COMM 411

Representations of Motherhood

Texas A&M University Course Description:

Examination of understandings of motherhood from a humanities perspective and over a variety of cultures and time periods, as reflected in written media and/or oral texts.

Stacy H. Aschenbeck

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The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

I really enjoyed reading The Feminine Mystique and learning about the mothers of the 1950's and 1960's. Until I had read this book, I had always admired the mothers I had seen on TV or magazines who were the multi-tasking queens with the pearls and perfect hair who were always gently laughing as their kids ran around just outside their white picket fenced yard. Totally Leave it to Beaver style. After reading about the "problem that has no name" and the progression towards the feminine mystique, it definitely changed how I began looking at the culture these women were surrounded by as well as the media that was encouraging these ideals. I especially liked learning about the increased popularity in stay at home moms over the "unhappy careerist" moms, as well as the rights women did or didn't have at the time.

Mothers in Music

In this project, we looked at motherhood portrayed through the lyrics of different genres of music. I chose "In My Daughters Eyes" by Martina McBride because it was a song that my sister danced to with our mom in her 3rd grade ballet recital. The song itself holds a lot of memories for us because of this event, but it also portrays a strong, wise, caring mother as seen through the perspective of her daughter. My siblings and I are so grateful for a mother who has these qualities and so many more. I also found this project interesting to gain insight into other classmate's projects and their own relationships with their mothers as well as their opinions and analysis of the song lyrics.

Mothers in Novels

Mothers in Films

In Disney Pixar’s 2004 movie The Incredibles, the mother figure, Helen Parr, is first introduced as a crime-fighting, sassy superhero named Elastigirl. Through a series of events to protect her and her family’s identity, she has assumed the role as a housewife and mother – unpacking boxes from moving, cleaning the house, feeding the baby, making dinner, picking the kids up from school, etc. The movie portrays the modern day, stereotypical view of a stay at home mom. Helen is truly “incredible” as she portrays motherhood in Disney’s movie The Incredibles as dedicated to protecting and caring for her family, going to great lengths to do what is right, and make sure her husband and children know they are loved.

The portrayal of motherhood in films has a very wide range. There are several roles that a mother can take on whether that be the "supermom" like Helen or the absent mom, the overprotective mom, the abusive mom, or several other categories that moms can fall into. This project gave me insight into mothers as individuals with a unique influence on their children. But the overall takeaway is that no matter what type of mother is portrayed, there is some impact on the child's life in the film.

Favorite Scenes: The Incredibles
Nickelodeon is a popular children's tv network that aired shows in the 2000's such as Rugrats, Drake and Josh, The Wild Thornberry's, The Fairly Odd Parents, and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. I thought it would be interesting to choose a single network and then look at the various portrayals of motherhood within these tv shows. Some of the shows such as Rugrats and The Wild Thornberry's portrayed a mother who was smart while also providing for her children and husband. Other shows such as The Fairly Odd Parents and Jimmy Neutron depicted a mother who was spacey and therefore somewhat absent. Each mother cared for her children in a different way, but regardless displayed love as a mother.
Beautiful Dreamer - Didi (Rugrats)

Mothers in Advertisements

Mothers in the News

Disney Moms

In our discussion about the presence and role of mothers in Disney movies, we discussed the surprising reality that a majority of mothers in Disney films are absent - whether that be a physical absence through death or separation or an emotional absence due to an abusive emotional mother. I knew that a common writer tool is to remove the parents from the story line to allow the children more freedom to make their own choices and go on their own adventures without parental intervention. Therefore, the "evil stepmom" approach was expected. However, I did think that there would be a greater percentage of Disney moms who were either the Caregiver or Protector stereotype such as the moms portrayed in the attached video.

Celebrating Mothers Anywhere - Happy Mother's Day from Disney Movies Anywhere

Mothers in Children's Books and Teen's Fiction

Considering that mothers typically are the one's reading these children's books as bedtime stories I definitely thought there would be a higher percentage of moms portrayed in these books. Despite the majority of mothers that work, between 1976-1994 only 137 books for children K-6 depicted working mothers which is approximately 8 books annually. I found this statistic initially very surprising, but after thinking about the simplistic story line of children's books and their tendency to show moms that are very nurturing if mothers are shown the statistic made more sense. In regards to teen's fiction, I think the same writer's tool that is used in Disney movies is also used in books and films geared towards teenagers to remove parental figures to allow the child/teen to have freedom for their coming of age story.

Letter to Momma Brooks

Dear Momma,

After finishing my COMM 411 Representations of Motherhood class in my final semester at Texas A&M, I have seen various perspectives of motherhood that I haven't before. One thing I especially enjoyed learning about was how the portrayal of mothers has changed drastically in the past 50 years due to various social pressures, economic stresses, family expectations, and technology all impacting the way mothering was done. Nanny was raised different than how she raised you, which I also know is different than how you raised us. The interview I had with Nanny over Thanksgiving break was definitely my favorite project in the class as I got to ask her opinion on some of the things we have been learning about such as social media impacting mothering, advice for new moms, and technology benefiting or harming mothering today.

I have definitely grown to appreciate even more so the sacrifices you make for your family each day. I didn't realize the social pressure and emotional turmoil that can come with being a stay at home mom vs. a career mom. Each of them have their difficulties and rewards and it is something I'm sure you will help me figure out whenever I have to cross that bridge.

Thank you for loving each of us so well and so uniquely. Thank you for being a constant support system and example in who I aspire to be someday as a mom!!

Love ya bunches!