Essay on Feminism and Changing Perceptions of Motherhood

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Societal perceptions of motherhood in North America have changed drastically over the last century and continue to change. Due to prescribed traditional gender roles, the concept of motherhood has historically been latent in the concept womanhood, in that a woman’s ability to reproduce was seen to be an inherent part of her identity. Thus there existed societal pressures not only for women to become mothers, but to fit into the impossible standard of being the “perfect mother”. However, as the feminist movement gained more ground and women were increasingly incorporated into the workforce, these traditional views of gender roles and in turn motherhood were challenged. As the family dynamics that exist today are much more diverse, what makes a “good” mother and a “bad” mother continue to be debated – the “Mommy Wars”, to be discussed in the first section, though a largely media driven debate, that is telling of our society’s preoccupation with “mother-blaming”. The second section will discuss feminism’s relationship with motherhood; while in the past some feminists have rejected motherhood as a whole with the belief that there was no way around the patriarchal oppression that existed within it, today feminist scholars argue that there are ways for motherhood to be less oppressive and more empowering. The third section discusses the fairly new practice of feminist mothering in which feminist mothers work to challenge the “institution of motherhood” in order to use motherhood as a platform for activism. Therefore, as feminism seeks to challenge these traditional gender roles, the feminist movement has enabled women to redefine what it means to be a mother in our society – making motherhood a symbolic platform for women’s rights.


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...women to redefine notions of motherhood, thus allowing for mothering to be an empowering experience.

Works Cited

Green, Fiona J. “Feminist Mothering: Challenging Gender Inequality by Resisting the
Institution of Motherhood and Raising Children to be Critical Agents of Social
Change.” Socialist Studies / Études socialistes 1.1 (2005): 83-99. Web.

Kinser, Amber E. “Feminism and Mothering.” Encyclopedia of Motherhood. Ed. Andrea
O’Reilly. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. 396-401. SAGE
knowledge. Web.

Kinser, Amber E. “Feminist Theory and Mothering.” Encyclopedia of Motherhood. Ed.
Andrea O’Reilly. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. 404-07.
SAGE knowledge. Web.

Zimmerman, Toni Schindler, et al. "Deconstructing the “Mommy Wars”: The Battle
Over the Best Mom." Journal of Feminist Family Therapy 20.3 (2008): 203-19.

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