Contemporary Challenges to the Motherhood Myth
Edited By Heather L. Hundley and Sara E. Hayden
5. Maternal Transgressions, Racial Regressions: How Whiteness Mediates the (Worst) White Moms
By SUSANA MARTÍNEZ GUILLEM & LISA A. FLORES
“World’s Worst Mom!” “Worst Mom Ever!” These are proclamations that would seem to bring shame, defeat and condemnation and perhaps be used only in rare occasions. Yet interestingly, amidst the clamors of intensive mothering and the new momism, discourses that ask women to commit themselves to that “natural” calling—motherhood, we see as well a host of pronouncements hailing some mothers as worst ever! At times, the label is clearly an indictment, a marker of failure and transgression. Consider, for instance, the current spate of “worst mom in the world” photo essays available online, such as the one published by IJReview, which include photographs of women, typically with their children, in poses suggesting poor maternal judgment (“15 women compete,” 2014). The label “worst mom ever” would seem to capture a transgression so great that it cannot easily be undone, such as that alleged against Jennifer Marie Vargas, who reportedly yanked her son’s genitals so hard that she tore them and then attempted to glue them back together (Gray, 2013). Or the too-many instances of mothers who kill or attempt to kill their children.1 Some of these transgressions may well qualify as “worst ever.”
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