Submissions Request – Each Egg a World: Stillborn Project

 

Adinda van ’t Klooster is making art about stillbirth.
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Adina organized the online exhibit, Each Egg a World after her own experience with having a stillborn child. Now she wants to help break through the “tremendous taboo” that she says thwarts discussion around stillbirth and hampers the funding of measures to bring the numbers down.
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To this end, she is inviting people who have suffered a stillbirth to contribute their stories to an online artwork which is set to be a highlight of the exhibition Still Born, which is due to tour later this year and in 2021 in London, Manchester and Newscastle (See full news story here online LINK).
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More than 100 people have already submitted their statements on their experience of stillbirth. This project is becoming a very moving piece of digital art as well as acting as a useful resource for raising awareness about stillbirth. Adina is looking for you to share your story. Click the egg below to see the exhibit. Click this link to submit to the exhibit.

(All art featured here by Adinda van ‘t Klooster)

Each Egg a World: Stillbirth

Featured Image Homepage: Porcelain Uterus: Fundal Height, imprinted porcelain, © Adinda van ’t Klooster, 2010, photograph by Colin Davison, 2017 

Let’s Talk About Monomaternalism

Explorations and Art by Aster Woods

What is Monomaternalism?

Monomaternalism, as defined by Shelley Park in her 2013 academic work ”Mothering Queerly, Queering Motherhood: Resisting Monomaternalism in Adoptive, Lesbian, Blended, and Polygamous Families” is essentially the pervasive notion that a person can have only one mother; it also privileges the bio-essentialist belief that only the birth mother is real. This notion naturally marginalizes the existence of adoptive parents, lesbian parents, transgender parents, inter-generational parenting (such as a mother-daughter team raising a child,) extended/blended families, and polyamorous families.

Let’s Unpack it!

As Shelley Park explains:

“Monomaternalism, as an ideological doctrine, resides at the intersection of patriarchy (with its insistence that women bear responsibility for biological and social reproduction), heteronormativity (with its insistence that a woman must pair with a man, rather than other women, in order to raise children successfully), capitalism (in its conception of children as private property), and Eurocentrism (in its erasure of polymaternalism in other cultures and historical periods)”

Monomaternalism’s patriarchal ethos has increased the pressure on mothers as they attempt to take care of their new baby within a vacuum, often devoid of support and under an overwhelming amount of pressure. While we are seeing a slow trend towards an even balance of parenting duties within nuclear families, society still has a skewed view of the responsibilities of the mother versus the father. The work being done, intellectually and culturally, to balance family dynamics will need to continue for several decades before a true equilibrium can be achieved.

Additionally, these parental gender roles can replicate in queer couples, with one partner bearing the weight of “motherhood” particularly if that person has physically given birth. Monomaternalism distances the non-birth-giving partner into an unreal and devalued form of parenting much closer to outdated archetypal fatherhood than traditional or contemporary motherhood. Additionally, we see withi8n monomaternalistic views the belief that the child themselves will suffer in a non-traditional environment; that only the straight, middle class, Eurocentric nuclear family is capable of raising a child successfully, and all other forms of child-rearing are to a greater or lesser extent covert forms of abuse. This particular belief is extraordinarily short-sighted as a large proportion of global cultures utilize an extended system of adults in order to raise children. The closed nuclear family is an outdated and relatively short-lived concept, as intergenerational households containing a number of different relationships and structures have been consistently the norm for much of our human history. I am also curious to see if, in the developed western world, we are likely to see a return to this family living structure as economic instability reduces the residential options of young couples, along with our improving healthcare and nutrition extending the average lifespan. It may become more normal for individual households to become communal, intergenerational extended and flexible arrangements, sharing childcare between them, as in other contexts.

Essentialism is a sociological theory that reduces a person to their biology, causing unsupported, widely erroneous claims.

“Antecedently convinced of biological essentialism, the romanticization of the biological mother-child bond shapes one’s phenomenological experiences of biological motherhood; those experiences then become “proof” of the essentialist hypothesis, making it a difficult hypothesis to dislodge.”

i.e. if a person is already convinced of biological motherhood being the only valid form of motherhood, the idealised view of the bond between mother and child forces that person to experience motherhood within that limited parameter (i.e. the biological bond is sacred and mystical) which then “proves” the original hypothesis, making a circular argument that is difficult to break. However, we have, as a society, a wealth of qualitative research and anecdotal evidence that proves that a mother-child bond can be profound to the point of sacredness in fathers and non-biological mothers.

What are just some of the negative consequences it has on families?

Competition among women for maternal status
This is especially prevalent when views differ on childrearing techniques, or best practices. At its most toxic, this can develop into a situation where the child’s autonomy is reduced and they are used as a pawn in a game they cannot understand. This situation can also play out inside a child’s mind, for instance after learning they have been adopted. It can cause significant emotional damage.

