Bad Mothers: Regulations, Representations, and Resistance
Page Count: 343
Publication Date: March 2017
While the image or construct of the “good mother” has been the focus of many research projects, the “bad mother,” as a discursive construct, and also mothers who do “bad” things as complicated, agentic social actors, have been quite neglected, despite the prevalence of the image of the bad mother across late modern societies. The few researchers who address this powerful social image point out that bad mothers are culturally identified by what they do, yet they are also socially recognized by who they are. Mothers become potentially bad when they behave or express opinions that diverge from, or challenge, social or gender norms, or when they deviate from mainstream, white, middle class, heterosexual, nondisabled normativity.
When suspected of being bad mothers, women are surveilled, and may be disciplined, punished or otherwise excluded, by various official agents (i.e. legal, medical and welfare institutions), as well as by their relatives, friends and communities. Too often, women are judged and punished without clear evidence that they are neglecting or abusing their children. Frequently they are blamed for the marginal sociocultural context in which they are mothering. This anthology presents empirical, theoretical and creative works that address the construct of the bad mother and the lived realities of mothers labeled as bad. Throughout the volume, the editors consider voices and acts of resistance to bad mother constructions, demonstrating that mothers, across time and across domains, have individually and collectively taken a stand against this destructive label.
“Bad Mothers makes a significant contribution to understanding how the constructed ‘dangerous mother’ continues to trouble major institutional areas such as law, governance, economy, and child protection services in ways that reveal why our society remains invested in marginalizing mothers instead of seriously addressing the numerous, interconnecting obstacles they face in raising children.”
—ERICA S. LAWSON, Associate Professor, Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, University of Western Ontario
“Through visual and literary works, this collection demonstrates the resistance of those who refuse to conform to the institutions that earn them the label of bad mothers.”
—ARLENE SGOUTAS, Associate Professor and Director, Institute for Women’s Studies and Services, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Dr. Michelle Hughes Miller is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Florida. She earned her M.A. and PhD in Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while raising two wonderful children with her husband, Rob Benford. As a feminist criminologist she researches motherhood within legal and policy constraints. In addition to publishing on criminalized and allegedly “bad” mothers, she is co-editor of Addressing and Preventing Violence Against Women on College Campuses (Temple University Press, forthcoming) and Alliances for Advancing Academic Women: Guidelines for Collaborating in STEM (Sense Publishers, 2014). She is currently analyzing discourses of mothering in global economic and social campaigns, along with very much enjoying being a new grandma.
Dr. Tamar Hager is a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Education and Gender Studies at Tel Hai College, Israel. Motherhood, critical feminist methodology, art sociology and fictional and academic writing, multiculturalism and critical pedagogy are core issues of her academic research, writing, teaching and social activism. She is the founder and the former co-director of the college’s center for Peace and Democracy, whose mandate is to academically and administratively develop and implement the multicultural vision of the college. She published in 2000 a book of short stories A perfectly Ordinary Life (in Hebrew) and in 2012 Malice Aforethought (in Hebrew), in which she attempts to reconstruct the elusive biographies of two English working class mothers who killed their babies at the end of the 19th century.
Dr. Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich is a mother of four who works as lawyer, legal academic, writer, artist, and activist. She has a PhD in law and legal studies from Carleton University, an LL.M. and LL.B. from Queen’s University, a Graduate Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Cincinnati, and a BA (Hon.) in anthropology from the University of Calgary. She has published articles and texts on many áreas of law as they related to mothers, gender, and equality and is author of Looking for Ashley: Re-Reading What the Smith Case Reveals About Governance of Girls, Mothers, and Families in Canada. (Demeter Press, 2015). Rebecca has been practicing law in Ontario, Canada, since 2003.