Mother outlaws: theories and practices of empowered mothering
Adrienne Rich opened of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution with the observation "we know more about the air we breath, the seas we travel, than about the nature and meaning of motherhood." In the twentyfive plus years since the publication of Rich's landmark book the topic of motherhood has emerged as a central issue in feminist scholarship. Central to Rich's analysis and developed by subsequent motherhood scholars is the key distinction Rich made in her book. Between two meanings of motherhood, one superimposed on the other: the potential relationship of any woman to her powers of reproduction and to children; and the institution--which aims at ensuring that that potential--and all women shall remain under male control. The term motherhood refers to the patriarchal institution of motherhood, which is male-defined and controlled and is deeply oppressive to women, while the word mothering refers to women's experiences of mothering which are female-defined and centred and potentially empowering to women. The reality of oppressive motherhood thus must be distinguished from the possibility or potentiality of empowered mothering. In other words, while motherhood, as an institution, is a male-defined site of oppression, women's own experiences of mothering can nonetheless be a source of power. The theory and practice of empowered mothering recognizes that both mothers and children benefit when the mother lives her life, and practices mothering, from a position of agency, authority, and autonomy. Secondly, this new perspective, in this collection examines how mothers seek to imagine and implement a theory and practice of mothering that is empowering to women as opposed tooppressive under five sections: Feminist Mothering Lesbian Mothering, African American Mothering, Mothers and Daughters, Mothers and Sons.
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