Flipping over the twisted rhetoric of maternity
Motherhood and making a career, known as an ever-lasting struggle. Maternity as a burden instead of a gift. Have we taken some time to ponder over where the unfairness of this comes from?
Detaching from the twisted societal logic we are often victims of, are we able to put ourselves in the right direction so as to have concrete and substantial equality?
In The Hotel of the Sad Women (El albergue de las mujeres tristes) Marcela Serrano wrote: “[…] remember that the difference between a man and a woman in the creative act is the following: there is always going to be a woman that locks the door to allow the male genius to express itself; […] she will take care of everything on the outside in order to have an internal space which irradiates solely his light. To a woman, […], no one does the favour of closing the door. If she is mother, she won’t even be able to close it for herself. […] In other words, it’s not just the fact of not having a devoted spouse that impedes us from isolation: it is maternity. Maternity and isolation are two realities irreparably in conflict.”
Even if decontextualised, this paragraph holds a peculiarly strong message. Breaking it down to smaller pieces, the “creative act” can be understood to be as one’s career or personal aspirations (and isolation as the condition necessary to have them thrive). Thus, this is what the last sentence might mean: when a woman becomes a mother, she faces high unlikeliness of being able to have again that isolation necessary to develop her own interests, aspirations or career.
Browsing through the news, it comes naturally to think about Elisabetta Franchi’s case. The stylist, attending an event, explained how in her company there is “no place for young girls in important positions” (considering the risk of having those spots uncovered due to maternity leave, etc.), referring to how she prefers to have in crucial positions (such as managerial ones) women who have already been through certain phases of their lives.
She has been highly criticised by many for these statements, while she defended herself stating how she had been misunderstood and how her words had been instrumentalised, being Franchi a mother herself and an entrepreneur supporting women all along. She could (and probably ought to) have chosen different words to express her idea, but the problem remains; if you feel touched by what the businesswoman said, it is because you should; especially in Italy, maternity remains a burden to bear for all mothers, being an obstacle to making a career and to the personal development of women.
This may represent an opportunity to expand on topics that are of certain relevance in today’s world. The real issue revolves around the fact that what has been (righteously or wrongfully) expressed by Franchi is – undoubtedly – an actuality: “being mothers in Italy and making a career at the same time is still extremely difficult”.
Generalising, by cause of biological reasons, for people of the opposite sex it can be clearly complicated to fully understand what the burden of maternity really turns out to be: there is no shoe to be tried on to internalise this encumbrance.
The question lies in the twisted societal rhetoric of motherhood as being a burden, which has traipsed itself for too long; instead, we ought to be trying to establish substantial conditions allowing for maternity to be a gift shared by the two bearers of the love for the child (be the parents whoever they may be). Several measures have been discussed and tried out, lately much heat is around the so-called paternity leave, in an attempt at extending it and to making it compulsory for families.
All things considered, maternity, together with other crucial issues, persists to be one of the main complexities around which our reality develops. This may stem from the story too many generations were told (and believed) that women should be mothers above all, and – if they managed to create the time – they could along the years conquer some other spaces for themselves. The awry logic behind this reasoning is at the core of the problem and – once again – formal recognition of equality leads nowhere if the substantialisation of it doesn’t come along.