Mother’s Day weekend reading

new yorker cover may 15, 2000

“Mother Nature” by Carter Goodrich

This is one of my favorite New Yorker covers of all time, if only for the wildly divergent jumble of reactions it elicits in me. Sometimes I can only identify with the Earth Mother, sometimes I feel completely like Career Girl, and other times I cannot see anything of myself in either one.

Apparently this cover hit a nerve with a lot of people. In her introduction to Covering the New Yorker: Cutting-Edge Covers from a Literary Institution , Françoise Mouly recalls:

A recent (May 15, 2000) Mother’s Day cover, by Carter Goodrich, of a Mother Earth type and a skinny woman sitting side by side on a bench (page 124) elicited the following range of responses: “Carter Goodrich is a genius.” “I LOVE this cover of the fecund Mother Earth and the pale angular New York career girl looking on with disgust and desire.” “A gross trivialization of motherhood.” “Working women everywhere will feel uplifted by the message that their professional endeavors are nothing compared to the ability to reproduce.” “Does the tortured expression on the face of the unhappy career girl signify aversion and disgust–or overwhelming longing for a child of her own?” “I’m surprised that so sophisticated a magazine would engage in such a stereotypical illustration.” “Carter Goodrich’s ‘Mother Nature’ is brilliant. It epitomizes the kind of social observation that The New Yorker considers its eminent domain.”

Of course, in real life nothing is ever as all-or-nothing simple. To be or not to be a mother: that is a question. Lots of choices, lots of possibilities, and despite what the forced-childbirth movement wants for all of us, there are no one-fits-all right decisions other than the decision to be true to one’s self, and the decision to trust one’s own judgment.

If you are a mother, or are in process of becoming one, if your mother is still alive or only lives in your memory, here’s an early Happy Mother’s Day greeting and an assortment of interesting links for your weekend reading pleasure…

Mother’s Day Proclamation

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have breasts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,

Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

–Julia Ward Howe, 1870

[Mother's Day for Peace]


What’s a Mother’s Worth?

This Mother’s Day let’s give mothers what they really need: a more secure old age. If you’re a woman, or a man who cares about his mother, sister, or daughter, there’s something you need to know. In the United States women over the age of 65 are twice as poor as men in the same age group.

There’s a reason poverty so disproportionately hits women. Most of these elderly poor women were, or still are, caregivers — and according to most economists, the people who do the caring work in households, whether female or male, are “economically inactive.” Of course, anyone who has a mother knows that most caregivers work from dawn to dusk. And we also know that without their work of caring for children, the sick, the elderly, and maintaining a clean home environment there would be no workforce, no economy, nothing. Yet current economic indicators and policies fail to include this work as “productive work.”

[What's a Mother's Worth?]


My Response to the McCain Campaign’s Attacks on Planned Parenthood

By Cecile Richards, Posted May 11, 2007.

A McCain staffer has called Planned Parenthood “one of the most radical pro-abortion groups in the country.” Here’s Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards’ response.

John McCain’s presidential campaign has taken a troubling turn. This week, the Los Angeles Times reported that John Weaver, a strategist for John McCain’s presidential campaign, verbally attacked Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading reproductive health care advocate and provider. Weaver called the 90-year old provider of birth control, cancer screenings, sex education and abortion services “one of the most radical pro-abortion groups in the country.”

For the record: Ninety seven percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are focused on prevention, including family planning, contraception, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Three percent of Planned Parenthood services are abortion care. The remark was an attack driven by the McCain campaign’s need to score political points. So, I’ve fired off a letter to Senator McCain in response to his campaign’s incendiary remarks:

[Read the whole thing, including Cecile Richards' letter to John McCain, here.]


Come Back Tomorrow

[the door opens and woman in white coat sweeps into the small examination room, and she looks at her clipboard] Hello, Ms. . . . Ms.?
[a slender, nervous young girl looks up at her] Roe.
Yes. Jane Roe.

You’re kidding.
No, really, that’s my name. Is something wrong?

Nothing’s wrong. That’s just a pretty famous pseudonym to a doctor who performs abortions. You know that, don’t you?
Not really.
Ok. Just tell me a little bit about your situation.
Well, I’m from Frosty Falls, up north. I left my waitress job a little early last night to hitchhike here with my boyfriend Jason. It took us most of the night. Jason works in the lumber yard and he’s missing work today. He’ll probably get in trouble for it.

Tell me about the pregnancy.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. I just feel so bad. Jason and I have been going together for a while now, might get married someday. Jason’s sweet. It’s my fault, really. We never meant to do it, you know, but one night we just got carried away. I didn’t think I would get pregnant the first time. We were just so ignorant about everything. I’ve missed two periods now.

It’s not your fault any more than Jason’s.
I guess.

