Contemporary Challenges to the Motherhood Myth
Edited By Heather L. Hundley and Sara E. Hayden
12. “Devil Mamas” of Social Media: Resistant Maternal Discourses in Sanctimommy
By VALERIE PALMER-MEHTA & SHERIANNE SHULER1
Feminist rhetorical scholars have characterized the diverse discourses of motherhood that pervade U.S. culture as “polyvalent” (Kinser, 2013, p. xv), “slippery” (Buchanan, 2013, p. xvii), “conflicting”, and “complex” (O’Brien Hallstein, 2010, p. 6). Inherent in such characterizations is the ultimate paradox of maternal rhetoric: It is imbued with, and commands, both symbolic force and peril. As Kinser (2013) avers, motherhood invokes “widely shared cultural codes that operate in tension with each other, expanding women’s political voice and igniting social change, but also reifying gendered norms that contract and attenuate women’s agency and possibility” (p. xiii). Across time and space, motherhood discourses have functioned variously to ensure that women stay in their place. In response, women have strategically deployed maternal metaphors to envision alternative social orders and have creatively resisted confining notions of motherhood while imagining new ones in their place (Buchanan, 2002; Hayden, 2003; Knudson, 2009).
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