More than a Day

This Mother’s Day, Americans will spend an estimated $21 billion to show their appreciation and love to the women who gave us the gift of life.  That breaks down to almost $170 for each consumer to say “Thank You!” in cards, flowers, brunch, and other gifts.

Moms certainly deserve the recognition, thanks, and praise.  But we should be better about doing this all year long.  And we should more consistently stand up for all the women in our lives, including others’ moms or  moms-to-be.

Robert and Sarah’s posts this past week highlight the denigrating images, messages, and pressures put on women today.  Robert cites the “real beauty” campaign by Dove.  And while Dove’s attempts to subvert dominant paradigms of unrealistic standards of beauty are laudable, Dove’s parent company, Unilever, runs ads with almost the opposite message for a different subsidiary, Axe (Axe soaps and scents seem to strip women of any brainpower or agency by depicting them as magnetically – and lustfully – drawn to any man who dons their product).  Ads like these make it hard to reverse trends that indicate women have one negative thought about their body every waking hour – and that as many as 97% of women have at least one negative body thought a day.

Maybe there’s more we can do for Mom – and other moms and moms-to-be – than send a card or some flowers once a year?

Cultural pressures and expectations are one thing.  When these degrading images start to shape us, they can lead to even worse objectification and exploitation.  Patriarchy of all kinds engenders a “rape culture” that stands idly by while pornography, domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking (including that of women and children trafficked for sex) impact an increasing number of lives.

These are not subjects that are easy to discuss.  Yet if we are going to honor Mom, we should move beyond words and gestures of gratitude.  We need to confront the realities of sin, both personal and social, that degrade moms and all other women and girls across our country and all over the globe.

This means addressing the fact that 40 million Americans watch porn regularly, including 70% of 18-24 males.  It requires that we acknowledge porn is so pervasive that it accounts for 35% of all internet downloads, is exposed to children on average by age 11, and that Sunday is the most popular day of the week for watching porn.  If ever there was a day to abstain, let’s hope it would be Mother’s Day.  Not only out of respect for Mom, or sisters and daughters who may one day become moms, but to girlfriends and spouses, since such widespread viewing is being linked to growing trends in sexual dissatisfaction, infidelity, and divorce.

It means confronting the fact that even if we vow never to raise a hand to a woman in our house, 1 in 4 women will still experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.  The same ratio of college women are sexually assaulted, and the numbers are also disturbingly high among high school girls, reaching almost one in five.  It’s not enough to refuse to be a perpetrator; we must be committed to being allies and advocates who are actively and steadfastly working to end violence against women.  One way to honor Mom is to end the culture of indifference that persists in our enlightened age that professes a commitment to liberty and equality.

It means standing with women and girls for human dignity and human rights.   It also means being more informed and responsible consumers, who refuse to buy clothing stitched by female garment workers in sweatshop factories like the one that collapsed and killed more than one thousand in Bangladesh a few weeks ago.  And boycotting produce picked by farmworker mothers that makes slavery a part of our food chain.

If we fail to acknowledge and atone for these sins, Mother’s Day risks becoming a Hallmark Holiday that ultimately rings hollow.  Moms and moms-to-be deserve better than that, especially since their love for us is anything but just-for-show.