The Bad Muthaz Donna-festo

Left to right: Una Planchette, Fallopia Minx, Puffbutton, Mistress Head, La LLorona, Juicy


You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.

– Jawaharlal Nehru

Bad Mutha: definition of –

a) A woman perceived by self or others as being a bad mother for a variety of reasons.

b) A woman — she may be a mother or not — who follows her own interests or desires* and because of this is accused of causing — and sometimes does cause — suffering to those dependent on her emotional and physical ministrations, whether these be her children, her partner, society at large, and/or herself. But, in fact, this woman’s actions can bring about important, essential progress in our understanding of ourselves and the world.

(*An important caveat is that this woman does not intentionally set out to hurt anyone, because then she becomes a whole other thing. She becomes a bad egg, sometimes a very bad egg, rather than a bad mutha. Bad eggs are common and we all fall into this category now and then. Very bad eggs are less common, thankfully, and include serial killer Myra Hindley, or Ilse Koch, known as “the Bitch of Buchenwald,” or any number of psychopaths and sociopaths).

c) A badass who fights against those who are oppressing her or others in any shape or form. Often wears awesome outfits, especially harking back to that great era of sartorial splendor – the 1970’s.

So now we know what a Bad Mutha is. But what about a Bad Mother?

Have you ever googled “bad mother?” Not too much comes up except the names of a few places you can order “bad mother fucker” wallets like the one Samuel Jackson shows Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction, or Ayelet Waldman’s book Bad Mother and reviews of same.

Now look up “good mother.” Or simply “mother,” or “mothering.” A treasure trove of entries awaits you, stretching on for page after page.

Why is that?

We Bad Muthaz have a theory about why that is. We believe there’s a fetishization of motherhood and all that motherhood represents. And that includes a fetishization of what it means to be a good woman, and — before that — a good girl. In this fetishization, motherhood is sacred. And it’s sacred because a good woman is meant to uphold the social order as it stands by joining with one man, bearing children with that man, taking care of those children and that man and the home, while often having a job or a career or some sort of work that is usually considered of secondary importance to that of the man’s, and not doing anything to upset that social order because doing so makes it difficult for men to work, and govern, and make wars, and make money, and make more money, and then play sports, or watch sports, and drink some beers, and have a few girlfriends, or even a few wives.

A few wives? Come on.  That’s illegal in this country — well, except in Utah, sort of. But we’re not talking just about the U.S. Nor are we talking just about having multiple wives — because some might argue that it’s those ladies’ choice to marry that one fine fellow!  We’re talking about the lives of women and girls, and about the lives of women and girls around the world, not just in the U.S.

Motherhood is sacred, say many of these guys with the important careers or those with the multiple wives, or even just one wife. We agree with that. Being a woman is sacred. Being a girl is sacred. It’s sacred because as the Chinese proverb (for which married New York Times correspondents Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn named their recent, excellent book) says  — “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.” But then why is it that women are 50% of the population of this country but there still has not been a female president? (props to Hillary and Condoleezza and Madeleine for getting as far as Secretary of State) Why is rape still a huge and devastating weapon not just of war and but of daily life around the world? Why is it that women in this country and likely everywhere else earn less than men?  Why is it that, as Vulimiri Ranalingaswami says in The Asian Enigma, “however much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate and uninformed, anemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation and if she is without the necessary support either from health services or from her society or from the father of her children.” And this despite the fact that when in that same shanty or slum, for every year beyond 4th grade girls go to school, family size shrinks 20%, child deaths drop 10%, and wages rise 20%.

But wait, what does all this heavy shit have to do with a silly video web series called Bad Muthaz, you’re wondering.

The heavy shit has to do with this series emerging out of a group of wildly privileged — comparatively speaking — middle-class and middle-aged women in a small city in the U.S. questioning the expectations placed on women.

This questioning encompasses such inquiries as:

• Can women pursue their deepest desires as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?


• What happens when those deepest desires are let out into the open and given voice or action?


• What happens when women don’t follow the rules?


• What happens when women question the roles they’re meant to play — whether that be in how they’re meant to look, speak, act, mother, be an appropriate spouse, or be an appropriate worker in society?

in sum…

• What happens when you let the cat, emphatically not the (sex) kitten, out of the bag?

The Bad Muthaz believe lots of stuff can happen when you let the cat out of the bag, or let women live their dreams. And we know that many people believe this too, or there wouldn’t be so many efforts spent on keeping cats — or women — in those bags, which often as not end up being body bags when women don’t have the rights or value which they inherently deserve. We’re here to help more women, of all ages, races, classes, nationalities, ethnicities, sexual preferences, abilities, sizes, and shapes get out of those bags. (And, by the way, if there are men and boys, and animals, in those bags, we’re happy to get them out too).

We’re going to do this with the tools we have and which we believe can accomplish an astonishing amount: humor, education, and media.

