Power, Platforms and the M-word

"Don't get mad, get elected."

As BlogHer 2010 highlighted in spades, from the seemingly trite to the life altering, women who blog are reinventing media generation and consumption.  I spent a half day with The Whitehouse Project, a non-partisan initiative to motivate more American women to enter politics.  The process of women joining traditional power structures is fascinating particularly when you view public policy as a contributing mechanism for social discussion and change.  Council Member for Pepper Pike, Ohio, Jill Miller Zimon put it perfectly, "Don't get mad, get elected."

The following two days of general sessions were reminder after reminder of the power of one voice to raise the collective consciousness.  "This is why we blog" was the undercurrent of every class and even every party.  Some use their platform to dispense fashion and home decor advice.  Some use it to opine on causes and agendas.  Some blog to save lives, to save minds.  The central message - every voice is powerful in its own way.  Each of us in our own sphere of influence, whether it is our families, our church groups, our work places, our neighborhoods or the entire planet, have the opportunity to talk about what is important to us.  It might be through blogging, through hands on action or through our Facebook page.  We are all sharing stories.

The Work Life Policy panel was an obvious highlight.  The discussion was robust and real, the women and men in the room engaged passionately, offering substance and insight into the challenges and issues.  Personal tragedy and frustrations were freely shared.  Panelist Morra Aarons Mele wrote a thorough and thoughtful summary here at the Families and Work Institute blog.  As Judy Martin from WorkLife Nation asked in her post yesterday, is this policy conversation a revolution, evolution or movement?  I'm placing my bets on it being all three.

At one point in the work life policy discussion a comment was made that both resonated and jarred.

"When we frame this as a mother's issue, we give away our political capital."

Many of you are not mothers.  You read, you comment and you share on this topic because you grasp that whilst mothers have driven the work life movement, it affects all of us.  For example: Judy Martin's National Public Radio (NPR) interview yesterday on companies dealing with end of life care in the work place and Cali Yost's piece last week on dramatically reframing the conversation to add elder care.  I am the first to advocate for minds to open to the broader stakeholders in work life reform; namely all of us.  If rigid workplace structures do not affect you directly, they affect your spouse, your children.  Single?  Guess what, nearly all of us have parents.  Or dreams, or simply things to do.

But giving away our political capital?  Is that as good as it gets?  We can't talk about the impact on mothers because as soon as we call that out, we lose, we are written off, put in the corner?  I am not frustrated with the speaker - she's right and the statement tragically true.  I joined the reluctant nods of agreement around the room.  But enough.  At the risk of a really bad pop-culture reference attempt, "no one puts Baby in the corner!"  Aren't you done?  Aren't you sick and tired of the eye rolls and the glazed looks of some and the self apology of countless women around you, "well, I am just a mother"?  If not for you, then your daughters, your nieces, your sisters, your co-workers, your friends?

We wax lyrical, mythologizing, loudly celebrating and honoring the pivotal societal role of mothers.  But when it comes down to it, when you frame an issue as a mother's issue, it loses traction, it is more easily relegated.

Panelist The Mama Bee, brought her Baby Bee to BlogHer, as did many others.  What a powerful statement to have this adorable little man amongst us.  His presence neither hindered nor distracted a single person from the serious work at hand.  Rather he subtly focused our attention on the critical reasons why work life policy at the personal, organizational and legislative levels matter, and reminded those of us fortunate to receive a Baby Bee snuggle, of the power of collaboration and mothers uniting together, both with each other and with fathers and non-parents.

Mama Bee and I could not be more different in our professional ambitions and mothering paths.  However, when you take the time, it's much easier to find the spaces where we are the same, than where we are different.  Whether you or the mothers around you work full time, stay home full time or any number of hybrids in between, we have to embrace all mothers, trust in each mother's choice for her family and collectively agitate for those without such a choiceLDS readers might be interested in this Newsweek/Washington Post piece from Neylan McBaine on the future of Mormon motherhood that makes a similar point through my specific cultural and religious lens.

Mothers are powerful.  It's time they embraced it.  And I'm not just talking about running for public office or becoming a CEO.  Although that'd be great too.

Photo Credit: Rita Arens http://www.flickr.com/photos/14707201@N00/4864269940/in/pool-1449099@N24/#/

Cross-posted from www.wlbconsultants.com


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