Motherhood

Bailee Arfele

Novels

In the novel section of this class, I learned that authors portray mothers in many different ways. The time period, author’s personal experiences, and genre can all effect how a mother is portrayed in novel. In this section, I read The Secret Life of Bees. I found it interesting that although this book is focused on mothers, there are no actual biological mothers. The Secret Life of Bees showed me that mothers can be shown through womanly figures who provide love and support, not just a birth mother. I think the novel section of this class provided the most insight to mothers, as it allowed for more character formation and depth compared to the other mediums.

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Films

For the film section, I watched A Christmas Story. The mom in this movie showed the stereotypical mother in the 60’s. She served her husband and children willingly. I thought this section was interesting as all of the genres showed different forms of motherhood. The horror movies showed terrible mothers, the Christmas movies shows idealized mothers, the romantic comedies showed some zany moms. Different moms in different time periods seem to fit the time period in which they were produced/set. The culture of the time period seems to overflow in the films, making mom fit the stereotypes of the times.
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Television

While studying moms in televisions, I realized that most moms in modern TV shows have a little more of a dynamic role than mothers in movies. For many shows, the mothers character is allowed to develop, while in film is generally stagnant due to time restraints. Reoccurring moms on television allow for more character development, and more of an attachment to them than other mediums. In my opinion, it is tied closer to novels than films, as there is usually a longer progression of the storyline. For my project, I used moms in the 90’s. It was interesting because every mother I researched was a little more “independent” than the mothers of the 80’s and before. They seemed to have a little more spunk and sass than the “domestic” mother that dominated the small screen before them.

News

I learned that moms are used as “click bait” in news articles. Many articles claim to be about mothers in the title to ensnare the audience, then they fail to mention them again afterwards. The news utilize peoples attachment to mothers in order to gain more viewers/ readers. I also learned that the media is quick to judge mothers who have behaved in ways that go against societies norms. You are much more likely to find an article about a mother who has messed up in some way compared to father who has done the same thing. I think this shows the high regard people place on mothers, that fathers tend to not have to deal with.

Advertising

The mothers in advertising made me realize that mothers do not necessarily agree with the way they are portrayed in commercials and ads. Many of the moms I survey liked the commercials, but did not think they related to them. Many of the comments made claimed that they had “never seen a mother actually act this way”. The commercials are funny, but still not relevant to the struggles and challenges that mothers face on a daily basis. Although they didn’t necessarily believe the commercials were an accurate representation of motherhood, many said that they would support a product more if they portrayed motherhood accurately. Of the three commercials I provided, the one that go the most positive feedback was the one that the women claimed to relate to more.

Vicks First Defence - Tantrum

Magazines

In the magazine section, we focused on RedBook in the 1960’s. It was after women were liberated by the women’s rights movement and it was a very clear depiction of them exercising their new freedoms. The articles were insightful and well thought out, juxtaposing many articles from years before (and even current times). It focused mainly on women empowering themselves. It included self-help ads that were about more than baking and cleaning. I think magazines are a great indicator of the social climate during the time. Since they are published so frequently, they tend to stay more current than novels or film.

The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique showed the social climate of being a woman in the 60’s. It revealed the secrets of the “unspoken problem”. Its shed light on the depression and anxiety that most women were feeling during this time, but were too disgraced to talk about it. Although being the cookie cutter house wife was something the majority of women strove to be, they were not finding fulfillment in it. The media pushed this image as the only way to achieve happiness, while few women actually found it there. I thought it was interesting to hear from a woman who was actually alive and experiencing this problem, as opposed to someone who was writing from an outsider’s perspective.
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Disney Films

Our section on Disney Films shed light on the lack of moms in Disney. I though it was interesting that the lack of mothers presented the opportunity for the characters to grow and develop their own identities. I think that speaks into the importance of mothers in developing their children. Despite the lack of mothers in Disney, there was generally some type of “mother” figure in the movie, whether it be a step-mother, a father who has stepped in to take the mother’s place, a fairy god-mother, or someone the character meets along the way. The guidance and wisdom that a mother provides is presented, it just may come from a source other than the mother.

Children and Teen's Books

In the children’s book section of this course, I realized the importance placed on mother’s during early childhood. The authors used books as a gateway for mothers to talk to their children about how much they loved them. It was easier to read a book about loving them than having a sit-down conversation with a constantly moving 3 year old. Teen’s books fall more into the movie category, the moms are often not present or fully-developed characters. I believe this is for the same reason moms are not present or fully-developed in movies- authors want their teen character to form a character and an idea of right-and-wrong by having to go through a trial or tribulation, not by having their mother spoon feed life lessons to them.
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Surveys

The surveys taught me that mother’s are busy and do not always have the time to take surveys. The ones that did participate showed me that mothers believe that they are under/misrepresented in modern media. Many of them believed that their jobs were portrayed as too easy. I thought it was interesting that almost all of them believed that their jobs were hard, while they didn’t think that anyone else thought that their jobs was as tough as it actually is. Many moms related more to mothers who portrayed motherhood as it really is; messy and busy but full of devoting and love for your children.

Music

I thought the most interesting part of the music section of this class was the lack of mothers in some genres of music and the prevalence of mothers in others. Country music seems to have many more references to mothers and their impacts on the singer lives, while modern hip-hop has barely any. Rap music seems to have some songs dedicated solely to mothers and apologizing to them/thanking them for what they’ve done. All of the songs seems to put mothers in a positive light, what’s interesting is the overall lack of these songs. Mothers have had a small impact on music, but it seems to be positive overall.

Jamie O'Neal - Somebody's Hero

Final Thoughts

This semester I’ve put more thought into how mother’s are portrayed, stigmatized, and fulfilled than I ever have before. I learned that the media generally does a poor job of portraying a mother’s job, which came as a shock to me as I had always taken what the media showed me at face value. Their job is portrayed as fulfilling, rewarding, and all they should ever want to do in life. The Feminine Mystique showed me that this is wrong. While some mother’s sole desire is to serve their husbands and children, many women desire a career outside of their household-even if it is not necessary financially. Not all women find their fulfillment in being a mother. Mothers have a much more demanding role than is generally portrayed by the media. Through the surveys, I learned that most mothers do not agree with how the media portrays their jobs, especially the commercials. They believe that the general media shows their job as too easy. Moms are the backbone of society, yet they are shown as meek and subservient. They have the task of raising up the future generations, yet they are generally dismissed as simple housewives. I think the most important takeaway from this class is that mothers have the most difficult, unrewarding job of all. Yet, despite the lack of applause (and pay) they do it anyways. A quote I read feels like an accurate summation of what we’ve learned about mother’s and their roles in society “a mother does what nobody notices until its not done”.