The new Oedipus Complex
Maybe something like this: The Mother is the most basic, foundational archetype of humanity that exists. As long as she still hangs around we can't become post-human, or at least we can't delude ourselves that we are genderless post-humans. She is holding us back from self-actualization. She is a constant reminder that we are in fact still biological creatures, we have not transcended our carbon-based humanity into silicon-based transhumanity. Her existence is proof of failure.
Where is it coming from? I have a harebrained theory. Please listen – even though you might not agree, it's food for thought.
It seems to me that the desire to "destroy the mother" comes from the fact that technology, in some sense, slowly makes us more and more male. The abstract intellect is implicitly a very masculine thing, and it has become steadily more dominant since the Enlightenment. With the rise of Enlightenment thinking – what the Frankfurt School called "instrumental rationality" and what Heidegger called "enframing" or gestell – we become more and more "male" in our outlook.
At the same time, though, technology makes us soft. By making us comfortable, technology allows us to self-domesticate.
So we become steadily more "male" but also more "child". The final condition approximates an autistic ten-year-old boy. And what do you know? Pop culture bears this out. Why is "nerd chic" a thing? Why does everyone love goofy stuff like comic books and symphonic metal? Why has our taste collectively become that of a young autistic boy?
Because we are collectively turning into a tweenaged boy with autism. And the desire to "destroy the mother" is the desire to remove the obstacle that we perceive inwardly. "I don't wanna grow up! I'm a postmodern singularity obsessed Toys-R-Us kid! You can't tell me what to do, mom!"
That's my swipe.
As a secondary school teacher I was shocked by the amount of young girls/teenagers in my classes who said they didn’t want children. For a lot of them, it seemed as though the decision to have children was somehow anti-feminist, as though in order to be an independent, strong, admirable woman you needed to focus solely on your career and strive for success that was comparable to men’s success in the workplace. I wonder whether this push towards women being recognised as ‘equal’ in the workplace, through discussions like the gender pay gap that have been focused on so much in recent years, have almost made the idea of the mother (particularly the stay-at-home mother) undesirable to young people. And once something has become undesirable to many, is it easier to paint that figure as something disgusting, or feeble, or inferior in some way? It all feels very sad, when motherhood is something so life-changing, so valuable and so rewarding!
I would suggest two factors:
1) the cultural diminution of males, particularly fathers, places the success and happiness of their children on mothers. Dissatisfied children will place more blame on the mother than the father who is already a caricature in their minds.
2) Related to the first point, while mothers now bear primary responsibility for their children’s success, they are absent in a way they have never been before due to their entry into the workforce.
In sum, dad is a joke, mom should be there to love and support me, but she is too busy with her career.
My formulation of this was, "Women had a brief moment in the sun. Now we are being blamed for robbing men of their masculinity and trans women of their femininity."
Decades ago, in "The Mermaid and the Minotaur," Dorothy Dinnerstein wrote (drawing, I think, on Melanie Klein's work about the "good breast" and "bad breast") that the infant's discovery of the two-facedness of life itself—that it can both give bliss and inflict deprivation, apparently at whim—is experienced, embodied, in the person of the mother (she who has power to give or withhold the breast) and thus projected onto women by everyone. Dinnerstein thought this wouldn't change until men played an intimate role in the care of infants (as is only now gaining steam). (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy will publish a book next year that provides physiological and evolutionary support for men having an innate response and readiness for this, there for culture to activate if we so choose.)
There's another note: people in their tech-enabled rage to have ALL their wishes fulfilled are closing in on the ultimate wish—immortality—and it's also been pointed out that "that which is born must die." In ancient cultures Death was often personified as a woman (Kali) or depicted as returning to the Mother's body from which we came. Therefore, in the logic of the deep psyche, "Death, thou shalt die" means motherhood must die.
