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Abstracts and Papers

Bad Mothers
A Global Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference

Saturday 6th March 2021 –  Sunday 7th March 2021
Online Conference via ShockLogic


Mother’s Love: From “Games Played While Lying Down: Embodying Mothering Experience”
Sarah Rose Mauney
University of Colorado, Boulder

Key Words:
Motherhood, Resistance, Self-Love, Guilt, Control, Surrender

The intention of this piece, titled “Flux Capacity”, is to examine the extent to which a new mother is capable of and willing to change in response to the fluctuating circumstances of their life. I have drawn on my own life experience of surviving pregnancy, childbirth, and the first two years of motherhood and the immense resistance to change I felt in the face of these life events. This dance piece serves as the vehicle through which I examine my own ability to change in the face of great personal shift, my desire to maintain an illusion of control over my life while at the same time surrendering to the fact that I am simply a passenger of this existence. Ultimately, I seek to probe the question “Does my desire to maintain a sense of ‘self’ make me a bad mother?”.

The piece utilizes the phrase work developed in studio with my daughter in three phases of change; One, without any physical hindrance, danced to its fullest, a representation of my pre-baby self; Two is with my partner standing on my hips and my back pinned to the floor but still attempting the phrase, resisting my partner’s presence and may need to adapt to her; Three shifts to my surrendering to my partner’s presence, and I adapt the phrase to move around her and with her weight. The phrase becomes something different, effortful but ultimately more manageable and still recognizable as the material from the beginning of the piece.

An informal showing of the piece can be seen at the following link: https://vimeo.com/349324718


Challenging the Myth of the Good-Bad Mother Dichotomy: Conceptualizing Homeless Unaccompanied Motherhood as a Site of Intersecting Injustices
Méabh Savage
Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)

Key Words:
Homeless unaccompanied mothers, affective injustices, middle class moral motherhood, good and bad mother,

This study primarily examined the way three intersecting circles of nurturing (or lack of nurturing) within the affective sphere interact within the economic, political and cultural relations (Lynch 2007) in women’s lives to produce affective injustices. The findings of the study enhance our understanding of how affective injustices are framed, and continue to frame, the lives and experiences of homeless unaccompanied mothers.

There were two phases of field work. Phase one involved in-depth interviews with seven homeless unaccompanied mothers, based around several key themes relating to their care and classed experiences across their lives. Phase two involved semi-structured interviews with twelve professional care workers, employed across five different homelessness services.

Women’s narratives revealed how affective injustices are lived through the bodies of poor women as violence, abuse and neglect, and are performed through their bodies as mental illness, disability and substance misuse. The data also shows that affective injustices are produced across all three spheres of care relations, namely the primary, secondary and tertiary spheres (Lynch 2007). Affective formations are mediated and lived through deep social class-based injustices. Mothers’ experiences of care relationships are positioned as central to the construction of their subjectivities. Their relational care identities as women and mothers are mediated by social class (Crean 2018).

Women’s subjectivity and agency as evaluative and ethical subjects also emerge as a key concern in the study. Frequently labelled as ‘bad mothers’ in a social milieu of middle-class mothering and neo-liberal discourse of individualism, several aspects of women’s agency challenge this dominant narrative. It shows that homeless women are moral mothers within the context of the affective relations and material resources available to them.

Moral evaluations of motherhood, constructed through cultural characteristics of good (caring) and bad (uncaring/unaccompanied) mothers are shown to mark the boundary between deserving and undeserving mothers. They obscure the voices and unjust classed, racialised and disablist experiences of the mothers themselves.


The Other Mother: Understanding the Negative Archetype of the Nonbiological Mother 
Shayne Rivers

Key Words:
Motherhood, Step Mother, Foster Mother, Adoptive Mother, Other Mother, Negative Mother Archetype, Mythology, Fairytails,

Step-mothers, foster mothers, and adoptive mothers hold a powerful position as the other mother in the child mother relationship. From fairytales to modern tv shows they are often portrayed as evil, vindictive, conniving or at the very least intensely annoying. These other mothers hold the position of motherhood and we see them portrayed in cultural mythology from the Brothers Grimms Fairytales to Disneyland.

