Representations of Motherhood

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Moms in Magazines

We analyzed moms in Parents' magazine & Better Homemaking in year 1960. We took note of the different types of articles, and found a majority were focused on child rearing and the family home guide. It is safe to say that almost every single article, photo, and advertisement was targeted specifically at women, and mothers. The child rearing section taught mothers how to deal with angsty teens, how to point their children towards a career, and how to be the best mom on the block. The articles in the family home guide section really created a lot of pressure on moms to have the most perfect and pristine house. There were examples of what the "best home" looked like, and how to stay up to date with the most modern appliances. There was a small section dedicated to family fashion and good looks which implied that the most important thing is the appearance of a woman and her family. There were very few relevant articles on modern scientific or social events, and no ethnicities were pictures but white. What I found most interesting was they way everything was directed at mothers and even created a sort of degrading and suppressive tone. Women were confined to their homes and pressured to look becoming, have a perfectly polished home, and make the kids and dad happy.
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Novel: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

The novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver is a story about the dark side of motherhood. It is a collection of letters written by Eva, to her husband who the reader eventually ends up realizing is dead at the end of the novel. In these letters, she attempts to understand and come to grips with the school shooting that was committed by her own son, Kevin. Eva describes hers and her husband’s lives before Kevin, his birth, and events leading up until the shooting. She describes the way her life has changed, the way she is now treated by others, and the way her son stares at her silently and unlovingly while she visits him in juvenile prison. It is interesting that Eva and her husband, Frank, decided to have a child based on the reason that it would give them “something to talk about”. This in itself seems like a poor parenting choice. Eva notes the way she hated being pregnant and hated the way she was constantly stared at. She then recalls feeling absent after her child’s birth. There seems to be a mutual disinterest between Eva and her son Kevin. Kevin was a troublesome child, and Eva a mother who gets caught in fits of rage and lashes out from time to time. Kevin has a different respect for his father. He is a well-mannered boy when his father is around, which ultimately leads to irreparable damage to Eva and Frank’s marriage. Eva eventually has a daughter in hopes of connecting to a member of the family. Her daughter ends up being the child Eva always dreamed of. Later, we learn that Kevin kills his father and sister with his bow and arrow before using this weapon to attack 9 classmates, a cafeteria worker, and a teacher. At the end of the novel there is a sort of resolve between Eva and Kevin on the two-year anniversary of the shooting. She finally realizes that she does in fact love her son, perhaps in an unconventional way. A major theme of this novel is the idea that Eva’s ambivalence toward maternity may have influenced Kevin’s development.

Moms in Music

I learned from our music segment that every genre has some songs about mothers. For the most part they shed a positive light on motherhood, giving them their respect, love, and gratitude. There were several that shed negative light on their mothers, but was much less common. For my specific song, I chose "I'll Always Love My Mama" by The Intruders. I loved this song because it was simple, but catchy and fun. It was a super groovy song that allowed me to reflect on my own mother well.
Anywhere But Here Trailer

Moms in Movies: Anywhere But Here

Anywhere But Here is a 1999 drama about a mother and daughter. The mother thinks she is rotting away in small town Wisconsin and uproots her daughter and drags her across the state to California. It becomes apparent that the movie represents a reversal of the roles of mother and daughter as the mother is eccentric, unreliable, irresponsible and impulsive, often making poor decisions and forgetting about bills. Meanwhile her daughter mostly looks after her. Her daughter is practical, logical, and resents her mother and looks forward to the day she can finally leave her mother. We see throughout the progression of the movie how the mother and daughter grow apart and together individually and as a duo. Though the mother fails in many respects, she finally learns to accept her daughter and her plans, her independence, and who she truly is. This movie was touching and relatable. It demonstrated a very real struggle between mother and daughter, though unconventional, the relationship between the two was very real for me.
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Moms in TV: Nickelodeon

For my Tv mom project, I analyzed 5 moms from Nickelodeon in the early 90's.

