New anthology challenges motherhood stereotypes

The 21st Century Motherhood movement book coverInvisimomibility?Mamazon? If these terms aren’t familiar to you, the concepts should be, according to a new book edited by a York University professor.

The 21st Century Motherhood Movement: Mothers Speak Out on Why We Need to Change the World and How to Do It, released this week, is touted as the first anthology of its kind. Published by Demeter Press, it features more than 80 chapters representing motherhood organizations from around the globe.

“We need to encourage people to look at motherhood as an autonomous social movement, much in the same way feminism has been framed in the past,” says the book’s editor, York women’s studies Professor Andrea O’Reilly in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

“Mothers are becoming activists out of necessity,” she says. “Being a mother is still one of the most demanding jobs out there; we need to keep pushing for a shift in thinking so the roles and responsibilities of motherhood are given the value they deserve. Motherhood organizations, such as the ones profiled in this book, empower mothers to transform the society in which they live in order to improve their own lives.”

Part of this challenge is tackling “invisimomibility” – the chronic and pervasive undervaluing of mothers’ unpaid care giving. “This leads to an inability to successfully fulfill one’s care giving, civic and paid work responsibilities and leaves primary caregivers vulnerable to social and economic risk,” says O’Reilly.

Conversely, the term “mamazon” was coined to describe mothers who refuse to become invisible. “We’re talking about moms who aren’t afraid to engage in non-traditional behaviours – to be loud, angry and assertive,” she says.

The 976-page book is divided into seven sections: Becoming a Mother; Maternal Identities; Maternal Advocacy; Maternal Activism; Violence, Militarism, War and Peace; Social Change and Social Justice, and Writing/Researching/Performing Motherhood. It features prominent organizations such as Moms Rising, Mocha Moms, and LGBTQ Parenting Network.

The volume also provides an overview of the history and ideological frameworks of the 21st century motherhood movement, discusses the challenges and possibilities of maternalism, and details the specific practices and strategies of maternal activism.

“The writings in this anthology show how the 21st century motherhood movement has opened the door to a mother-centered theory and politic of feminism,” says O’Reilly. “Motherhood is a crucial aspect of feminism that we need to continue to explore both through activism and research.”