Motherhood under Patriarchy

Politics of Motherhood: Part 1

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Motherhood under Patriarchy
by Azadeh Azad
04-May-2011
 

>>> (Intro) -- (Part 1) -- (Part 2)
-- (Part 3) -- (Conclusion)

PART 1

Under Patriarchy, or the rule of fathers, women are defined in relation to men as their wives and mothers of their babies.
 
The problematic issue here is that as a part of the patriarchal ideology, the idea of affiliation through blood ties, at the expense of the reality of child care, colonizes the relationship between the mother, the baby, and the father, and then, their relation with other social groups and institutions.
 
Blood ties are rendered normal and conventional by the name of the father in a paternal lineage. So, the mother’s, the baby’s and the father’s bodies are seen as merely biological matters. As a result, the relationship between them is rendered natural and controlled by laws that echo and emphasize the notion that blood or nature is more significant than social relationships or nurture.
 
From this biological standpoint, the father’s body, at the expense of the mother’s, is displayed as the actual source of life, the fertilizer that creates babies. So, the mother’s body and the baby's body within it serve as a vehicle for exhibiting the father’s fertility, thus justifying the man’s power and control over his wife's and child’s bodies.
 
This social reality is equally experienced by lesbian mothers. An example of a lesbian couple who chooses to have a baby is the following: One of the women gets pregnant by using the sperm of a homosexual friend who is completely "out." When the baby's second mother decides to have the baby circumcised, the sperm-donor interrupts the ritual and addresses this woman by saying, "I’m the biological father; I have more rights than you.” Here, the sperm donor calls upon a social space by which the father exercises power and control over the bodies inside the space of the house. This case shows that even "alternative" families, are controlled by the power and the image of the biological father. It also shows that the patriarchal ideology as well as the identity of mothers are partially produced through the space of the house.
 
In the Western societies of the 21st century, although the connection of woman and house has survived, the control of women in the house appears unlikely. So, how is patriarchal ideology produced as a right in the private space of today’s house?
 
In the above case, 1) the embodied mother dismantles the idea of a rigid and limited body identity, and 2) the presence of two mothers and the absence of the father, indicates that the space of parenting is ruled by different priorities. Here, we need to consider how patriarchy positions itself within the private space of this type of house.
 
It is important to remember that whenever sexuality and social space are examined, the house is usually ignored, as if it is devoid of violence it contains. To explain how patriarchal ideology overlaps with the space of the house, we can think of the house as a spider's web: all the threads spread out in rays, each of them has its basis at the center. The father of a family operates the same way. He arranges his affairs and places them so that all look up to him alone as the head; he directs all and attaches all to secure bases.
 
In this comparison, generally and regarding the above case, whether the father is present or absent, the space of the house, the bodies in the house, and the biological father are always interwoven in an elaborate system of surveillance and control. They are also interwoven in the process of inflicting the spaces of mothering with patriarchal ideology.
 
An example that demonstrates the social construction of the identity of mother and father under patriarchy is the following: Two co-workers, a homosexual male and a heterosexual female get stoned one day and have sex. They fight the next day over their sexual contact and stop speaking to each other. Later on, the woman finds out that she is pregnant. She assumes that the biological father is her gay co-worker. So, the two decide to raise the child together. They live together for eight years and care for the child. After eight years, the woman falls in love with a heterosexual man and leaves the house with the child to live with her new boyfriend. As a result, the gay co-worker decides to fight in court for the child he believes is his. However, a series of blood tests proves that the biological father is the woman’s former boy-friend . On this basis, the possibility of the homosexual man gaining custody of the child greatly diminishes. What is crucial is not his being gay, but his not being the biological father, therefore not the “real” father, that causes the court’s decision to grant custody of the child to the mother. Ultimately, the homosexual father is not even allowed to visit the child.
 
In this case, while the maternal tie is based on the nurturing and raising of a child, the patriarchal tie is the blood tie, a genetic tie, a connection by sperm. The patriarchal ideology wins out the power that controls parenting and the social construction of the mother and the father. In other words, the established perception and images of social space of parenting assigned to the sperm, has priority over the social space of lived experiences and insights and parental labours that is occupied by the gay man, the mother and their child.
 
Because of the cultural weight of patriarchal ideology, the significance of the space of parenting as a social relationship is rejected in favour of a genetic connection. Biological fathers and mothers are believed to be the real parents based on the idea that their sperm and egg are more worthy than affective and social relationships that have been cultivated over the years in people’s lives.
 
