Parenting and Politics: How I’m Showing Up by Katey Zeh


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When I was ten weeks pregnant I gave an impassioned speech in front of the Supreme Court during the Hobby Lobby hearings about why universal access to contraception was part of my own religious understanding. I’d wanted to share about my own planned pregnancy, but at that point I wasn’t far enough along to feel comfortable telling that in a public way.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be my last protest for almost three years. After the birth of my daughter I cut my travel significantly. I spent most of my weekends in the cocoon–or what sometimes felt more like the prison–of our home rather than out in the public square.  As someone deeply ensconced in the activism world this turning inward felt like I was betraying the causes and the people for whom I cared deeply. How could I be an effective advocate if I couldn’t show up?

Over the last few months I’ve done a lot of reflecting on how parenting has shifted the way that I think about myself as an activist. Whether rooted in parental love, self-preservation, or some combination of these two, I’m less willing to put myself in harm’s way than I was before I became a mother.

Though I recognize as a white, middle-class woman that my physical safety at a protest is generally protected, there have been instances when I have felt threatened. Since most of my activism has focused  on reproductive health and rights there have been a number of times when I’ve been in a space where anti-abortion extremists showed up to terrorize, intimidate, and shame us. Last month I wrote about my participation in the blessing of an abortion clinic only to find out days later that Revs. Dennis and Christine Wiley, the co-pastors who led the ritual, were targeted by anti-abortion protesters who picketed their congregation, going so far as to enter their sanctuary to intimidate children making their way to Sunday school.

The work of justice can be uncomfortably risky.

Like for many the Presidential election has jolted me out of activist dormancy. Last month my family participated in the Women’s March in Raleigh. My husband pushed our two-year-old daughter through the crowds as I held up a sign I’d made with her finger paints that said, “Love Not Hate Will Make America Great.”  Much to my relief the protest was peaceful with only a handful of counter protesters,  but as author Luvvie Ajayi has rightly critiqued, the women’s marches were majority white, and white women are protected by the police. We had nothing to fear.

As a white woman, the parent of a young child, and a follower of Jesus I continue to seek discernment in what it means for me to show up in this political climate. How do I parent and participate at the same time? How do I do so in a way that makes sense for this stage of life? Each day I ask for the courage to do whatever is required of me, even if I’m fearful, and the wisdom to know when it’s better for me to support the movement from afar. We know that this work is long and hard, and that we will rely on the next generation of justice-seekers to continue this work. My prayer is that my daughter will be among them.

Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer,  and educator who inspires intentionalKatey Headshot communities to create a more just, compassionate world through building connection, sacred truth telling, and striving for the common good.  She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazine, the Good Mother Project, the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion, and the United Methodist News Service. Her book Women Rising will be published by the FAR Press this fall.  Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website kateyzeh.com

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Categories: Activism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Motherhood, Politics

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6 replies

  1. There are lots of ways to work for justice and showing up at marches is only one of them. Don’t know which state you are in, but working to register voters, take them to polls, get them their ID cards if necessary, etc. are equally important, as is the work you do on a daily basis for abortion rights.

    Our work is the work of our lifetimes and there will always be ebbs and flows in what we can do at any particular time.

    And let us never forget the wise words of Simone de Beauvoir to ideologues: “If we do not love life on its own account and through others, it is futile to seek to justify it in any way.” This is relevant to all who feel that they must “sacrifice” themselves and their whole lives for a cause.

    The questions you ask are ones we must all ask all the time. Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you, Katey. This political moment calls for courage in choosing who we stand with, what communities we enter, and to what extent we give cover to and validate morally unacceptable positions by our mere presence, silence or association. This is no ordinary time. It is fraught with peril for so many, particularly people of color. It calls for the will to distance and disavow, not normalize that which strips away at who we are, where we come from, and what we stand for. Dawn Morais

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks, Katey, for that beautiful LOVE NOT HATE protest sign, wonderful photo! — and it does take courage to be an activist and to show up when needed, as you say. But also this post you’ve written here today is full of courage too, as are all the thoughtful reflections and comments shared at FAR every day.

    Like

  4. Katey, hooray for you and your husband. You’re teaching your daughter splendid lessons in caring and activism. She’s gonna grow up to be a thoughtful woman.

    Like

  5. Seems to me Katey, that you are thoughtfully preparing your daughter for a future of love instead of hate, of community instead of war. I pray for wisdom for all parents during this time of chaos. What you do might not seem as important as marching or speaking to crowds or other public witness. But you are building a better future for the world. We are all in this together.

    Like

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