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Examine the contradictions in the ideologies and experiences of motherhood.

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Introduction

'Motherhood is romanticised and idealised as the supreme physical and emotional achievement in woman's lives...but when women become mothers ...they find that everyday tasks of mothering are socially devalued' (Phoenix, 1991:13). Examine the contradictions in the ideologies and experiences of motherhood. Motherhood is defined to women by society even if they do not become mothers; it is the way society view women. However, Motherhood is also very important to women over the world. "For example, in 1994 there were 6.7 million women with children under 16 in the UK: that is, 29 per cent of all women" (Robinson and Richardson, 1997:375). Majority of women are mothers despite the fact that the number of women who are not mothers has gone up. Conversely, there is a problem of what societies expect women to do and what women do. Although the relationship of motherhood and womanhood seems to be shifting in the contemporary society it still remains complicated and opposing each other. Some women are choosing not to be mother and are therefore, rejecting society's expectations of them. Although the core identity of women is motherhood there are also other factors that are also important to women's lives and it is not only motherhood so therefore, not all women want to be mothers. In patriarchal society motherhood has a powerful position and it is only given to women so therefore, they are all expected to be mothers and to be good at it. ...read more.

Middle

The social construction of society expects women to be mothers and strain is put on them furthermore, in a patriarchal society this is almost compulsory although it is made difficult by racism. In modern societies the childbearing of white mothers are more valued than black or other ethnic minority mothers and they are not encouraged from this. For example, in the United States black African Americans are sterilised without their permission:"Similarly French pronatalist policies, which provide financial benefits to women who have children as an inducement to increase the French birth rate, are not denied to black French women, but are really aimed at whit women....some groups of mothers are less valued than others in western societies" (Phoenix 1991:17). These are interventions used by the State to decrease the amount of childbearing to ethnic minorities because they believe that certain groups have too many children. The case of poverty and single motherhood has its deep roots in racism. The number of poor families looked after by women has increased including all races but this number is greatly higher in the number of black families, which is headed by women. The history of single black motherhood could be traced back to slavery where the slave owners would separate husbands from their wives and children. Therefore, even until now the myth of black matriarch exists. The way motherhood ought to be is socially constructed as well as being contradictory, and patriarchy uses so called 'scientific knowledge' to use this and therefore not allowing women as mothers to have the power to make the alteration in the present structures. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, second wave feminism were challenged by radical feminist thought, which had come about then. They questioned if all this was a male construct: "questions were raised as to whether the pursuit of autonomy by women reinforced the traditional male values associated with possessive individualism at the expense of the values of nurturance and connectedness associated with mothering". (Everingham, 1994:1). However, despite the fact that even now there are differences of opinion between feminist writers about the nature of motherhood many do take into consideration to an extent the views of radical feminism. although liberal feminist have long been campaigning for women to go out to work in order to be liberated from the private sphere however, many now after working outside of the home in contrast feel not liberated but oppressed because they now not only have to work but they also have to manage the family too. In addition, for those who choose the option to stay at home to bring up their children many of them begrudge the insinuation that this is not identified a proper work. Maureen Freely who is a writer and journalist has gone as far as saying: "that feminism had failed mothers by devaluing motherhood and treating children simply as an obstacle to fulfilment "(Bryson, 1999: 126). Motherhood is a social construction and it seems that not only is motherhood devalued by society but also certain groups within the society are more devalued than others for example, teenage mothers and ethnic minorities. Finally feminist thought is also criticised by some, for example, freely who suggests that feminism also devalues motherhood. ...read more.

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