MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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Reflections on Introduction to Mother Studies Course – by Zairunisha Jnu

Zairunisha photoAbout a month ago, I posted my reflections on the summer intensive course taught through the Museum of Motherhood. I invited my comrade, Zairunisha Jnu, to do the same and offer her impressions from Introduction to Mother Studies.  Zairunisha is a PhD. candidate in the Centre for Philosophy, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.  She is presently working on her research project entitled ” Rhetorics of Choice and Coercion on Motherhood: Revisiting Bioethical Debates from Feminists Perspectives.”

Here is what she said:

I am a student of philosophy and my research area focuses on issues in the field of bioethics with special reference to the impact of new reproductive technologies on motherhood.  During my studies on my research project, I hadn’t studied motherhood in such a broader perspective before doing the Mother Studies course offered by the Museum of Motherhood. The Introduction to Mother Studies course provided a panoptic platform for mothers, students, scholars, professional, etc. where the participants are encouraged and motivated to critically examine, analyse, and correlate problems faced by mothers in their day to day lives from various perspectives, especially from a sociological lens within historical, economic, political and sociological frameworks. Also sometimes we were asked to try to find out solutions to the problems and challenges.  

For me this course was very enlightening in the field of motherhood. I have a knowledge of mother-related problems, issues not only from an American perspective, but an Indian perspective too. Different tools and methods of teaching for instance video lectures, mind blowing movies, news reports, reading materials, writing assignments (hardest part of the course 🙂 etc. made a great combination of practical and theoretical knowledge which encouraged and forced me to rethink about the situation of mothers in the society and question on the pre-established image of women and the role they perform in the family.

As I mentioned above that I am a philosophy student, just familiar with the name of some feminist thinkers such as Adrienne Rich, Sara Ruddick, Patricia Hill Collins, Barbara Katz Rothman and a few others. I have come to learn more about their work and contributions through the Mother Studies course importantly on mother, mothering and motherhood.

In the book Of Women Born, the issues of sexuality, childbirth, child care, and women’s health, Adrienne Rich questions and critiques male-centric cultures and practices. The articleUndivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice” by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried and others, focuses on women’s awareness in the field of reproductive rights and gender inequality. Additionally, Barbara Katz Rothman’s book, Recreating Motherhood shows the perpetuating condition and coercion over ignorant women still continuing in modern technological time and world. It is so hard for competent women to save themselves from the milieu of the society and perform their choices as a free being where mothering is always considered a personal activity and unconsciously become political matter. The crude reality is, only society will decide about you, being a woman  how threatening it is! Nevertheless in this scenario, Mother Studies offers a positive approach and hope for action.  

In this manner, I agree with Jenny’s view that the emerging Mother Studies course is a revolutionary step in the way of making the personal political and academic. It was such a wonderful and unique experience for me working together throughout the coursework with our teacher and classmate/friend. I am keenly looking forward to the possibility of a workshop regarding Mother Studies where we can meet again and explore more prospects and opportunities for our Mother Studies work.   

Written by: Zairunisha Jnu
Arranged by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern

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On My Experience of Motherhood Studies

PatriciaHillCollinsYou may have seen some of my blog posts over the last several weeks that came from the response papers I wrote for the Introduction to Mother Studies course offered through the museum. With a capstone paper using research on current topics related to reproductive technology, the class culminated three weeks ago last Sunday afternoon. I promised myself that I would not begin watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black until the course finished, and I have since been relishing these moments of TV consumption.

Other than satisfying my Netflix addiction, I have been able to reflect back on the course since finishing it. I was a Sociology major in college but took a lot of classes in the Women’s Studies department. Adrienne Rich and Patricia Hill Collins contributed foundational texts to our study in Introduction to Mother Studies. The names and works of these scholars were familiar to me from undergrad. However, studying them in the context of Introduction to Mother Studies, I began to see them in a new light…as mothers. Because of the strength of their words and power of their knowledge, I had always identified them as feminist first, whatever else second. But in a movement where “the personal is political” has been a rallying cry, perhaps for them, they would see themselves as mother/sister/self first, feminist second.

In “Beyond Mothers and Fathers,” Barbara Katz Rothman, a pioneer to the movement, said: “Mothering is an activity, a project…[M]otherhood…is not just a physical or emotional relationship – it is also an intellectual activity.” Scholars and writers have known this and have been doing Mother Studies work for a long time. Whether we have seen it as such or not, the personal has always been political. When women gave birth in their homes attended by practiced midwives, and then again when slander campaigns saw the shift to in-hospital births, Mother Studies was in action. When white middle-class housewives’ alienation derived from raising children in suburban America gave way to the rise of second-wave feminism, Mother Studies was in action. When the eugenics movement created a legacy of racist and anti-poverty sterilization policies, Mother Studies was in action. When images of the super-mom were contrasted with social commentary on the decline of the American family, Mother Studies was in action. When feminists came to the defense of Mary Beth Whitehead, a surrogate who refused to give up her baby, questioning what makes a mother, Mother Studies was in action. We are not recreating the wheel. Our Introduction to Mother Studies is the first time that we are calling it such and the first time we are carving out a space for it as a legitimate discipline. We are making the personal political…and academic.

