Mother Tongue explores motherhood
Mother Tongue was one of the most interesting and accomplished launches I saw last year, so I jumped at the chance to send out the second issue as our April delivery to Stack subscribers. It’s a magazine about mums, but there aren’t many children featured on its pages – the focus is very much on mothers and motherhood, and its tone is distinctly mature.
For example Many Things At Once (above) is a long discussion about stripping, feminism and sexuality, which grapples with the difficult subjects of misogyny, exploitation and power as they relate to the objectification of women’s bodies.
It also shows several different versions of the mother / child relationship: Lots of the women featured focus on their relationships with their own mothers and grandmothers, and in Sometimes They Still Find a Way In (above) Jessica Ripka tells the traumatic story of how she had decided against having kids, until the day she and her mother were granted co-custody of her late sister’s three children.
Dramatic and affecting, but related in a comfortable, conversational style, I think Jessica’s story is a good example of what Mother Tongue does well; honest, inclusive and accessible, it paints a picture of motherhood including all its pleasures and pains, but without ever preaching or sounding like it has all the answers.
In some of the stories motherhood takes a back seat, for example the feature on the women behind the Vegan Hood Chefs (above). Ronnishia Johnson-Hasan and Rheema Calloway are presented as entrepreneurs, activists and vegan revolutionaries, and while family background is shown as an important part of who they are, it remains in the background.
But there’s no mistaking the intensity and agony of immediately impending motherhood in Maggie Shannon’s photographs of women in labour (above).
Underpinning all this is the quality of the writing, which is characterful and intimate throughout, drawing the reader into a world they might not have considered before. Of course the opposite could be true too – I know lots of people, particularly new parents and anyone who is struggling to start their own family, will have thought long and hard about motherhood.
We had a couple of subscribers contact us to say that they found Mother Tongue too painful or too triggering to read – of course we apologised for the upset and sent them a different magazine instead. I hope that none of our other subscribers were negatively affected in that way – I know we need to be sensitive when sending out a magazine that presents such an unusually intimate view of a subject like motherhood.