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American Motherhood and Mothering: Theory, Discourse, Practice, and Change

Location: MIT

Wednesdays 5:00PM - 8:00PM

September 9, 2015 - December 16, 2016

Motherhood is often lauded as the most important job, and Americans regularly talk about valuing family.  However, as it tends to be women who are primarily responsible for caregiving in the family, the work is systematically devalued economically, socially, and legally.  The gendered nature of mothering also has a profound influence on women’s and men’s lives outside of the family, especially at work. To explore the complex intellectual and practical issues contemporary American motherhood raises for feminist scholars, this course draws on the strengths of two disciplines—rhetoric and sociology—to examine motherhood as an intellectual concern, a social institution, and a site of competing discourses.  The course structure interweaves theory, discourse, practice, and change as we explore a variety of approaches to motherhood and mothering as key theoretical concerns and as pivotal sites of women’s resistance, social action, and change.



Lynn O'Brien Hallstein, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at Boston University, is an award-winning teacher, and has published multiple journal essays and book chapters on contemporary motherhood.  Her recent book, Bikini-Ready Moms: Celebrity Profiles, Motherhood, and the Body is to be published by SUNY Press in Fall 2015.  The book investigates mediated motherhood at the intersection of post-second wave gender, neoliberalism, and celebrity mom profiles.   

Ana Villalobos, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University, is a multiple award-winning teacher with courses focusing on parenting, work, gender, and identity.  Her recent book, Motherload: Making it all Better in Insecure Times, published by University of California Press in 2014, investigates mothering within the context of various social, cultural, and economic pressures.


Later Event: February 2
Feminist Inquiry