Unsexing Care: Beyond Gendered Parenting Terms - A Response to Darren Rosenblum’s Unsex Mothering: Toward a Culture of New Parenting
Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, February 6, 2012
4 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
This response piece to Darren Rosenblum’s provocative article Unsex Mothering: Toward a Culture of New Parenting argues that Rosenblum’s call for unsexed mothering has three primary flaws. First, Professor Rosenblum’s narrative avoids any substantial discussion of the myriad ways in which “mother” and “mothering” are highly loaded terms whose perceived grant of power is not equally distributed. To the extent that the social construction of “mother” and capacity for mothering varies across race, class, sexual orientation, immigration status, marital status, and other categories of difference, it will surely differ across biosex as well and perhaps in ways that Rosenblum does not anticipate and/or in ways that undermine the goals of an unsexing process.
Second, I argue against the goal of freeing men to “mother” as Rosenblum describes it. Rather, the goal should be to create space for men to provide care. In other words, the goal here need not be for men to call themselves mothers and women to call themselves fathers, but for men to be thought of as eager and talented caretakers and for women to be free to reject such a role as natural and intuitive.
Third, and finally, I assert that there are theoretical and practical components to my resistance to his attempt to unsex mothering. On the practical end, I ponder whether he leaves any room for mothering and the term “mother” as simply descriptive terms. In other words, if stripped of normative content, is there any harm in referring to a person who identifies as a woman as a mother and to a person who identifies as a man as a father? In the more theoretical realm, I worry about the stickiness of gender identification. The reality is that many of the circumstances in which men are given or take on roles traditionally gendered as female occur on the fringe, where assuming those roles is intended for comedy, or, more perniciously, to pillory women. If I am right about this, then I am concerned that many men — perhaps most men, but particularly heterosexual men — will not see the potential for liberation in a world in which they too can be “mothers.”
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