Leading The Way

Feminism & Motherhood

Things I Tell My Daughter: An Audo-ethnographic Mother-writing by Dr Renota Ferdinand, Assistant Professor of English at New York City College of Technology, CUNY – “I remember a billboard I once read.  In bold white letters pictured above the cutest, most precocious little girl wearing a pink dress, it read: “The Most Dangerous Place in the World for an African American Child is in the Womb.”  I remember the debate this ad caused….”

Motherhood Talk: “Contesting Maternal Ideology”  by Roksana Badruddoja, Ph.D., M.B.A., Vice President of Research, The Partnership for the Homeless, New York, NY (2012-Present) Assistant Professor, Women’s Studies, California State University-Fresno (2007-2012.)  This talk was based on her article,  Contesting Maternal Ideology and the Yonic Myths of Motherhood:  An audo-ethnology -“This is a story about my pregnancy and what it means to be a pregnant woman.  I speak to you today with great pain and urgency fueled by restricting definitions that I did not create.  Eleven years ago, I made an active decision to become pregnant. At least, at the time, I thought I was making a conscious and independent decision.  However, the on-set of a high-risk pregnancy seven weeks into the first trimester and the potentially life-threatening risk to the fetus inside of me soon changed my notions of what it means to be a woman, a pregnant woman, and a mother….”

The Epistemology of Motherhoodpap:  “Mysterious Origins” in Adoption, Reproduction, and Ellen Ullman’s By Blood  by Martha Satz – Often adult adoptees searching for their biological parents utter the plaintive cry, “ I cannot know who I am unless I find them, unless I know who they are.”  Similarly, the multiplying websites of children born from a common sperm donor testify to what seems like a deep psychological and existential need to find one’s biological roots.  However, in opposition to this flow of biological essentialism, Ellen Ullman wrote an  Op-Ed piece in the NY Times  in 2009 declaring “I AM not adopted; I have mysterious origins.”  She explains that she is fond of this idea, that one’s origins are not nearly as important as one’s circumstance, and proceeds to explore the complexity of contemporary parenthood.   “There are adoptive parents and biological parents, surrogates and donors—adults of all sorts claiming parenthood by right of blood, genes, birth, law, and affection.”   With all these elements brought forward, she concludes her article by subordinating the importance of biological connections, ”Knowing every single ancestor, therefore, will never solve the deeper mystery, which of course is the dreadful question of who we become….”

A ‘Trap’ or an ‘Interlude’: Exploring the experience of lone mothers over time by Lesley Patterson, PhD – This presentation summarizes key findings from a recently completed qualitative longitudinal study with 40 low-income New Zealand lone mothers.  The research was conducted when welfare reforms favouring ‘work-active’ policies to encourage lone mothers into paid work were replacing more traditional forms of welfare support based on the provision benefits to enable direct maternal care.  Through annual interviews from 2006-2011, the research explored the experience of lone motherhood with specific focus on household income, family life, and adult intimacy.  While some of the women experienced lone motherhood as ‘a trap’ with a legacy of material and subjective marginalization over time, others experienced long motherhood as ‘an interlude’ with less pernicious biographical effects.  This presentation pays particular attention to how structural inequities, manifest in the ‘biographical fields’ of employment, father absence and/or presence, and housing tenure, play out in lone mothers lives, and suggests that an increasingly socially polarized pattern of lone motherhood is consolidating in ‘post-welfare’ New Zealand….

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