Find out more about classes in Mother Studies online here.

By: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern

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The Global Motherhood Report Card, Revisited

Save_the_Children,_Westport,_CT,_USA_2012

A few days ago, I received an urgent email from Senator Gillibrand. Okay, maybe it wasn’t actually from the personal email of Kirsten Gillibrand and maybe it wasn’t any more urgent than her other emails about legislation, newsworthy topics, or appeals for support to her PAC. But, nevertheless, this subject line came across my inbox from her Gillibrand for Senate people:

“This made my jaw drop.”

I opened the email to find out what could be making Senator Gillibrand’s jaw drop. It turns out that it was a statistic taken from the NGO Save the Children’s annual report on the status of motherhood, “State of the World’s Mother Report 2015”, a subject that I had posted on a few months back. The report uses a number of indicators to determine the best/worst places in the world to be a mother. As it was when I last posted on the matter, city slums are the worst geographic locations to mother children in the world. Poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and overcrowding are contributing factors to the high incidence of maternal and child deaths in impoverished urban areas. Something worth mentioning has changed since my last post on the report, however: in 2014, the US was ranked just 31st in a list of the best and worst countries to be a mother in, down from 6 in 2006. Now, in 2015, we are even lower, having dropped to number 33. This is what has Senator Gillibrand’s jaw dropping.

The Washington Post took the data from the report and visually mapped it out, available here, showing the best and worst places to be a mother around the globe. At number 33, we’re still among the better countries, but it’s certainly not anything to brag about. Perhaps the reason The Washington Post has taken notice of this report is because it points out that among capital cities in richer countries, Washington, DC has the highest infant mortality rate. The infant mortality rate in this city is an average of 7.9 babies for every 1,000 live births. The averages in cities like Oslo or Sweden (ranked 1st and 5th, respectively, in the report) are around 2.0 babies per every 1,000 births. The report attributes this to the huge gap between rich and poor in DC. Life expectancy overall differs greatly between the city’s richest and poorest populations.

The report uses cities like Phnom Penh in Cambodia as case studies for how they have drastically cut down their infant mortality rates. According to Save the Children, promoting skilled birth attendance, incentivizing training for midwives, and more widespread communication pathways to spread public health messages have contributed to the decrease in infant mortality rates. However, applying this model won’t offer the same solutions to the US, so how can we better support mothers in our nation? Cue Kirsten Gillibrand.

Following her email’s line about jaws dropping was a plea to support a number of female candidates currently running for office, with the hope that electing female representatives will bring about better conditions for mothers in our country. The five indicators used by the State of the World’s Mother report to determine ranking are maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status, economic status, and political status. As part of the political status factor is measured by women’s participation in politics, Senator Gillibrand sees a unique opportunity in turning our less than sterling rank around. She believes (as do I) that the more women we elect to office, the more likely we will see laws codified that support mothers and close the poverty gap in our country – things like higher minimum wage, paid medical leave for mothers, better reproductive care, and expanded access to affordable child care and universal pre-K.

But don’t just trust Save the Children, Senator Gillibrand, or me. As with anything, find out more for yourself. Read the full report here: http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/SOWM_2015.PDF Check out what politicians are saying about maternal health and women’s rights. Follow the status of the Millennium Development Goals put out by the UN: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ And be sure to tell us what you think!

Written by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern

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Annual Academic M.O.M. Conference 2015

10 YEARS AND GOING STRONG
Greetings Annual Academic M.O.M. Conference Participants –
See you on Thursday, April 30th at The Graduate Center in NYC room 9205 which is adjoined to room 9206, and May 1-2 Friday-Saturday at Manhattan College.
We hope you are as excited as we are about this year’s conference.
There are presenters attending from all over the globe, and we look forward to welcoming local students and community members to the presentations.
Thursday morning:
10a: Conference Introduction: Martha Joy Rose
4:45-5:45 Keynote: Barbara Katz Rothman: Women as Fathers
Presenters: If you have not yet paid at this point – please do! It will make the registration process go much smoother. Payment link is:MOMmuseum. We welcome donations too.
The event is free and open to the public for the purposes of more widely disseminating information about Mother Studies. So, feel free to invite friends, family, and your students.
At this point, programs have been ordered, breakfast has been planned (Friday only), and promotions are ongoing.
RADIO & SOCIAL MEDIA
We are pleased to announce that an experimental digital humanities online radio project is underway and we have hopes of launching it with a full day of broadcasting during the conference on Friday April 30th. We are hoping people will be able to tune into CUNYcast.net and access a live broadcast of the conference if they are not able to attend.
We will also be tweeting @MOMmuseum @CUNYcast and FB-ing
Regarding the following items:
Book Sales * Power Points * Microphones * Room Set Up
Please go ONLINE and READ carefully everything that is posted.
You should find answers to most questions there!
PROGRAM AND PRESENTATION INFO

FULL PROGRAM INFO: Including continental breakfast on Friday at MC and parking pass if you are driving.

