(M)Othering: Feminist Motherhood, Neoliberal Discourses and the Other’
Marianna Leite is an AHRC SSHP Research Studentship award holder completing her PhD in Development Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, under the supervision of Dr. Jasmine Gideon and co-supervision of Dr. Penny Vera-Sanso. She uses a Foucauldian discourse analysis to explore the significant shifts in maternal mortality reduction policies over the past decades in Brazil. This research is the extension of the work she conducted as a visiting scholar at the International Gender Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. She is the editor of MaMSIE's blog as well as in charge of referencing and style for Studies in the Maternal. She also co-organised the Gender and Development research group held at Birkbeck and IOE and is an active member of the Latin American Gender & Social Policy research group co-hosted by UCL and Birkbeck. Before joining MaMSIE, she worked in international development, at various instances, for INTERIGHTS, ActionAid and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Feminist theory often gravitates around the rejection and recuperation of motherhood. The recuperation of feminist motherhood demonstrates the importance of understanding the duality between feminist motherhood and the patriarchal concept of motherhood. Here, I will argue that in recuperating motherhood, feminists and non-feminists alike should also acknowledge the coexisting realities that reject it. I am specifically thinking of feminist non-motherhood but also of feminist notions of pregnancy that reject motherhood. The mother without the maternal bond or even the 'falling out of motherhood after motherhood'. These, I think, as opposed to submissive realities and resistance strategies, represent a move away from patriarchal values and create a social reality that uses something else as a parameter. In order support my argument, I will rely on a case study analysing maternal health policies and strategies, in particular feminist activists' discourses related to maternal mortality in Brazil. The data collected during this fieldwork demonstrates the importance of acknowledging non-motherhood as crucial to radical constructions of feminist motherhood. The article concludes that, sadly, there is not such thing as a post-feminist society in Brazil. The Brazilian case study demonstrates that, in fact, public policies, and the discourses built around them, are still oriented towards a neoliberal re-packaging of patriarchy that partially co-opts feminist motherhood. That is, neoliberalism partially accepts feminist motherhood as a way to reject all other feminist claims. In this sense, it its crucial for feminists and non-feminists alike to acknowledge and accept all concepts of motherhood, positive and negative. That is, it is absolutely necessary to recognise '''the 'other' ' in order not to contribute to further marginalisation of non-motherhood attitudes as promoted by neoliberal policies and discourses.