These other mothers are the caregivers of children all over the world. Holding the space of a mother by feeding, tending and loving the children in their care yet they are met with distrust by the children, families and even organizations that are meant to support them. They are told that they are not the “real” mom. They often have very few legal rights to the children and the relationship can be severed without any control on the part of the other mother. The demonizing of the other mother is one part of our cultural need to split the archetype of the mother into angel or demon. The western culture holds onto the dream image of the Uber mother as perfect, all loving, peaceful even sacred while denying the reality that all mothers have an array of emotions, actions, and autonomy that could be portrayed as evil.

My proposed presentation will take an in depth look at the mythology of the other mother and what this archetype means to our cultural. How this archetype reflects the experience of children in todays society and what roles it fulfills in the adult psyche. I will also examine the impact this archetype has on woman who are other mothers in their relationships to children.


“Out of Bounds”: Maternal Regret and the Reframing of Normative Motherhood
Andrea O’Reilly
York University, Toronto

Key Words:
maternal regret; bad mothers; bad mothering; normative motherhood;

Central to patriarchal motherhood is the belief that all women want to become mothers, that mothering comes naturally to women, and that women experience mothering as fulfilling and gratifying: assumptions that I have termed essentialization, naturalization, and idealization. In patriarchal motherhood it is assumed (and expected) that all women want to be mothers (essentialization), that maternal ability and motherlove are innate to all mothers (naturalization), and that all mothers find joy and purpose in motherhood (idealization). Over the last few years, these dictates of normative motherhood have been countered and challenged by the emergence of what has been termed “the last parenting taboo: maternal regret”. From magazine articles, Marie Claire’s “Inside the growing movement of women who wished they never had kids and Today’s Parent’s “Regretting Motherhood: What Have I Done with My Life?” to scholarly works such as Regretting Motherhood: A Study (Donath, 2017) and The Myth of Mothering Joy: Regretting Motherhood-Why I’d Rather Have Become a Father, (Fischer 2016) mothers, as noted by Anne Kingston in her recent feature article on maternal regret, “are challenging an explosive taboo and pushing the boundaries of accepted maternal response; and reframing motherhood in the process.” Indeed, as author Lionel Shriver commented in reference to her acclaimed 2003 novel We Need to Talk about Kevin in which maternal regret is a central theme, “While we may have taken the lid of sex, it is still out of bounds to say that you do not like your own kids, that the sacrifices they have demanded of you are unbearable, or perish the thought, you wish you never had them.” The proposed paper, borrowing from Shriver and Kingston’s words will explore how the emergence of the “out of bounds’ topic of maternal regret has given rise to a reframing of contemporary mothering to offer a formidable critique of, and corrective to normative motherhood.


