Farrah Alexander, author of Raising the Resistance, has been featured in a newsletter created by Ariel Foxman as well as a blog post for daisy made, read btoh features here!
Ariel Foxman Newsletter:
By Ariel Foxman
“Mothers,” writes Alexander in her new, satisfyingly practical manifesto for cause-minded caregivers, “are a force to be reckoned with.” Not just at home, where they have the awesome power to influence the next generation of lovers (or haters), but also in their communities where they can organize and uplift as this epic woke and intersectional powerhouse. “Historically, women tend not to create waves,” says Alexander, “but now, we are really fed up.”
Why write this book specifically for moms and not for say, moms and dads?
I focused on moms because I am a mom. Also, I had noticed early on, back in 2016, that the resistance movement was being led by mothers. 3 out of 4 of the co-chairs of the Women’s March were moms, for instance. There were just so many moms across the country who were becoming politically active for the very first time.
There are a lot of guides out there for parents. Why write a manual about “practical activism”?
There are a lot of books, and they are primarily about breastfeeding and pregnancy—very, very traditional ways of becoming a parent, of being a mom. The focus for moms is often about making everything fun and perfect. That Pinterest excitement of packing lunches. There wasn’t a book out there that asks, What’s going on with you, Mom? What do you think about what’s going on in the world? And, what do you want to do about it?
The book covers so much ground—racism, the patriarchy, privilege, sexualizing children, and more. Is there one issue, though, that you believe is the biggest issue facing parents and caregivers responsible for raising the next generation?
It’s important for all of us to prioritize our own key issues because nobody can effectively focus on everything. And I understand that it can all feel so overwhelming right now. But, no question, in this moment, the one issue that we all really need to focus our attention on is racial justice. This is an historic time in our country right now. We have an enormous responsibility to be anti-racist—especially white parents, to practice anti-racism and talk about these difficult issues. We cannot turn a blind-eye or take the “colorblind” approach and think that we’re doing the right thing. Examine your own biases and break these cycles because something has to change. Something has to give. And right now, a lot of people are hurting and we need to listen to them.
You talk about how it’s best for white parents to defer to Black leadership when it comes to taking action. Why is this so critical?
White parents, white people need to defer to Black leadership in our own community and listen. To take their lead. All over the United States, there are Black leaders who have been working on racial justice issues for decades. Find them. Follow your local Black Lives Matter chapter. Or join Showing Up For Racial Justice, that is primarily white people. In my experience, the Black leaders will put out calls to action that are practical, and that are appropriate for white people.
What about the white mom who just wants to take charge?
This is not the time for white moms to try and center ourselves. White people, in general, who want to make a difference in the realm of racial justice have to understand that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I have had to catch myself at times, too. I carry this kind of inherent notion that we’re going to be able to “fix” things. It’s a total mom thing, but it’s also a total white lady thing, too. I remember hearing one Black Lives Matter leader talking to white moms, and she was like, ”I need you all to use that PTO, Karen energy responsibly.” We can be really enthusiastic, and we just want things fixed now—and that’s just not going to happen.
What are some of the things moms are being asked to do in the fight for racial justice?
I am a white mom based in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve been asked to do everything from attend a protest and stand in front of the line—to use my body to shield Black protestors from rubber bullets and tear gas—to bail out protesters. Where I live, there is a really active bail support system, and there will be minivans that show up to jail to get protestors out, give them bottled water, and take them home. One ask I got from Black leaders in the community was to collect books for Black children, in which they were represented and had empowering messages. Because the schools and libraries were closed due to COVID, and access to books was so limited. So, I did a collection, and other parents sent books to me on Amazon. It was a relatively easy thing for people to do, but it made a huge difference. We were able to provide these really beautiful, powerful books to children in the community who didn’t have them.
Is there a daily practice parents can establish to make sure they are parenting from a values-centered space?
More than anything, treat your children with kindness and your partner with respect. And expect your kids to do the same with whomever they come in contact with. That makes a tremendous difference. It completely influences your children’s worldview.
Why include a chapter on self-care in a book that is so focused on improving things for others?
Self-care is fundamental to activism. As Audra Lorde has explained, in a society that doesn’t always value you, self-care and self-love is a radical act. It’s important to check in with yourself and love yourself and accept yourself for who you are. Fighting for justice is really, really difficult work. It’s hard, and it’s full of loss. We need to take care of ourselves to move forward, so we don’t get caught up in just feeling hopeless. And it’s not just about a bubble bath or drinking wine and hiding from your children. I think all of that is kind of cliché and not always productive. Rather, moms need to take a breath and ask ourselves what we need and what we want, and honor our own spirits and wishes. It is completely necessary.
What would you say to the well-intentioned mom who might not be comfortable rocking the boat or who might be worried about making others uneasy by her activism?
That is a really common problem. People are apprehensive about getting into activism. I know, at first, I was very afraid of offending other people and making waves. I was just one of those people who wanted to please everyone, didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And the answer to that: practice.
Accept that it is going to be uncomfortable to take a stance that you know others are going to disagree with. I remember I got so much backlash after I posted on Facebook about attending the first Women’s March. I was really proud of myself for taking a bus overnight just to be there and for putting myself out there a little bit. The backlash, though, was really hurtful. Especially when it’s coming from people that may be family members, or people that you have always respected and know well. So I understand, but I can also tell you, it gets easier. Fall back on your conviction and know that you’re doing what is right.
