Image: Gwyneth Paltrow in Vogue.
I saw this presentation – “Marginalising mothers through maternal style” – at a conference recently and it was filled with ‘nail on the head’ moments and as far as I know the authors (Susan Goodwin and Kate Huppatz) have yet to publish their paper so I can’t point you to the full work, instead I offer you this thought-provoking taste from their synopsis.
These days a ‘good mother’ buys the right things, wears the right clothes and has the right body. The importance of maternal style can be seen to have peaked in the emergence of two new motherhood figures: the yummy mummy and the slummy mummy… a real division.. being made between mothers .. is based on mothers’ capacity to consume. In this paper we argue that what mothers consume is part of a larger process of class making. Drawing on feminist Bourdieusian theory, we suggest that the yummy/slummy dichotomy is particularly effective as a class distinction because it is an aesthetic and a moral distinction that makes reference to mothers’ bodies.
Devalued mothers are seen as slothful, lazy and lacking in taste, rather than simply poor. In turn, hypervalued mothers, like celebrity mothers, are seen as assiduous, restrained and tasteful, rather than simply rich. In this way, economic inequalities between mothers are concealed and new ways of regulating women, as mother, have emerged. We suggest that maternal style is thus best understood as a form of ‘gender capital’ that has both class and gender dimensions.
Image: fictional character, Vicky Pollard from Little Britain.
If you’re interested in more of their work a sample chapter from Huppatz and Goodwin’s book The good mother: contemporary motherhoods in Australia (2010) is available from here.