the 70s, and as was suggested to my sister only recently) to alter people’s perceptions of who you are and to “get ahead”. None of those things may be easy or even “fair”. But they are possible. • You can’t however change the colour of your skin. • @makemotherhooddiverse is not a space just about race though – there are so many stories to be told about motherhood that we thought carefully and decided it should be wider than that. But as a mother of mixed-race children coming to terms with the reality of structural and societal racism, unconscious bias and my own unacknowledged white privilege, race has a central role in my experience of motherhood. • My children are going to be more middle class than me, financially secure and given opportunities that I didn’t even know existed when I was growing up. But they’re also black. They are going to face challenges that I, even with my harsh northern accent, clumsy social graces, and constant fear that I’m going to be found out, have never faced. • And if I’m not prepared to face up to my prejudices, acknowledge my role in perpetuating them, and play my part in their dismantling, I will have failed as a mother.” Nicola, @toomuchmotheringinformation, Co-Founder @makemotherhooddiverse . #makemotherhooddiverse
So, please get involved if you can by using the #makemotherhooddiverse on Instagram. Have a look through the hashtag and learn about the diversity that is around us and support them. Go to tell the mothers who have joined in how badass they are. If you have the time or inclination you can post your favourite motherhood/family photo with a caption that sums up your version of motherhood. You never know, you might just make another mother feel less alone.