Hip Mama: For Uncommon Parents

Crack open issue number 47 of Hip Mama—The Body Issue—and here’s what you get: a photograph of a pregnant woman in the desert, posed like a warrior, belly full and exposed; a piece about the physical changes birthing can bring, complete with a photograph of the author’s sagging bum and loose tummy skin; “99 reasons to laugh at infertility” by a writer dubbed “infertile Naomi;” an essay about a mother’s struggle bonding and feeding a baby with a cleft palate; and an article about doing drag while pregnant by Myriah J. Day, who performs as Oliver Easy.

Founded in 1993 by Ariel Gore as a final college project, this zine is definitely not your mama’s parenting mag. Explains co-editor and illustrator Amanda Englund:

We don’t give advice, we don’t do product comparisons of baby gear, and we have very limited advertising. Instead, we offer mamas a creative outlet to share their stories, their personal thoughts and feelings, their victories or losses. We are interested in true stories, real accounts of the challenging, beautiful, life-changing, frustrating, shit-smeared experience of having children in your life.

Gore, who turned the reins of Hip Mama over to Kerlin Richter and a dedicated team five years ago, understood that many parenting experiences are commonly overlooked. She founded the magazine as a queer, single mother on welfare. And, from the beginning, Englund says,

HipMama has been about creating a space for unheard poor mothers, mothers of color and the mamas who were told to have abortions because they wouldn’t be able to provide a ‘good life’ for their unborn child.

The zine’s reader-driven content reflects the stories of oft-silenced voices—not just seasoned mothers, but pregnant mamas, women who want to be mothers, baby-daddies, step-mothers, grandmothers, adoptive mothers and lesbian/queer non-bio parents. And these diverse parenting experiences, Englund says, are presented with support and without shaming:

There is so much emphasis on maternal shame in our society, and there is no place for this in HipMama.  [We don’t] judge the multi-faceted choices that mamas make because ultimately we believe that mamas are going to do what is best for themselves and their families. And they might make mistakes–but our role is not to show them their mistakes or to show them a better way of doing things.

We are inspired by stories of mothers who do amazing things–like finishing a college degree while breastfeeding an infant, or moving to Costa Rica as a single mama with two kids. We are amazed by the extraordinary experiences of being a mother and the seemingly mundane.

The result of Hip Mama’s strong feminist mission is a wholly unique, compelling and unsanitized portrait of motherhood—one that allows for complexity, humor, sadness, exasperation, adventure, wonder, activism and acknowledgement of mommies as fully-actualized people.

Englund sums it up like this:

We want to print stories that allow you to challenge the status quo of what being a mother means. We just had a woman contact us who read our zine and realized that for the first time in her life she wanted to be a mother. She always thought that she would have to change who she was in order to be a mother and so never thought she could do it. But after reading [Hip Mama], she realized that she didn’t have to change–she could be who she is AND a mother.

Photo from Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives through Creative Commons.


Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.