“A Redundant Little Brat” Mother Character in Sunčana Škrinjarić’s Novel Ulica Predaka (The Ancestor’s Street)
Ana Batinić
Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Same as in real life of every child, in children’s and young adult literature the mother character takes an indispensable place. Young readers encounter literary mothers represented in many different ways, from the archetypal representation as a general idea existing in human minds through limiting stereotyped images that assume all mothers share identical or similar characteristics to alternative mother-figures. This paper will attempt to analyze the character of a mother depicted in the novel The Ancestors’ Street published in 1980 by Sunčana Škrinjarić (1931 – 2004), one of the classics of Croatian children’s and young adult literature. Although the critics are not in agreement regarding the classification of the novel: some consider it as a children’s and/or young adult novel, some as a Bildungsroman and others as a fictionalized biography, the novel is suitable for both younger and older children as well as for adults. The narrator’s voice belongs to a girl named Tajana and the events taking place at the time of World War II in Zagreb and Split in former Yugoslavia are narrated from a child’s psychological viewpoint. The narrative technique relying on a „naive“ child character is based on a stylized children’s way of talking, which emphasizes the expressiveness of reality interpretation. The novel consists of a series of subtitled sequences constituting a homogeneous whole, but which can also be read as separate stories. The main topic is Tajana’s growing up, but without didacticism, moral lessons or childhood idealizations. The archetypal mother can have two polarised roles – one is a kind, protective parent and the other is a harmful, abusive mother which can often be found in fairytales. In The Ancestors’ Street Tajana’s mother belongs to the second group. After becoming a mother, every woman faces two contradictory models of the realization of her „role“: being a mother or being a woman. Although some women more or less successfully manage to find balance, most, whether they want it or not, find themselves on one or the other side of the scale, being more women than mothers (as is the case with Tajana’s mother) or being more mothers than women. Tajana’s mother is an educated, beautiful and coquettish woman who does not love her daughter. She sees the girl only as a „redundant little brat“, a reminder of her broken first marriage and an obstacle to her life happiness. Hitting Tajana, pulling her hair and ignoring basically all her needs, she can be labeled as a bad mother who fails to fulfill the duties of her role as a mother: the duty of being present and protective, of providing for her well-being and upbringing. According to the mother type categorization by Caroline Eliacheff and Nathalie Heinich in their book Mères – filles. Une relation à trois (2002), Tajana’s mother could be categorized as a combination of narcissistic and inconstant mother, incapable of providing those who are dependant on her with reactions predictable enough to serve as orientation, foothold and support. Thus, the relationship between Tajana and her mother can be studied from literary, but also psychological and sociological viewpoints.


“Good” Mom vs. “Bad” Mom: Discourses of Motherhood and the Policing of Young Mothers
Amber-Lee Varadi
York University

Key Words:
young motherhood; policing; age; inequality; discourse

Within a public consciousness informed by mythological beliefs in meritocracy, postracialism, and postfeminism, youth pregnancy continues to be socially recognized as a tragedy, a mistake, and a ‘wrong’ choice resulting from ‘careless’ behaviour, consequently influencing young mothers by shaping and constraining their actions and lifestyle choices (Baker, 2009; Cense & Ganzevoort, 2018; Kelly, 1998, 2000; Luttrell, 2003). While today’s postfeminist and neoliberal ethos trivializes and denies the relevance of gender, class, and race, existing literature on young motherhood demonstrates how systems of inequality continue to influence and govern the lives of young mothers. Utilizing a Foucauldian and poststructural feminist lens, this research aims to uncover these inequalities by examining how, where, and why young mothers experience forms of policing. Through semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with 11 young mothers, this research illustrates how existing discourses of ‘good’ motherhood and neoliberal citizenship shape and contribute to young mothers’ lack of resources. This research argues that negative discourses which frame young motherhood as ‘bad’ motherhood reproduce problematic knowledges about young mothers that limit the availability of the supports they need and lead to the establishment of surveillant forms of ‘support’ that maintain the ongoing positioning of young mothers as flawed, incapable, and in need of regulation. Participants conceptualized ‘good’ motherhood through two qualities – ‘being there’ and ‘taking care of herself too.’ This research shows how these qualities both reproduce and resist hegemonic discourses related to normative mothering within contemporary neoliberalism. Findings also reveal how both real and perceived instances of negative and positive judgement resulted in young mothers’ policing and/or self-policing, influencing their behaviours, choices, and self-beliefs. Despite experiences of negative judgement rooted in discourses of youth, mothering, and young motherhood, the participants recognized their parenting as rewarding, consequently resisting the hegemonic narrative of young motherhood as a mistake.


