“Simone de Beauvoir and the Demystification of Motherhood” -Group A Blog Symone Keisha

Yolanda Astarita Patterson – Simone de Beauvoir and the Demystification of Motherhood

http://www.jstor.org/stable/2930228?seq=1

mum and child

The topic that I am focusing on is images of motherhood in literature and the essay I chose to support this is: Simone de Beauvoir and the Demystification of Motherhood by Yolanda Astarita Patterson.  Patterson uses examples of Simone de Beauvoir’s texts, as well as de Beauvoir’s personal life experiences with her own mother and the relationship between her best friend and her mother to show the negative side of motherhood.

The essay opens up describing de Beauvoir’s mother, Francoise. Francoise possessed qualities that you would expect to find in a mother; she was maternal, caring and affectionate however she also possessed over-bearing and controlling qualities which were a direct result of society. De Beauvoir continually iterates that society and tradition thrusts motherhood onto women when it should be a choice, thus creating dysfunctional relationships between mother and child.

simone

De Beauvoir also argues that motherhood places limitations on women. In her text, The Mandarins, a daughter tells her mother that ‘all women can do is vegetate’. This strong statement sums up what motherhood did to most women; it sucked away women’s own personal interests and independence and placed being a mother at the forefront. Women are crushed and left with nothing when they’re separated with their children because they invested all of their time and energy on their children and families. Once gone, they feel they have no purpose in their lives.

crying mum

De Beauvoir also addresses the different types of mothers and there are examples of these in all her texts. She highlights the domineering and manipulative mothers whose attributes are determined by religion and society; the mothers who feel that their children are trapping them and disallowing them to live life as they want to; the women who have an abundance of love and devotion for their children, only for it to not be fully returned. All of these negative aspects to motherhood are de Beauvoir’s way of warning women. She wants women to make motherhood a controlled choice rather than something that they have succumbed to.

stressed mum

 

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Simone de Beauvoir describes mothers and daughters at odds with each other over motherhood and career. Mothers and daughters are shown to ‘agonise’ over the roles they choose, or settle for, in society and are often highly critical of the roles their mother or daughter fulfils. In Aftermath, Rachel Cusk expresses the same anxieties over motherhood and career but explores them not only by comparing herself to her mother but also by comparing the choices made by ‘working mothers’ and ‘stay-at-home mums’, revealing that similar resentments exist between these groups as exist between mothers and daughters.

    The language that Cusk employs, denoting the stay-at-home ‘mum’ as opposed to the working ‘mother’, further emphasises the ideological gap between the two groups. ‘Mum’ is informal and familiar but sounds childish, where as ‘mother’ is the dictionary definition of one who has given birth, a formal term to describe an occupation. Is ‘mum’ somehow less for choosing to remain at home? Or is ‘mum’, a word loaded with warm, family-friendly connotations, somehow more for choosing to stay at home?

    In a patriarchal society, where women are still trying to achieve the freedom of choice granted to men, Cusk’s memoir reveals that whether they are mothers and daughters, or female friends, women continue to challenge and judge each other about the choices they make regarding motherhood.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Ellie on November 11, 2013 at 9:26 am

    As De Beaviour explained, motherhood sucks away women’s own identity and independence. They are given a role which they are expected to play. Rachel Cusk argued the same idea, she said as a mother she had to suspend her own character, and adopt a ‘second self’. Cusk also said her mother was like an actress, her voice was artificial. This meant Cusk’s mother was inaccessible; Cusk never truly knew her mother. The false self, the performance of motherhood, puts a strain on the mother and child relationship. Mothers are expected to play the idealised mother, according to social conventions, which is not always possible. This causes tension as women are frustrated and struggling to choose, or even juggle between two selves. The struggle between the two selves is showed in motherhood, and it is evident in Cusk herself. She said she feels like ‘two woman’ or ‘a half woman’. This shows fragmentation; she feels divided and incomplete.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Olivia on November 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    De Beauviour and Cusk demonstrate the influence a patriarchal society has over motherhood. Women who are not content with the role of the domestic become resentful and frustrated, which consequently affects their relationship with their children. It is difficult to establish a role within the family unit that does not conform to the gendered roles already constructed by society.
    Beauviour argues that a mother becomes defined by her children.The absence of her children would then take away her identity as she is entirely invested in her offspring.
    Both texts portray a bitterness between women, particularly between mother and daughter, as every woman that conforms to the role of the domestic creates a more patriarchal and secluded environment for other women.

    Reply

  4. The negative view De Beauvoir presents towards motherhood reflects the truth of struggle and responsibility associated with parenting and also the harsh expectation society has from mothers. By sacrificing ‘their own needs and desires to those of their families’ a mother is expected to focus everything she has on her children and live her life through theirs. Similarly, Rachel Cusk also shows gender roles in the mother and father relationship and that if a mother is to break free from her trapped marriage then she has to pay a price for this. Although the man is also dependent on his wife, Cusk argues it is the woman who suffers by asking for equality in the marriage, if a mother wants her freedom then is she considered to be selfish?

    De Beauvoir and Cusk’s personal experiences emphasize the effect that the parents have on the child. When speaking of her experience saying: ‘nothing to pass on from mother to daughter but these adulterated male values’ this is all she was exposed to when ideally, both mother and father should equally pass on their values to the child. Cusk mentions the stay-at-home mum to consider herself as lucky because she does not have to financially support her family, however says this is just a way to defend herself as not being lazy.

    Today, this would not be an option as it is the norm for many women to work and financially support themselves and establishing a career is more of a priority than becoming a mother. Although the equality in marriage has improved there is still evidence today for it being a patriarchal institution, there is also evidence of motherhood being taken for granted. ‘Aftermath’ shows how these women expect nothing but gratitude in return for what they do and this is something we perhaps take for granted.

    Reply

  5. The negative view De Beauvoir presents towards motherhood reflects the truth of struggle and responsibility associated with parenting and also the harsh expectation society has from mothers. By sacrificing ‘their own needs and desires to those of their families’ a mother is expected to focus everything she has on her children and live her life through theirs. Similarly, Rachel Cusk also shows gender roles in the mother and father relationship and that if a mother is to break free from her trapped marriage then she has to pay a price for this. Although the man is also dependent on his wife, Cusk argues it is the woman who suffers by asking for equality in the marriage, if a mother wants her freedom then is she considered to be selfish?

    De Beauvoir and Cusk’s personal experiences emphasize the effect that the parents have on the child. When speaking of her experience saying: ‘nothing to pass on from mother to daughter but these adulterated male values’ this is all she was exposed to when ideally, both mother and father should equally pass on their values to the child. Cusk mentions the stay-at-home mum to consider herself as lucky because she does not have to financially support her family, however says this is just a way to defend herself as not being lazy.

    Today, this would not be an option as it is the norm for many women to work and financially support themselves and establishing a career is more of a priority than becoming a mother. Although the equality in marriage has improved there is still evidence today for it being a patriarchal institution, there is also evidence of motherhood being taken for granted. ‘Aftermath’ shows how these women expect nothing but gratitude in return for what they do and this is something we perhaps take for granted.

    Reply

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