Also, the public space of the street is opposed to the private space of the house the homosexual man and the heterosexual woman shared as common law husband and wife, and as father and mother, for eight years.
 
In the introduction, we saw how the division between public and private space affects the identity of women and men. The above example demonstrates how another social group, homosexual men, is excluded from the public sphere. The homosexual man could exercise his patriarchal rights only within the private space of the house. The division between public and private space essentially endorses the biological father as a social space, while the relationships that are developed in the private space of the house are removed from view, therefore from "existence.”
 
Consequently, to guarantee the efficiency of patriarchal ideology, the sperm of the biological father must dominate the corporeal space of motherhood as well as the baby's body. Together with this, the revered space of the house secures male power and control over the woman as mother, and the baby’s body. Under patriarchal ideology, the social spaces that women’s, men’s and babies’ bodies inhabit are colonized by the sperm, a social space that brings their relationship into existence as a biological component. The space of the house, even when inhabited by another man or another woman, as in the two cases above, is ruled by the biological father. This operation of the house maintains it as a male heterosexual space.
 
In male-dominated societies, men's control over women and children is not grounded on their sperm alone, but also on their economic superiority, which determines the production of motherhood through the technocratic and capitalist ideologies as well.

Continued in Part 2

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more from Azadeh Azad
 
Azadeh Azad

...

by Azadeh Azad on

Calling an ignorant person "ignorant" is to tell the TRUTH, no to be verbally and morally abusive. Your utterly ignorant comment continues:  "a woman, can be equally abusive - verbal abuse is one form of abuse, implying that a person is ignoran, is a personal assualt."  What a total BS. This means:

 Telling an ignorant people that they are abusive is to tell the Truth. You obviously don't know the difference between telling the Truth and being abusive. So, I recommend that you educate yourself.

As for patriarchy, you need to study that too. A woman who does not accept she is first a woman and then whatever else - such as teaching one or two student about Hafez, is completely out of the loup. This is the Truth and when you call the Truth Abuse, you really need professional assistance, and this is my diagnosis as a psychotherapist and not being abuse (these days a Pass-Partout word.).

Azadeh


Hafez for Beginners

practicing what we preach

by Hafez for Beginners on

The little fight between Azadeh and Kemalmajor: I had one comment over:

If we hate "male" behavior - surely, as the author of the  Blog, to tell a person responding to you, that your opinions have academic scholarship to back them up, and that the commentator  is "well above his head" - ie. he's too ignorant... surely that's verbally and morally abusive - if not so,  I don't know what  is.

I don't care if the person is a man, an orange, a chair or a woman - surely the "patriarchy" you write about, has at its roots women having often been victimized. But a woman, can be equally abusive - verbal abuse is one form of abuse, implying that a person is ignoran, is a personal assualt, and this was quite a surprise to me to read, especially on a post complaining about "Patriarchy."

 

Afsaneh


kemalmajor

Quack Science to Destroy Iranian Families

by kemalmajor on



I asked a series of questions: None of which you were able to answer. 

 

1.  I asked whether there was any hard data for the conclusions you reached in the form of case-studies or statistical analysis that we can look at to verify your assertions.  You simply tried to insult me – that's fine.

 

2.  I actually quoted you by using your own statements – You on the other hand fabricated quotations and attributed them to me.  Anyone can use your method – E.g., Tony Blair said, “Hitler was good at tennis.”  Obama said, “Azadeh Azad is the next Albert Einstein.”  Your technique is pure make-believe. 

 

3.  I asked what specific research supported your conclusions – you were unable to provide any.  What facts substantiate these types of conclusions that you reached? 

 

Azadeh Azad: “Too much respect for mothers and putting them on apedestal is unhealthy and usually done by men who denigrate prostitutes as theother side of the coin of womanhood."

 

4.  I asked whether you had considered the effects on children in growing up in marriage where the parents were swingers or wife-swappers, a type of matrimony you explicitly endorsed:

 

Azadeh Azad: “If it is about husbands and wives engaging in sexualrelations with people other than their spouses, it is fine in the context of amutual agreement between the two of them."

 

5.  I further pointed out that when you make sweeping conclusions about “men” – it’s like generalizing about “Blacks,” “Mexicans,” “Jews,” etc.  What’s worse is that you are engaging in this type of character assassination against Iranians (your own people). 