“You must change your ways … because a healthy mother gives birth to healthy children”: Rural Women and the Pronatalist politics of Adult Education programs in Post-Independence Tanzania.
Husseina Dinani
Historical and Cultural Studies Centre for Critical Development Studies University of Toronto Scarborough

Key Words:
Pronatalism, Infant Mortality, Southern Tanzania, Adult-Education, Maendeleo, Nation-Building, Rural women

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Tanzanian state consistently presented an image of rural women as “bad mothers.” As the state grappled with rampant food insecurity, state discourses admonished women for their neglectful and backward child-rearing practices, holding them accountable for the high levels of child mortality and malnutrition plaguing the new nation. To rectify the perceived shortcomings of mothers’ nutritive knowledge and nurturing practices, the government launched, in collaboration with international non-governmental organizations, an array of welfare initiatives focused on combatting child mortality and malnutrition. State discourses that previously invoked the trope of the “bad mother” came to present women’s enthusiastic engagement in these development initiatives as women’s expressions of patriotism and civic engagement and evidence of the government’s success in establishing a healthier and modern citizenry. Using state archives and newspapers, this paper demonstrates that the conflicting state narratives of rural women as “bad mothers” and stalwart socialist citizens disclose the significance of pronatalist politics and the space of the rural countryside shaping the Tanzanian government’s nation-building agenda. The oral accounts of women collected in southern Tanzania, however, suggest that an amalgam of state persuasion and women’s gendered understandings of maendeleo (development) account for women’s robust participation in programs that limited their role to the reproductive sphere. Women’s engagement in nation-building brings to the fore the significance of prior historical gendered patterns, particularly southern women’s marginalization from the (formal) educational sector, pronatalist desires and concerns and continuing impoverishment. Additionally, women’s generally forthcoming engagement in maternal and familial development initiatives illuminates the, often overlooked, inherently appealing aspects of maendeleo, which yielded a form of nation-building that simultaneously brought together the overlapping and diverging aspirations of different ideologies and actors in the post-independence period.


Mothers, Murder and Child Custody
Theresa Porter
State of Connecticut-DMHAS

When Elaine Campione divorced her husband, he did not initially ask for custody. However, once the divorce was settled and he was moving on with his life, he filed for custody of their two daughters, 3 years and 19 months. He even asked the court to give the children their own lawyer to work solely for the children’s best interest. Elaine Campione, according to her own mother, was not concerned with what was in the best interests of the children or in taking care of them. What she was interested in was making her ex-husband suffer. During the couple’s acrimonious custody battle, Elaine Campione drowned her two daughters, videotaping herself and the children beforehand and afterwards, addressing her ex-husband throughout “Leo, there, are you happy? …The idea that you could actually have my children… Now you can look at the caskets and talk to them that way…There is no way I could have them with you.”

Cases such as Campione’s highlight the phenomenon of mothers who commit filicide during custody disputes. What would drive a woman to murder her own offspring rather than allow them to be separated from her? In some cases, it appears a mother views her child as an object that is disposable, dispensed with when he or she no longer serves the mother’s needs. An alternative view is that the child is seen as a narcissistic extension of a mother who cannot conceive of the child existing without her, or that the child becomes a weapon by which revenge is delivered. In order to understand the actions of mothers who kill their own children during custody cases, it is necessary to examine the psychology of each type of mother in order to prevent this particular form of filicide.


“Reproductive Failure: Bad Labour, Bad Mothers, and Failed Neoliberal Subjects”
Gina Schlesselman-Tarango
Pfau Library, California State University, San Bernardino

Key Words:
Reproductive failure, infertility, sterility, pregnancy loss, neoliberalism, labor, photo essay

This photo essay explores the ways in which to fail to reproduce (due to in/subfertility, sterility, pregnancy loss, etc.) is at the same time to fail as a neoliberal subject. It highlights reproductive labor that, because it is nonproductive, if often read as pointless, a waste of time, “bad.” The content presented – a slideshow of mixed media work created from the author’s Archive of Reproductive Failure – takes seriously these labors of failure (both affective and material) and asks participants to look at failure and loss not as purely individual phenomena but rather as created by and tethered to the logics and operations of larger systems and structures, from the healthcare industry and workplace norms to the neoliberal insistence on meritocracy and fixation with “success.”