Is your activism rooted in the hope of changing the hearts and minds of people who don’t see things as you do?
It depends. At my core, I do believe that it’s possible to change the hearts and minds of people. And that just helps me be able to live in this world. But, I know, too, some people can be very stubborn and stuck in their own convictions. And when you can’t change those people, you need to protect your own heart, and move on. Focus on the work that does make a difference.
This piece was originally published on Maisonette.
Farrah Alexander has long centered her work on feminism, parenting, social justice, politics, and current events. So, when this young, socially engaged parent, saw a need, she wrote a book!
Her guide is for parents who know things should be better and want to be part of the solution. RAISING THE RESISTANCE: A Mother’s Guide to Practical Activism is Farrah’s first book, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
What inspired you to create this guide?
I noticed the leaders in the movement resisting injustice were women, but especially mothers. I was amazed to see so many women balancing the demands of motherhood along with activism. Mothers have been organizing and leading the largest demonstrations in our nation’s history while pushing strollers and holding babies on their hips. I write specifically for politically engaged mothers who want to either get involved or deepen their activism involvement. I want to leave them feeling empowered, not hopeless.
What are some challenges you’ve faced navigating current issues in your own home?
Children are just so precious and full of love. So it’s been challenging to address the hatred and divisiveness happening. However, I recognize my privilege and understand that I often have a choice whether or not to talk about difficult issues such as racial injustice. I think it’s important to raise anti-racist children. When they sense something big is happening, we as parents need to step up and get in front of the narrative.
Was this book empowering? Therapeutic?
It did feel empowering to write this book for other mothers to hopefully realize their power. But it’s been scary too! It’s nerve-wracking to be vulnerable and put your full, authentic self and work out there for the world to see. But I’m so glad I did.
What can activism look like for the everyday parent?
There is a huge range of ways parents can work activism into their lifestyles. Let’s take getting involved in our democracy, for example. The most accessible thing we can do is vote. It’s simple, quick, pretty easy, and yet many of us don’t do it. So, if a parent wants to make a difference but has very little time or money, they can vote! To make a bigger difference and commit more time, they can work towards voting access by combatting voter suppression and making sure their neighbors are registered. If they have the resources to make an even bigger impact, they can run for elected office themselves.
Is there such a thing as “too young” when it comes to having these discussions at home?
Well, it just depends. As a parent, you know your child best. Meet them where they are and break things down in a way that they understand. Kids understand more than we think. Even before you have discussions with your children, you can influence them by diversifying bookshelves, dividing parenting tasks equally, and not enforcing gender stereotypes. They’re learning from you all the time!
How can parents practice self-care while staying active in their activism?
Rest and delegate–two challenging tasks for a mom. We don’t really have to do it all. Shift some responsibility around and take more time to rest whether that means exercising, sleeping, reading, just do something relaxing that brings you joy. Take some time and reflect on what you really need and put a plan in place to make that happen.
What are some strategies for becoming a positive role model?
Just be kind. Meet everyone with empathy and compassion. The driving force behind activism is a love for others. The world could always use more kindness, so if I wanted others to model one behavior, it would be that.
How does creativity bring goodness to your life?
It’s a release. I’ve always loved to create and feel so satisfied once I’ve completed something I’ve made. I’ve tried so many forms– drawing, painting, sculpting, and lots of crafting. But writing something that resonates with others is my absolute favorite.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer! My grandpa once gave me an old typewriter he rescued from a dumpster. It weighed a ton, and I would hurl it on my bed and type newsletters, one by one. Writing a book has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I’m so happy for it to be THIS book. It is so needed right now.
What do people NOT know about what you do?
When people look from the outside, they often don’t see the impact. For example, some people dismiss protests without recognizing the policy changes that have occurred as a direct result of those protests. Sometimes it’s on a smaller level, and individuals benefit from an action. It’s not magic, but lives are impacted, and that matters. It keeps us going.
Where do you go when you need a break?
I’ll admit I’m a news junkie and am extremely plugged in. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed taking hikes with my family far from a wifi signal. I also love walking around my neighborhood while listening to podcasts about murder, watching “90 Day Fiancé,” bubble baths, and date nights with my husband.
Let’s be real, what’s the hardest/most frustrating thing about what you do?
Losing. Too often, failure is viewed as the end of a journey instead of one step of a journey. I’ve experienced my fair share, and I’ve tried to be transparent about that, so others don’t feel alone when it happens. When you put yourself out there and strive to achieve something, you will fail along the way. It’s not a personal shortcoming. It’s just an inevitable reality. You’ll find yourself in a series of battles, and you won’t win them all, no matter how hard you fight. It’s hard, but you have to stay in the fight.
A Mother’s Guide to Practical Activism
On the intersection of feminism and motherhood. Mothers are a force to be reckoned with. And after the Women’s March and midterm elections, moms have surely secured their spot in today’s feminist movement. But for those who aren’t ready to make a bid for the presidency, the way forward can seem daunting and unclear. Whether it’s correcting a misinformed family member about gender equality or running for political office, this bold and accessible primer presents active parents with different types of activism they can incorporate into their parenting, no matter how big or small.