motherhood

HOTmilk and MILFs: Whose “Sexy” is Pregnancy?

Ad for Hotmilk lingerie, showing a pregnant woman in bra and panties

Ad for HOTmilk lingerie

by Kristen Hurst

The MILF acronym, popularized by 1999’s American Pie, is most often associated with teenage male desire for their friends’ “hot” mothers. Over ten years after the release of this film, even the casual cultural consumer could notice that soft-core MILF pornography has become prominent in pop culture, and with that, the sexualization of motherhood and pregnancy are on the rise.

Pregnancy fetishists and feminists alike may argue that pregnancy has always been sexy—it’s the natural result of heterosexual sex, after all—but a pregnant MILF’s body that has been dismantled limb-by-limb by an advertiser’s camera may only be sexy according to a troubling narrative, one which many feminist mothers would like to decapitate, even if they lack the tools to do so.

The main advertisement that I’m referring to, the 2009 commercial promoting HOTmilk lingerie, has been discussed widely across feminist blogs. As you can see below, a lingerie-clad mom-to-be greets what we may assume to be the father of her unborn child with a glass-shattering striptease.

Mom is so voracious that she is willing to break any dish or lamp in her belly’s way, but there is little in the video that lets the viewer know that the woman in question is pregnant. The editing and camerawork are handled in a way that would make Laura Mulvey more than cringe. While we see the assumed father’s titillated reaction to the tease on his face, the mother is revealed as an array of parts—a seam on the hip here, a bra strap there, a glove against the lip. She is a buffet of sexual consumables that you, too, can access, if you visit hotmilklingerie.com. She is sexy even though she is pregnant. Read more

Posted on by Kristen Hurst in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Are You My Mother?

baby clothesby Alicia Costa

My best friend gave birth to beautiful twin boys a month ago. And this has made me really look at the way I view motherhood, friendship with women, and my own fertility choices.

I’ve never really given much thought to having children. It was just never something I was interested in. And honestly I don’t really like children (I know, I know that sounds horrible but have you been to Ikea on a Saturday? Haunting). And up until I turned 25 I thought the whole “biological clock ticking” was some patriarchal construct to scare young women into having babies.

But it’s not, and over the past three years I’ve been really starting to reconsider my stance on shrugging off having a family. And it’s put me in a tail spin.

Growing up I always idolized my uncles. They left our small town, went to university, got amazing careers (one pilot, one engineer), lived in beautiful condos, and went travelling the world. They always drove new flashy cars and never had children. Very early on I wanted that life and not the one my mother had, which seemed filled with pain and sacrifice.

My mother is amazing. She is the most selfless and caring person I have ever known. She gave us everything she had.  She stayed in a bad marriage for too long and sacrificed her dreams of going to university to care for my sister and I.  My father was absent, abusive, and often gone for long periods of time out of town. Somehow she overcame all that to raise two productive humans. And I just know I am far too selfish to give everything I am to another being.

My friend who recently had the twins is one of the most amazing women I have in my life. We’ve been friends for eight or nine years (I’ve lost track of the time) and she has seen me through the most turbulent and complicated years of my life. The last 10 years since I left home and moved to the big city have been the most formative time in my lifetime.

I struggle with my relationships with other women. Very often they break down in a fog of competiveness, pettiness, politics, miscommunication, and mistrust. And I have been through all these things as well with this friend, but we somehow always manage to find our way back to each other. And I will ashamedly admit that when she told me she was pregnant my first thought was, “How is this going to affect me? How is this going to affect our friendship?” Read more

Posted on by Alicia Costa in Feminism, My Reality 1 Comment

Vintage Pregnancy Advice from the Canadian Government

canmotherby Jarrah Hodge

Thrift shopping with my mom and boyfriend in North Vancouver the other day I came across a real gem: a 1947 printing of the Canadian government’s handbook The Canadian Mother and Child, by Ernest Couture, M.D., Director of the Division of Child and Maternal Health.