This presentation puts the author’s personal experiences with reproductive failure in conversation with existing research, including that which addresses reproductive failure and meritocracy (Layne, 2003, 2014); reproductive technologies and the fertility industry (Britt, 2001; Harwood, 2007); critical disability studies (Garland-Thomson, 1997, 2002); race and class and the “deserving” and “undeserving” infertile (Bell, 2014; Marsh and Ronner, 1996; Ross, Roberts, Derkas, Peoples, & Bridgewater Toure, 2017); and feminist and queer understandings of failure (Cosgrove, 2004; Halberstam, 2011; Lind & Deveau, 2017; Love, 2007; Novotny, 2017; Scuro, 2017; Warner, 1991).

In doing so, it answers the call to make failed reproductive bodies legible, to recognize reproductive failure as labor (Earle, 2008; Schlesselman-Tarango, 2020; Scuro, 2017). It raises important questions, such as what role failure might have in our understanding of the deserving or undeserving (in)fertile. How do race and class direct opportunities to address or “cure” failure? How do these identities caste some as “good” or “bad” potential-but-not-yet mothers? How can we claim and recognize nonproductive labor as labor, as valuable?


Deadly Mothers
Gurbax Matoo
University of Birmingham

Key Words:
Mothers; Motherhood; Killers; Children; Femininity; Television; Representation; Patriarchy; Ideology; Neglect

With a focus on mothers who kill their children, this paper will discuss newspaper and television representations of cases involving both White British and South Asian women to offer a comparative analysis of how ethnicity intersects in ‘bad’ mother representations. In relation to social work, it appears that interventions and practices are embedded within this cultural context hence the need to have a more nuanced focus on women and their individual experiences of motherhood requires careful consideration.

Ideologies and practice surrounding the patriarchal institution of motherhood have generally supported the idea that raising children is the responsibility of women (Greene, 2015). From this, expectations and assumptions of what constitutes femininity and ‘good mothering’ (Green, 2015) are internalised by women and further reinforced by social and cultural practices and standards by which motherhood is evaluated. Arguably, such representations of good motherhood also work to discipline and police mothers, women and femininity (Smart,1996). In order to fully immerse herself into motherhood, she is expected to prioritise the needs of her child and become totally child-centred where her indispensability is driven by guilt and fear of getting it wrong. In such circumstances, if her child’s physical and emotional needs are not met, she is then heavily criticised and is regarded as a ‘bad’ mother. As such, when mothers are unable to prioritise the needs of their child this can lead to potential fatality.

These themes will be thoroughly analysed through the lens of extensive social work practice and interventions.


Making the Darkness Conscious: Facing the Bad Mother on the Page
Rachel Newsome
The University Of Salford,
Manchester, United Kingdom

Key Words:
Mother-wound, un-mothered, creative writing, trauma, recovery, Jung, shadow work

How can the daughters of bad mothers represent associated childhood trauma and complex PTSD on the page? What are the ways in which creative writing might operate as a form of recovery and restoration for the un-mothered self, while producing outputs that offer valuable insights for readers? As a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, I am researching-through-practice writing the mother wound, building on a rich and ever evolving lineage of mother-daughter literature via a series of autobiographical short stories, in order to process and “work through” trauma (Van Der Weil 2014). Informed by my experience of Jungian analysis, each story is intended to operate as a form of Jungian shadow work – exploring both my bad mother’s rage and that of my un-mothered self on the page, with a view to making the darkness conscious. Employing archetypes, dream material and symbolic metaphorization, these stories traverse boundaries between inner and outer worlds (Woodman 1997) in order to provide imaginative pathways to reconciliation with the bad mother – and the multifarious ways she might manifest herself – for both myself and others.


