Motherhood: the unfinished business of feminism? 9-12 December, Amsterdam
This year, LOVA exchanges its refreshing Summer- for a cozy Winter School! We invite everyone who is interested in exploring this year’s topic to sign up for this four-day event: two full days and two half-days on the weekend.
Feminism and motherhood have a complicated relationship. With motherhood often being conflated with issues of essentialism and biological gender determinism, it has become a sensitive topic in feminist circles. Think for instance of Simone de Beauvoir’s famous publication ‘The Second Sex’ (1949), which gave rise to the notion that becoming a mother was depriving women of their chance to live a life of their own, and the root cause of women’s oppression under patriarchy.
Although feminist scholarship has been generally evasive regarding the topic of motherhood, the fact is that mothers remain a large portion of society. Hence, one can reasonably argue that their experiences, challenges and hopes deserve a more consistent platform for debate and reflection. Studies continue to show for instance the negative impacts of raising children on the careers of mothers, which became even more evident in the way mothers took up most of the emotional and intellectual care labor during the Covid-19 pandemic. Leading scholar Andrea O’Reilly coined the term ‘matricentric feminism’ and argues that it deserves ‘its own room’ in academia and feminist discourse.
“It troubles me deeply that feminists are able to understand the intersectionality of gendered oppression when it comes to race, class, sexuality, and geographical location but not so for maternity” (O’Reilly, 2021).
Contemporary feminist scholars writing on motherhood address the ways that mothers are framed in society and politics. They question for instance the way in which motherhood is politicized (Tine Davids, 2017); the celebration of the ‘have-it-all’ mother (Mary Thompson, 2006); privileged motherhood and the notions of ‘choice’ and ‘self-care’ as reflections of empowerment and agency (Richie Solinger, 2017); the pertaining issue of the ‘should-I-or should-I-not’ (can-I-or-can-I-not) have children dilemma (Sheila Heti, 2018) as well as the convinced no-mothers. After all, ideas and expectations around mothering impact all people, whether having children or not.
With the organizers having recently become mothers themselves, and baffled by the identity earthquake that this has caused, the idea of this event arose. Together with invited speakers, we will explore motherhood scholarship, and depart from the question of what a feminism of motherhood might look like. Specifically, we wish to raise two issues. Firstly, we make it our aim to break down the category of ‘mothers’ into intersectional understandings (economic, political, cultural, phenomenological, experiential, bodily, etc.) of motherhood. Our premise is to move beyond a static conceptualization of these categories and see the intersectional framework as dynamic. We wish to explore the not so obvious, nuanced, differences and similarities that under certain circumstances have come to matter in the lived experiences of motherhood. Secondly, we wish to invite debate regarding the question of how to talk about the specific gendered experiences of ‘mothers’ without excluding fathers as well as queer motherhood (mothering queerly and/or queering motherhood altogether). How might terms such as ‘parents’ or ‘parenting’ be used today, without deflecting the very real issues of gender inequality?
Through academic lectures, interactive workshops and self-research, the LOVA Winter school 2021 creates a platform for participants to critically and playfully question and examine this year’s theme. Feedback from our past Summer Schools has been very positive and underlines the pleasure of intensively working and developing new ideas with a small, dedicated group within an anti-hierarchical environment. The event is designed for everyone who is interested: both lifelong learners as well as students (BA, MA and PhD). Due to its experimental format, the Winter School is shorter than you are used to from our Summer Schools. We hope this eases the possibility of attendance for participants.
Tuition fee: €195
This fee includes: lectures, workshops, vegetarian lunches and coffee/tea/refreshments.
Please send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org including a short motivation letter. The deadline for application is 1 November 2021. We have limited spots. Note that all lectures and workshops will be in English.
The schedule runs from 9.30 – 17.00 hours on Thursday and Friday, and 13.30 – 17.30 hours on Saturday and Sunday. We will offer suggestions for evening activities (socializing, movies, etc.), but these are not part of the official program.
The lectures and workshops will be held at various locations in Amsterdam (more information regarding the actual locations will be provided later).
LOVA Winter School committee:
Academic Directors: Dr. Emma Emily de Wit & Irene Arends
Chair LOVA: Jasmijn Rana Website: www.lova.network/