This summer, extreme weather rocks America and pundits debate while August arrives all too quickly. Since July 1st, accounting majors, economics majors, and students of literature have been increasing their knowledge and vocabulary about important issues that affect us all by studying sociology. These students are hard at work exploring theoretical assertions about race, class, and gender in an online summer intensive Introduction to Sociology course, specifically framed around the Sociology of Family.
Using texts that explore gestation, birth, and caregiving, authors Barbara Katz Rothman, Phyllis Chesler, Patricia Hill Collins, and Keisha Goode (to name a few), explore women’s experiences, racial disparities, and gendered labor. This week, we read the latest media stories on wombs, trans-birth, uterus transplants, and self-identified men as mothers. We have all been scrambling for new definitions and fresh ways of thinking about gestation as well as parenting.
As part of a service-learning portion of an Intro to Sociology class, students were asked to take a piece of construction paper or plain white paper and mark in bold words a minimum of 5 words that best describe “mother” and “father”. We have been complicating those basic notions ever since.
Thinking about the authors we are studying assert about biology and gender, coupled with recent medical and policy developments, motherhood is more complicated than ever! The students were invited to revisit their original posters and articulate some of the information that has influenced their perspective in recent weeks. Some of their notes are below:
– Gender Neutral:
· The readings from this week highlighted the problems associated with gendered parenting
· Mothers struggle with work because of the perception that they are obligated to care for their home and children
· Men do not feel obligated to do any parenting work but feel an overwhelming obligation to provide economically for their families
· Both genders are equally capable of parenting in the form of motherhood and fatherhood
· everyone including children would be better off if parental duties were split equally
· All other words on the poster represent things my mother, grandparents, and stepfather did and that I wish my father had participated in
· Not parenting is a personal choice not a gendered choice
· Added for reasons listed above
· Parent should imply the same duties regardless of the parent’s gender
· Being present is an essential part of parenthood that I did not think about until I watched “Glen Henry got his Superpowers Through Fatherhood”
· “Mothering is most likely done by a female due to our society’s definition of the word ‘mother.’ The action of mothering however is simply caring for another.” [Castaneda and Oware]
· Guide and educate were both terms I did not think to put until I though in the context of parenthood rather than motherhood
· Gendered expectations affect us all and are very pervasive
Replace motherhood and fatherhood with parenthood
“A healthier masculinity can only be achieved if we acknowledge that “Tough” and “Strong” aren’t the only 2 characteristics men can be.”