The erasure of many women’s childbearing and childrearing labors. 

A lack of attention to the ways in which women might— and sometimes do—mother cooperatively.
Much of the raising of children is devalued as only the biological mother’s input is seen as being true and valid parenting; although every adult who consistently interacts with a child has an influence on their wellbeing and development, this invisible labor is termed “babysitting” even when the adult in question has a societally valid link to the child (for instance, a grandmother or aunt.)

The treatment of children as private property.
This is a capitalist idiom that erases the rights of the child as an independent and autonomous person. Often used as a means of control within the context of punishment.
“I am your mother and you will do what I tell you to.”

The separation of children from mothers (and mothers from children) 

A lack of imagination concerning ways in which laws, policies, and practices could be transformed to better serve both women and children.
If a form of motherhood or parenting is not seen as legitimate it can have impacts far beyond the social; legal practices governing adoption and custody overwhelmingly privilege biological mothers and take little account of non-biological parenting. These have knock-on effects into child protection policies, family preservation policies, social welfare policies, tax incentives, census bureau definitions of family, school policies, hospital policies, employer benefit policies, and (in the case of diasporic families created through transnational adoption or by some other means) even foreign policy.

The maternal grief and guilt often suffered both by those who relinquish custody of their children and those who come to bear full responsibility for them.

Source:

Park, S. M. (2013) Mothering Queerly, Queering Motherhood : Resisting Monomaternalism in Adoptive, Lesbian, Blended, and Polygamous Families. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Mother-Daughter and The Unsaid Things/ FILM

By Emily Zou

In my last post on Obachan’s Garden, a Japanese-Canadian documentary, I wrote about how focusing on the stories of mothers and grandmothers is important in disrupting the way that we remember our history and ancestry. For this week’s post, I’d like to write more locally about the wonderful way that a mother-daughter relationship is explored in Greta Gerwig’s 2017 film Lady Bird.

You’ve probably heard of Lady Bird, which made waves three years ago for its painful authenticity; Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut went on to score five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Actress. The consensus is clear: Lady Bird has brought together a ridiculously charming cast and created a captivating vision of Sacramento, all with some of the funniest and most heartbreaking dialogue committed to the screen.

But motherhood and daughterhood is the movie. In fact, the original draft for the film was titled Mothers and Daughters. The title Lady Bird instead refers to the name that our heroine, Christine (Sairose Ronan) chooses for herself, a perfect example of how eclectically rebellious she is. Desperate to fly to the east coast, to find “real culture”, Lady Bird follows Christine in her senior year of high school, as she falls in and out of love, smokes weed, gets into college, passes her driving test and performs in musicals. All the while, she fights with her mother, Marion, (Laurie Metcalf), a father dealing with depression, and coming to terms with her family’s status in a class-stratified society.

While ruminating on having to talk to people about creating her film, Gerwig remarks in a 2017 NPR interview that “most of those people are men. And if they were raised with sisters or if they had daughters, they knew what it was… But if they didn’t, they had no idea that that was how women fought and how they loved, too. I think it was kind of like they were getting to look into a world that they didn’t know existed”. As more women take the helm in moviemaking, stories that only we can tell come to light and are shared. And its movies like Lady Bird, that capture how beautifully painful leaving home and loving it only after you do so, can be. It’s a story that honors motherhood and our homes that was created because of the women’s own experiences.

There’s one scene that really sums up what makes this film so special to me, it goes something like this: Christine is talking about her college essay with a nun, she wrote it about Sacramento, and the nun remarks that you can tell how much she loves the town. No, Christine replies, I hate this place, I just pay attention, but the nun asks, gently, “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?” Cut to her Mom, anxiously waiting for her in a thrift store.

See, love is not always gentle, is not always understandable. But the best love is often the kind that perseveres even when it’s not easy, even when it’s not wanted. The realest loves are embarrassing and irritating and overcritical, but you have to love something a lot to believe in it. To love someone not because they are worth loving but because they are someone.

Lady Bird is painful to watch because it’s real. Gerwig has tapped into this very egocentric teenage stream of worries and worries. You change so much in adolescence; you’re in a constant state of shame for some past iteration of yourself and how earnest you were in being that version of you. You’re always cringing because of the things you forgot to love properly or for the things that you didn’t appreciate enough. And of course, you think you know everything, especially once you realize that you don’t.

And so after seeing a version of you (a teenager) portrayed on screen, you have to take a moment to step back from being caught up in your own head and your own worries. You take note of your surroundings, the home you take for granted, and then the people that have become part of your home.

