Sustainable Missoula: Inspired Montana moms commit to causes, activism, future

Dorothy Bradley counseled the Montana moms on politics and activism. (Erica Lighthiser)

A few weeks ago, a group of smart, motivated, earnest movers and shakers gathered on a mountain in the Paradise Valley to talk about environmental stewardship and civic service and to plan for real action in our Montana communities.

We were all women, many moms.

That last sentence. I’ve deleted and retyped it, moved the fact to the first sentence, moved it to the last. If it had been an all-male event, I’m not sure that would even be mentioned.

So why moms? Moms Demand Action, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Moms Rising, Montana Mountain Mamas, Moms Clean Air Force … to name a few organizations that are driven by and working for moms and children.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ll take a stab at “why moms.” Moms birthed every human and their thoughts are often marginalized, trivialized and wrapped in a cute contextual package of snack making, snot wiping, soccer shuttling and laundry folding. Our opinions are framed as sweet or funny. Moms have to fight a little harder and speak a little louder to be taken seriously. But moms are up for that challenge. We create movements.

Take us seriously.

“Your bio doesn’t make you likable. Being real makes you likable.”

Heather Toney

I attended the Mama Summit because saying “yes” felt better than saying “no.” I’m tired of just talking about the broken parts. I am ready to dig into my toolbox. Our very first session was with three women – Dorothy Bradley, Jennifer Madgic and Jeanne Marie Souvigney – who shared their impassioned guts and wisdom about running for office and supporting the candidates who are running for office. Turns out, we all have a place in the arena. Whether in front of the microphone or behind a clipboard, find your place.

“In your advocacy life, what is your greatest gift? It is important to know. You have one. Know it.”

Dorothy Bradley

During the all-day ropes course, all 30 of us had the opportunity to feel supported and give support, to feel insecure and offer security. Women are naturally vulnerable, trusting, empathetic and as strong as we need to be.

“Women are creative messengers. We can find ways to partner with other women to get to the men who won’t listen. Be a wolf pack.”

Michele Kathryn

Heather Toney reminded us what women do well: coalesce, convert and collaborate. There’s room at the table for you. You too. Women must lift each other up and garner each other’s interests, and we need to not engage in unnecessary competition. I think women are naturally good at sharing the stage. We have so many allies and we are stronger together.

“It’s amazing what you can do when you know your subject.”

Jeanne Marie Souvigney

Are you tired of filling potholes and reacting to environmental disaster? Would you rather look under the surface at the root causes and proactively avoid disaster? I agree.

Of course, you don’t have to be a mom to appreciate this perspective, but it sure helps because when we parent for short-term benefit (money and jobs in coal, copper, gold) without considering future repercussions (polluted air, water and soil) we end up with a way bigger issue (devastated and polluted ecosystems and communities) than if we’d just thought it out and taken great care in the first place.

“It’s easy to fight fire with fire, to fight fuck it with fuck it. Let’s try a different approach.”

Jennifer Madgic

It’s not easy and we don’t have all the answers. And we will keep trying. To understand our deficits and our privilege, to advocate for our kids and yours, to fight for environmental justice in communities with stolen voices, to build bridges, to admit fault, to study, to notice, to appreciate, to speak up.

To take action.

That was my big takeaway from the weekend. I might not be in a hurry to run for office, but I am in a hurry to do. And not just within my Missoula bubble. I want to shine light on the corners I don’t know enough about.

I care about our environment, our children, our communities. So I am committing to making phone calls, knocking on doors, showing up at meetings, asking hard questions and just generally participating more in this world in which our kids are growing up. Together, let’s step up to the table.

Nici Holt Cline is a Missoula-based blogger, entrepreneur and mom.blogger: www.digthischick.net; maker: www.digandco.com.