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9. The Thread of Life: Care and Mothering


Destined “by nature” to maternity, women have historically been defined as “being-for-others” as opposed to “being-for-oneself” that is characteristic of males. In Spain, which was shaped by Catholic heritage and Francoist traditionalism, there was the additional influence of the sublimated model of the mother incarnated by the Virgin Mary.

It is therefore understandable that, since the late 1960s, feminist artists and activists have constantly returned to the subject. In some cases, to construct an image based on one’s own experience, surpassing imposed codes: maternity conceived of as a social construction is thus countered with the personal experience of motherhood. In others, to demystify the Marian model: in many of the works gathered here maternity appears to us to be an ambivalent territory, where pleasure and pain are intermingled. The mother’s body marks the pleasurable encounter with the Other, yet also shows signs of weariness from pregnancy and breast-feeding. Motherhood is revealed as a conflictive arena: conflict between one’s own desires and external expectations; conflict between paid work and the work of caretaking; conflict between moral dictates and women’s struggle for control over their reproductive rights.

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