Philadelphia Freedom: Celebrating and Redefining Motherhood at the DNC

At the ripe age of 48, I’ve had the privilege of attending my first-ever party convention this week. Given the contours of this election, it is hard to imagine a greater treat for a life-long pro-choice feminist. Never before have I more fully absorbed what it means to wear those labels.

Last night, Hillary Clinton made history when she became the official Democratic nominee for president. On the steamy streets of Philadelphia, there’s been a whole lot of emotion and reflection on how our nation has come to this place.  My introduction to feminism came in the 1980s. I was a teenager raised on MTV and Reaganomics, and it was pro-choice activism–it’s mantras, it’s slogans–that first captured my imagination–and indignation. As abortion foes publicly sought to demonize women and chip, chip away at Roe v. Wade, I took to the streets to join my sisters in the movement. I was a clinic escort. I marched. “My body, my choice!” I shouted. “Keep your laws out of my uterus!”

I’d always assumed that to be stalwart as a pro-choice activist, my role was to fight for Roe, fight against the string of legislation and court rulings that have diluted it, fight for my bodily autonomy, fight for those women who shouldn’t be forced to become mothers. I still do believe that. And I still fight that fight. But here in Philadelphia, a vision of bigger, more beautiful pro-choice feminism is exploding on the convention stage.

At the DNC, we are witnessing the sheer power of motherhood itself as a potent and powerful vehicle for social change. Moms certainly have wielded their voices in many a public battle–against drunk driving, in support of sensible gun laws. But what is happening now is something altogether different. Women are at the helm. They are the change-makers. The focus on motherhood and leadership at the convention has been striking and, quite honestly, stunning.

It was hard not to be moved to tears by the poignant, powerful words and presence our First Lady on Monday night–her tribute to her daughters, her brilliant display of resilience and spirit and grace and leadership. On Tuesday, the Mothers of the Movement–joined in grief–raised their voices to speak truth to power on crises of racial justice, policing and gun violence, cementing the names and lives of their children in our national conscience in the process.

Along with the right to choose to be a mother comes the right to bring all the perspective that motherhood brings into the public arena. Even Ivanka Trump echoed the same in Cleveland. Forget the back-to-the-kitchen, apple pie version of motherhood we’ve long been force fed. The world is watching as America’s badass, kickass, world-class women leaders raise the call for pay equity, bodily autonomy, safe communities; for laws that are just and fair; for our children.

That vision of “choice” has profound implications for all of us. Take a long look at the scene in Philadelphia. This much is clear: When women take the lead, our democracy becomes more inclusive. And that is the ultimate endgame in the fight reproductive freedom and justice.



Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the executive director of Ms. partnerships and strategy. A lawyer, fierce advocate and frequent writer on issues of gender, feminism and politics in America, Weiss-Wolf has been dubbed the “architect of the U.S. campaign to squash the tampon tax” by Newsweek. She is the author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, which was lauded by Gloria Steinem as “the beginning of liberation for us all,” and is a contributor to Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth. She is also the executive director of the Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Center at NYU Law. Find her on Twitter: @jweisswolf.