You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.
– Jawaharlal Nehru
Bad Mutha: definition of –
a) A woman perceived by self or others as being a bad mother for a variety of reasons.
b) A woman — she may be a mother or not — who follows her own interests or desires* and because of this is accused of causing — and sometimes does cause — suffering to those dependent on her emotional and physical ministrations, whether these be her children, her partner, society at large, and/or herself. But, in fact, this woman’s actions can bring about important, essential progress in our understanding of ourselves and the world.
(*An important caveat is that this woman does not intentionally set out to hurt anyone, because then she becomes a whole other thing. She becomes a bad egg, sometimes a very bad egg, rather than a bad mutha. Bad eggs are common and we all fall into this category now and then. Very bad eggs are less common, thankfully, and include serial killer Myra Hindley, or Ilse Koch, known as “the Bitch of Buchenwald,” or any number of psychopaths and sociopaths).
c) A badass who fights against those who are oppressing her or others in any shape or form. Often wears awesome outfits, especially harking back to that great era of sartorial splendor – the 1970’s.
So now we know what a Bad Mutha is. But what about a Bad Mother?
Have you ever googled “bad mother?” Not too much comes up except the names of a few places you can order “bad mother fucker” wallets like the one Samuel Jackson shows Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction, or Ayelet Waldman’s book Bad Mother and reviews of same.
Now look up “good mother.” Or simply “mother,” or “mothering.” A treasure trove of entries awaits you, stretching on for page after page.
Why is that?
We Bad Muthaz have a theory about why that is. We believe there’s a fetishization of motherhood and all that motherhood represents. And that includes a fetishization of what it means to be a good woman, and — before that — a good girl. In this fetishization, motherhood is sacred. And it’s sacred because a good woman is meant to uphold the social order as it stands by joining with one man, bearing children with that man, taking care of those children and that man and the home, while often having a job or a career or some sort of work that is usually considered of secondary importance to that of the man’s, and not doing anything to upset that social order because doing so makes it difficult for men to work, and govern, and make wars, and make money, and make more money, and then play sports, or watch sports, and drink some beers, and have a few girlfriends, or even a few wives.
A few wives? Come on. That’s illegal in this country — well, except in Utah, sort of. But we’re not talking just about the U.S. Nor are we talking just about having multiple wives — because some might argue that it’s those ladies’ choice to marry that one fine fellow! We’re talking about the lives of women and girls, and about the lives of women and girls around the world, not just in the U.S.
Motherhood is sacred, say many of these guys with the important careers or those with the multiple wives, or even just one wife. We agree with that. Being a woman is sacred. Being a girl is sacred. It’s sacred because as the Chinese proverb (for which married New York Times correspondents Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn named their recent, excellent book) says — “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.” But then why is it that women are 50% of the population of this country but there still has not been a female president? (props to Hillary and Condoleezza and Madeleine for getting as far as Secretary of State) Why is rape still a huge and devastating weapon not just of war and but of daily life around the world? Why is it that women in this country and likely everywhere else earn less than men? Why is it that, as Vulimiri Ranalingaswami says in The Asian Enigma, “however much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate and uninformed, anemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation and if she is without the necessary support either from health services or from her society or from the father of her children.” And this despite the fact that when in that same shanty or slum, for every year beyond 4th grade girls go to school, family size shrinks 20%, child deaths drop 10%, and wages rise 20%.
But wait, what does all this heavy shit have to do with a silly video web series called Bad Muthaz, you’re wondering.
The heavy shit has to do with this series emerging out of a group of wildly privileged — comparatively speaking — middle-class and middle-aged women in a small city in the U.S. questioning the expectations placed on women.
This questioning encompasses such inquiries as:
• Can women pursue their deepest desires as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?
• What happens when those deepest desires are let out into the open and given voice or action?
• What happens when women don’t follow the rules?
• What happens when women question the roles they’re meant to play — whether that be in how they’re meant to look, speak, act, mother, be an appropriate spouse, or be an appropriate worker in society?
• What happens when you let the cat, emphatically not the (sex) kitten, out of the bag?
The Bad Muthaz believe lots of stuff can happen when you let the cat out of the bag, or let women live their dreams. And we know that many people believe this too, or there wouldn’t be so many efforts spent on keeping cats — or women — in those bags, which often as not end up being body bags when women don’t have the rights or value which they inherently deserve. We’re here to help more women, of all ages, races, classes, nationalities, ethnicities, sexual preferences, abilities, sizes, and shapes get out of those bags. (And, by the way, if there are men and boys, and animals, in those bags, we’re happy to get them out too).
We’re going to do this with the tools we have and which we believe can accomplish an astonishing amount: humor, education, and media.
To kick off this campaign, and listed in no particular order, we are honoring the women — real fictional, and mythological — whom we’d like to include in the hallowed halls of Bad Muthahood for all they have done or inspired:
Hamlet’s mother Gertrude; Susan Sontag; Alice Walker; Eve (the original); Hillary Clinton; Tilda Swinton; Sylvia Plath; Ruth Maleczech; Zora Neal Hurston; Patti Smith; Nina Simone; Margaret Mead; Esperanza Spalding; Oedipus’ mother Jocasta; Bessie Smith; Queen Elizabeth the First; Angela Davis; Amy Winehouse; Alice Coltrane; Audre Lorde; Madonna; Cleopatra; Angelina Jolie; The Virgin Mary; Rosie O’Donnell; Eve Ensler; Sinead O’Connor; Aung San Suu Kyi; Meshell Ndegeocello; Anna Karenina; Pam Grier; Susan B. Anthony; Mother Theresa; Gloria Steinem; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Maxine Hong Kingston; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich; bell hooks; Marian Wright Edelman; Jane Goodall; Madame Curie; Betty Friedan; Janis Joplin; Maya Angelou; Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Shirley Chisholm; Christine Vachon; Anita Hill; Adrienne Rich; Toni Morrison; The Goddess Athena; Martha Graham; Pina Bausch; Louise Bourgeois; Jane Campion; Carol Gilligan; Agnes Varda; Margaret Sanger; Anna Magnani; Sojourner Truth; Natalie Zemon Davis; Ingrid Bergman; Hedy Lamarr; Anna Politkovskaya; Veronica Guerin; Katherine Hepburn; Anne Frank; Bette Davis; Marlene Dietrich; Lisbeth Salander aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Oprah Winfrey; Martina Navratilova; Billie Jean King; Vanessa Redgrave; Virginia Woolf; Janet Flanner; Judy Garland; Elizabeth Taylor; Colette; Meena Keshwar Kamal; Rosa Parks; Arundhati Roy; Zainab Salbi; Rachel Carson; Yoko Ono, and countless others….
We’d like to know…
Who do YOU consider a Bad Mutha?