I suspect that the breakup of families, the "me" orientation that began with my baby boomer generation (another sense in which women said "me too!"), and the shunting of women (by choice or necessity) back to work while still nursing an infant (lest they lose their ability to pay the rent or their place in their careers), overlaid on the dynamic Dinnerstein/Klein described, could account for the desire to obliterate mothers and motherhood. We've raised a couple of undermothered generations now.
I don't want to see us go back to sentimentalizing motherhood as women's only true calling—exclusion from the life of the mind and spirit and development of/respect for one's human gifts was what enraged me most as a child of the 1950s. But as that child I was also in awe of motherhood, the privilege of being the body through which life passes. (Ironically I never had children, which was not my desire or choice.) If only re-reverencing motherhood does not reduce women to inarticulate walking wombs, sequestered from the public sphere, I'm for it. Our driven focus on "productivity," whether in a career or a dead-end job, comes from late-stage capitalism, not human nature. We need to make room in our lives for biological rhythms and we need to recognize that nothing is more important and consequential (for both sexes) than raising children (which not everyone may be suited or able to do biologically, but everyone participates in societally).
Unfortunately we are rushing pell-mell in the opposite direction.
I feel it, as a mother.
A mother is a specific thing, with boundaries that are exclusionary. She is unreasonably attached to her particular children, which is not very egalitarian and quite possibly suspect.
A mother is a powerful force, and an inconvenient one. Kids now are brought up in much more diverse households (single parent (where mum / dad is both parents), grandparents / relatives stepping in, foster, gay, care system), and 'mother' is too heavy a word to cover some (perhaps?) more elastic or thinned out relational bonds.
In terms of inclusivity - we like to bring the margin to the centre, and marginalise the central. So, some kids are raised by their grandparents/aunts/uncles/foster/care etcetc, and mothers need to step aside to acknowledge that diversity. It's just the move of the moment.
There also seems to be a desire to bring to consciousness a reality whereby not all women who give birth will go on to be (or want to be) mothers. There is a way of severing the real embodied bond between mother and child which requires the erasure of the essential-ness (is that a word?) of everyone actually having a mother, and of mothers having children. Which - I imagine - is thought to be liberating for the mother and (quite possibly) for the child as well.
Case in point perhaps... I just read a thread on Mumsnet discussing the fact that Mother's Day has been changed to Special Person Day in a primary school, and approx a third / quarter of responses (presumably from mothers) were reminding posters that 'not everyone has a mother'. Which (at least for now) is impossible. But they were meaning that mothers are a non-essential part of life for a child. Also that children are a non-essential part of life for mothers.
Ian McGilchrist would say we have become more left-brain orientated and that has little space for mushy mummy love, or embodied grounded particular reality that birth/motherhood brings.
Ultimately I put it down to liberal feminism. There's a squeamishness about motherhood. Do I want to grow up to be like my mother? Is a mother all I am? They wish women weren't burdened with it; it makes them too female.
Women's bonds are (according to the zeitgeist) preferably lateral in the here-and-now, not vertical towards older generations of women-who-were-mothers. A mother links children to grounded reality, when they should be linked to ethereal identity space.
"Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. But there were also husbands, wives, lovers. There were also monogamy and romance. “Though you probably don’t know what those are,” said Mustapha Mond. They shook their heads. Family, monogamy, romance. Everywhere exclusiveness, a narrow channelling of impulse and energy. “But every one belongs to every one else,” he concluded, citing the hypnopædic proverb."
In Brave New World "mother" is a rude word.
'Identity politics' is all about 'my rights', until we get back to focusing on 'our duties' to each other society will continue to self-destruct. Where we value duty, we also value the carers. You can't commoditise motherhood easily, but you can strip it of its nouns and sense of having any value, then sell the idea of becoming a woman with surgeries and hormones, (& sell surrogacy) - it doesn't matter that it doesn't function for society.. it's profitable in the short term.
Additionally: if mothers who set boundaries (as all parents should do) are not backed up by teaching in school and society generally, then self indulgent entitled young people who are dissatisfied with their lives will be encouraged to blame the only boundary-setter for all of their woes. It all points, to my mind, to a return to more traditional values of duty.
