• Hapless, helpless, hopeless: an analysis of stepmothers' talk about their (male) partners

      Roper, Sandra; Capdevila, Rose; University of Bedfordshire; Open University (SAGE, 2020-03-31)
      The identity of stepmother is, in many ways, a troubled one – constructed as “other” and often associated with notions of “wickedness” in literature and everyday talk. This paper reports findings from a study on the difficulties faced by stepmothers and how they use talk about their (male) partners, often constructing men as hapless, helpless or hopeless, to repair their “troubled” identities. The data were collected from a web forum for stepmothers based in the UK and 13 semi-structured face-to-face interviews with stepmothers. The analysis took a synthetic narrative-discursive methodological approach, underpinned by feminist theory with particular attention to the discourses that were drawn on by participants and the constraints that these imposed. This paper presents these findings in relation to three constructions of their partners through which repair work was attempted: men as in need of rescue; men as flawed fathers; and men as damaged. The paper concludes with some suggestions for supporting stepmothers by challenging dominant narratives around families in talk, in the media and in government and institutional policies.
    • #mothersday: Constructions of motherhood and femininity in social media posts

      Capdevila, Rose; Dann, Charlotte; Lazard, Lisa; Roper, Sandra; Locke, Abigail; Open University; University of Northampton; University of Bedfordshire; Keele University (SAGE Publications Ltd, 2022-08-03)
      Images and representations of parenting, and particularly mothering, have become commonplace on social media platforms over the past decade. These displays, however, take place in the context of popular contemporary discourses around gender and parenting that are in many ways prescriptive. This paper explores the constructions of mothering online through an analysis of posts about mothers on Mother’s Day from 2018 to 2020. Data were collected from Instagram and Twitter using hashtags such as #mothersday, #happymothersday and #motheringsunday. Both content and thematic analyses were conducted. This paper will consider three main themes that were identified in the data: “Beauty & biology”; “Grief & loss” and “Care (& COVID)”, with a focus on constructions of gendered parenting and family through the explicit celebration of the lives and roles of mothers. The findings provide insight into normative constructions of gender and how these are mediated through the affordances of social media platforms in a neoliberal context.