“I’m a good mother”: abused women’s resistance in the face of dominant mothering discourses

  • Author / Creator
    McDonald, Caroline Beth
  • In recent years there has been a burgeoning literature in the area of domestic abuse and motherhood/mothering. However, there is surprisingly little overlap between these two literatures. Both do not specifically consider abused women’s subjective mothering experiences, and do not critically examine abused women’s mothering in light of dominant ideologies of mothering and individual social contexts. Consequently, there is little knowledge about abused mothers’ individual voices and lived realities. My research attempted to fill these gaps in the literature by examining abused women’s subjective mothering identities, the role, influence, and effects that dominant ideologies of mothering have on abused women’s subjective mothering identities, and the ways in which intersections among the social context of abuse, gender, social class, and race shape abused women’s subjective mothering identities. My research used a qualitative research approach, which consisted of face-to-face in-depth interviews with 30 abused mothers residing in abused women’s shelters in Calgary, Alberta. My research findings build upon Andrea O’Reilly (2006) and Patricia Hill Collins’ (2007) critical feminist theorizations of motherhood and mothering. The findings indicate that abused women are also among the groups of marginalized women who engage in “empowered/feminist” mothering as they constructed their mothering identities in ways that resisted the discourses of intensive mothering. I propose that these findings suggest moving beyond O’Reilly’s theory of “Mothering Against Patriarchal Motherhood” and instead towards what I refer to as “Mothering Towards Women’s Centred Motherhood” as abused women constructed their mothering identities in ways that not only resisted, but also redefined and replaced the discourses of intensive mothering. The findings also demonstrate that marginalized abused women resisted the discourse of intensive mothering in constructing their personal mothering identities. I propose that these findings indicate that marginalized abused mothers engaged in “motherwork for identity” not merely for their children’s identity as Collins discusses, but also for their own identities as mothers, what I refer to as “Motherwork for (M)other Identity”. My research contributes to research and theorizations of mothering in the social context of domestic abuse by illustrating that subjugated and marginalized women who mother find ways to exercise agency, resistance, and power.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.