Is Mother's Day a manifestation of everyday sexism?

Mother's Day: the annual celebration of mothers with homemade cards, flowers and poems might seem harmless, but Désirée Waterstradt argues it has a sexist undertone.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Is Mother's Day a manifestation of everyday sexism? - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Children learn from an early age what differentiates mothers and fathers. Mothers can be counted on for care and kindness, whereas fathers are inspiring examples of strength and hard work. This division is also highlighted on the days celebrating mothers and fathers. Countless cards, articles and ads perpetuate this mild sexism, and some go even farther.

For example, for Mother's Day 2017 the Austrian radio station Kronehit created a campaign promoting a 2-for-1 breast surgery package for mothers and daughters.

The stint generated a wave of outrage, but the more discreet sexism of Mother's Day is also worth analyzing. 

"Such gender-related expectations are still omnipresent and permeate our everyday lives. They act as an invisible force -- often idealizing, gentle and well-meaning, but also potentially thoughtless, inconsiderate or even hostile. Every-day sexism covers a wide spectrum," says sociologist Désirée Waterstradt in an interview with Der Standard.

Waterstradt has interesting suggestions on how to solve the issue moving forward. Her idea of a Parenting Day would not only put dated stereotypes to rest, it would also create more inclusive celebrations for non-traditional families.

Details from the story:

  • Mother's Day was born out of the women's movement of the 19th century, which campaigned for human rights for women and turned against war and the destruction of families.
  • In 1865, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832-1905) launched Mothers Friendship Day. When she died in 1905, her daughter wanted the tradition to live on to honor her.
  • Sociologist Désirée Waterstradt thinks we should opt for a parenting day instead. The first parenting day was born in 1937 in the Philippines. This was followed by South Korea in 1973, the United States in 1994, and in 2012 the United Nations proclaimed a World Welfare Day.
  • In German-speaking countries, many kindergartens and elementary schools no longer celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day, but rather Parent's Day.
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