To kick off this campaign, and listed in no particular order, we are honoring the women — real fictional, and mythological — whom we’d like to include in the hallowed halls of Bad Muthahood for all they have done or inspired:

Hamlet’s mother Gertrude; Susan Sontag; Alice Walker; Eve (the original); Hillary Clinton; Tilda Swinton; Sylvia Plath; Ruth Maleczech; Zora Neal Hurston; Patti Smith; Nina Simone; Margaret Mead; Esperanza Spalding; Oedipus’ mother Jocasta; Bessie Smith; Queen Elizabeth the First; Angela Davis; Amy Winehouse; Alice Coltrane; Audre Lorde; Madonna; Cleopatra; Angelina Jolie; The Virgin Mary; Rosie O’Donnell;  Eve Ensler; Sinead O’Connor; Aung San Suu Kyi; Meshell Ndegeocello; Anna Karenina; Pam Grier; Susan B. Anthony; Mother Theresa; Gloria Steinem; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Maxine Hong Kingston; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich; bell hooks; Marian Wright Edelman; Jane Goodall; Madame Curie; Betty Friedan; Janis Joplin; Maya Angelou; Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Shirley Chisholm; Christine Vachon; Anita Hill; Adrienne Rich; Toni Morrison; The Goddess Athena; Martha Graham; Pina Bausch; Louise Bourgeois; Jane Campion; Carol Gilligan; Agnes Varda; Margaret Sanger; Anna Magnani; Sojourner Truth; Natalie Zemon Davis; Ingrid Bergman; Hedy Lamarr; Anna Politkovskaya; Veronica Guerin; Katherine Hepburn; Anne Frank; Bette Davis; Marlene Dietrich; Lisbeth Salander aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Oprah Winfrey; Martina Navratilova; Billie Jean King; Vanessa Redgrave; Virginia Woolf; Janet Flanner; Judy Garland; Elizabeth Taylor; Colette; Meena Keshwar Kamal; Rosa Parks; Arundhati Roy; Zainab Salbi; Rachel Carson; Yoko Ono, and countless others….

We’d like to know…

Who do YOU consider a Bad Mutha?





4 Responses to “The Bad Muthaz Donna-festo”

  1. noel jeanloz says:

    Awesomely funny! A bit disturbing too. Good examples of bad muthuz. Muthuz who smoke must be ripe for this kind of spoof.

    So many ways in which we can be bad mothers – not providing our kids with: good food, good sleep, clean clothes, clean house, help with homework, help with learning to self care (brush hair, teeth etc.)

    Good luck! Look forward to the final cut.

    • myra says:

      Glad you find the Bad Muthaz funny and disturbing. Precisely what they’re meant to be.

      Stay tuned for three more episodes, currently being edited.

      May I ask how you found the Bad Muthaz, and, if it’s not too forward, what you do and where you’re located?

