MA Project – ‘Motherhood’

‘Envisioning Motherhood’ – deconstructing the visuality of breastfeeding in the cultural context of motherhood


Breastfeeding is a complex topic that enters into sociological, cultural, political and economic realms.  For us to understand the social stigma of breastfeeding we must view it within the cultural context of motherhood.

Media framing contributes significantly to the way in which we ‘see’ motherhood, creating unethical and unrealistic expectations:

“God forbid that one second should pass where you child was idle and that you were not doing everything you could to promote his or her emotional, cognitive, imaginative, quantitative, or muscular development.”  (The Mommy Myth, Douglas & Michaels, 2005)

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF outline in The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding ‘to ensure that the health and other relevant sectors protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding…providing women access to the support they require – in the family, community and workplace.’

Our exposure to breastfeeding is now unlikely through surrounding family, friends and society.  It will most likely come in the shape of an advocacy campaign or book, probably when we are already expecting our first born.  This will be predominantly based on health benefits with a technical, mechanical approach to achieve success at breastfeeding.  Through conditioning we have come to rely on discovered knowledge through theory and fact, this is at the expense of our natural instincts.

We are constantly bombarded with unreal representations of motherhood, advice, expectations, pressures, attack and scrutiny of how we should be ‘doing our job’, not only as mothers, but as women!  The normative support and education from peers has been squashed by overpowering dissemination of the mass media.  This influences what we now believe we ‘see and know,’ it implants an ‘idea’ of motherhood, constantly being re-enforced by our visual culture.

Women as mothers have a right to be valued as members of society for the multiple roles in which they inhabit.  I believe that we have the ability to shape change through the visual, visual culture ignites all of the senses; most importantly it has a voice.

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