MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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Sociology Opens Our Eyes to New Ways of Seeing the World!

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:

Words Added:

–       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

–       Parent:

·      Added for reasons listed above

·      Parent should imply the same duties regardless of the parent’s gender

       Present:

·      Being present is an essential part of parenthood that I did not think about until I watched “Glen Henry got his Superpowers Through Fatherhood”

–       Care:

·      “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

–       Educate

·      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

Assertion Statement:

Replace motherhood and fatherhood with parenthood

Father
• Tenderhearted
• Empathetic
• Compassionate
• Honest
• Supportive
• Sacrificing
• Wise
“A healthier masculinity can only be achieved if we acknowledge that “Tough” and “Strong” aren’t the only 2 characteristics men can be.”

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Black Maternal Health Week – Black Mamas Matter Alliance


Black Maternal Health Week – Join in on events this week ! Advocate & educated about the issues facing mothers today. #BMHW19

https://blackmamasmatter.org/bmhw/

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MOM Conference 2019 – April 5-6 – The Public is Invited

April 5-6, 2019

FULL CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Rewriting Trauma & Visibility: Motherwork, Pregnancy, and Birth

Keynote presentations with Khiara M. Bridges and Roksana Badruddoja. See the schedule for more information.

GENERAL INFORMATION

The international MOM Conference is an annual event that features research, scholarship, and creative collaboration in the area of Mother Studies. Each year, the academic committee organizes university experiences that are interdisciplinary and highlight scholarship in the area of reproductive justice, maternal health, feminist theory, gender studies, literature, and the arts. The conference is organized through the Museum Of Motherhood (M.O.M.) and has partnered with multiple institutions throughout the years (2005-present), including Manhattan College, USF Tampa, Marymount Manhattan College, Columbia, ProCreate Project, Mamapalooza, and ARM now renamed MIRCI to name a few.

Activities are open to the public at no cost by RSVP only: info@MOMmuseum.org.

On Saturday evening we will induct Sara Ruben into the Motherhood Hall of Fame on behalf of her work which has brought hope and healing to so many.

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Support For All Mothers – Last post by Shauna Ricketts

The goal of this project was to support ALL mothers, regardless of their family form or personal circumstance. Stories and faces negate stereotypes and disprove assumptions that accumulate as a result of societal reflections. This project has demonstrated that funding and programming are not the only expressions of positive community support. Demand for mental health resources and emotional support exists among the single mother population. Mothers are more than results of their situations they are valuable agents of change and offer perspectives that hold the power to improve the systems that they are assumed to abuse. Governmental programs fulfill material needs, but do not address emotional needs or desires. Classism and racism have ruled over our country and have seeped into the culture of motherhood, shaping how we see mothers who do not “fit the mold”.

Shauna_Final_3The piece featured is a tribute to the identity of mothers. After interviewing several mothers throughout the course of this project, I have uncovered the variety in perceptions between societal views and self-views of single mothers. Traditional family forms have been adopted as societal norms, yet many families do not abide by this societal standard. Despite the diversity of form among my target population, the standards of motherhood were not compromised or diluted. Self-love and positivity transcend boundaries that are socially constructed through identity. Not meeting societal standards does not demonstrate neglect it simply constructs a different setting for the development of family, mother and child. Identities are socially assigned with rigidity. The distinctions between societal, social and true identities are expressed in the following artwork.

Included in this post are two collages that express clashes in expectations between communities and the individual needs of the mothers in those communities. These collages emphasize the centrality and connectivity of social groups in relation to the wellbeing of individual mothers. Additionally, I have included photos of the mothers and children whose stories I have told throughout the past weeks.

Shauna_Final_1

NOTE FROM M.O.M. – The Museum of Motherhood sincerely thanks Shauna Ricketts for her dedication and insight during this summer’s internship. Working remotely can present challenges. Yet, Shauna conducted her interviews, created art, and fulfilled her commitment to M.O.M. by submitting interesting and captivating content. Thank you for your great work over the last several weeks. We wish you every ongoing success ~ M. Joy Rose

*SEE ALL OF SHAUNA’S POSTS HERE [LINK}

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Jubilant, Yet Real – By Shauna Ricketts

This week I interviewed Jess who was accompanied by Addy, her jubilant one and a half year old daughter, during my time with her. As a straight A student at the age of 19, Jess did not intend to have a child but her journey of motherhood has provided her with lessons in love and self worth. Jess left an alcohol dependent partner to escape the “ugliness of drinking” and the environmental impact that alcohol use and abuse pose on the development of self in a child. Faced with custody battles, traditional values, the expectation and desire of earning an education and her age, Jess voiced the stresses that existed in her life as the result of her transition into motherhood. After the initial reactions of her family, the dust settled and support and comfort from her family eventually followed, specifically her older sister who bore her parent’s their first grandchild. The social pressure to have an abortion presented itself, but Jess did not allow society, her family or her partner dictate the future of her body or mind.

