Title of Lecture
Illegitimate Mothers from the Bible to the Mommy Blog: Narrative Constructions, Virtual Surveillance and the Reality of Separate Spheres
Date of Lecture
Description of Lecture
Contemporary conceptions of legitimate motherhood have been defined through discourses that insufficiently accommodate the roles real women inhabit. Especially interesting are the regulating and superintending functions of these definitions and how their inadequacies are revealed through fissures and tensions within mother-centric discourses. Semiotic inadequacies exist in the Biblical narratives of Abraham and Solomon that exalt the sacrifice of a father's love to a higher authority but endorse the complete selflessness of the mother's love to the well-being of the child. While both narratives infiltrate and undergird cultural judgments about spheres of parenting, they are unable to accommodate contemporary realities where mothers are simultaneously intellectuals, professionals and artists in their own right. Because perceptual penalties levied against mothers who challenge traditional roles can become so severe, it seems it is not the child who is threatened to be split in two, as Solomon forewarns, but the mother herself who is split by competing discourses of self and selflessness. One of the contemporary responses to this difficulty is the manifestation of the Mommy Blogs, situated as one potential location of outsider feminism, a virtual space in which negotiations about legitimate maternal voices take place daily and a site where illegitimate mothers find their transgressions called out. Difficult dialogues, however, have come to characterize mommy blogs: the conventional codes of surveillance simply reinstate the binaries that articulate, police and maintain the split subjectivity of working mothers. Grounded by a discussion of the Dooce and Maytag mayhem of August 2009, as well as the MommyGate controversy that characterized the BlogHer conference of July 2009, this lecture examines the ideological implications of the next frontier of motherhood maintaining its separate spheres.
Howells, Beth and Winterhalter, Teresa, "Illegitimate Mothers from the Bible to the Mommy Blog: Narrative Constructions, Virtual Surveillance and the Reality of Separate Spheres" (2011). Robert Ingram Strozier Lecture Series. 18.
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