We do NOT have an official book seller. If you wish to bring books to sell, then you will be responsible, although we will do our best to provide help at the registration desk. If you have flyers or CFPs you are welcome to bring those too.
You can bring books to sell all 3 days.
We will provide a table?
You do not need to mind your books the whole time- honor system usually works.
We do not take a cut of your sales.
Don’t bring too many- you’ll be miserable schlepping them around the city. Maybe a dozen?
You are also welcome to bring postcards, flyers and CFPs.
Presentations take place within a typical classroom, with power point capabilities, etc: Zip drive, online presos, and computer plug in should all work, but I encourage you to bring BACK UP just in case. (For example. Post your presentation online at a place where you can access it, just in case.)
TRANSPORTATION
New York City has two major airports: JFK and LaGuardia.
Public transportation is available from both via train, and cab.
The train from JFK is rather straightforward and costs about $7.50. I would encourage you not to be fearful about taking this option if budget is a concern. There are people at the airport who can direct you, and I’ve done this many times. Here is a link to the NYC Subway Map: http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/subwaymap.pdf
CONFERENCE LOCATION
Mid-Town MANHATTAN – Thursday, April 30, the conference this year will take place at The Graduate Center; 365 5th Ave. (at 34th St)
BRONX (a Borough of Manhattan) Friday & Saturday, May 1-2, at Manhattan College, 4513 Manhattan College Parkway, Bronx, NY 10471
(These two institutions are about a 40 minute subway ride w/brief walk from each other) We are starting registration each day at 9:00 giving people more time for travel :-))

MORE
The Graduate Center is across the street from the Empire State Building, and very centrally located. There are many hotels in the area. I recommend staying in Manhattan, as the hotels are all easily linked by mass transit, which is not the case in the Bronx.
Manhattan is divided into the West and East sides, with subway trains that operate separately on either side of the city. It can be a 40 minute trek from the West to East side, either by bus, or foot, or crosstown subway. It might be easier to stay on the WEST SIDE IF POSSIBLE.
FYI, the subway that best serves Manhattan College is the #1 or #6 train on the West SideLink to more info. Even more info.
 
READ MORE ABOUT THE CONFERENCE HERE [CLICK]
 
With Great Warmth – 
M. Joy Rose on behalf of the MOM Academic Committee

 

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Join Us For Our 2015 Conference, “New Maternalisms”

Joy Rose, Laura Tropp, Barbara Katz Rothman

Joy Rose, Laura Tropp, Barbara Katz Rothman

As we move into April and welcome spring, we also get closer to our annual conference. As you may have seen on other locations on the website, this year, our 2015 conference is titled “New Maternalisms: Tales of Motherwork (Dislodging the Unthinkable)”. The conference will be held over three days, April 30, May 1-2, Thursday-Saturday. Thursday’s program will be held at the CUNY Graduate Center, located at 5th Ave and 34th St. in Manhattan. Friday and Saturday’s program will then be held at Manhattan College, located on Manhattan College Parkway in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

This year’s theme, the concept of “New Maternalisms” is intended to expose the “fissures and cracks between the ideological representation of motherhood and the lived experience of being a mother” (Klein 2012). Through a series of lectures, panels, keynotes, art, and bridging opportunities, the program seeks to bring increased visibility to motherhood and the labor of “motherwork.” We’re so excited to share this year’s program content and how it brings this to life. The conference will feature a wide range of topics on motherhood, including: “Expanding Theory on Motherhood and Caregiving”, “Visual and Popular Depictions of Mothers”, “Extending/Erasing Motherhood”, a panel on “Intimate Labor: Doulas and Motherwork”, “Motherhood, Identity, and Attachment”, “The Personal Journey and Maternal Storytelling”, a panel on “Interconnected Maternalisms: Examples of Everyday Languages”, “Institutional and Systemic Barriers of Motherhood: Femivores, Foster Care, and Things”, “Motherwork, Culture, and Patriarchal Societies”, “Work-Life Balance, Motherhood and Meaning”, a panel on “Making the Invisible Visible: Valuing Motherwork in Society’s Economy and Institutions”, “Motherwork Bodies, Birthing, and Breastfeeding”, “Mothering, Disability, and Motherless Daughters”, a film screening of MIMI and DONA, “Self-Help Theory and Motherhood”, and a panel titled “To the Moon and Back: Why Mothers March, Motherless Children”.

