(Late reflections for Mother’s Day)
Of all the made-up commercial holidays, Mother’s Day, for me, is the least irritating. After all, if I was going to be guilted into blowing money on cards, flowers, and the obligatory brunch, at least it was going to be for Mom. So to moms everywhere, y’all rock.
And this goes double for the moms we do not celebrate on Mother’s Day — the ones who get painted as fiscally and sexually irresponsible, the deviant mothers who are subjected to discipline and sanction.
For decades, the deviant mother has served as a convenient scapegoat for state ills. As Anna Marie Smith has observed, “the State lays the blame for poverty at the door of the deviant mother who is ideologically constructed as black, heterosexual, unmarried, and sexually precocious.” These are the mothers who are somehow painted as undeserving.
When American celebrates Mother’s Day, we don’t always include mothers like Shirley Tan, a Filipina mother of twin boys who faced deportation after twenty years of residency in San Francisco. Under the current laws, Tan’s committed relationship with her female partner—a United States citizen—remains unrecognized. After much community advocacy, Tan was eventually granted a reprieve, an exception-based solution that fails to address the roots of the problem.
We don’t celebrate mothers like Elvira Arellano, an immigration activist who sought sanctuary in a church in order to being deported and separated from her eight-year-old son.
Nor do we celebrate other immigrant mothers, whose very reasons for coming to America center around their families and their children.
Laura Pulido* has criticized mainstream, liberal feminism for its blind eye to the predicaments of Shirley Tan and Elvira Arellano, who are emblematic of “racially and socially despised” mothers. The politics of motherhood is such a potentially powerful framework, one that could link diverse constituencies of women. It’s a pity how this potential still gets thwarted by racism, nativism, and xenophobia.
*Laura Pulido, “Immigation Politics and Motherhood,” Amerasia Journal, Spring 2009.