“Blame it on mother – a feminist look at motherhood” was, the flyer proclaimed, an “important conference.”  200 women and a smattering of men from across Canada and the U.S. gathered at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College in mid-May, supposedly to examine the role of Mother in society.  By the end of the conference it was clear that the stated objective was merely and excuse to profess en masse their deep and inexplicable fear of and distaste for men.  It could have been more aptly named “Blame it on men” as the women, two-thirds of whom were divorced or ‘single mothers,’ continually separated the world into two camps – Us versus Them.

So, what was “Blame it on Mother” all about?  After a weekend of contemplation, I’m still not sure.  Having spent last year at university and thus attended numerous lectures on a daily basis, I think I’m safe in saying that any lack of comprehension was due for the most part to incomprehensible material.

Incoherent lectures

Not only were the lectures incoherent and often way off topic (in the rare event that they ever got on topic in the first place), but their ideology was often paradoxical and illogical.  To give but one example, they often extolled the virtues of motherhood and the wondrous nature of pregnancy while, in the same breath, stressing the importance of pro-abortion legislation.

Granted, some of the keynote speakers were interesting and humorous, but for the most part the lectures were confused and redundant.  Looking back on the seven lectures that I attended, they all seem to melt into one.  Not surprising since each workshop, regardless of its theme, was essentially the same as the next.  The participants, referring to themselves as the ‘sisterhood,’ were spellbound as each lecturer spoke of changing the world, and of taking charge of our “culture of male supremacy.”  They seemed oblivious to the fact that the workshops often lacked any relationship to the issue of motherhood.  Fear – and even paranoia – were evident in many of the misguided comments made: “there are insurmountable educational barriers”; “men are going to take over the reproduction process with their new technology” (In Vitro Fertilization, etc.); and soon the test tube baby would replace the womb, at which point all women will be liquidated en masse.

Deeply frightening

Consider the titles of some of the workshops offered at the conference: “The Politics of Reproduction,” “Lesbian Mothers,” “I like to play too,” and “ From God to Goddess.”  Interesting? Not particularly.  The workshops would be better described as amusing, yet deeply frightening.

Two of the workshops stand out in my mind.  The first was a speech given by National Action Committee (NAC) member Sue Colley.  Her interest was clearly day care, and one-and-a-half hours were devoted to discussion of this issue.  Her demands?  High quality, non-profit day care, shorter work weeks for mothers, $20,000 per year rather than the paltry $5,000 presently received for staying at home, and extended, fully paid pregnancy leave (up to nine months was suggested).

The most amazing part of the conference was the commonly-held fear of men, more specifically the fear of having to depend on ‘him’ in any way.  Men control the money, and men control the unions, therefore men in general are to blame for every frustrated woman (many of whom were evidently at the conference).

Hints for witches

Forget the idea that a woman might want to stay at home with the kids.  How could she be fulfilled?  Apparently  any woman who chooses to raise her children as a career has been coerced into doing so, her hopes and dreams “painfully aborted…”

I also want to give special mention to the workshop entitled “God to Goddess.”  Although I had read the description in the flyer, “Mother worship in Modern Feminist witchcraft – Theory and Practice,” I was completely unprepared for what I was about to hear.

The speaker, Dr. Naomi Goldenberg, began the lecture by familiarizing us with some of her favorite witches – Starhawk, and Z. Budapest.  Women who, in her words, were “putting feminist ideology into practice.”

Pagan religion

Witchcraft, she asserted, is a religious tradition based on the worshipping of a goddess.  She was quick to establish that witches are not satanic, that they have “nothing to do with a bad male god.”  From a witch’s point of view, Satan is merely a flipside of Christianity, and witchcraft is completely removed from the realm of Christianity.  “We are a pagan religion,” she claimed.

Historically, according to the witches, women have been venerated and worshipped.  (Demeter, Aphrodite, etc.).  Apparently we have “lost much” in worshipping Father and Son.  The male-oriented Catholic Church supposedly gave the goddess a new name, the Virgin Mary, and made a man the Supreme Being.  The witches have restructured their year around the number 13, and celebrate such days as “Birthday of the Sun” (sometimes called the birthday of the goddess’ child), and the “Celebration of Growth,” at which point goddess and son “mate.”

Money spells

The workshop was, in a sense, a do-it-yourself witch-kit.  The audience learned about the simpler witch’s tools and a few basic chants, one of which was named “money-drawing powers.”  While I was trying to stifle my amusement, the rest of the women in the audience were captivated.  At least half of them had heard of Starhawk and friends, and a good number were, by their own admission, apprentice witches.  All of this came as quite a shock to me; who could take this hocus pocus stuff seriously?

It all seemed fairly harmless, until I began writing this report.  A little research was in order, so out came the files.  I was given the May issue of Fidelity Magazine, and I began reading an article by E. Michael Jones.  In it he brought to light reports of accusations (never proven) against the Catholic church of mass murders during the 1500s, “trafficking in spirits,” and “a Lesbian parody of marriage.”  Do these women know what they are getting themselves into?

Looking back on the conference, I almost pity those women.   At the same time, their misdirected energy frightens me.  Their fear, their paranoia, and their determination to “change the world” makes me wonder what is in store for us.  I can only hope that their numbers remain small, and that their efforts to establish free-standing abortion clinics, and to obtain universal day care will be frustrated.

Susan Bennet is going into her second-year studies in economics and political science at Queen’s University in Kingston this fall.  She is working for The Interim this summer through an Ontario student program.