Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Political Play Date

This week gets really fun. Thursday night I'll be doing a MotherTalk with the editors of Brain Child magazine, and Friday night I'm on a panel with Barbara Ehrenreich, at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Updates when I return.

I've been thinking about a vision for how Playground Revolution can grow, and how it can contribute to the new rumblings of social change and improvements for family life in our nation, and for how family life can be strengthened in ways that support women's choices, not constrain them. Lots of other bloggers do a great job dissecting media; they're on top of it, and whenever there's a major media moment that's bad for moms and bad for dads and bad, bad, bad for family life, the blogosphere lights up with smart critique, and often, visions of what we need and what we want.

I'll still add my voice to these debates.

I also have something new to add to the mix. I've been thinking, ever since my post on Mommy Guilt back in January, about what it means to have a political practice as part of our lives. Yes, writing is political, but we need writing because it reshapes our culture, and other forms of activism too. I've been asking people who are activists, in one way or another, and Playground visitors and readers of The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars know that I define 'activist' very broadly. Anyway, I've been asking activists to write about their lives and what they do. We all know the issues. We all know the general range of policy change and shifts in human kindness that would make family life better. Yet, too often we have the sense that nothing will ever change.

I think that sharing the personal stories of people who take action is very important. How do they do it? How do they start? How do they make that first phone call, and does it come before the toddler throws up, after the baby has a 104 degree fever, or in between? How do some people find time in the day to be political in more overt ways? I want to find the personal stories, the poignancies, the good ideas that are relatively easy to accomplish, and which may help get the ball rolling.

It goes without saying: send me your stories.

Today we meet the inaugural activist: Kim Simmons from Maine, and founder of what should become common practice: the political play date. Voila!

Miriam: Kim, I heard that you organized a "political play date." That's a new concept. How did you come up with it, why, and what happened? Are they ongoing?

Kim: Maine faced our 3rd citizen's initiative/referenda on the extension of civil rights to include sexual orientation last fall. The previous fights have been brutal and it felt very important to me that the "pro" civil rights group win this year (which we did). I was juggling a part-time job and 2 children and did not have a lot of time to volunteer for the campaign, and I noticed that many of my politically aware and progressive friends were also spending a lot more time keeping their private lives together and were not contributing as much as they'd like. It struck me that there were few ways to include children in contemporary politics, so I organized a "political play date." I advertised it through the local mom's group, hoping to attract some new faces, and also to my friends and through my older daughter's school. I baked some brownies, had a kitchen table full of literature, petitions, etc. and otherwise we had normal playtime. In the future I would be more clear about my "ask." Although fewer families came than I hoped, we did receive coverage in our local paper. I am planning a second one for April 25th (Equal Pay Day) and am trying to remain creative about ways of politicizing moms/including political moms in social change activities that are manageable with small children. I am also contemplating a film series on political issues that intersect with parenting, at the local library, with some kind of simultaneous children's activity in the children's room. I would love feedback and other ideas on how to stimulate activism at the most grassroots level.


Kim Moldofsky said...

I had a similar idea and was going to call it a Political Party for Education. My thought was to hold it as sort of an after-hours event for the local PTA meeting which usually disbands at 8:00 PM. I like the idea of opening it to the broader community.

I'd love to hear more details about what worked and what you are planning for your April event.

Your post may just get me going on this. Thanks!

landismom said...

I think this is a great new feature for your blog. As far as suggestions go, I've taken my kids to lots of rallies (kids love rallies, especially marches), and also walked many a precinct with someone in a stroller (or an older kid outside of one).