Paying tribute to mother figures

Mia Warstler

Calling for social reconstruction through changing our dialogue


I am all too familiar with the phrase “father figure,” but I’ve never heard “mother figure” used in the same context.

In the past, I’ve found myself using this language when I speak of my own experiences.

Given that the most positive, influential people in my life have always been women, I believe this kind of dialogue must change.

Whether one is male or female, the women role models in our lives deserve more tribute and acknowledgement.

For the first eight years of my life, I primarily interacted with women: my birth mother, the nurses at the hospital, teachers, the employees at the orphanage and my social worker.

These women cared for me, loved me, educated me and believed in me. I didn’t have this kind of connection with the men that I had known; in fact, my mother and I ran away from our home in order to escape an abusive man.

Raised by women during these first critical years, I started painting my personal mental image of how the world worked.

Later, after my adoption, I came to the United States, and became part of a new family.

Even then, I spent nine hours a day at school, where most of my teachers were female.

My mother was a teacher at the same school that I attended, and most mornings, I would ride with her.

In fourth grade, the students in my class were required to participate in a wax museum project.

We were instructed to select a historical figure, conduct research and bring them to life by embodying ourselves as these figures.

At the time, I was inspired by Susan B. Anthony, so I dressed up as her. I remember my female peers presenting on Harriet Tubman, Betsy Ross, Mia Hamm, Cleopatra, Rosa Parks and more, expressing admiration for various women in history.

All this to show that, even as early as primary school, we begin to develop our understanding of the world.

In addition, the World Bank, a database that collects information about world demographics, found that 87 percent of primary education teachers in the United States are female.

Last year, the US National Center for Education Statistics reported that 50.7 million children attended school.

These numbers reflect how female teachers hold an overwhelming majority in the education system, and these female teachers directly interact and help shape the lives of students.

In contrast, I also grew up in a white, male dominated Christian church, despite half of the actual congregation being noticeably female. There were no women pastors, and all except one of the elders were men.

Even though I didn’t make this observation growing up, I now see how it impacted my faith.

It doesn’t make sense to me for children to spend the majority of the active day around women at school, go to church for only two or three hours of the week, and then be told that church is the more significant, more impactful part of life.

The teachers at school knew me better than the pastor who stood at the podium on Sunday mornings and preached, but I was taught to hold the pastor at a higher level of moral standing than the women who nourished me everyday.

In my mind, I wanted to regard both people evenly, but the world I knew was telling me to do otherwise.

As I previously stated, this imbalance is reflected in the language I use.

For example, I am exploring my relationship with God.

Growing up, I saw God as a male, and like many children who were raised Christian, I gendered God as male. God became something like a “father figure,” even though I had a loving and supportive father in my new family at home.

As a result of using this language, I realized it held me back from fully experiencing my faith and understanding of God.

What is another fault that comes with disregarding our female influences?

The 2016 US government census found that 23 percent of children live with single mothers.

If it’s so vitally important to have a “father figure,” does that mean that something is also just as vitally wrong with 23 percent of children?

I only say this to encourage us to speak differently of the women.

In the words of education activist Malala Yousafzai, “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

We must head towards a place where we can speak of women in history and in our lives as equivalent to men.

Many of us were built by women who worked tirelessly to provide us with every opportunity to prosper.

It is time we hold these “mother figures” at the same level as our “father figures.”

The world requires social reconstruction, and in order for this to happen, we ourselves must decide to change the dialogue and to pay homage to the half of the population that fights every day to guarantee our success.