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Students Reflect on Taking Reading Motherhood at Georgetown University

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Reading Motherhood isn't just a website--it's also a course taught at Georgetown University by our two co-founders. Here are some students reflecting on their experience taking the course.

 

'Reading Motherhood' was hands-down one of the best and most influential courses I have ever taken. I took 'Reading Motherhood' in the spring of 2014 and am still amazed by the many ways, monumental and small, that my learnings from the course have influenced both my academic and personal pursuits.

For example, I've recently realized that so much of how I position myself academically is rooted in my early readings of Patricia Hill Collins and her paper on 'shifting the center'; I was introduced to this work in 'Reading Motherhood', and my understanding of the concept, both in direct application to feminist theorizing about motherhood and in terms of a broader, more abstracted understanding of 'shifting the center' in theory generally, was shepherded entirely by the structure of the course and the in-class (and out-of-class!) discussions I had with fellow students, Professor Fox, and Professor Velez.


This is just one of many such instances that have struck me over the years; I'll be trying to figure out why I think about a concept in a certain way, and then suddenly realize it's because of an insight I gained through the course. One of the reasons I loved 'Reading Motherhood' so much was because not only was it about, and very specifically, of course, representations of motherhood, but also about broader questions and critiques of feminist theory, gender theory, and even biology or 'natural' processes. This class turned everything on its head. The fight for the right not to bear children is held with the fight for the right to bear children; the notion that motherhood is a gift and a time of great joy is held with the acknowledgment that motherhood is, for many, neither of these things; the 'innate desire' to mother is held with the 'innate desire' to not. These are just a few examples, but the course opened my eyes to the important ways in which theory (and, of course, our own perspectives!) must not only accommodate but center these many realities.


And, of course, as I'm confronted with questions of pursuing motherhood/parenthood in my own life, and how, and when, I find myself not so much thinking back to specific teaching moments from the course as much as recognizing that the many insights gained from the course are now just in me. The concepts of motherhood teased out in class have so deeply informed my own worldview that I can't separate them out as 'learnings from class' versus 'personal understandings'. When I signed up for the course, overjoyed by the prospect of finally getting to take an English course (I studied science!), I certainly didn't realize that I'd be thinking about its content for the rest of my life. The course shaped me in ways that I didn't know school could shape you. I can't say the same for any other course I took in college. 'Reading Motherhood' was a truly transformative experience.


-- Former Student at Georgetown University

 
 

“Reading Motherhood” was among the most transformative courses I’ve taken over my time at Georgetown. It is unique in that it is truly interdisciplinary and intersectional. The course brings together students from all areas of study, each of whom approaches the diverse array of sources from the perspective of their own academic, cultural, and personal background; this makes class discussions particularly enriching. Moreover, not only do we encounter sources from a wide array of genres, mediums, and eras, but we examine a plethora of distinct maternal experiences with a critical eye toward race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, and pathway to motherhood. While countless classes at Georgetown claim to aspire to intersectionality, Professors Velez and Fox ask the kinds of critical questions that teach students how to think intersectionally on their own. I cannot overstate the impact “Reading Motherhood” has had on me; indeed, it constitutes the basis for my two very different senior honors theses in the government and English departments, and it has informed so many of my now deeply-held beliefs about feminism, parenting, politics, and contemporary motherhood.


-- Bella Ryb, Georgetown University Student

 

Reading Motherhood is easily one of the best courses I’ve taken at Georgetown and allowed me to critically examine what shapes our perceptions of motherhood. While my own mother was working class and seemed to struggle balancing work, marriage, and three children, the mothers I saw on television were upper-middle-class stay-at-home mothers with help and extensive resources whose lives revolved around having and raising children. These mothers were also rarely, if ever, women of color, queer, non-biological, or surrogate mothers so outside of my own mother, I had a very narrow perception of what motherhood is and this class transformed that. Professor Fox and Professor Velez do an excellent job exploring motherhood through a racially and class-conscious lens that includes mothers of varying national origins, sexualities, and gender identities. The class also spent significant time exploring how the media shapes our expectations of mothers as perfect and all-knowing and how we sometimes forget their humanity. We expect people to forfeit their individuality when they become mothers and forget that they are still people with identities and experiences marked by race, gender, class, sexual identity and this class reminds us.


--Jessica Roberts, Georgetown University Student

 

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