HLTC02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 11&12: Prohibition Of Drugs, Single Parent, Henry Morgentaler

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13 Apr 2012
Chapter 11: Mothering and Women’s Health
Mothering - a social experience constructed and shaped by structural conditions, intertwined
with competing and conflicting social discourses which have significant implications for the
health of women.
Mothering requires material, economic and social investments that are not compensated in
material or economic ways which makes mothers vulnerable to health risks and overwhelming
workloads, poverty and violence.
Mothering: Looking with fresh eyes
Images of a mother in one`s eyes (eg parenting magazine or watching TV) may differ from real
life experience of being mothered or of mothering
Many women’s experience of mothering is not ‘picture perfect’ creating a disjuncture between
what mothering is ‘supposed’ to look and feel like according to dominant societal messages; and
how women actually live & experience mothering in today’s contemporary world.
Mothering: A social construction
Mothering tends to be seen as a domestic or personal affair
How women become mothers and live mothering is greatly determined by large
public/contextual forces
Mothering is shaped by gendered Western ideals and the realities of late neo-liberal capitalism,
and issues of racism, classism, heterosexism, ageism and ableism are embedded within these
ideals and realities and serve to generate a range of unstated ‘norms’ that profoundly shape the
experiences of women/mothers
Mothering is also shaped by various ideologies and discourses and evaluated against the ‘gold
standard’ of mothering within a two-parent family with primary attention to children
Mothering is experienced and evaluated against a range of idealised images that are reflected
and promoted in popular media and professional practice and academic research
In Canada, mothering is shaped by discourses enacted in policy and practice in areas like
substance use, violence, child custody, child welfare and within the context of lives of women
facing challenging circumstances such as immigrant women Aboriginal women
Mothering: A Nexus of Discourses
Women seen as natural mothers by virtue of their biology, and also women fulfil their social role
of mothering because of their gendered social positions of disadvantage
Bobel (2002) explains that there are essential differences between women and men, with
women being morally superior due to their reproductive abilities, has been used in various ways
to promote the interests of some women.
Materialist discourses are flourishing with the rise of Neoliberalism and religious
fundamentalism where women as mothers are central to the doctrines of the fundamentalist
forms of a range of religions
The essentialist view of mothers as ‘natural’ mothers is contested by Weiss (1998) as prejudiced
against women interested in pursuing a life in which children are not the reason for being
women or their exclusive focus of attention.
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What is a ‘good’ mother? Living within the Discourses
Norm of mothering falls within a dual-parent heterosexual couple exerts a particularly powerful
influence on the discourse of good mothering
Forms of mothering do not fit the normative discourse of biological, two parent family such as
step-mothering, mothering within a lesbian couple, mothering by very young women, mothering
within a communal household, grandmothers as primary caregivers and non custodial
mothering are marginalised, demonised, stigmatised (eg ‘welfare mother’, ‘teen mother’
Women’s participation in the discourses of mothering
Women participate in the construction of themselves and of one another as persons and as
good mothers, and they do share experiences and relations with each other
Good mothers are exclusively devoted to their children and this requires economic dependence,
and this is resolved within heterosexual patriarchal relations
Good mothers may simultaneously be selfish and dependent and autonomous and independent
within a deficit discourse
Mothers in Canada:
o Lone heads of households, tend to be poor and increasingly work outside the home
o Do majority of the childcare and domestic work, they fare poorly economically following
Mothering at the intersections, or Discourses in Action
Not all mothers operate in the same structural, cultural and discursive contexts and so their
experiences vary with women’s diverse social locations in terms of race, class, religion, sexuality,
ability and culture
Women who acquire assets necessary to be deemed worthy according to liberalist discourses
have an opportunity to pursue a career do not fair well within the mothering discourse mainly
because of social stigma
Women who require state resources for exclusive mothering are rendered inadequate thru the
discourse of ‘welfare mom’ or unfit mother
These discourses have performative functions that may mean economic dependence, and
through such discourses, the everyday experience of urban minority impoverished women doing
the work of mothering was transformed into evidence of their natural maternal inadequacy
o In Canada, its Aboriginal women that are most effected by the destructive confluence of
discourses and material actualities of mothering because of significant loss of rights and
marginalisation from the labour force and the dynamics of colonialism
Mothering, Women’s Health and Health care discourses
the psychological discourse surrounds mothers and child development, and here mothers are
held accountable for all that was good, bad, and pathological in their children.
The result is that the influence and culpability of mothers in child development have been
deeply embedded normative beliefs
Discourses regarding mental illness and mothering also intersect in ways that are extreme
oppressive for women, and portray mothers as violent and incapable mothers
Infertility and mental health problems assume that all women want to be mothers and, and the
expectation that all women will be mothers, has lent authority to the idea that infertility
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