Uncomfortable Maternal Love for a Disabled Child: an Exploration of Maternal Ambivalence
Clare Harvey
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa

Key Words:
Disability; disabled child; maternal ambivalence; maternal subjectivity; mothers; psychoanalysis

There has been only limited psychoanalytic research on the maternal experience of raising a child with a disability, and in particular, a visible physical disability. The embodied and social experience of disability, motherhood, and subjectivity is brought into sharp focus by the visibleness of physical disability. Disability can produce an experience of unfamiliarity for non-disabled people. Nine women raising physically disabled children were interviewed, using a method informed by psychoanalytic theory and practice, so as to access the subjective experiences of mothers of children with a visible physical disability. Attention was paid not only to everyday aspects of maternal experience, but also to those aspects that are more forbidden, more difficult to articulate and sometimes painful to explore. Arguably the gaze of others provokes a particular maternal response, since others experience disabled children as unfamiliar. The paper considers the emotional discomfort around disability which the mothers are confronted with internally, as well as other people’s responses to their children. Accordingly maternal ambivalence is amplified. Maternal attempts to manage this complex terrain so as to maintain love for their children are explored. The mothers’ continuing processes of psychic development vacillate between integration and being unravelled as they sit on the boundary of their own sense of unfamiliarity. Implications for understandings of childhood disability and maternity, are examined.


The Other Dance Mother: Analyzing the “Bad” Stage Mother in Competitive Dance
Lisa Sandlos

Key Words:
Stage mothers, competitive dance, maternal thinking, intensive mothering, daughters, performativity, feminist ethnography.

While the rise of competitive dance in North America has encouraged many mothers to cultivate, manage, and advance their children’s involvement in dance, a stage mother is known to be intensively invested in promoting her child’s performing career. Stage mothers are often regarded in dance studios in a negative light and some mainstream film and television shows perpetuate a stereotypical view of stage mothers as pathological. For example, in the 2010 blockbuster film, Black Swan, Barbara Hershey depicted a mother who was controlling, overbearing and cruel towards her dancing daughter and the reality television series, Dance Moms, showed stage mothers as excessive and unreasonable but lacking in agency. Paradoxically, the stereotype of the “bad” stage mother functions to uphold the image and myth of the “good” mother and a better understanding of this polarization can deepen insight about twenty-first century, middle and upper-class North American mothering practices more generally.

In this paper, I investigate—but wish to resist perpetuating—the dominant view of the stage mother as the Other. Drawing on my experience and perspectives as a feminist dance scholar, as a former dancer, mother of two young dancers, dance educator, and Certified Movement Analyst, I utilize feminist theories of maternity (including Douglas and Michaels 2004; Hays 1998; Lladd-Taylor 2004; Ruddick 1983) to support my argument that much can be learned from a deeper understanding of the ways in which stage mothers are socially constructed and the ways in which they interpret the messages and mandates of mainstream twenty-first century mothering. My argument is further illustrated by ethnographic interviews and focus groups I have conducted in three privately-owned suburban dance studios.


What is Incomprehensible”: The Myth of Maternal Omniscience and the Judgment of Maternal Culpability in Sue Klebold’s A Mother’s Reckoning and Monique Lépine’s Aftermath.
Andrea O’Reilly
York University, Toronto

Key Words:
Bad mothers; motherhood memoirs; school shootings; mothers and sons;