Final thought: the carers aren't loud voices on social media.. they're busy. the disillusioned have LOADS of time to promote their neurotic thoughts, & frustration (& our politicians are pandering to the noisy)
In today's hyper "Individual Rights" world, the Good Mother (and the Good Wife) is Public Enemy Number One. A despicable and ridiculous role model who foolishly puts the needs of others before her own. She's a doormat. A sucker. Pathetic. "Socialized" to be that way. There must be something wrong with her, to be so self sacrificing, so selfless. She is also in direct competition with the State and the Market for the hearts and minds of her husband and kids.
I’ve always thought that misogyny owed a lot to men’s unconscious jealousy of women’s ability to give birth. In 2011 when I read that Elton John’s partner David Furnish was registered as their son’s ‘mother’ I realised a new fluidity in the meaning of motherhood was underway. Last week I read about the Japanese geneticists who have successfully created mice with two biological fathers by generating eggs from male cells. Also, as another commentator here says, linked to this erasure of motherhood is the rise of queer culture and in particular the whole drag phenomenon which is being thrust at mothers, young children and even babies. It was the comedian Dave Chapelle I think who made a comment recently about why drag was not seen in the same pejorative light as blackface. I’m a grandmother now but was part of the Women’s Liberation movement and at a loss to know where it all went so very wrong.
This may be another symptom more than a root, but the cultural embrace of abortion has to be a factor here too: it's a literal enactment of mother-destruction as well as child-destruction.
I also wonder about the lasting effects on fathers and family members when the mother buys an abortion. I've spent many hours outside abortion clinics and I've watched entire families show up - including grandparents, husbands, sisters, aunts, toddlers, babies - and sit and stroll around a parking lot while the pregnant mother heads inside. (To be clear, these family members appear fully supportive of the abortion. I'm wondering what it does to them psychologically whether they're aware of it or not.) On the other hand, I've watched so. many. men. cry. The grimmest situation I ever witnessed firsthand was the occasion when a young man came straight up to a group of pro-lifers and broke down completely. All he could get out was - "I don't want her to do it. I told her I'd take the baby, anything." His girlfriend went inside, came back out, called him, burst out laughing, and when he went down to her, took his hand and pulled him inside. He was in tears the whole way in. I've watched milder versions of this play out too, and I wonder what happens to these young men psychologically, and how these kinds of wounds come out. Violence and misogyny seem like very likely outcomes, as well as deep ambivalence towards mothers in general.
I ABSOLUTELY see this!!! A few months back, I was thumbing through the New Yorker and had to photograph what I saw to commemorate it - the first three things my eyes alighted on were a review of the film "The Torture of Mothers," followed by a review of the band "Let's Eat Grandma," followed by an ad for the book "I'm Glad my Mom Died." Unnerving to say the least but worth noting. Anti-motherhood is pervasive.
Well, if God is dead, then father and mother have to be killed off as well. And of course childhood is well on the way to being destroyed. But the tide is turning so have hope.
Just want to say that this is one of the most informed comments sections I've read !
I think there are forces at work to destroy all of the healthy gender archetypes: father as protector, mother as creator, link to nature and nurturer.... And we replace these with parodies and the shadow side of each gender archetype. The toxic male and the toxic female are being empowered and glorified and the one shadow feeds into the other creating a hopelessly negative cycle.
This shouldn't surprise us when we consider the destructive effect that feminism (women) had, and continues to have on families. When fathers are removed from homes, the children feel abandoned and become angry. These children are also less secure... physically, emotionally and financially... than those who grow up in homes where both parents are present. And the reason for this situation, at least according to popular culture? Mommies aren't getting what they need from daddies. Mommies need to feel empowered. Mommies need their space. What the children need is secondary to the needs of their mothers.
We should not be surprised if these children grow up to become hostile adults who direct their rage at women, especially those women who are old enough to be their mothers.