Q&A With Michelle Tea on Her Alternative Parenting Project “Mutha Magazine”

Michelle Tea is unstoppable. She runs a feminist book press, leads a high-energy performance tour, and has published four memoirs. Now, after nearly two years of documenting the trials and travails of trying to get pregnant as a queer woman, Tea is starting up a new site, Mutha Magazine, for writing about parenting issues. The site aims to address the “whole spectrum” of parenting, including perspectives from people who are nannies, babysitters, or just like hanging out with kids.

I talked with about the exciting new site. 

How does your experience trying to get pregnant play a role in your decision to start this Mutha site?

I’ve definitely been looking for a lot of information, I’m trying to figure out fertility and hormones, and it’s out there, but it’s in weird places in weird ways. I feel like I’m going into sites that have a branding and culture that I wouldn’t normally read. Hip Mama is awesome and such an inspiration and her writing made me realize that whenever I was ready, I would be able to have a kid. But if I don’t see something, it makes me want to create it. I wanted to see the women I know write essays about their lives to do some information-sharing. 

What’s wrong specifically with the branding and culture on the mothering sites you’re reading?  

I mean, you know, they’re fine, they’re just not for me. As somebody who has a really defined aesthetic, going into sites with a bunch of ladies who are trying to have kids who I otherwise would have nothing in common with—I go in there, get information, and leave. It’s not a place I would hang out. I know if I feel that way, there must be a million other women that feel this way.  I think alternative experiences are finally being recognized—motherhood, parenting, and fertility shouldn’t be that foreign.  I think there are a lot of women who get pregnant and have babies but they’re not part of this cultural traditional ideas of what it means to be a mom and they’re not interested in the media that’s already out there.

Do you have any articles you’re working on already that you’re excited about?

I’m just at the very beginning of dealing with fertility issues so I’m not so much excited about what I’m going to write than what I’m bringing in. Interview with Beth Lisick, who very rarely talks about being a mother, so that’s cool. And I just did an interview with the two women who made A Birth Story about Ina May Gaskin, and they were amazing. And then there’s a writer who interviewed her kids about what makes a good parent; it’s so hilarious, I can’t wait to publish that.

Is there infrastructure behind this? Do you have a funding source or it is something you’ll be spending all your own time and money on?

I want to make it as easy as possible. There was this moment where I had to make a decision like am I going to comb through and meticulously edit these pieces as they come in or am I going to just through them up there? I realized that if I played a big editorial role, it would have sucked all the fun out of it for me.  Right now, there is no money to be put into Mutha (aside from what it costs for web hosting); I’m lucky that creative people want to be a part of this and are working for free to help get it off the ground. Of course I hope that down the line I can pay everyone for their work, but I don’t know how realistic that is, or how long it will take to happen. So for now it is, like most magical things, a labor of love.

What’s been the most surprising part of trying to get pregnant so far?

Being prescribed Viagra to build up my uterine lining. Also, to be more serious, I was worried that taking such a tender desire—wanting to start a family with my fiancé—and running it through this medical machine (going to the hospital, getting an IVF) would be horrible. And really it’s been wonderful. The structure is not set up to accommodate queer couples, but the people have been so warm and so wonderful. It’s really painful and incredibly expensive, so I’m really grateful that the people have been so great. 

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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11 Comments Have Been Posted

Rock on!

The internet needs more alternative parenting sites! My other favorite is Offbeat Families.

Becoming a contributor?

Is Michelle looking for contributors at all? This kind of mom site sounds incredible to me, as a not-so-typical mom (geek mom, working mom, daycare-loving mom, hippie-farmer mom--I'm a mish-mash) who doesn't quite fit in at any of the sites I've found. Being someone with writing skills and some parenting perspectives all my own, I'd love to contribute if I can.

Why are so many of my

Why are so many of my independent feminist heroes giving in to the social pressure of having children? Boycott pregnancy!


What's up with judging people's choices for their bodies and lives? And c'mon now, let's leave parenting up to everyone BUT your "independent feminist heroes"? That certainly bodes well for the future of feminism and the planet.


I have to shamefully admit that my first reaction to stories like this *is*: DANG! We lost another one! I think it's a shitty reaction, but I'll admit it is my first reaction.

Luckily, my second reaction is: I want more parents like Michelle Tea out there, and more people who really, really want kids to have them (instead of having them because "that's what folks do"); clearly Michele wants to have a kid enough to go through so much, she'll likely make a way better parent than I ever would!

How about we leave the

How about we leave the decision of having a child up to the people involved. In case you were wondering, pregnancy is not something people generally bring to the internet saying, "Guys, I want to, but I won't do it if you millions of strangers don't want me to." Nor is pregnancy "giving in to social pressures". Maybe some people want to have children because they want children.

Choosing to have kids

<i>Maybe some people want to have children because they want children.</i>

This! Some of us have kids simply because we want to for whatever reason--mine is that I find it fascinating to watch them grow and learn. It is the coolest thing ever to watch new skills and knowledge click in their faces as they figure stuff out, like my younger son today as he figured out that he could use his arms to push himself around (he's 10 weeks old). It's also pretty cool to be confused and amused by some of the weird stuff they come up with, like my 3-year-old's Plants vs. Zombies inspired statement that the zombies would come, and wouldn't eat his sunflowers, but would sniff them, and then the zombies would eat cereal. Kids definitely change your lifestyle (for some reason I think of all my friends without children as "single" even if they're in relationships), but that change can be very good if you're willing to commit to it.


And clearly we need spaces like MUTHA because well, this. *points up a couple posts*

Several years ago I used to

Several years ago I used to have this mindset (not necessarily directed towards feminist heroes but to folks I looked up to) and after a little maturation and hearing about my friend's amazing experience giving a natural birth with a midwife, my mind was really opened up not only to the beauty of birth but to the fact that if people are gonna be procreating, I hope it's awesome, caring people that are doing it. I'd rather have this world being overrun with open-minded children of amazing parents than kids that are taught to be religious fundamentalists and homophobic from a young age. Go, Michelle Tea! Our world needs more families like this!

I think there are a lot of

I think there are a lot of women who get pregnant and have babies but they’re not part of this cultural traditional ideas of what it means to be a mom and they’re not interested in the media that’s already out there.


I have been craving a space like this.

I tihnk the same, and I think

I tihnk the same, and I think it will be ahuge problem, it is important to raise a baby with pleasure.
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