The paper examines the memoirs of two mothers whose sons, Dylan Klebold and Marc Lépine, committed two of the most infamous school shootings in North America and then died by suicide: Columbine in the United States (1999) and the Montreal Massacre in Canada (1989). The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine. Dylan Klebold and his friend Eric Harris killed thirteen people and injured many more. The both later died by suicide. The École Polytechnique massacre, also known as the Montreal massacre, was a mass shooting at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada that occurred on December 6, 1989. Twenty-five year old Marc Lepine began his attack by separating the male students from the female students and after calling the women a “bunch of feminists” proceeded to kill fourteen women and injured another ten women and four men. He then died by suicide. His suicide note blamed feminists for the failure of his life. The memoirs by Sue Klebod—A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (2016)— and by Monique Lépine—Aftermath: The Mother of Marc Lépine Tells the Story of Her Life Before and After the Montreal Massacre (2008)—narrate what Klebold terms “coming to terms with the impossible” and Lépine describes as “her descent into nightmare,” as each mother seeks to understand what caused her son to commit the massacre and die by suicide. The paper explores each mother’s journey toward understanding her son’s crime and death through denial, despair, anger, grief, shame, and, eventually, healing. In this paper I examine the normative discourse of good motherhood and how it informs and shapes each mother’s attempt to explain and comprehend how her son, in Lépine’s words, “turned into a heartless murderer” (22). In particular, I address two salient beliefs of normative motherhood: first, good mothers raise good children and bad mothers raise bad children; and second, good mothers, as involved parents, should and must know their children. Klebold and Lépine in their poignant rendering and remembering of mothering deliver a potent critique and corrective to these conjectures of normative motherhood. The first section of the paper on A Mother’s Reckoning examines the myth of maternal omniscience while the second section on Aftermath considers the judgement of maternal culpability. What readers learn in these memoirs of loss is that children may be unknowable and that mothers are not responsible for the actions of their children. In so doing, the memoirs astutely disrupt, dispute, and discredit mother blame as they are enacted in the myth of maternal omniscience as well as in the judgment of maternal culpability.


Crafting Tools: Instagram, the Hashtag, and Diana Manole’s The Child Who Didn’t Want to be Born
Alicia Corts
Saint Leo University

Key Words:
Internet, ritual performance, theatre, motherhood, virtual performance, social media

Sanctimommy: a dreaded moniker given to online commentators who are perceived to overstep societal boundaries in judging other mothers. These mothers step into the role of social conscience, suggesting that activities posted on social media can be scrutinized, judged, and punished by complete strangers. Over the last several years, these identities have caused the questioning of values and the isolation of some mothers based on the tools of the social media platforms themselves. A mother can post a picture of her toddler in a car seat, for example, and find herself under a barrage of scrutiny about size, how the seat faces, and whether or not it’s appropriate for a toddler to be doing a variety of activities while in the car seat, such as eating or napping. In this paper and performance, I want to consider how Instagram hashtags as a means of both self-identifying and as judgment for mothers as an imagined community. Sanctimommies, the most judgmental in the imagined motherhood community, use their influence to pressure and exile mothers deemed unworthy using the crafting tools of Instagram. I’d like to further explore the idea of the imagined exiles, those judged “unworthy mothers,” through the work of playwright Diana Manole and her play, The Child Who Did Not Want to Be Born. This play specifically imagines the unnamed characters in the decisions sanctimommies make, complicating their performance and speaking directly to the privilege they claim.

Rather than simply presenting the research, a media performance starts this conversation. A projector can personify the anonymous voices of Instagram, and when the projector moves to find a target, it replicates and enhances the judgment of the sanctimommy. The nameless, spector-like projector operator becomes a ritual judge, adding weight to the judgment of the spectators.


Murderous Mother: a Kristevan Reading of Adora Crellin (Sharp Objects 2018) as Bad Mother
Marnell Kirsten
Red & Yellow Creative School of Business

Joanna Glanville
Red & Yellow Creative School of Business

Key Words:
Kristeva, abject, motherhood, dualism, representation of a bad mother, visual studies, resisting ‘femininity’, semiotic chora, castrating female

In Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror (1982), she describes the “two-faced” mother as “ideal, artistically inclined, dedicated to beauty … on the one hand, the focus of the artist’s gaze who admits he has taken her as a model” (1982: 157), but also as a figure “tied to suffering, illness, sacrifice … This kind of motherhood, the masochistic mother who never stops working is repulsive and fascinating, abject” (1982: 158). Sharp Objects’ dominant mother figure, Adora Crellin, appears signified solely in Kristeva’s first location of ‘the mother’. Set in an atmosphere of utter domestication, Adora, always immaculately dressed and well-groomed, is ostensibly ‘ideal’ and dedicated to upholding beauty and aesthetic appearances in the spaces she inhabits and the female body she exists in. This facade of motherhood, and its ties to womanhood, splinters when considering the relationship Adora has/had with her three daughters, and Crellin is revealed to the viewer as “repulsive and fascinating, abject” (Kristeva 1982: 158), a manifestation of the Kristevaen notion that “the mother gives us life, but without infinity” (1982: 159). This duality in the representation of Crellin’s character is however not a limited definition of her as ‘bad mother’. This paper proposes to flesh out a Kristevan understanding of Adora as a mother who gives finite life both to her daughters and her own endurances of motherhood.


“Bad Mother” in the Movies: How Cinema Expresses a Social Representation of itsRole play.
Maria da Luz Ramos

Key Words:
“bad mothers”; mother role play; media representation; social representation; cinema; focus group; narrative analyses.

Cinema is as in important way of expressing culture, values and realities through representations constructed in and by social agents and social dynamics so its impact on societies is quite relevant to understand how the narrative are presented to the audiences and their expectations. How are the narrative about “bad mother” represented in the movies? Is there a global perception and a global concept expressed by characters aside of their age, ethnicity or social stratification? In these last 20 years (XXI Century) how are “mothers” represented as being “bad” in movies that were nominated and even won Hollywood Oscars Awards? Regardless all the controversy about those prizes it’s social and media impact is unquestionable.

The starting point of this paper is precisely the question “What does it mean to be a bad mother”? It is an ambiguous and complex question that should be seen accordingly to a myriad of variables and criteria along with the particularities of social and cultural context. The dominant narrative put women in the heart of family existence as if they had a monopoly of parental responsibilities. When a mother does not provide their children’s need or does not protect them or express their love she is usually more criticised by society than a father. The first step of this paper is to define “bad mother” regarding self-perceptions of mothers, fathers and children using “focus group” interviews. The second path is to analyse movies narrative regarding those self-perception in order to understand the linkage between media representation and social representation of “bad mothers” in XXI century within west societies.


Good Mothers, Bad Mothers: A Disney Phallocratic Tale
Sara Arroja-Schürmann
University of Geneva, Switzerland

Key Words:
Good, Evil, Motherhood, Disney, Tale, Reality, Phallocracy, Sexism

In this work, we will discuss the fundamental position of mothers in Disney’s famous animated movies. Known for being among our childhood’s “essentials”, these films portray women (and mothers in particular) in a very reductive and sexist manner. Contrary to their male counterpart, mothers do not appear as fundamentally important in a child’s education. Indeed, from distinctive absences to furtive and useless appearances, they do not seem to represent full characters filled with dignity and self-confidence. However, when mothers or “motherly” figures come into view, they are rather depicted as evil and sadistic creatures whose mere antagonistic existence revolves around the destruction of the poor protagonist (usually a defenseless and naïve young girl). From sexual freedom to independent stature or perverse obsessions, they do expose the luring evil that could destroy young girls’ virtue. Let us recall the widely infamous figure of the “step-mother”. Especially relevant in Cinderella, the legend became a real fear for generations. Instead of giving love and nurturing her as a “good mother”; she displayed unfair and mean gestures towards the child. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Disney clearly exposes a deadly jealousy in the (step-)mother / daughter relationship that could have fatal consequences. The vain mother who wishes the death of her “filial” female rival. Female antagonists can also personify maternal profiles. For example, in The Little Mermaid, the villainess Ursula could stand for a maternal figure. Charming and seductive at first, she manages to trick Ariel into losing her voice (the main way of expression) in order to get the man (lure him with her physical attractive traits). Basing my work on the animated movies (primarily) and on sociological and psychological studies (secondary bibliography), I will attempt to demonstrate the strong manipulation of children’s minds when it comes to mothers and their social representations.

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