Postscript to the endorsement statement:
I anticipated getting a bit of feedback from regular readers when I decided to exercise my editorial privilege to endorse a presidential candidate on the Mothers Movement Online web site. I respect and celebrate the fact that mothers (and others who support the MMO) are not of one mind regarding our political candidates of choice, and we are incredibly lucky to have a strong and exceptionally well-qualified field of Democratic contenders to choose from in the 2008 primary race. But as I made clear in my endorsement statement, I believe some circumstances are so urgent that it calls for a break with convention, in this case a break with the informal standard of impartiality in electoral politics that has guided the editorial agenda of the MMO for the past five years.
I take my responsibility to MMO readers very seriously -- not because I hope to attract a bigger audience to the site, but because of my own commitment to integrity in publishing. For those readers who felt the Obama endorsement was a misstep onto a "slippery slope" toward the deterioration of the site's range and focus, I fully support your right to be disgruntled. However, as I mentioned in the endorsement statement, readers will not see much of a change in the style or slant of writing on the site. But this departure does open up the possibility of offering more pointed political analysis on the Mothers Movement Online, which I believe will greatly enhance the editorial texture and relevance of the publication.
In the end, the majority of the comments I received were positive. But there were also a few readers who were angry or dismayed by the endorsement, and those who felt that expressing a partisan political position was not in keeping with the spirit and objectives of the broader mothers' movement. These dissenting points of view are absolutely legitimate and welcome. However, I feel I need to clarify something about the structure and goals of the project called "The Mothers Movement Online."
First of all, the MMO is not incorporated either as a non-profit or for-profit enterprise. It doesn't make any money, but it doesn't cost much to run, either. The MMO has no salaried staff, although I do work with several regular contributing writers, who I call on for editorial help or stories on specific topics from time to time. I never have, and never intend to, solicit donations from readers to support the operations of the site. I don't sell stuff or rent out advertising space because I want the site to remain free of commercial influences -- and besides, that kind of thing annoys me. The best way to define the MMO is as a self-funded, independent media project. What you see and read on the site is entirely a reflection of one woman's commitment to providing authoritative, high-quality content on motherhood as a social issue as a resource for change. I launched the Mothers Movement Online in April 2003 because I saw there was a pressing need for precisely such an outlet, and judging from the readership the site has attracted -- the MMO is currently one of the top-ten, non-commercial English language web sites related to motherhood and mothering -- I was not wrong. But the Mothers Movement Online is not, in and of itself, a membership organization, a grass-roots movement, or an activist community -- although it aims to support all those entities. (As one irate reader wrote in response to the Obama endorsement, "Where was the membership poll?" Sorry, the MMO has no members -- only readers.)The MMO is a communication outlet, and the dissemination of information is its primary purpose and function.
Editing and publishing the Mothers Movement Online is pretty much a full-time job, for which I receive occasional praise but no pay. What the MMO gives me is a platform to articulate and share my observations about the various moving parts of the motherhood problem and how to fix it. It also provides me with an opportunity to publish work in other progressive media outlets (which I do get paid for, at least sometimes), and to do press interviews about the state of motherhood in the contemporary United States. The part I like best about my unconventional, self-defined job as the editor of the MMO is working with mothers and organizations who want to act for change. This mainly involves providing information and advice to individuals and groups who are looking for a specific kind of support. I don't get paid for that, either, but I really love working with women who are excited about taking action and ready to get started. I also write and present scholarly essays, and move information related to women, work, family, public policy, and maternal activism between the research community and mothers' movement supporters. I do a lot of reading. But most importantly, I'm drawn to this work for the same reason most readers are drawn to the web site -- something unexpected happened to me when I became a mother, and I wanted to know more about the source of my discontent.
Which is all to say, there are no structural or professional conflicts with using the Mothers Movement Online to endorse a political candidate. I own the MMO -- I own the web domain, I pay for the hosting service, and I own the software used to produce and publish the contents of the site. Which, as noted, does not absolve me of responsibility to my readership. I believe that my editorial standards are extremely high for a self-published web site, which is one of the reasons the MMO looks and feels like a more formal venture. Reader, it is my gift to you. But is also a way to amplify my own voice.
The final comment I will add is that the one thing I found striking about the letters of solidarity and support I received after publishing the endorsement was that people gave me a lot of credit for my candor and living my values. To me, that's what social activism is all about -- showing up, paying attention, speaking your personal truth, and accepting the consequences with humility and grace. But I wonder, with all of the no- and low-cost do-it-yourself media options available today, why aren't more mothers speaking up about who they plan to vote for, and which candidates stink, and why? I realize from interacting with mothers over the last ten years that there is an unwritten taboo about raising topics that are known to create friction in the maternal community -- which at this point includes everything from the disposable-versus-cloth diaper debate and the ideal duration for breastfeeding -- but I'm here to say that going with the flow costs us a lot. Mothers have a reputation for being apolitical and disengaged from the civic process, which I believe is partly deserved. If we're unwilling to explore the difficult issues raised by the ideological and political conflicts that surface during a major election, we forego an opportunity to engage in a productive dialog about some of the most important issues of our time.
Judith Stadtman Tucker
30 January 2008