Grace Leggett's SMORE

COMM 411 Motherhood Representations

The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan changed the way that I look at feminism. I always considered myself to be an advocate for women’s equality and defensive of the way women are portrayed by society, but I never called myself a feminist. I thought of feminism as over-masculinizing the woman and “free the nipple” movements so you can imagine my surprise when I learned that the start of the modern feminist movement began by asking for basic rights and identifying women’s label as mother. I couldn’t believe what I was reading so I asked my grandma, who was in her mid-twenties when this book came out, and she said it was all-true. She was a widow and couldn’t get a bank account or credit card in her name until she was forty-five!

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue is a compelling story about a mother and son and their journey from captivity to finding freedom. The novel is written from five-year old Jack’s point of view. Jack and his mother, Ma, live in Room, an eleven by eleven foot shed that Old Nick, Ma’s rapist and kidnapper, made into a prison. Ma has been in Room for seven years; Jack was born after year two. When Ma gets a feeling that Old Nick may leave them to starve and die she and Jack devise a plan to escape. Miraculously it works and Ma and Jack start their journey of adapting to the “real world.” Ma is an inspiring mother who serves as an example on how to remain strong, brave, and selfless for one’s children in the face of suffering. She goes above and beyond to spare Jack the knowledge that there is a world outside of theirs and the pain of knowing they can’t be a part of it. Ma chooses to tell Jack that there is nothing outside of Room. She doesn’t wasn’t him to know the pain of missing freedom, family, and having everything you ever had stripped away from you, like she had. When Ma and Jack escape Room, she struggles how to balance her recovery with Jack’s needs. Finally Ma realizes that Jack is really struggling with adapting to the new world and explains, “I know you need me to be your Ma but I’m having to remember how to me as well at the same time” (221, Donoghue). This beautifully illuminates the battle a lot of mothers experience when trying to balance themselves as a priority and their children as a priority. How can a mother teach her children to love themselves, treat themselves with dignity and respect, and remain true to who they are as persons, when she struggles so much to do it herself? Overall, Room is an inspiring novel that accurately portrays mothers as they are, human. All mothers, at some point, have to navigate hardships and trials while still parenting their children the best they know how. Mistakes, and plenty of them, will be made, but ultimately the love and devotion only a mother can give to her children outweighs any faults along the way.

Mothers in the News

Looking up and reading articles about mothers in the news was so much fun. I looked forward to see what stories were coming out and read about all the drama that seems to follow mothers in the media. I was taken back when I found the article about the promotional postcard that a real estate company sent out in Seattle. I couldn’t believe that someone would actually think it was okay to put working-mothers next to full-time men and imply that the clear choice is the men. The article about the mother who illustrated pregnancy problems was my favorite. It was hilarious! Even though I’ve never been pregnant I could relate to what she drew and can imagine the problems clearly. Finding these articles made me realize that when mothers are in the news it is usually because they are being criticized or judged for doing something.

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Magazine

After reading The Feminine Mystique, I expected the 1930’s Redbook magazine to depict women and mothers the way that Betty Friedan described. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The magazine catered to women and what women would what to read pretty well. It is important to note that a majority of the authors and editors that contributed to Redbook were men. These men did a good job of creating a magazine that women of this time would want to read and not have their own agenda and focus on how they think women and mothers should be.

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Disney Films

I found the discussion of motherhood in Disney films to be particularly interesting because I have taken Children’s and Young Adult literature and had talked about it before. I enjoyed hearing other people’s views and ideas about why and how Disney portrays mothers. I think that the majority of mothers in Disney films are handled positively. In earlier films mothers were often dead and replaced with an evil stepmother. It is important to note here that Disney (and other authors who adapted fairy tales) turned the evil mother into the evil stepmother because they would rather the mother be dead than to show mothers in a negative light. When mothers are alive and present in Disney films they are mostly show as kind, protective, strong, and caring.

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Surveys

I enjoyed coming up with questions and getting to ask real women about their experiences as mother and how they identify with that role. Overall, the responses varied a lot. Some results were predictable, but others were not. I was surprised at how many mothers would choose not to work if they were given the option again. Sometimes I think that moms really enjoy being moms but when the kids are all grown and they reflect on life they wish they had done more. I’m so glad I was wrong! I thought the open response questions in the last survey led to some valuable responses. I loved reading the advice, trials, and decisions real mothers have.

