Belfast Telegraph

It's not just mums who are victims of discrimination

By Lindy McDowell

Ageism, sizeism, gingerism.....the public enthusiasm for just about every imaginable ism of discrimination (real or alleged) appears to be spiralling out of control. This week's contender – surely the mother of all isms – is "motherism."

Never heard of it? Neither did anybody else until Dr Aric Sigman got cracking on the case. Before you leap to conclusions, motherism is not prejudice aimed at mothers in general. It's prejudice aimed specifically at stay-at-home mothers. (If that's not in itself a loaded term.)

Dr Sigman, reporting to a conference organised by a group called Mothers At Home Matters, has identified it as, "a prejudice that expresses itself in derogatory clichés like: 'You gain a baby and lose a brain' and comments that refer to 'schoolgate mother mentality', or to being 'willingly self-lobotomised.'"

He adds: "The implication is that by being a full-time mother you are 'subjugated and servile' and even sexually unattractive once you are a mother – a quality only associated with women who return to work with their high heels and clipboards."

So, not to be confused then, with working-motherism, a prejudice that expresses itself in derogatory clichés suggesting cold, uncaring, hard-hearted bitches. In high heels. With clipboards.

Nor is there mention in any of this of that sub-group – mothers who work from home. Where do they register on the discrimination chart?

The fact is that there are people on all sides of the Should Mothers Go Out To Work? debate who will snipe and look down their noses at others who don't do as they do – or do as they think they should do.

This isn't prejudice. It's petty. Pathetic even. But it's hardly on a par with, say, genuine evils like racism. The majority of mothers are too busy getting on with their own lives to have time to be judgmental about others. Some want to work but, given child care constraints, can't afford to.

Some want to stay at home but, given household bills, can't afford to. Some make sacrifices to stay at home. Some make sacrifices to go out to work. Which is best? Whatever works for you I'd say.

Personally I worked right from the time my sons were born (and before.) True, it was hardly on a par with going down a mine. But still. Tricky enough at times.

It still is for very many mothers whether they choose to stay at home or to join the rat-race and I have respect for all of them.

But motherism? Don't make me laugh.

If anything, what we have today is a cult of motherhood that puts procreation on a pedestal as the be-all and end-all of womanhood. Take for example this line from one of the Sunday supplements....

"Once a woman has a child it softens her, smooths out the edges....motherhood is life at its most natural, love at its most simple, a mother's unconditional love is the bedrock of happiness..."

Obviously the mothers of Baby P et al slipped through the net on that one...

Advertising plays an insidious role too in idealising motherhood to the point of sanctification. The maternity market is a lucrative one. The hand that rocks the cradle wields considerable clout.

And the real prejudice today isn't motherism but rather a disdain for and a prejudice against women who either choose not to have children or are unable to have them. I can't help thinking how cruel that line above must read to women yearning for a child of their own – in their supposedly unsoftened, unsmoothed hearts.

It's women without children who get the roughest deal in terms of derogatory cliché, workplace benefits, the entire package.

Presumably though, it's motherist even to suggest such a thing.

'THE REAL PREJUDICE IS AGAINST WOMEN WHO CHOOSE NOT TO HAVE KIDS'

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