I remember talking about Lady Bird with my mom after we watched it; we were hiking up a mountain and she was displeased that I had watched a movie that deals with sex and homosexuality. She didn’t like it, and in trying to explain why it touched me, I found that there were tears in my eyes as I tried to describe the raw, heartrending ending scene. She pointed out the traitorous evidence of my emotions and laughed at me.

And I guess its moments like that that prove Lady Bird’s point. Gerwig quipped “I don’t know any woman who has a simple relationship with their mother or with their daughter”, and the very messy way we love our mothers and daughters comes across so effectively in her movie.

I don’t even know if I will even be going to campus in the fall (I’ll be a freshman), but I have become acutely aware of this strange, liminal space that I float in, still at home but not really belonging to it anymore. We owe such an existential, unpayable gratitude to our mothers for all of the trouble they went to allow us to live our little lives. I don’t really talk to my mom much these days, but even when we do, whatever I say never seems to be enough to capture just how deeply I am in her debt. How do you even begin to walk around all of the unsaid things?

I haven’t the faintest clue. But I’ll place my faith in whoever is penning my coming of age story, hoping that they’re as fond of me as Gerwig was of Christine. That it’ll all turn out okay, that I’ll finally have the courage to say Thank you.

(Even if it’s only when I’m 460 miles away).

Vegetables by Aster Woods

Art and Words by Aster Woods – Aster is caregiver to her mother

03/08/2020 10.32 AM Clean Bedroom
03/08/2020 10.52 AM Find Last Night’s Dinner
03/08/2020 10.55 AM Have Difficult Conversation about Vegetables

I want her to eat vegetables. I want her to eat vegetables so much. I have a Pinterest board full of creative ideas for hiding them, or else making them fun; all are designed for fussy children, not adults. My mum has her sense of taste eroded and warped through too many medications. It tastes metallic, chemical, or burns as if it’s causing an allergic reaction. Almost all foods have turned against her, from vegetables all the way to her beloved chocolate oranges. But it’s the vegetables I care about.

Food tastes bad. I know, I know. But you need vegetables, I say. Your body needs these nutrients, now more than ever. She refuses. She will eat: pasta, cheese, fish fingers, and sausages. But vegetables, I say. You always made me eat my vegetables, as a kid when you were taking care of me and not the other way around. I had to even when I didn’t want to and now it’s payback time. I will meet you halfway, I say. I will blend carrots into cheese sauce on your pasta. I will bake onions into a quiche; you might care about them less if they’re smuggled under bacon, if you don’t have to look them in the eye.
It doesn’t work. I’m dying, she says. Why should I care how much worse I get? There’s no being healthy for me. Healthy is not an option for me. I am and will continue to be unhealthy until I die this year or next year. Any time, really. I am suffering enough. Why can’t I do what I want, now? Why does this have to be harder on me?

I spend half an hour angry, then tearful, then angry again.

I understand. I think. She’s got a point; she knows that eating broccoli now will make no difference to a body already eating itself. I know this too. I know I cannot make her healthy again. But I am selfish. I am still the child, her child. Why can’t she do this for me? Doesn’t she owe me something, don’t all mothers owe their children something? For the sacrifices I have made for her, why can she let me feel I am making a difference? If she were my daughter, and I was her mother, I would force her to eat her vegetables. There is a well-published litany of tactics for this. If you eat your vegetables, you will have ice cream for dessert. You’re not leaving the table until you eat your vegetables. I have neither stick nor carrot for her. There is no treat she can enjoy anymore, no punishment I could inflict worse than her existing suffering.

But I’m not giving up. 

Meet Our New Intern and #Queering Motherhood:

In our ongoing efforts to bring education and practical knowledge together in a place where we can cooperatively learn and grow, MOM is proud to present the work of our newest intern Aster Woods. Aster hails from the Welsh/English border and is interested in museum curatorship, art, caregiving labor, and the notion of #queering motherhood. She contacted us regarding her interest in creating an online body of work around these topics.

The phrase “queering” something has been widely used to deconstruct normative assumptions about individuals and social expectations. By queering something, we are asking people to reconstruct a known definition of something and complexify it, complicate it, and disentangle it from its strict confines. Often motherhood, and the way in which it is performed, is something people are quick to judge and fast to condemn. Some believe that all mothers should only behave in nice, good, and proper ways. But, women who are mothers, are people first, with all their inherent problems, issues, and challenges. When we apply one universal theme to all people we stop seeing them for who they really are, which in turn makes the individual invisible. Below are some excerpts from the book Queering Motherhood, which Aster is reading as she goes through the next several weeks with us looking at this subject.