 

My full set of remarks are below – if you can back-up your assertions, please substantiate them with objectively verifiable facts.  Your picture of a vagina with a crucifixion and two pomegranates isn’t data – it tells people more about you (as its author) than the universe of men you are attempting to denigrate.   

 


Azadeh Azad

Ignorance: the root of all ills

by Azadeh Azad on

kemalmajor:

Your questions have been amateurish and your responses to my scholarly answers, unschooled. You are simply incapable of understanding my academic article and the deductions I made about your way of thinking from your ill-informed questions. All the concepts used in this work pass well above your head. So, I leave you at that.

By the way, I understand your shame of proving to be too ignorant by creating a new ID (a day ago.) For that, I pity you. I doubly pity you when you use the stupid cliché  of my "hating men." Look for something original. This label does not stick.

Cheers,

Azadeh


vildemose

Dear Azadeh:

by vildemose on

 You have struck a nerve...good job.

 

"The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks."

The quotation "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, scene II. The phrase has come to mean that one can "insist so passionately about something not being true that people suspect the opposite of what one is saying."[1]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_lady_doth_protest_too_much,_methinks.


kemalmajor

Reply to " Azadeh Azad"

by kemalmajor on

YOUR COMMENTS IN "QUOTES" - MY REPLY IN [BRACKETS]:
-----------
"Women being defined in relation to their husbands implies women getting their identity and worth from them."

[People get their identities from many people in the world they interact with: E.g., teachers, parents, coworkers, friends, etc. It's very natural. The word "worth" is also very vague - on the one hand it implies monetary value and on the other it implies what's in a person's mind. What's in a person's mind is a result of many factors - not just a husband or a wife. Nevertheless, people that find marriage objectionable, don't have to get married. If you don't like getting wet, don't go in the water. Problem solved.]
-----------
"Men recognize their children with their wives based on the power and rights patriarchal ideology attributes to their sperm. Men also have the power of not recognizing children if they can prove that the sperm involved in the production of these children is not theirs."

[Thank God that men don't have to recognize children from sperm that's not theirs - people should be responsible for their OWN actions.]
-----------
"If you are talking about sexual freedom, it is a wonderful thing. If it is about husbands and wives engaging in sexual relations with people other than their spouses, it is fine in the context of a mutual agreement between the two of them."

[Do you know of many children who grow up in homes where the parents are swingers who turn out well-adjusted?]

-----------

" if a woman is not the property of a man, she would be the property of all men. You have an extremely male-dominated thinking, an extremely sexist view of women and their sexuality."

[Where did you see me write this? To say someone is "my" husband or wife doesn't mean you own them, can sell them, etc. However, in marriage you generally give up some things, and get other things in return. Otherwise, it would be exactly the same thing as being single.]

-----------

"Men who honour their family responsibilities only when their wives are dependent on them are part of the Iranian social problems."

[Both men and women are dependent on each other in a marriage. Kids are dependent on their parents. Anyone that wants independence can avoid marriage. What I don't understand is why some people don't choose their own lives and leave other peoples' lives alone: For example, choose your own type of relationship, but don't try to force a swinger lifestyle on all other women as a means of *liberation* from *patriarchy.*]

-----------

"I agree with you that in Iran women as mothers exercise a lot of power within the household. However, Iranian mothers’ power is not a positive female power. It is an oppressive and patriarchal power."

[Oh great: Iranian mothers are powerful, but that's also the father's fault. To me it sounds like you generally have a problem with men. Because you generalize. I don't know why it's become fashionable for some women to spread these stereotypes about men generally; because if you did this based on race -- (E.g. "this is how Blacks are ... this is how Mexicans are" ...) -- people would call you a racist.]

-----------

"most Iranian mothers, especially those of the middle-class, are authoritarian, possessive and extremely controlling towards both their sons and daughters."

[Is this based on study you've done? Parents want the best for their kids and it's not my job or yours to tell parents to not be possessive of their kids -- those are THEIR kids. The more I read your comments - the more its like you want to be a dictator and intrude into other peoples' zone of family privacy and choices.]

-----------

"the so-called power of the Iranian mothers at home is actually a male power shared with the children’s father ..."

[Again you admit that Iranian men and women share power in a marriage and then go on to blame all men .... It sounds like you hate men or have issues in your own life that you are projecting on others based on nothing more than your own biases.]

-----------

"Too much respect for mothers and putting them on a pedestal is unhealthy and usually done by men who denigrate prostitutes as the other side of the coin of womanhood."

