White Picket Fence interrogates the structures of inequity affecting women since America’s founding. On the newest season, host Julie Kohler investigates mothers as a political force — how motherhood has been utilized for political gain and why the identity of “mother” remains so politically potent. Join us in exploring where America—and Americans—have fallen short and what we can do to create a better future.
BONUS: Words to Win By: Protecting Our Freedoms
Today, we’re bringing you another podcast from Wonder Media Network that we think you’ll love: Words to Win By. Hosted by renowned communications researcher and campaign advisor Anat Shenker-Osorio, this season unpacks real-world narrative shifts that led to real-world victories, from Brazil to Ireland to here in the United States.
In the 2022 Midterms, Americans defied polling, pundits and precedent to stave off the predicted Republican “Red Wave” takeover. Despite significant challenges, Democrats were able to hold the Senate, minimize House losses, and flip or retain key battleground state legislatures and governorships. In the first episode of the latest season, we delve into why conventional wisdom about politics doesn’t just miss the mark, but actively impedes what we must do to prevail against right-wing efforts to seize and hold power. Hear about the research, ad making, organizing and strategy that helped deliver key Democratic victories by reminding us of the collective power we have to decide our own future.
Organizing around motherhood works. It can activate women politically by helping them tap into a powerful identity. But maternal activism can also have some unintended consequences that don't advance justice. So in the final episode of the season, we're asking this season’s guests: should the left still be playing into maternalist politics? Or can we evolve beyond it — to a kind of politics that focuses on values, not a fixed identity, and makes space for all caregivers?
Much of the motherhood activism that is lifted up in our politics portrays women in a certain way: as uniquely moral, even apolitical, actors who were compelled to take action because they fear for their children’s safety. It’s a myth that's highly racially coded and obscures the realities of motherhood. The truth? Motherhood is political. Moms are political. And when we start acknowledging that and centering the most marginalized moms in our activism — their needs and experiences — we end up building better policies for all of us.
The political identity of "mother" is not owned by the right. There's also a rich history of mothers working to advance progressive change. Yet the framing of much of this activism—a mother spurred to action when awakened to a threat to her child's safety—remains grounded in an image of motherhood that is riddled with race and class privilege. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, began her activism journey as a stay-at-home suburban mom of five who felt compelled to fight for common-sense gun violence prevention in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. But when Shannon met Rep. Lucy McBath, then a mother grieving the loss of her son, Jordan, to gun violence, something shifted. The more Moms Demand Action expanded their focus and passed the microphone to Black women who had been working on the issue for years, the more powerful Moms Demand Action became.
In the summer of 2022, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, flew to Texas to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Onstage, his tirades against immigration, gender studies, and LGBTQ rights were met with roars of approval. Orban has made it his mission to codify traditional family values into law—and dismantle democracy in the process. American conservatives are taking note. And paving the way for these extremist policies is a group of social media "momfluencers" touting the glory of traditional family life. Are Moms for Liberty and #tradwives the harbingers of a backslide when it comes to women’s rights...and American democracy?
The Mothers of Conservatism
Moms for Liberty didn't appear out of thin air. They're building on a long history of white, conservative women who, for decades, have used their motherhood as a tool for political credibility. And it all started in 1960s California, where thousands of middle-class moms transformed into suburban warriors and helped build the modern-day conservative movement.
This is such a great podcast and I listened to the who podcast in two whole days! I am a history buff, a feminist, and hopefully one day, a future mom. I loved that this podcast balanced both current events and history and how white women today really need to take a good look at how they have used the same rhetoric to leave out those of different classes and races, even those who aren’t mothers or different genders. Women, all of us and especially us white women, really need to stop being one issue feminists because it leaves out WHOLE groups. Democracy will be the better for it.
Fascinating but frightening
I’ve only listened to your 2023 podcasts so far but will definitely go back and listen to 2022. The history behind Moms of Liberty is fascinating but frightening. Their sudden rise wasn’t sudden at all but a resurgence. Thank you for the historical context. A new weekly listener.
Critical challenge to misinformation
An incredible start to the new season…thank you! I didn’t realize how much of book bans and other modern fear-mongering was led by these women. A critical view into how women will weaponize their position in the word to uphold a dangerous status quo, and a look into how to counter that