This year’s keynote address will be delivered by Barbara Katz Rothman in room 9205 of the CUNY, GC at 4:45p. a motherwork warrior who is near and dear to our heart here at the Museum of Motherhood. Dr. Katz Rothman is a Professor of Sociology, Public Health, Disability Studies, Women’s Studies, and the Food Studies concentration at the CUNY Graduate Center (and advisor to our own Martha Joy Rose, no less!). She has done extensive work in the areas of midwifery and reproductive technologies. Her scholarship covers new genetics, medical sociology, bioethics, issues in disability, adoption, race, and food studies. The author of works such as In Labor, The Tentative Pregnancy, Recreating Motherhood, The Book of Life, Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption, Laboring On, and the upcoming book, Bun in the Oven: Crafting an Artisanal Midwifery Movement, she has also published numerous articles and curated several academic journals in her fields. In recognition of her contributions to the movement, Dr. Katz Rothman was named to our very own Motherhood Hall of Fame in 2014. Her keynote address will be “Women as Fathers,” how our new technologies and practices are recreating motherhood in the image of an old-fashioned patriarchal fatherhood.

Written by: Jenny Nigro, M.o.M. Online Intern

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Waging a (Mommy) War

Housewife

Well, the mommy war is certainly being waged out there, folks. And the battleground is splashed across online media. Proof? Check out Liz Pardue Schultz’ piece in xoJane: http://www.xojane.com/issues/being-a-stay-at-home-mom-is-not-a-job, which was then picked up by Time: http://time.com/3744591/30-day-minimalism-challenge/ and commented on by Salon: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/16/stay_at_home_motherhood_isnt_a_hobby/

Originally published in xoJane, Schultz’ article appears as part of the “Unpopular Opinion” column. She begins by offering the disclaimer, “Alright, calm down. Before you get angry, you should know that I was a stay-at-home mother of my daughter for five years.” She then dives into her focus of the piece: the dismissal of the notion of stay-at-home parenthood as a career. “Being a stay-at-home mother to your own kids is not a ‘job,’ no matter how difficult it is or how hard we work. Period. Getting to do nothing but raise a person you opted to bring into the world is a privilege, and calling it anything else is ignorant and condescending.” Schultz doesn’t stop at calling stay-at-home motherhood a privilege, though. She eventually calls “SAHM” a hobby: “No, Stay-at-Home-Mothers, choosing to create your own little person upon whom you’ll spend all your time and energy is a hobby. It is a time-consuming, sanity-deteriorating, life-altering hobby — a lot like a heroin addiction, but with more Thirty-One bags.”

Okay, heroine metaphor aside, I can see how she came to the idea of stay-at-home motherhood as a privilege…in the sense that it is a phenomenon reserved to the few that can afford to live/raise children on a single caregiver’s income.   But, in some households, stay-at-home parenting becomes the solution to expensive childcare options. In this scenario, it is neither a privilege nor a hobby. And speaking as a nanny whose profession is, by definition, to take care of children for a living, this makes me feel a certain way. What about us, the people who get paid to do just what this woman is defining as not a job, but a hobby – especially the comrades in my field who are career nannies and housekeepers? Where does this leave us?

Written between the lines of these essentializing statements about stay-at-home-parenthood is the frustration of a woman who is tired of mothers complaining about a job that she feels they knowingly signed up for. Sure, okay, we get that. People have been complaining about other people complaining since the dawn of time. But there is a huge difference between saying that and calling your peers “unemployed, self-righteous idiots” (note: this is especially reserved for the women in the author’s mothers’ groups who have uttered the phrase, “Mothering is the hardest job in the world!”). I can understand if she’s felt alienated by comments here and there of parents espousing their method of child rearing as the best. But in an effort to call out the “martyrdom”, she comes off as a bit self-righteous herself (and isn’t that just a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black)? But, I think, the most undigestable nugget occurs when she talks about a friend that had trouble conceiving and to whom she lent support. Schultz writes that when she finally was able to get pregnant, she had the audacity to complain about her difficult pregnancy (gasp!). Why shouldn’t she have that right? Just because she sprung for expensive fertility treatments in order to be able to get pregnant, she shouldn’t be able to complain about nausea and gas, just like other pregnant women do? Despite claiming to have loved The Feminine Mystique, Schultz missed a key lesson in feminism: a woman’s body (and her associated rights to make complaints about said body) is (are) her own.

Perhaps the thing that we should take from this is that motherhood looks (and feels) different to each person involved. When it comes to motherhood, one woman’s struggle could be another’s triumph. It’s not up to one singular voice to dictate the experience for everyone who they believe to be in their shoes, even if it winds up in the “Unpopular Opinion” column.

Written by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern

Photo credit: Creative Commons