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Music

I expected a variety in the types of songs and music about mothers, but really most songs about mothers are sappy and endearing. Though I wish more artists would write songs about the hilarity and crazy that embody mothers, it is really sweet that so many artists produce loving and emotional tributes to the woman who raised them. Music is a great way to express emotion, thoughts, and gratitude and mothers definitely deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged for their hard work and selflessness. The song I chose reflected back on the joy, pain, and life experiences that John Gorka had with his mother while growing up. After listening over and over again and really letting the lyrics set in, I realized how important it is to stop and reflect on all the selfless and compassionate things my mother has done for me out of love.

Children and Teens

When comparing mothers in children’s and teen books, the point that stood out to me the most was the difference in involvement the mother took part in. When mothers are present in children’s books, they often play a main role in the main character’s life and story. However, in teen books, the mothers take a backseat role and usually fulfill one singular role rather than a variety of roles that mothers fulfill. This makes sense to me because moms play such a vital and central part in a child’s growth and development, it makes sense that they are more predominant in books. When a kid turns into a teen, they need (and want) their mother a lot less. They are making independent choices and beginning to solve problems on their own.

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Advertising

I was really excited about the commercials that I picked out for this project and couldn’t wait to get the responses back from the mothers. At first the results I got were what I had predicted but towards the end of my survey the results were not what I expected. 70% of the thirty mothers that I surveyed said that they think that advertisements, in general, depicted motherhood in a positive light. From all the readings, lectures, and surveys earlier in class, I would have predicted that hands down mothers would think that motherhood in advertising was negative.

I Accept You (Official Video)
#Blessed – Hefty® Ultimate™ Cups
P&G -- Thank You, Mom!

Films

Little Miss Sunshine is a whimsical yet heart-wrenching film that was released in 2006 and set in the present day. The movie follows the journey of a dysfunctional family as they travel 700 miles to California for a beauty contest. Sheryl Hoover, the mom, played by the amazing Toni Collette, is the glue that holds the family together. She is married to a failing, not to mention annoying, motivational speaker, her gay brother just attempted suicide, her son has taken a vow of silence that has lasted nine months, and her father-in-law was kicked out of the senior home for selling and using heroin. Sheryl is responsible, supportive, persevering, and loving. Sheryl is dependable because she financially supports the entire family because her husband, Richard, is trying to sell his nine steps to success and become a motivational speaker. Sheryl encourages each member of the family in the way they need it. She goes above and beyond to work around the family’s financial and logistical problems to get Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Sheryl tries to shield Olive from the shame Richard puts on her for eating ice cream and encourages her to go up on stage and do her best when she knows that it will probably be embarrassing. Sheryl doesn’t care what others think about her; she only cares about supporting Olive to be true to herself. Little Miss Sunshine is a magically delightful film that shows the strength and depth of a mother as she holds her unconventional family together.

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Television

The portrayal of motherhood in television is very diverse. It was really interesting to go back and look back at the mothers in my favorite shows and see how the mothers were depicted. Claire Dunphy from Modern Family is an overprotective mom and is stressed out a lot of the time. Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls values a best friend relationship with her daughter more than a mother-daughter relationship. Lindsay Bluth Fünke from Arrested Development is often too self-absorbed to even remember that her daughter exists. I am usually pretty sensitive to how women are portrayed in society and get defensive when women, or specifically, mothers are shown meeting the different stereotypes that society labels them. I realized that the way most mothers are depicted in television is not for undermining women but to serve an important function in the program. For example, Lindsay Bluth Fünke is selfish, shallow, and materialistic but her character is needed to make the whole plotline and comedy work.
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Letter To My Mom

Mom,

First I just want to say how thankful I am that you are my mom and that I get to be your daughter. I cannot imagine life without you and I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have you to guide me along the way. Thank you for putting up with my extreme sassiness and stubbornness. Thank you for encouraging me to be myself and no one else. Thank you for laughing with me. Thank you for crying with me. Thank you for loving me, especially when I didn’t deserve it. But most of all, thank you for showing me how to love Jesus and what life looks like when you put Him first.

This semester I took an entire course just about motherhood so that I can better understand your brain and how it thinks. Just kidding, but I really did take a class where we studied motherhood and how it is portrayed in every facet of the modern society. Wow. Life sure does look like it can be hard as a mother. It seems like everyone is judging and criticizing you for doing or saying something or not doing or saying something. I can’t imagine being under a microscope like that all the time. It also must be really frustrating to see how people label mothers in television, movies, books, magazines, and so on. It seems like it would be discouraging to constantly have to see how others twist a beautiful part of your identity into what fits their needs at a given time and place.

I know you really wanted a recap of your everyday experiences in life as a mom, but all of this is to say thank you again. Thank you for ignoring what society says about you and what you should be. Thank you for putting up with all the crap just to be my mom. I mean it. Thank you.

I love you oh so much,

Grace