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Motherhood Denied

  • By: Deborah Davidson & Gayle Letherby
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Historically, motherhood as an institution, experience, and identity has not been a choice for many women. Commonly, motherhood status is still seen as natural and central to the construction of femininity. A society's assumption that women want to be mothers leads to marginalization and stigmatization of women who cannot or do not wish to accomplish motherhood; labels such as barren, childless, and/or selfish are thus sometimes placed on these mothers. However, because motherhood has many meanings, some of which are driven by the institution of motherhood and some of which are constructed by women themselves, women who are denied the identity may still experience motherhood as they understand it. Ideologies and expectations of ideal motherhood affect women, whether mothers or not, in private and ...

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