“We Want Courageous Mothering”: From Fear to Empowerment of Motherhood in Feminist Theories

By Lidiane Luiza da Cunha.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the second part of the twentieth century, feminist theorists pointed out the destructive psychological, physical and professional effects of the discourse of motherhood that patriarchal systems imposed on the lives of women. However, while a large number of feminists were and still are skeptical about the existence of any maternal roles other than those constructed by these patriarchal discourses, other theorists have formulated alternative views of motherhood for modern women, especially those engaged in intellectual and artistic productions. I will analyze both perceptions of motherhood in feminism: the rejection and celebration of the mother. First, I argue that most feminist theorists belonging to the pessimist reaction did not really reject the existence of another type of maternal practice, but rather expressed the ambivalence of a generation that felt trapped in traditional female models. Second, I claim that in the optimistic feminist views of motherhood that emerged from the theories of Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and Adrienne Rich in the 1970s and 1980s, theorists have re-conceptualized the maternal as a discourse of liberation. They not only challenge the social constraints of traditional maternal practices, but also assert the possibility of motherhood as an ethical, empowering, pleasurable, and political practice. The complexities and uncertainties of motherhood show that feminists are only beginning to answer the many questions raised about this central experience for women.

Keywords: Fear of Motherhood, Feminist Theories, Motherhood and Creativity, Empowering Motherhood

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp.223-234. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 795.673KB).

Lidiane Luiza da Cunha

PhD. Candidate and Instructor, Comparative Literature, Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Lidiane Luiza da Cunha received an M.A. Degree in English Literature from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil) in 2007. She is currently a PhD Candidate in the Comparative literature program at the University of Alberta. She has taught language courses in the English department of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil) in 2007, and language and literature in the English Department of Grant MacEwan University (Canada) in 2009/2010, and Literature, Arts, and other Media (2009), World Literature (2010), and Canadian Literature (2010) in the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Alberta. Her areas of interest are: contemporary women writing, feminist theory, aesthetic theories, comparative literature, Canadian literature, Brazilian literature, and the representation of the artist in fiction.

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