Mother's Day Boycott

May 16th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

Should we skip mother’s day or celebrate it to support global women’s health?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

This year, I celebrated Mother’s Day in a big way. I bought myself a piece of serious jewelry and a card from my 3-year-old, and I’m taking her on a weeklong trip to celebrate. To some, Mother’s Day might be a manufactured holiday, existing only to push the flower and greeting card trade. But as a single, widowed mom, it’s a celebration of every hill I’ve climbed with my daughter. And if there’s no one there to make me breakfast in bed, I’ll do it myself and salute every other mom out there who’s doing the same.

The way I observed Mom’s Day was at odds with the newest celebrity-endorsed cause du jour – “No Mother’s Day.” Model and activist Christy Turlington Burns recruited celebrity friends like Jennifer Connelly, Kelly Rutherford, Ann Curry, Blythe Danner, Debra Messing and Dayle Haddon to appear in a short, online social-issue film directed by husband Ed Burns calling for people around the world to boycott Mother’s Day. The effort, part of the Every Mother Counts campaign she began in 2010, is designed to call attention to the 358,000 mothers around the world who die each year from pregnancy or childbirth complications, 90 percent of which the campaign says are preventable.

Turlington Burns’ call to action: Mothers should discourage loved ones from buying them gifts, stay silent on Mother’s day (no answering the phone, no updating of Facebook profiles) to show “how much a mother is missed when she is gone.” In an interview with The Washington Post, she says it’s also a way to get back to the basics and cut through “all the noise” that comes with a holiday that the National Retail Federation estimates will generate upwards of $18 billion in spending by Americans this year. Yet, Turlington Burns explains to the Post that the boycott is not intended as an economic protest; rather, she sees it as a “shift in attitude.” 

I admire this cause, but is a boycott the right answer? Like Mommyish blogger Shawna Cohen, my sense is that the “No Mother’s Day” is “totally confusing,” as Cohen puts it, adding, “What exactly does she want moms to do?” Even if the request of mothers is unclear, Time magazine’s Healthland blog notes a few activities suggested by Every Mother Counts that I could get behind: Participate in a race to raise funds for causes; donate to pro-mom projects, such as the new health clinics in the Democratic Republic of Congo or motorcycles for health-care workers to reach at-risk mothers in Kenya; or purchase an Every Mother Counts CD at Starbucks - $8 of your $12 spent go to the organization.

I’ll show solidarity with families who have lost their mothers, but to me, Mother’s Day is also a victory worth celebrating. What do you think about the boycott? Did you participate in any of the Every Mother Counts activities last Sunday?