Ties That Bind: Essays on Mothering and Patriarchy

Jean F. O'Barr, Editor, Mary Wyer, Editor, Deborah Pope, Editor
Jean F. O'Barr, Editor, Mary Wyer, Editor, Deborah Pope, Editor University of Chicago Press $36 (296p) ISBN 978-0-226-61545-5
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 12/01/1990
Twelve essays, all of which originally appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society , focus primarily on elements of maternity, drawing on historical, sociological, ideological, literary and psychological sources. In their introduction, the editors (O'Barr and Wyer are editors of Signs , and all three teach at Duke University) state the theme that resounds throughout: ``In our patriarchal culture, the dominant ideology of mothering has been philosophically and materially oppressive to women. It mandates to women exclusive responsibility for the emotional and physical work of caring, while it simultaneously marginalizes and distorts this work.'' Topics include a psychoanalytical reading of the mother/daughter relationship in ``Snow White''; an account of the difficult balance between attachment and detachment that day care providers try to achieve; and a study of American historical perspectives on infertility, which indicates a recurring and disturbing tendency to blame infertility on the expanded education and ambitions of women. Comparing nurse/child relationships in the antebellum American South and ancient Rome, and probing a German Bundist mothers' rights movement, the collection demonstrates an impressive breadth. Although a few of the writers lapse into academic jargon, this volume should prove valuable to those interested in women's studies. (Sept.)
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