Photo: A portrait of Michelle Tea (and popsicle) by Amos Mac, via Radar Productions.
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 Tea on Friday, August 16, 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.