  2. Susan Epstein says:

    You guys definitely need to go viral…
    Please add Margaret Sanger to the list of Bad Muthaz. The ultimate Bad
    Mutha, perhaps, as she was all about birth control! She also knew when
    to throw off the limits of her professional role (nurse) and become an
    activist fighting for the rights of the poor, sick and disempowered
    (specifically women with unwanted pregnancies dying from unsafe
    abortions and being deemed disposable by the reigning social
    order—hey, why does this sound so familiar?). (see more about
    Margaret at And don’t
    let the part about her views on eugenics get in the way of admiring
    what Sanger was about—that in itself shows us we can raise people up
    as role models who are not necessarily all-good, all-knowing,
    never-misdirected “HEROS,” but (alas!) just imperfect
    humans—-“A slob like one of us…” Joan Osborne…another Bad
    Mutha—with strengths to emulate and failings to avoid).
    You may want to consider making a Bad Muthaz video featuring a woman
    who does NOT have children (the Goddessmama?) We gals with no kids of
    our own are Mothers too, after all…and we can empathize with the
    powerlessness of NOT being a biological mother, just as men struggle
    with this biological inequity (womb envy anyone?)…or gay men who are
    raising kids without a female mother. Real life and the entertainment
    complex (Will and Grace, The New Normal, Different Not Better, Modern
    Family) is ahead of the political, legal and journalistic gatekeepers
    in recognizing all this. People are living their lives, even if their
    reality isn’t represented fully or respected adequately by the culture
    at large (let’s leave aside for now the question of “reality
    tv”…that’s another kettle of canned fish entirely).
    Our old institutions (church, government, the legal profession,
    patriarchal marriage, corporations, etc.) have lost their authority
    through ineffectualness, corruption, over-specialization and/or greed.
    Other forms of authority have been repressed, belittled or lost per
    Colonial and scientific arrogance. Forms like community relationships,
    community cohesion, interpersonal trust, emotional instinct, the
    wisdom of the mother as derived from inter-generational transmission
    of ancient knowledge, the wisdom of physical labor, the experiectial
    understanding of what it takes and learning to respond with violence
    with something other than violene, the development of empathy).
    That’s no picnic for mothers or fathers either…Oh yeah, we need a
    whole other series for that one: BadFathaz…or would the shocking and
    provocative corollary to Badmuthaz be GoodFathaz? Hmmmm…..
    Complex dynamics are beginning to emerge because more and more
    families aren’t looking like the normative heterosexual “ideal.” Just
    as our abuse of the environment has forced us to acknowledge the
    impact of “raping” the earth and the feminist movement has forced us
    to recognize the power imbalances in traditional society and
    traditional gender constructions (with more recent insight from
    transgendered individuals), just as rampant domestic violence coming
    out of the shadows forces us to look at the role of domination in
    limiting not only women’s, but men’s ability to freely define their
    humanity, movements to reclaim the mind-body-spirit connections are
    helping us reclaim our holistic capacities, to find authority within
    ourselves and our communities.
    For example, my friend Jo, an ER doctor in Providence, RI, recently
    told me of a rash (“rash” interesting term, no? When does the body
    break out in a “rash”? Why do we call things “rash”?) of cases
    involving lesbians who make up a big sub-community near the campuses
    of Brown University and RISD. These women present in the ER with
    injuries resulting from domestic violence between lesbian partners. He
    noted there have even been instances in which lesbians who are
    involved with the Mixed-Martial Arts Fighting craze get drunk
    together, start fighting “for fun” and then the situations devolve
    into several women ganging up on the weakest woman in the group until
    she is presented in the ER with frighteningly serious injuries.
    Culture? Gender? Well, whatever it is, shouldn’t we be talking about
    this stuff?!
    As brave people occupy new roles and live lives according to their own
    or new or no rules, we are forced to reexamine our assumptions, our
    biases, our preferences, whether in our orthodoxies about who should
    love whom, what kind of food we should be eating, how we should shave
    our pussies or whether conflicts across language barriers can be
    solved through respectful dialogue or in violent translingual clashes
    (Va Fanculo!) Rules may be made to be broken, because, certainly,
    rules can oppress us. But it’s not so simple, is it? If all you do
    is break the rules for the sake of breaking them or when we can’t
    remember why a rule was created in the first place, or when we think
    nobody else is playing by the rules, we can become full of despair and
    depression, detached from a sense of community and without some solid
    common ground from which to exercise it, we may find that freedom is
    more a problem than a solution.
    Maybe it takes a Bad Mutha to delve into the paradoxes and
    contradictions of the ideals we are expected to pursue per the
    dominant norms and come out the other end of the inquiry in a circle
    of friends with whom to blaze brave new boundaries.
    What I find hopeful right now is that new voices ARE emerging. Now
    that a generation—or maybe two?—of gay parents, male and female
    and sometimes male-female-female or male-male-female-female (my cousin
    M’s family), surrogate-male-female or biological parent-single parent
    and so on, have been raising children outside of the normative
    heterosexual model, these norms are no longer the only “success”
    stories to hold up as models. The voices of these parents, good and
    bad, and the voices of their children who grew up in non-traditional
    families need to be listened to!
    We may find that having more adults (2 or 3 or 4 person partnerships)
    collaborating in the raising of fewer children (in order to give each
    child the attention, love and nurturance that he or she needs so as to
    thrive to their fullest potential). This kind of collaboration (as
    Hillary Clinton says, “It takes a Village”) may feel very old
    fashioned for our atomized, technologically filtered, narcissistically
    inclined, modern sensibilities to consider, but it also may be the
    most cutting-edge wave of possibility for progressives and
    conservatives to come together on and find real solutions to the
    social unraveling we all fear and feel happening. Having more adults
    parenting fewer children makes sense in raising evolved, conscious and
    creative human beings (as opposed to depressed, anxious, corporate
    job-holding cogs), not to mention in offering more individualistically
    developed (ok, let’s call a spade a spade: we’re a narcissistic
    bunch!) adults the opportunity to lead less depressed, anxious,
    self-sacrificing and unhappy adulthoods (the search for “ME TIME”
    is one of the most consistent issues that arises among my couples
    clients in my psychotherapy practice…forget the other woman/man;
    love’s rival is screen time of one sort or another…).
    There is much work to do! Many conversations to have! But the
    gatekeepers ARE changing…
    Rock on Bad Muthaz!

  3. myra says:

    I love this! It’s so typically Sue and so typically brilliant and articulate and drawing connections other people would not. I encourage you to continue getting your voice out there because it’s such a singular and necessary voice. Please don’t deny people — more people than your lucky friends and family — the benefit of your wonderful, wise, funny insights. We’re all ready, at our age, to claim the truth of our (internal) voice and make it heard. Not in a “how many likes did I get on FB or Twitter or Instagram” way — what my teenage daughter is in the thrall of — but in a “how can I benefit this world before I leave it” way.

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