A little context: this is the 7th printing of the 1st edition of the handbook, and it was a really popular guide that ended up being published and distributed every year for over 30 years. An article from Canadian Encyclopedia describes how important this book and other similar guides were to women in the 1940s:

In the 1940s, child-rearing was done, literally, by the book. Janet Berton vividly remembers the one she used -Canadian Mother and Child, a brochure from the federal health department that her doctor gave her when her first child, Penny, was born in 1948. “It had wonderful pictures of old, old, old-fashioned babies and nurses in black and white,” says Berton, who with her husband, author Pierre Berton, raised a family of eight children. “But it was pretty authoritarian. You had to do exactly what it said.” Berton says she tried to follow the rules for feeding an infant on a strict timetable, every four hours, and soon wound up “in a panic” because the baby did not seem to be getting enough milk.

I had an interesting time reading the guide and learning what women like my grandmother would have been advised to do when they were pregnant in that era, and thought I’d share some of the more interesting and maybe surprising lessons with you.

"While Awaiting a Baby", photo from Library & Archives Canada

“While Awaiting a Baby”, photo from Library & Archives Canada

On the Joy of Motherhood

“The birth of a baby is the most glorious achievement in the life of a woman, for, in becoming a mother, she completely fulfils the special purpose of her life as a woman.” (p. 3)

“There is nothing more fascinating for a mother than to read about the care of a baby.” (p. 84)

“The very presence of your baby, and your feeling of love for it, should prove more eloquent than any words to persuade you to breast-feed your infant, if you are able to do so.” (p. 108)

“When you bend affectionately over your growing infant, does not the contented joy of your heart tell you powerfully that you are gazing on the most precious of all your possessions? As the infant lies, charming but helpless, and dependent on you for everything, you feel that it was fully worth those special pains on your part to give it proper nourishment, to provide the benefit of fresh air and sunshine, the comfort of cleanliness and appropriate clothes, to guard it against digestive troubles, infections and contagious diseases and accidents, and also to direct with love the first manifestations of a budding character.” (p. 203)

On Lady-Parts

“Special local examination. On no account should you let false modesty influence you in the matter of this local examination. Unfortunately this is often the case, particularly with mothers expecting their first baby. You would not forgive yourself if, through neglect of this very important examination, some mishap occurred.” (p. 7)

“For local hygiene use a mild soap, or a mild antiseptic solution recommended by your doctor or a solution of baking soda or boracic acid (1 dessert spoonful to a quart of warm water). Make sure to dry the parts thoroughly.” (p. 40)

“In a married woman, the missing of a period is usually due to pregnancy.” (p. 11)

On Leisure Time

“There is, of course, no harm in playing bridge. Indeed it is a wholesome way of relaxing, if not abused, but it is fatiguing if indulged in too frequently or for lengthy sessions.” (p. 21) Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 3 Comments

My Reality: How to Become an Orphan

Child's_drawingby Roxanna Bennett

[Trigger Warning for discussions of child rape and molestation]

I divorced my entire family in 2005 and it was the healthiest action I’ve ever taken for myself.

In 2004, I started getting panic attacks every time the phone rang. I had never had them before so at first I was convinced I was dying, that I was having a heart attack or something was wrong with my brain. I broke out in hives a lot. Had nightmares. Found myself spending entire days in bed, just staring at the ceiling, unable to play with my son. Sometimes making his dinner and staring slack-jawed at the television was a challenge. I’m not sure when I made the connection between what was happening in my family and what was happening with me but when I came to the realization that they were the source of my pain, I had no choice. It was them or me. My son or my mother. I chose my ability to function as a healthy parent over the feelings of my family and this is why.

I was raped by my uncle, my mother’s brother, when I was four years old. My mother is an identical twin, her sister was like a second mother to me. My biological mother was distant, anxious, sometimes cold. Her sister, my aunt, was more outgoing, warmer. My mother moved out of the province when I was 18 and it was my aunt who was my source of support during my early adulthood. She nursed me when I was sick, let me sleep on her couch when I had nowhere to go. She stayed with my son every night for a year while I put myself through night school. We were very close.