[Where on earth did you get the idea that men who respect their mothers denigrate prostitutes? What sort of quack-science is this conclusion based on? And who are you to tell all men what level of respect towards their mothers is "too much respect"? And being a prostitute is not, to quote you, "the other side of the coin of womanhood" because many men are also prostitutes. There are male and female sex-workers in the world; unfortunately.]


Azadeh Azad

Answers to "kemalmajor"

by Azadeh Azad on

1. Women being defined in relation to their husbands implies women getting their identity and worth from them. Individuals, whether male or female should be defined in relation to themselves as free and independent adults. What differentiates a person from another should not be who they are married to, but who they are in themselves as individuals, how they develop their talents, how helpful they are to others and how happy they are.

2. Some men stay faithful to their wives because they love their wives or are content with them, not because their wives are defined by them and get their identity from them. Men recognize their children with their wives based on the power and rights patriarchal ideology attributes to their sperm. Men also have the power of not recognizing children if they can prove that the sperm involved in the production of these children is not theirs. Obviously you have no idea what my article is about.

I don’t understand what you mean by “sexual free-for-all’ as opposed to women’s independence from their husbands. If you are talking about sexual freedom, it is a wonderful thing. If it is about husbands and wives engaging in sexual relations with people other than their spouses, it is fine in the context of a mutual agreement between the two of them.

A woman is not an “Object” or a “Slave” to belong to a man or be defined by him. It seems that in your male-as- the-owner- of- his- wife outlook, you cannot even imagine a free and independent woman. That’s why, according to you, if a woman is not the property of a man, she would be the property of all men. You have an extremely male-dominated thinking, an extremely sexist view of women and their sexuality.

Men who honour their family responsibilities only when their wives are dependent on them and get their identity and worth from them, are part of the Iranian social problems. They are called sexists men, a plague of the Iranian society and humanity. These men need to educate themselves and raise their awareness about their oppressive roles and undemocratic mind-set in order to join the 21st century.

3. My article is about Politics of Motherhood in the Western cultures of the 21st century. It is not about Motherhood in the Iranian society. However, I will respond to your question.

I agree with you that in Iran women as mothers exercise a lot of power within the household. However, Iranian mothers’ power is not a positive female power. It is an oppressive and patriarchal power. Generally, most Iranian mothers, especially those of the middle-class, are authoritarian, possessive and extremely controlling towards both their sons and daughters. They generally prefer their sons to their daughters without mentioning it. They spoil their sons and worship them, which results in the production of men with no sense of boundaries who feel entitled to be worshiped and served by any woman they get involved with, especially their wives. So, the so-called power of the Iranian mothers at home is actually a male power shared with the children’s father and used against their daughters and future generation of women. These same oppressive women/mothers are oppressed by their husbands. In an ironic twist, they treat their husbands as children, serve them until the day these men die!

Too much respect for mothers and putting them on a pedestal is unhealthy and usually done by men who denigrate prostitutes as the other side of the coin of womanhood. This over-estimation of mothers as sacrificial beings prevent us from critiquing them and showing them that through their masculine authoritarianism and control over their children, they are perpetuating the male power and patriarchal system that oppress them *as women.*

Cheers,

Azadeh


kemalmajor

QUESTIONS

by kemalmajor on

You write: "Under Patriarchy women are defined in relation to men as their wives and mothers of their babies."

1.  If women or men (it makes not difference) are not at least partially defined in relation to their spouses, who shoud they be defined in relation to?  The government?  Gossip columnists? Self-appointed experts TV executives?   

2.   Women being defined in relation to their husbands has also historically been a reason why some men still stay faithful to their wives and recognize their children, correct?  Throw that 'relating-to' concept away and it becomes a sexual free-for-all or a basis to shirk family responsibility: E.g., "I'm not his wife."  or "She is not my wife ... she belongs to the world."  What do you think?

3.   Generally, women in Iranian society exert a lot of power in the home -- they are hardly voiceless and powerless (at least from what I have seen). Don't you think it's not entirely accurate to portray Iranian women as 'oppressed property'?  The other thing I've seen is that Iranian men are mamas boys - they love their moms and listen to their moms and pay far more respect and deference to their mothers than American men (who supposedly are less patriarchal).  

 

Would love to hear your opinions.   


vildemose

Excellent and most

by vildemose on

Excellent and most original...thank you.