Contemporary Motherhood


"Bringing up Bebe", Pamela Druckerman, 2012,


France during and after the Enlightenment period shaped what it meant to be a woman, daughter, and mother. Most of those norms were shaped and molded in a social and intellectual context. The idea of “new motherhood” changed the way that the family structure was supposed to function. Mothers were now supposed to not only be a nurturing individual but were also supposed to set strong examples on how their children were supposed to live.

These initiatives were funded by the government which meant that they were present in schools, and other government funded arenas. Many of the initiatives called for an overprotective father and docile, quiet, “ladylike” mother. It was the belief that in order for children to receive the “correct”kind of love and nurturing, that the correction and love from their mother had to be “sweet” and positive. This definition of what it meant to not only be a mother but a woman heavily affected the rhetoric that surrounded sex workers. [1] Many books that show what it means to be the ideal French mother still exist today. 

Sex workers were seen as the total antithesis because they “were not worried with setting a good example for their children”. This rhetorical attack continues today and is often used in cases that involve the government interfering with the motherhood rights of sexworkers today. They deem these women “unfit” and that makes it okay to take their children. Women are constantly socialized to be a particular way which does not allow womanhood to be multifaceted. Therefore women who are engaged in sex worker are not seen as proper women due to the fact that what it means to be proper is so narrow and exclusive. Womanhood basically includes white wealthy women with privilege who are allowed to naviagate spaces that other women cannot. Therefore sex workers will always be seen as deviant because the narrow spectrum of womanhood would be hard for any "other" woman to navigate. 


[1] Popiel, Jennifer J. Rousseau's Daughters: Domesticity, Education, and Autonomy in Modern France. Durham, NH: U of New Hampshire, 2008. Print.