You’re nineteen. Do you still live at home? Do your parents know you’re pregnant?
Are you kidding? I’m sorry. My Dad would kill me if he found out. See, me and Jason and our folks all go to the Solid Rock Pentecostal Church in Frosty Falls. Dad’s a deacon. My folks—and Jason’s folks, too—would be so ashamed if they found out. That’s why I gotta take care of this now.

[Read the whole thing at The Cucking Stool]


Why I won’t stay silent anymore

By Frances Kissling

May 11, 2007 | I spent my final 10 years at Catholics for a Free Choice refusing to take press calls about the “partial-birth” abortion ban. It seemed a no-win proposition. Rational arguments about protecting women’s health, preventing tragic births when the infant’s brief life would be filled with unbearable pain, and the doctor’s need to decide what type of abortion would be safest for her patient were simply too abstract to compete with even a measured and accurate description of what happens during this procedure, known medically as an intact dilation and extraction (D&X) abortion. The 20-plus-week fetus’ physical resemblance to a baby was the debate closer.

Even staunch pro-choice legislators had trouble when they looked at visuals of the D&X procedure. The late Catholic Sen. Daniel Moynihan first voted against banning it in 1995 and then voted for it in 1998. Moynihan said the procedure was just “too close to infanticide.” Fellow pro-choice Sens. Patrick Leahy and Joseph Biden, also Catholic, joined Moynihan in voting for the ban, with Biden recently repeating Moynihan’s oft quoted “infanticide” phrase on “Meet the Press” this April after the Supreme Court ruled in Gonzales v. Carhart that the ban on D&X procedures is constitutional.

Apparently the five Supreme Court justices in the majority, all of whom are Catholic, agreed with the senators. Their opinion upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which prohibits the performance of a rare abortion procedure, performed most often in the second trimester of pregnancy, in which a doctor extracts the fetus intact, pulling out its entire body through the cervix and vagina, piercing the skull so that the head can pass safely through the cervix. The bill, or state variations of it, had been ruled unconstitutional by various courts, including the Supreme Court. None of these bills included an exception to allow the procedure to be performed when the woman’s health was threatened, which Roe and subsequent Supreme Court decisions held essential. Gonzales v. Carhart was closely watched as it was the first abortion case the post-Sandra Day O’Connor court would decide.

The opinion, written by Anthony Kennedy, who is considered the least orthodox of the five, was devastating. Beyond outlawing a method of abortion it deemed only possibly needed by a few women, the decision injected orthodox Catholic teaching into the interpretation of constitutional rights. Kennedy’s opinion, which affirms “the government’s right to use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman” as it cavalierly dismisses the need a few specific women might have for this procedure, could easily have been written by the late Pope John Paul II or the current Benedict XVI. Women are invisible in this decision as they are invisible in the writings of recent — and not so recent — popes. Now it’s impossible for me to remain silent.

The orthodox Catholic preoccupation with the morality of physical acts to the exclusion of the context in which those acts occur is evident in the amount of space the Kennedy decision gives to the description of the medical procedure (approximately eight pages), with only a few paragraphs on the possibility that banning the procedure would “subject [women] to significant health risks.” Kennedy and his cohort are satisfied that this is a “contested question” and “medical uncertainty” places no ethical or legal requirement on the court or legislature. Nowhere in the decision are the health reasons that lead doctors to perform this procedure rather than others discussed. No ambivalence exists. No competing values need to be weighed.

After all, the Catholic hierarchy still forbids assisted reproduction in large part because sperm is collected by masturbation. The good of enabling an infertile couple to conceive does not outweigh the evil of spilling one’s seed. It still prohibits the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV because the condom is also a contraceptive. In the same way, the reasons why a woman might need the D&X procedure, such as when a deformity truly inconsistent with life is discovered late in a wanted pregnancy, are totally irrelevant to orthodox Catholic anti-abortionists and are absent from Kennedy’s opinion or concern.

[Read the whole thing here] — must watch brief commercial first, unless you’re a Salon Premium member


Lysistrata for the masses

In the last couple of years over 3,000 U.S. mothers have lost sons and daughters in Iraq. Over 26,000 have seen their kids injured there. Another nearly 400 have lost children in the invasion of Afghanistan. And for what? So they could fight terrorists over there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here? Sorry man, stupid plot that it was, the planned Fort Dix attack shows exactly how successful that tactic has been. Not to mention the sharp uptick in terrorism worldwide and terrorism recruitment thanks to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I’m not anti-war because I realize things happen and sometimes it’s the only option…but none of this was necessary or even useful to the cause.

[Read the whole thing here]


And finally, I feel like revisiting a post about my own mother from a year or two ago…


Image hosted by

Dad took this photo in 1954. My sister Diane’s on the left, then Mom, and — who said I’ve never been photogenic?!– yes, that is my adorable two-year-old self on the right.


hug ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.

Happy Mother’s Day, everybody.


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