A feminist discourse analysis of popular-press accounts of postmaternity
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AbstractFeminist research has examined a broad range of women's experiences as mothers. However, relatively few studies exist on postmaternity, colloquially the `empty nest'. The present study is a feminist discourse analysis of the variable ways postmaternal experiences were described in popular-press accounts. The analysis identified individual differences as an ideological albeit commonsense notion for interpreting different responses to the departure of adult offspring. Two discourses of womanhood, `modern' and `traditional', produced an ideological dilemma where the subject position `fit adult' conflicted with that of `good mother'. `Adjustment' was used rhetorically to manage that dilemma. The analysis also considered the ways gender differences were managed and the significance of `empty nest' as a pervasive metaphorical colloquialism for postmaternity. The results show that longstanding cultural beliefs about women as mothers still exert a powerful discursive force. However, women can now be represented as having lives beyond the domestic sphere. A dilemma arising in accounts of contemporary women at postmaternity is the conflicting identities of socially fit, well-adjusted adults and good mothers who mourn the loss of their children.
CitationSheriff M, Weatherall A (2009) 'A feminist discourse analysis of popular-press accounts of postmaternity', Feminism and Psychology, 19 (1), pp.89-108.
JournalFeminism and Psychology