Essentialism is a sociological theory that reduces a person to their biology, causing unsupported, widely erroneous claims. From the book Queering Motherhood: “Antecedently convinced of biological essentialism, the romanticization of the biological mother-child bond shapes one’s phenomenological experiences of biological motherhood; those experiences then become “proof” of the essentialist hypothesis, making it a difficult hypothesis to dislodge.”P5

i.e. if a person is already convinced of biological motherhood being the only valid form of motherhood, the idealized view of the bond between mother and child forces that person to experience motherhood within that limited parameter (i.e. the biological bond is sacred and mystical) which then “proves” the original hypothesis, making a circular argument that is difficult to break. However, we have, as a society, a wealth of qualitative research and anecdotal evidence that proves that a mother-child bond can be profound to the point of sacredness in fathers and non-biological mothers.

“we may do psychic harm to children who do not live with their biological mothers, causing children who are adopted or raised by another mother to wonder why their real mother failed to exhibit maternal instinct.”P6

5 Reasons Why You Should Never Ask Queer Parents “Where does your baby come from?”

1. It’s invasive! The journey to queer parenting can be difficult, deeply personal and often unique. Respect boundaries.

2. You wouldn’t ask a straight family that. By asking a queer couple, you perpetuate their “othermess.”

3. You imply that their parentage is not valid or real. Their baby is their baby. End of discussion.

4. It’s disrespectful to the baby, too. As they grow older they will develop their own perspectives on their origins, and it should be up to them what they disclose, and to whom.

5. IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! Your life will not be impacted by this knowledge in any way, therefore, you have no right to know. If the parents themselves share with you then that’s their choice. But don’t ever ask!

Obachan’s Garden – A Look At Motherhood In Cinema

“We think back through our mothers if we are women”– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.

By Emily Zou

Obachan’s Garden is a 2001 documentary directed by Linda Ohama, made to honor and remember her grandmother. (Obachan means grandmother in Japanese). Despite this simple conceit, the film takes on a wholly different life as the past is revealed and history is questioned. Moreover, the concepts of what a “good mother” is, are questioned, as well as how different cultural expectations of mothering can clash with each other.

The act of creating film centered on mothers and their experience of motherhood itself disrupts how we are used to learning about history– through our fathers and grandfathers. “Male- centered assumptions about history, as well as feminist ambivalence about motherhood, have complicated the enterprise of searching for mothers in history” writes Jodi Vandenberg-Daves in “Teaching Motherhood in History”. The act of remembering through our mothers offers not a new, but hidden perspective from the past.

“Ryosai Kenbo” is a Japanese word meaning “good wife, wise mother”, introduced during the Meiji period (1868-1912). Based on Confucian ideals of filial piety, it reinforces the idea that women could best serve their country by working at home. This was the ideal that Obachan was raised under, Obachan’s Garden explores how Obachan was trained from a young age to become a housewife, learning languages and dancing. Obachan then relocates to Canada as a picture bride, only to reject her husband the moment she sees him. She works for years to repay him for the ticket to Canada.

Motherhood in Canada was rapidly changing in the pre-World War Two era (when Obachan immigrated), with focus on an idea called the “Good Mother”, where mothering became more “professional”. There were more expectations on what a mother should or shouldn’t do, and the act of mothering became much more heavily scrutinized. A study by Western University explored how advertisements and magazines targeted mothers during this time period, “If mothers indulged their children with too much attention, their children would grow up to be dependent and sissified. Mothers who attended too little to their children’s needs and too much to their own, turned into screaming shrews, and their children became neurotic and fearful. If these precautions were not sufficiently intimidating, the articles also held up mothers who did everything so perfectly that they became unbearable prigs”. It is clear, then, that the way to be a mother was, and still is, heavily influenced by the rest of society.

All of this creates a multi-layered backdrop for Obachan as a mother, a complicated one that is explored through the documentary itself. Ohama paints a picture of a family learning more about their matriarch and her history.

Indeed, the documentary explicitly tells the audience the profound themes the film will explore. “How do we learn about things that have happened before us? And what about memories, what people remember? Are these memories always real?” Narrated over dreamy visuals, Ohama explores how our memory is fallible, how the stories that we hear are always one-sided. Through really getting to know her grandmother, the documentary pieces together a complicated past with motherhood.

In her article examining Obachan’s Garden, Sheena Wilson writes that “the telling of mother-stories can be reclaimed as an act of resistance, whether mothers are telling their own stories, or daughters and granddaughters are retracing their matrilineal genealogies”. We need more of these stories to “think through our mothers,” to see our history from their point of view.

Sources:

Fullerton, Romayne, and M.J. Patterson. “Procrustean Motherhood.” FIMS Publications, 2010.

Larsen, Robert. “Ryousai Kenbo Revisited.” Hastings International and Comparative Law Review, vol. 24, no. 2, 2001.

Wilson, Sheena. “Obachan’s Garden.” Demeter Press, 2016.

Read about Emily’s Remote Internship with MOM: Reviewing Motherhood in Cinema [CLICK]