COMM 411-900: Representations of Motherhood
By analyzing the different representations of how motherhood is and has been portrayed throughout the semester, I have been able to formulate various opinions about motherhood. By observing both society and media's portrayal of motherhood, I learned that although mothers were originally shown as domestic beings whose lives centered around bringing the family together through clean homes and perfect cooking, through the years, there have been an increase in the diversity of mothers shown. Nowadays, media shows single mothers, stay-at-home mothers, working mothers, and many more. There have been an array of different personalities as well as parenting styles for these women. Furthermore, young women aren't pressured to find a marriage partner at an early age and it isn't all too uncommon to choose education and a career over family. However, this wasn't the case decades ago as shown in novels such as "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan. In her novel, she describes how education was thought to be the root of evil in rebellious women and how many housewives believed that if they didn't enjoy being the perfect housewives portrayed on media, that there was something wrong with themselves. Overall, the diverse growth in the portrayal of motherhood has given me hope as to what the future may bring, as mothers are one of the most important figures in life. I feel very fortunate to have been able to analyze these various representations and have really enjoyed the class.
Novel Assignment: The Secret Life of Bees
For my novel assignment, I chose Sue Monk Kidd's novel, "The Secret Life of Bees." The mother figure in this book was not the biological mother, who died before the story even began, but the female role models that the main character Lily encountered during her journey such as her black housekeeper Rosaleen, the Boatwright sisters, and the Daughters of Mary. Although I can't relate with her in the sense that I still have my own mother, through her journey, I also learned that mothers don't always come from those connected by blood but also those that influence you in your life and act as a mother figure.
Movie Assignment: The Sound of Music
I chose the 1965 version of "The Sound of Music" for my movie assignment. Despite having seen this film before, I chose it anyways since I had never really analyzed how the mother figure was portrayed in this film. Watching it again, I could really see how important of a role Maria had in acting not as a governess, but as a mother figure throughout the entire film, not just when she marries the children's father and gains the title of 'stepmother'. Motherhood is portrayed in a positive light. This movie promotes the importance of a mother in a family and how without one, the relationship between a father and his children become unstable.
Mothers on Television Project: Castle
As part of my honors course contract, my television project followed a different set of guidelines. I could only choose one show and from that one television show, I only had to pick four mothers rather than five. I also had to include a table that compared the qualities of the different mothers within that show. For my project, I chose to focus on the characters Katherine "Kate" Beckett, Martha Rodgers, Meredith, and Rita from Castle. By having to examine how Castle portrayed the mothers of its show, I was able to understand the characters' different perspectives on motherhood and how it affected the development of their characters.
Moms in the News
News and their associated events are an everyday occurrence, but not all take the time to specifically focus on one topic. Throughout the semester, I found four current articles related to motherhood that I found interesting and presented these to the class, which we would have a short discussion about. I enjoyed finding not only specific types of articles but also the various ways in which motherhood is presented through media, whether it be positively or negatively, since prior, I had never taken the time to do so. Through these articles, I learned that there were not as many that positively portrayed motherhood as I thought there would be.
Motherhood in Advertising Project
For the advertising project, I chose three short advertisements related to motherhood from YouTube by various companies such as Samsung, Luv's, and the Campbell Soup Company. With these ads, I created both multiple-choice and free-response survey questions and asked mothers I knew to answer the questions based on an analysis of the motherhood ads that I asked them to view. Overall, the mothers I interviewed thought that the ads that I showed them accurately portrayed motherhood, which shows how far advertisements geared towards mothers have come since Betty Friedan's novel "The Feminine Mystique" revealed the oppressive lifestyle all mothers led.
Magazine Article Project: Ladies' Home Journal (1955)
Despite originally having a difficult time with finding a women's magazine in the school library that was published in the year 1955, me and my partner Jenny ended up choosing Ladies' Home Journal. Half of the year was available in print and the other half was available only in microfilm, which we had to learn how to use. Surprisingly, we found articles that included both politics and worldwide news, something that we had not expected to see since we had previously believed that magazines in 1955 would reflect the oppressive motherhood as described in "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan. All in all, the magazine articles were both refreshing and informative.
The Feminine Mystique
By starting the semester off by reading the popular '60s novel "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan, I truly realized the rising progress of motherhood in merely a few decades. Despite the 19th Amendment having been passed way before this book was written, it wasn't until this book was published did both mothers and non-mothers realize the extent of the oppressive lifestyle all mothers faced, whether or not they had been educated prior to their marriage. Although the information presented in this novel is considered common knowledge to those reading it in current times, I found it surprising that this wasn't considered so back in the '60s.