My uncle, who had damaged me beyond measure when I was a child, had been living in British Columbia for years when I made the decision to orphan myself. And this is why, and it sounds small to say it but it wasn’t, it was because of a family vacation. Read more

Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in My Reality 21 Comments

Fifty Shades of Blaaahhhhhhh

by Alicia Costa “I don’t get what all the fuss is about. Danielle Steel has been writing ‘mommy porn’ since the 80s,” a work out buddy of mine said jokingly as we chatted about the recent popularity of E L James’ book Fifty Shades of Grey. Truthfully I had been avoiding this book, as a bit of literary snob I tend to try and avoid best-seller fiction. And as someone who has enjoyed her fair share of…erm…erotic fiction I didn’t think something dubbed ‘mommy porn’ would really be something I’d be into. However, as I did more research and say more and more article with titles like, “Women are going crazy for Fifty Shades of Grey and it’s making men nervous” I was intrigued. What is about this book that is sending men into a panic? Could it be the realization that their wives and girlfriends are sexual beings as well as wives and mothers? Are they scared women are going to throw down their aprons and refuse to cook another meal until they get some satisfying sex? Is it possible that women are actually interested in bondage and spanking? Read more

Posted on by Alicia Costa in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Things My Mother Taught Me

by Jarrah Hodge

  • How to do stage makeup
  • How to pick stinging nettles
  • That it’s important to take care of yourself
  • How to make Ukrainian Easter Eggs
  • That we are all inextricably connected to the Earth and it is important to protect her
  • The difference between banana slugs and garden slugs
  • That embarrassing childhood pictures are fair-game for showing to your adult friends
  • That religion doesn’t have to be oppressive
  • To have the patience it takes to find great things in a thrift store
  • That having someone who is always there to listen when you’re having a bad day or a bad week or a bad month is priceless.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Eve, and everyone else engaged in mothering.

 

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism Leave a comment

The Two Faces of Time: Answering “Are You Mom Enough?”

Mom Enough Coverby Jessica Mason McFadden

Visceral reactions are where it’s at when it comes to Time Magazine’s cover story, “Are You Mom Enough?” While the topic of attachment parenting is relevant and in need of intelligent discourse, it’s the cover that’s making headlines. It isn’t the issue of attachment parenting that concerns the majority, it’s the gut reaction it produces in them. Does a provocative image have the power to educate? Does it create a space in which learning might occur or does it close the space entirely? These are the questions raised by this kind of moment of mass hysteria. Since the provocative image in the issue of Time most certainly elicits a response that speaks to feminism, it is important that feminists use this as an opportunity to contribute to, and thus shape, the conversation.

Since Time has a pretty grand bully pulpit from which to preach, even about messages they might not intend to teach, it is essential that feminists from around the globe make themselves heard in response to the article. It isn’t likely the article itself will determine the nature of the discourse, given that it’s the image that’s making headlines. The course and content of the conversation largely rests with the types of community involvement that it might engender. We can let the majority reaction come from outside the feminist community, or we can make this a Feminist Moment by making it by and about us – a collective of individuals coexisting peacefully and sharing feminist –egalitarian– values.

So what does this feminist have to say? Well, a lot of what I have to say is viscerally induced but also intellectually processed. I, like you, had my initial reaction to the cover. It went something like, “Wow, is that really on the cover of Time?” And that was before I saw the title of the issue. The image was powerful, indeed – particularly, Jamie Lynne Grumet’s confident, lackadaisical expression. No one can deny that the image is powerful. And any form of power can be used for good or evil, for or against equal rights and humanitarianism. I sense in its power a shade of revolutionary non-violent resistance: my favorite form of power. Whatever is written about the image and however it is characterized does not diminish its aesthetic power.

Some of the first responders to the article have mentioned what Grumet is wearing (tight jeans, for instance). I think it’s unwise to focus on what she’s wearing or what portion of the population she represents physically by being thin and white. Tori Amos wore an open jacket and an ambiguous expression when she posed breastfeeding a baby pig on the back cover of the CD insert for “Boys for Pele.”  As for me, I’d prefer to wear trousers and an open waistcoat or a torn up Geneva gown for my débuts de la résistance, but what can ya do?  To each breastfeeding or bottlefeeding woman her own (wardrobe)!  And, besides, it’s what Grumet’s not wearing that’s causing the jaws to drop. More than that, it’s who she is wearing – her three-year-old son – that is stirring the pot of dichotomizing forces and filling the House of Social Media with the sour-milky aroma of controversy. Read more

Posted on by Jessica Mason McFadden in Feminism, Pop Culture 4 Comments