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Lecture 5

SOCB22H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Nonconformist, Femininity, Nail Polish


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCB22H3
Professor
Ping- Chun Hsiung
Lecture
5

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Oct 26(wk 7)
SG Readings 5
Is This what Motherhood is All About?: Weaving Experiences
and Discourse Through Transition to First-Time
Motherhood- Tina Miller
This article focuses on transition to first-time motherhood and explores the
experiences of a group of women as they anticipate, give birth, and engage in early
mothering. It illuminates how these women draw on, weave together, and challenge
dominant strands of discourse that circumscribe their journeys into motherhood
this article will explore the different ways a group of women draw on, weave
together, and/or reject aspects of the dominant discourses that configure
contemporary constructions of good mothering and motherhood
attention has been drawn to the assumptions made about womens natural and
instinctive caring capacities
It has been argued that such assumptions have neglected the circumstances, power
relations and interests that have made women primarily responsible for mothering
and that lead to beliefs that womens mothering abilities are somehow natural,
essential or inevitable
Personal experiences of mothering and motherhood are largely framed in relation to
two discernible or official discourses: the medical discourse and natural childbirth
discourse
In addition, a third, unofficial popular discourse comprising old wives tales and
based on maternal experiences of childbirth has also been noted
These discourses have also been acknowledged in work exploring the experiences of
those who apparently do not conform to conventional stereotypes of the good
mother
The contrasting, overlapping, and ambiguous strands within these frameworks focus
to varying degrees on a womans biological tie to her child and predisposition to
instinctively know and be able to care for her child (unless categorized as a bad
mother when assumed natural abilities or any mothering capacity may be
reassessed through legal process).
prenatal phase of transition to first-time motherhood. Here, expectations are
unlikely to be informed by personal, subjective experiences of mothering but rather
influenced by notions of nature, instinct, and experts knowing best
the ways in which natural traits, for example, bonding and feeling a sense of
responsibility for an unborn fetus, have been engineered and incorporated into
accepted discourse
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women continue to come to motherhood with unrealistic expectations
Contemporary constructions of the good mother continue to be shaped by
universalistic and essentialist assumptions found in the popular discourses that
shape womens lives
Findings
Anticipating Motherhood: The Prenatal Interviews
Even though they are not yet mothers, most of the women position themselves
discursively as preparing appropriately and responsibly, already conforming to the
ideals of the good mother
Leaving it to Nature-or Not
They talk of changing emotions and fears around birth, but many take comfort in
the range of pain relief they have been told is available to them, together with a
belief in nature
the importance of presenting oneself as a responsible mother-to-be, engaging with
the powerful discourse of natural childbirth in relation to how to give birth
But it is important to note that they still make sense of their changing bodies and
impending births in relation to and through dominant discourses
Preparing Appropriately and Doing Things Right
Helen anticipates that mothering will be her key role but also expresses concerns
about her ability to stimulate her child.
What becomes clear through analysis of the prenatal interviews is the different ways
women position themselves as preparing appropriately to be good mothers
They strive to demonstrate that they are, and will do, mothering the right way but
through emphasizing different strands of official and unofficial discourses
Childbirth and Early Mothering Experiences: The Early Postnatal Interviews
it is clear in the early postnatal interviews that they had actually expected their
bodies to be able to cope with birth, naturally and without medical intervention
Encounters With Birth
Once again, women make sense of birth experiences in relation to personal
attributes and fitness—but also the need to act in acceptable and controlled ways
during birth
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Instead, they talk as though their body is a separate entity, which has let them
down, rather than reflecting on what had informed their unrealistic expectations
what we see here are the ways in which an internalised sense of gender plays a role
in disciplining women and their bodies during childbirth
Doing Early Mothering
For the women, nature turns out not to have been a force to be trusted during
birth, and this sets the scene for the early weeks of mothering as the practical skills
of nurturing must be learned
For most of the women, an overriding feature of their narratives involves trying to
present as a coping mother, even though they may not feel like one.
While the women had ideas about what mothers didas demonstrated in their
prenatal accounts—any innate mothering knowledge appears to be absent
But their sense of confusion is palpable as their prenatal expectations do not match
the reality they find themselves in
For it is here, where for the first time, individual, everyday mothering experiences
come up against the tenets of dominant discourses, and confusion results.
Yet this period of confusion can work as a catalyst, prompting the women to begin
questioning the optimistic good mother stories that do not fit with their own
experiences.
But challenging the more obdurate strands of these discourses is only more fully
realized as mothering experiences grow and confidence builds.
Dynamic Relations and Opportunities: Mothering Experiences and Discourse
somewhere along the line, there is a greater blurring of distinctions and ideas about
how mothering should be done
Now we see greater emphasis given to prioritizing their own ways of knowing
Challenging Discourses
Admitting that you enjoy sharing your childs care and, by implication, being away
from him or her, is not a recognizable strand in intensive mothering discourse
However we feel and actand by the nine month interviews, there are no longer the
same concerns with having the right responses as a new motherwe are still
continually brought back to locating our experiences in the context of good mother
discourses even when we want to challenge and reject them
A Growing Relationship
For these women, the passage of time, firsthand mothering experience, and
importantly, the space and dynamic created between the two, have facilitated new
ways of weaving together discourse and experience
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