vol 13 - 1978

From the vantage point of 1987, it is increasing clear that the meaning of motherhood—in state policy, in medical practices, in the workplace, as well as in the lives of individual women—is a contested domain. The cultural politics of motherhood appear in many of this issue’s articles. Rosalind Pollack Petchesky's "Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction" begins by decoding the power of The Silent Scream, the New Right's notorious and influential piece of antiabortion video propaganda. Debates over abortion in the 1980s are often centered on fetal images as created by the technology of sonography. In piercing the sonogram's seemingly "scientific" objectivity, Petchesky links the way they are read to the larger framework of modern American visual culture. At stake in the contest over visualized fetuses is not only the male medical control of pregnancy, or the feminist critique of technology, but the lived, concrete experiences of individual, pregnant women who now also have visual access to their fetuses. The fetal image may represent the first snapshot in the family album or an oppressive obstacle against an abortion decision, depending on its political deployment.  

Among the small town and rural residents of upstate New York in the mid-nineteenth century, baby pictures had a different meaning, as Josephine Gear demonstrates. Posed formally or informally, in lace or in cambric, it is the baby's image which created its mother's status in the community, a status which prosperous mothers asserted differently than did the poorer wives of the district. And it is from the child's vantage point that Lynda Schraufnagel constructs "Carnival," a forgiving fantasy that elaborates a mother's oppressive marriage and subsequent abandonment of her children. Images of naked women infuse Ellen Gruber Garvey's "Life With Bodies: An Essay," where the experience of "undressing for success" in a Wall Street health club in the 1980s triggers powerful memories of maternal bodies viewed through the fascinated eyes of a young girl. The maternal bodies draped comfortably over children and one another, in steam rooms and beaches in the 1940s, contrast with today's disciplined aerobic female forms.



Rosalind Pollack Petchesky
Fetal Images: The Power of Visual
Culture in the Politics of Reproduction

Judith Wilt
Desperately Seeking Verena: A Resistant
Reading of
The Bostonians

Deniz A. Kandiyoti
Emancipated but Unliberated?
Reflections on the Turkish Case

Lynda Schraufnagel

Deborah Rosenfelt and Judith Stacey
Second Thoughts on the Second Wave
(a Review Essay)

Leslie Milofsky
Magdalena Abakanowicz (an Art Essay)

Florencia E. Mallon
Patriarchy in the Transition to Capitalism:
Central Peru, 1830-1950

Ellen Gruber Garvey
Life with Bodies: An Essay

Josephine Gear
The Baby's Picture: Woman as Image
Maker in Small-Town America

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