Deconstructing Mother Day

My respect to women and girls everywhere who make it through Mother Day. A calendar day for courage. Not my point to go there in this essay. My point is let’s get back to the point of Mother Day.

A brief history of ancient times. The Greeks and Romans had cults to celebrate mothers.

A brief history of Mother Day in the last 150 years. Mother Day was intended as a tribute to our individual mother. In a country notorious for desecrating the English language, with the rare placement of a grammatically correct apostrophe, the day became a public commodity. Anna Jarvis is credited with developing the modern Mother Day, however, her own mother Ann Reeves Jarvis had a far more interesting and socially pertinent concept in mind.

Ann Reeves Jarvis was a peace activist who advocated for health and sanitation in the camps of both sides during the American Civil War. She formed in essence grief groups for mothers whose sons died in the war. The public service the women performed gradually evolved into an international peace movement. When men got wind of a growing threat to their favorite game of mayhem, they lobbied for a day to celebrate the women behind the “great men” of this nation. They adroitly returned the spotlight to themselves and their economic self-interest while subtly reminding women of their place. Anna Jarvis advocated for a Mother Day celebration upon the death of her mother Ann. Mother’s Day now extends to over 40 countries. Anna Jarvis was later arrested while protesting the commercialism of Mother Day. In 2019, In the United States, Mother’s Day was expected to gross 25 billion dollars. Billion. 5.something billion dollars in jewelry alone.

I appreciate when my children and friends acknowledge me. They are conscious individuals who don’t need a calendar reminder to be kind and considerate. Mother’s Day has been a can of worms for me since I was a child. I decided to study the history in an effort to reduce the dissonance. Instead, I’m flabbergasted to realize all of the angst and years of anxiety feeling beaten up by an arbitrary date were in reality wasted on an annual event solely intended to realize profits for retailers.

25 billion dollars a year is an astounding figure. What would that much money do for health care, education and poverty? Would people who had food and education be so willing to fall for the promotion of aggression and violence? When people have a safety net of health care they have the emotional and physical strength to look outside of themselves and contribute to easing social ills. And on and on. I’m stating the obvious. The only thing I know for sure is as women, we are better than letting ourselves be used one more time and one more way to make a profit.

We have a year to ponder and decide what we are going to do as individuals to return to the original intention of Mother Day. While acknowledging mother and her contributions, is it possible to simultaneously promote peace? Resolve griefs. Serve others. Donate our segment of the 25 billion to an ethical cause? If we spend the day as intended will we ease our own issues? Of course, this might require investment of self instead of a credit card swipe to assuage our conscience. You’ll have your own ideas if you think about it. What if we take back our power, step out from behind the shoulders of the historical menfolk and make this day a contribution?

Cracking the Code...

I’ve been totally surprised when men stop me in public to compliment the floral shoes, on downtown city streets or plein air painting in the great out of doors. Women, on the other hand, comment on the vibrant stripes. The polarity of opinion appears to serve as a metaphor for the distinct differences between men and women. Perhaps the shoes symbolize the way we view ourselves and our projections for the opposite sex. I may have discovered the next Rosetta stone, a cipher for communication between Mars and Venus. If I can crack the code the Nobel Peace Prize is next. So close. 

Heavy Conversation

I’ve just returned from a meeting of artists, predominantly women.  The exchange centered around professional issues and the lone male in the group asked how to address a group of women in a politically correct way.  We went from there to the ways women have potentially powerful (and largely neglected) influence for non-violence in the world. Someone commented the conversation was “heavy”  and that’s when the meeting disbanded.

As women, we have to get used to the “heavy” conversations. We won’t be able to make a difference until we can sit at ease with ourselves and our power in the middle of difficult  topics heretofore reserved for the men over port while the ladies withdrew to the drawing room. To me, it’s one more evidence of genetic memory - at least the latent effects of social conditioning. We signed the papers for emancipation in 1920 and our knee-jerk response is centuries old. We can’t leave the tuff stuff to the menfolk and co-opt out of uncomfortable conversations because frankly, the males haven’t done such a great job with the planet so far. I’m thinking that’s probably because our female contribution has been, in large part, missing.

 There are women making a real effort toward a peace filled world. Women in the news, on the talk shows, and some who never raise a blip in any media. For most of us, the opportunity to influence for effective peaceful relations come in our circles of everyday association.

 Hossein Bidgoli, who authored The Internet Encyclopedia, stated visual images, especially photographs, have credibility and people believe what they see particularly when words and images are combined to create  “social commentary in more powerful forms than had previously existed.” I’m not saying as artists and writers every piece has to be a political or social statement. That we have the ability to bring beauty to the world in images or words or both is a great contribution to the energy of peace in itself. However, I’m starting to think in terms of how I, as an artist and writer who is also a woman, can participate more fully in the quest for non-violence and peace in the world.