Resistance Collective (RC): Thanks for agreeing to speak to RESIST! What is Hip Mama magazine?
Ariel Gore (GORE): I started Hip Mama, the parenting zine, six and a half years ago when a was a single mom in college and living on welfare. I needed a forum both for myself and for other young, poor moms -- so I created the zine with a student loan and rather vague vision of what it might become. Since then, Hip Mama has grown to offer voice, education, entertainment and support for all kinds of progressive mothers and families who are struggling to maintain their identity and sanity while reinventing what it means to be a family in this society. I understand that there is less of a puritanical streak in Canadian society, but mothers
everywhere struggle to raise our children soulfully in this patriarchal/capitalist world culture.
Becoming a mom is an incredibly radicalizing experience for most women--our goal is to change the entire structure of society, but we are often isolated by the mundane daily tasks of motherhood and family structure as we live it--so we have to learn to change the world one diaper at a time. I hope that Hip Mama inspires and supports its readers through all of this.
RC: What do you think that atmosphere is in North American society for mamas especially ones who don't fit the expected 'norms'?
GORE: Things ARE getting better for mothers in non-traditional families, but there are still incredible pressures to marry -- and marry ANYONE --, to become more conservative "for the sake of the children," and to morph into a self-sacrificing robot. Basically, the blueprint our society hands mothers says: "give up your own identity and your own basic beliefs in order to mother your children." This is silly and impossible at best, an oppressive recipe for depression at worst.
RC: Are there ways in which women are negatively targeted or scapegoated as mamas by the system?
GORE: There is a real good mother/bad mother either/or dichotomy that is present in government systems, in media portrayals, and in all kinds of group thought. It's like the virgin/whore of women in general. It is completely ridiculous. We are all the best mothers our children could hope to have, and we are the worst. And it's not because we are schizophrenic. It's because we are human. Some mornings I yell at my daughter for no good reason. Some years I live on welfare. Some seasons I go far beyond the call of duty to protect my daughter. Some evenings I prepare fabulous meals. Sometimes I miss cues that should have told me our family was headed for trouble. Some years I pay more taxes than anyone should ever pay in a lifetime.
It's not that I am a good mother or a bad mother, it's that I am me. And I give my daughter the whole legacy of what is me. Not just my mistakes and not just my best. It's a really basic idea that mothers are humans that is missing from the cultural dialog that goes one -- the one that pits working mothers against stay-at-home mothers, targets welfare mothers or what have you.
RC: How can parents challenge sexism, poverty, racism, homophoba and other problems in society?
GORE: The first way we can challenge sexism, poverty, racism, homophobia and other problems in society is by being ourselves. We can stop lying. We can stop lying to our children and stop lying to our neighbors and stop lying to ourselves. I can tell you that I am an educated, sometime-poor, bi-sexual woman who struggles with her own learned-racism and that is the first step. The next step--and this is the really cool thing about parenting -- is that we can teach our children what we wish we ourselves had been taught. My daughter doesn't have anywhere near the prejudices I have had to struggle against. And I'm sure my
mother can say the same of me. And so we start with honesty. And then we teach our children from our highest beliefs. And--simultaneously--we fight the good fight in the society at large. We don't give up protests and activism just because we have children. We simply earn to integrate family life with our work in the greater culture.
RC: How does society need to change in order for children to be respected as people?
GORE: In two words or less? END EXPLOITATION. Suffering is, to some degree, inevitable. But exploitation is not inevitable. It comes down to a question of compassion. Can we see ourselves in one another? Can we see ourselves in our children, and in other people's children? And can we see the little kid in grown-ups? Of course it is a daily thing. It's not like we wake up one day and we are perfectly compassionate (unless we are the Buddha who, conveniently, didn't have custody of his kid). But it's something we can check in with ourselves about. Like, "Did I exploit anyone today?" Sadly, mothers get to this point a lot sooner than, say, politicians do. But it's what we've all got to do. No matter where someone lives or how they live we can ask ourselves, "Do I see this mother as a human?" "And this child?"
RC: Do you have any ideas on teaching children about healthy sexuality in an often anti-sex, sexist, homophobic society?
GORE: The best way to teach our children about healthy sexuality is by example. If we are comfortable with our own sexuality than that is something they are aware of. Unfortunately, parents are often the worst sex educators. So it becomes a matter of giving our children the resources and access to the information they need. Healthy sexuality is usually something that is explored in private. So we give them privacy. And then we don't freak out when they ask us questions. We give them answers and stay true to ourselves.
RC: What is your new book 'The Mother Trip' about and how can people get a copy?
GORE: 'The Mother Trip' is the Hip Mama guide to staying sane in the chaos of motherhood. It's about everything we've been talking about here and more. It's a collection of essays on my own journey as a mother--the spiritual highs, and of course the trials. It's about mothering soulfully without losing yourself. People can ask for The Mother Trip at their local bookstores (it's published by Seal Press), or order it Online at <www.mothertrip.com>.
RC: Is there any thing else you'd like to add?
GORE: I guess my answers were kind of humorless....Hip Mama is also for rock star mamas, motorcycling mamas, making fun of Barbie...whatever! And you do have to have a sense of humor when you're living in the thick of all this social and psychological chaos. That or some basic hair-dying skills for when your pre-teenager asks for blue stripes in her hair and the salon charges $70 for the simple procedure.
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