As various contemporary groups use the language of motherhood to advance their political causes, maternal rhetoric has become very visible in the American political discourse of late. Yet while it has long been recognized that women have invoked their political status as mothers to organize and authorize their political action in the past, scholars have only just begun to examine the recent reemergence of this frame. This book describes the wide variety of political causes that mothers are organizing to address, and analyses whether ideologically conservative organizations are disproportionately represented among groups using motherhood to mobilize women. Stavrianos examines the use of maternal discourses in closer detail through a comparative case study of five groups using motherhood as their primary frame for collective political action: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Million Mom March, Mothers Against Illegal Aliens, Mainstreet Moms Organize or Bust, and Mothers in Charge.
Scholars interested in women and politics, interest group politics, social movements, political behavior, women’s studies, motherhood studies, and framing strategies will find this book noteworthy, as it adds to a growing body of literature exploring the use of motherhood as an emerging political frame, and to the interdisciplinary discussion of contemporary discourses of motherhood.
1. Introduction. 2. The Uses of Motherhood in American Politics. 3. Motherhood Makes Strange Bedfellows: An Overview of Politically Active Mothers Groups. 4. Origins of Action: Founding Motivations. 5. Grieving Mothers, Anchor Babies and Time out Chairs: Ideological Variation in Political Uses of Motherhood. 6. The Possibilities and Perils of Political Motherhood.
Group identities have been an important part of political life in America since the founding of the republic. For most of this long history, the central challenge for activists, politicians, and scholars concerned with the quality of U.S. democracy was the struggle to bring the treatment of ethnic and racial minorities and women in line with the creedal values spelled out in the nation’s charters of freedom. We are now several decades from the key moments of the twentieth century when social movements fractured America’s system of ascriptive hierarchy. The gains from these movements have been substantial. Women now move freely in all realms of civil society, hold high elective offices, and constitute more than 50 percent of the workforce. Most African-Americans have now attained middle class status, work in integrated job sites, and live in suburbs. Finally, people of color from nations in Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean now constitute the majority of America’s immigration pool.
In the midst of all of these positive changes, however, glaring inequalities between groups persist. Indeed, ethnic and racial minorities remain far more likely to be undereducated, unemployed, and incarcerated than their counterparts who identify as white. Similarly, both violence and work place discrimination against women remain rampant in U.S. society. The Routledge series on identity politics features works that seek to understand the tension between the great strides our society has made in promoting equality between groups and the residual effects of the ascriptive hierarchies in which the old order was rooted.
Some of the core questions that the series will address are: how meaningful are the traditional ethnic, gender, racial, and sexual identities to our understanding of inequality in the present historical moment? Do these identities remain important bases for group mobilization in American politics? To what extent can we expect the state to continue to work for a more level playing field among groups?