Spongebob has aired since 199. Spongebob's Grandma is the typical sweet and loving grandmother we all know and love. She bakes excellent cookies and babies spongebob, and even cares for his friends. She reads stories and caters to their every need, practically prohibiting them from growing up or assuming any real responsibilities. She is portrayed as sweet and grandmotherly, competent, loving, nurturing.

Next was Miriam from Hey Arnold. Hey Arnold aired from 1996-2004. This is one of the main character's mothers, Miriam. She is portrayed as super ditzy, young, forgetful, unfocused, and kind of oblivious, but still loving and caring in moments for her daughter. Her daughter usually calls her mother by her name, Miriam, which suggests an interesting relationship.

The Wild Thornberrys aired from 1998-2004. The mother in this show is very adventurous and "never flinches in the face of fear". She is confident, strong, and leads the family well. She is intuitive and loves each of her children, in spite of their some peculiar personalities. She is selfless and portrayed as a good mom.

The Fairly Odd Parents has aired since 2001. The mom, Mrs. Turner, is portrayed as very slow-witted and foolish. Her family never seems to pay much attention to her. She is always oblivious to Timmy's fairies and the dangers that surround her. She is mostly seen as neglectful, but in some episodes we see her praised as hard-working and strong.

And finally, Jimmy Neutron has aired since 2002. His mother, Judy Neutron, is a beautiful 50's housewife who loves to bake and take care of her family. She has an alter ego, Mighty Mom, who she is transformed into after hypnotization from her son. When she is hypnotized, she spins around cleaning grime and attacking dust-bunnies with her super powers. Her enemies are dirt, lint, and rotten food, which she "flies" around serving justice to.

Overall, I found that nickelodeon portrayed moms in an interesting but mostly stereotypical way. There was never a mother character that was out of the ordinary or unexpected. It was a mix of good and bad moms, some absent, and some holding the family together.

Moms in Advertising

For my moms in advertising survey, I used the 3 ads above and took a survey on mothers reactions and thoughts about the ads. So when I look at these ads, I see gender norms being reinforced. I wondered if mothers saw this too. Surprisingly, they did! They said the ads imply that women are the homemakers- they are generally responsible for feeding the children, cleaning the home, doing the dishes, and looking good while they do it. The mothers I surveyed had differing views on whether the ads were offensive or not. Some were offended by the suggestion that not having a perfectly fit body post birth is absolutely NOT an excuse, while others found it motivating and not offensive at all. Overall, the results weren't super surprising. But what I found most interesting were the open ended responses from mothers. They voiced their opinions and beliefs and their reactions to the advertisements. If I have learned anything about advertisements, is that they have been and probably always will be more aimed at women and mothers.
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Mom Interview

When I told my mom I needed to interview her, she was reluctant. She always hates the sound of her voice, hates the way she looks in pictures or videos, and thinks she has nothing good to say. She always criticizes her own intelligence and speech. She is her own worst critic. But once I explained what it was for, she opened up. My mother had a very difficult childhood and life growing up. She loves the idea of a digital history of our family and our stories to relay to generations in the future because she never had anything like that herself. I think this was my favorite assignment, because I don't often have reasons to pry and ask my mother many questions about herself. It was interesting to me to hear her speak about herself, about who she is outside of being a mother (because what a surprise, she IS more than just a mom!) and her experiences as a mother as well. I loved hearing her advice and words of wisdom, her hopes and wishes for herself and for her family and children, and her regrets as well. My mother and I's relationship hasn't always been perfect, sometimes its tumultuous, however, I think it is because we are so much alike. I learned that I have a lot to learn from my mother. That although she lacks confidence in herself, she is ferocious and feisty and fierce and stops at nothing to fight and do what is right. You don't get to pick your mom, but I do believe the mother I was given has taught me many important lessons and will continue to impact my life in many ways.