Mothers and Disney films are a prevalent part of many children's lives. However, it has been noted that mothers, if at all shown, seem to either have a short screen time or are replaced with cruel mother figures in these animated children's movies. Furthermore, the mothers that do appear in these films seem to fulfill only two roles: primary caregiver or protector. In class, we discussed how there are two theories circulating as to why there is a lack of mothers in Disney movies. The first is that the length of Disney films do not provide space for a mother to be involved in their child's life, since these movies are about growing up. The second focuses on how the loss of Walt Disney's mother affected the movies he created. Overall, I thought these theories were interesting, as I had never considered the importance of the lack of mothers in Disney films and their impact on society.
Children and Teens
Although a mother is considered to be one of the most important figures to children, it is interesting how rarely they are shown in books for children. Moreover, the few that do depict mothers represent them as animals or give their characters no depth, such as "How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?," "The Cat in the Hat," and "Llama Llama Red Pajama". Children's books also fail in the representation of various topics such as families that differ in incomes, careers, and marriage statuses as well as the gender of the characters. For example, we learned how between 1976-1994, only 137 books for children k-6 depicted working mothers and how out of the majority of the protagonists of children's novels that were children, 3/4 of the protagonists were girls.
Throughout the semester, I was able to view the different perspectives of motherhood through surveying real mothers. By asking them both multiple-choice and free-response questions relating to topics that we discussed in class such as their opinions on the different forms of media that represent motherhood as well as the different methods they used for parenting, I was able to get raw, unaltered answers. I really enjoyed being able to hear what mothers actually felt about both media and society's portrayals of motherhood, whether they be positive or negative, and reading these survey responses from mothers I know really made the assignment more personal.
Music Presentation: Mother Like Mine
For my music presentation, I chose The Band Perry's "Mother Like Mine." Despite never being a big fan of country music, I knew from the few that I have heard that The Band Perry generally made good country songs. Therefore, I created a slidely presentation with pictures I found on the Internet of mothers and their children to fit the lyrics of the song, which I found difficult since many of the pictures I had found were in similar poses. Nonetheless, I thought it was both creative and fun to design this video as a tribute to mothers everywhere. Furthermore, I found it fascinating that there were so many songs about mothers that I had never heard before.
Despite not having been able to interview my grandmother for this project, I was able to interview my mom instead, which worked out well since I was able to get a more in-depth knowledge on her feelings towards raising both me and my younger brother. I received advice on how best to raise children as well as learn what her aspirations towards me and my brother were. Although I wasn't able to record everything since I asked her various questions in Korean, not English, I was thankful to receive an opportunity to ask my mom questions about her life both before and after me and my brother were born.
Honors Course Contract
As part of my honors course contract, I analyzed which forms of media positively portrays mothers and which forms negatively portrays mothers. From my research, I found it difficult to label the various forms of media as either positively or negatively portraying mothers and motherhood. Nowadays, most forms of media do represent mothers positively compared to the past when media would portray mothers as obedient and mindless housewives who dedicated the entirety of their time to nothing but the well-being of their family. Furthermore, even if there is a clear difference between media that positively or negatively portrays mothers, it is within the same form of media. However, if I were to generalize, the forms of media that do show a more positive representation of mothers is music, advertisements, and novels. An example of this is when everyone was choosing songs from a list to create a video with, I found that songs conveyed positive messages about mothers and their unconditional love. The forms of media I think generally shows a more negative representation of mothers is news and television. For example, throughout the semester, when everyone presented news articles of mothers, it was been evident that journalists loved to hate mothers in articles. As for movies and magazines, I think that they are evenly split between portraying mothers in both positive and negative aspects. An example is of how movies can either show an evil stepmother like the one in Snow White or a lovable nanny-turned-stepmother in The Sound of Music.
I've been fortunate enough to have been your daughter for the past 20 years of my wonderful life. It has had its many ups and downs but through it all, you have been by my side without complaints. I know how much you and dad have sacrificed for us, and I could never repay your unconditional love, but I hope to make you proud. This class has really opened my eyes to how difficult motherhood really is as well as helped me to learn more about you as both a mom and a person. I can't say thank you enough, and I guess what I really want to say is, I love you mom, now and forever, thank you.