Shauna Ricketts ArtJess expressed thoughts and difficulties associated with single motherhood and the absence of a father figure in her child’s life. “Fatherhood is not solely focused on the father himself, but rather the father-child relationship,” stated Jess over our conversation and coffee. The day created to honor fathers does not consider those who lack a father figure in their lives, but rather the father void is highlighted. Jess aims to enforce an optimistic position for males in the eyes of her daughter, which is evident in the emphasis she placed on Addy’s first Father’s Day being a time to establish a positive space in Addy’s memory. Addy’s father though estranged, agreed to see Addy for an hour on Father’s day, but unfortunately he decided for personal reasons to not attend the meeting. In this moment of silence, Jess had the realization that the title of father and mother do not validate love. As the daughter of a divorced couple, Jess reflected on her memories of tension and the comparisons she drew between herself and other families, but comparison, which fills the eyes of many with tears, leaves the heart too heavy to focus on the light that exists regardless of family form. “When I had her (Addy) my eyes were opened to the support that I needed,” and for Jess this meant genuine care, love and responsibility for her child, not necessarily a family with a perfect and present father figure.

Balance was a topic of repetition throughout my conversation with Jess. Emotional and mental health in her life is achieved in the moments when she focuses on not only the well being of her child, but her personal happiness. As a server for a catering company, Jess is able to have a more concentrated workweek that allows her to have more flexibility. She uses the extra time to decompress and to spend time with her daughter. An aspect of finding her personal balances in life involve moving forward in her education each day, which is reflected in Jess’ online class work and the consistent expression of her goal of becoming a nurse one day.

After speaking with Jess and Diana (who I interviewed last week) it has become even more apparent to me that colleges need more resources to support single mothers in their educational pursuits, which should involve mental health services. Jess and Diana both spoke on behalf of financial assistance provided by WIC, however this service did not compensate for emotional and mental taxes that are the result of motherhood. The experiences of these women solidify the notion that compensation for the “Mommy Tax” is not provided or acknowledged within our society. Ann Crittenden coined the term “Mommy Tax” in the book The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued which draws attention to the lack of societal value that is put on motherhood and the centrality of motherhood to the progression of society.

“Young mothers should not let people influence their decisions or force them into discomfort.” Jess advises mothers to “feed off their intuition” and not the pressure to live up to expectations or images of the ideal and normalized mother or family form.

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#Hillary Paradox [CLICK]

12193812_10153128432232327_737628475596845358_nWhen weighing her bid for the White House, Hillary Clinton repeatedly said that she wanted to have time to spend with her soon-to-be granddaughter.  Of course, in saying that, Hillary was presumably playing us, as her inevitable entry into the race had to have been decided even at that point.  But maybe she had more than a desire to leave us hanging on the edge of our seats in saying this.  Perhaps the image she has cultivated as a benevolent grandmother and supportive mother have served a political purpose as well?

If you Google “Hillary Clinton” and “unlikeable” in the same search, a barrage of hits will come up.  It’s no secret that Hillary has been criticized as unlikeable.  It may have even cost her the last election (shame, because I really like her).  But this time around, she is determined to not make the same mistakes.  After her departure from the Secretary of State position, she answered people’s questions about what she was going to do with her time by saying that she was looking forward to watching crappy TV and spending time with her dogs.  When daughter Chelsea became pregnant, she announced it on Twitter, declaring “Grandmother-to-Be” as her best title yet.  And now, political commentators are speculating that her foray into grandmotherhood could be great for business, as it were.

In an interview in the Washington Post with Jill Greenlee, scholar and author of “The Political Consequences of Motherhood”, Greenlee discusses the ways in which motherhood (and in this case, grandmotherhood) affect political entry/success.  According to Greenlee, “being a mother fulfills one of the strongest social mandates placed upon a woman, and that appeals to voters.”  Conversely, she states, motherhood responsibilities may make voters question their elected officials’ ability to juggle being a good political and balancing responsibilities at home.  (Funny how men never have to contend with this question).  The anxieties about women managing elected office and motherhood, however, have not stopped Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from appointing women to half of his Cabinet positions because, quote, “it’s 2015.”  

When it comes to Hillary, she believes that motherhood/grandmotherhood may be helping her in the polls.  The countless articles about time spent with granddaughter Charlotte and stops along the campaign trail to allow for facetime with the grandbaby may soften up this portrait of Hillary as ‘unlikeable.’  She states: “[I]n 2008, Hillary Clinton struggled to find a balance between presenting herself as a tough, strong, competent leader and to also display the feminine characteristics that we expect to see from women. By focusing on her experiences as a mother and grandmother, she can very naturally invoke those feminine characteristics in a way that is comfortable for most voters.”  While the benefits of cultivating this image may be clear in the case of Hillary, Greenlee suggests that we will still have to look at these trends on an individual basis for other female politicians.  “At the end of the day, we still have a lot to learn about how motherhood shapes women’s paths to elected office. In a time when we simultaneously have more women than ever running for office and an increasing focus on family and motherhood in politics, it’s more important than ever to explore these issues.”

So for now, the jury is still out on the link between motherhood and any definitive trends in politics.  But the call for an interdisciplinary approach to looking at the applications of motherhood in society is clear.  Mother Studies, anyone?

Reading of Joanne Bamberger's book by Helen Jonson this Sunday at Chappaqua Library

Reading of Joanne Bamberger’s book Sunday at Chappaqua Library

To find out more about the book #TheHillaryParadox go to Joanne Bamberger’s website. Readings will take place throughout the United States. For those local to NYC and Westchester there is a panel discussion moderated by Joanne Bamberger, author and editor, and 3 panelists, Helen, Linda Lowen and Nancy Giles.

Nov. 15, 2015, 3 p.m. – Chappaqua, NY Public Library. Panel discussion & book signing.

This blog post was written by MOM’s social media intern Jenny Nigro.