Posted on: March 26, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Aidan McGuire

By Aidan McGuire, News Editor

Radical mothering may be an unfamiliar term to most people. The idea is to turn traditional motherly tendencies, such as care work and service, into a larger social movement.

The concept was the focus of a talk given at Moraine by UIC gender and women studies associate professor Nadine Naber on March 8. Naber, alongside Souzan Naser and Johnaé Strong, appear to have coined the term in this Abolition Journal article.

“Mothering is a form of labor like feeding and offering warmth,” Naber said. “This can operate as a radical form of resistance.” 

Naber’s talk was a kickstart to Women’s History month at Moraine, and students and professors packed the library lobby for the event. Librarians scrambled at the last minute to pull up chairs and make seating to accommodate the large audience.

[Mothering] can operate as a radical form of resistance.”

UIC associate professor Nadine Naber

Naber explained how principles of radical mothering were at play during the 2011 Egyptian revolution and how women played a significant role in these events.

Women who couldn’t attend the square in which the protests were happening stayed at home but still helped. Naber gave the example of a woman who started tweeting out what was happening in Egypt after the internet had been shut down, communicating the news so people outside of Egypt were informed.

Mothering plays a large role in “passing on political consciousness” to future generations, she said.

Photo by Aidan McGuire

However, motherly figures can become targets of hate groups, she said. But “it’s not just horrible dictators or white supremacy that target women, it’s also activists that do it. Leftists and social justice activists.”

“There’s a sensationalism to mothers’ tears,” Naber said. She explained how we often focus on someone’s mother as the victim. By drawing attention to male victims, activists sometimes make mothers become more two dimensional and less human.

For example, although George Floyd’s mother is brought up regularly in the media, many people “don’t even know her name.”

Naber explained that radical mothering is a key component in the fight for peace in the Middle East.

She applied the concept to Israel’s colonization of Palestine. On March 7, six Palestinian refugees were killed after an attack on a refugee camp in Jenin, Palestine. The attack was organized by the Israeli army and represents the ongoing history of violence between the two countries.

“Revolutions aren’t just in the big cities and streets, they’re happening in homes,” she said.

Naber concluded her talk by tying Palestinian issues to women’s rights issues here in Chicago, comparing the Israeli army’s strategies to those of the Chicago police to “repress activism in Chicago, like getting protestors to go home with tear gas.”

The large turnout for the talk gave Naber hope.

“I was incredibly inspired to see such a diverse group of engaged students who seem to be engaging actively in the themes,” Naber said. “I got the sense that people are making the connection between the importance of radical mothering in different parts of the world and in their own lives.”

Moraine will be holding several other events throughout the upcoming weeks on Women’s History. For a complete schedule click here.