Letter from the Editor

By Nicole Musselman

My predecessor, Colleen H. Clements, wrote in the 2021 Letter from the Editor that she could not believe it was already 2021, reflecting that “time seems to have lost all sense of meaning” during the onset of the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As I came into the editor position in mid-April of this year, I found that this sentiment of time reverberated with many of us in the academic field, particularly mothers in the academy and those focused primarily on mother studies. Yet, despite the hindrance of pandemic-related setbacks, scholars and artists continued to devote their time, energy, and soul to the field of mother studies. Indeed, JourMS is growing amongst these same hardships, including a significant increase of submissions to JourMS for publication this summer. 

The Call for Paper for the current volume asked authors to focus on “creativity, advocacy, and activism through theory and practice.” Suggested questions asked, “How do we heal trauma? How can art be leveraged for community connection and social change? What works and what doesn’t work? Where have we been? Where are we now? Where do we hope to be?” The authors selected for this volume answered in a multitude of ways: creative, reflective, academic, and even case studies. These selected works offer a glimpse of where we as a patriarchal society are and where, with the guidance of mother studies, we can go, if only given a chance to view the world through the maternal. These works reflect not only the growing number of mother artists and scholars within the academy but also the need for an emphasis on the field of mother studies as a valuable critical lens that can engage with many areas to provide solutions to a wide array of contemporary issues.

Artistic photographic works, including Shweta Bist’s “Motherhood, Art and a Pandemic” and Clarissa Monteiro Borges’ ““Hiding (Trap)”: Living and Mothering During Quarantine in Brazil,” offer a glimpse of how motherhood shifted during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in two epicenters: New York City and Brazil respectively. Their photography captures the complications of motherhood, self, and raising children during traumatic or stressful experiences. How can a woman be all things at once? Likewise, the poetry collection of Katharine Covino-Poutasse reflects on these issues of being a woman and a mother. The roles at first are seemingly in constant change, yet simultaneously entwined as daughter, friend, mother, and teacher.

Meanwhile, creative reflection and the academy meet face to face in the bold works of Lori Crawford’s “When Words Are Not Enough, #ArtToo, Can Reinvigorate: A Fellow Artist Reflects On the Power of Art by Women Artists” and Hazel Larkin’s “Abreast of Things.” Crawford explores how art can provide an outlet when “words fall short” to describe our painful experiences and past traumas. Larkin, on the other hand, uses autoethnography to explore how she overcame past trauma to love her breasts. Both pieces offer a glimpse of how art, poetry, and performance can offer a means to examine past and current traumas and how certain avenues of self-reflection can provide healing.

Creativity and social change are also on the minds of many scholars. Meredith Clements ““I will hold your hand through my disease:” Using Poetic Narrative to Interpret the Role of Mother-Patient During Advanced-Stage Cancer” asserts that using poetic narrative and centering the motherhood experience for female cancer patients can lead medical personnel and family to be more informed of the newly diagnosed cancer patient’s experiences and tribulations. Mairi McDermott, Stephanie Tyler, and Sheliza Ladhani’s “M/Othering Rhythms, Tenure Clocks, and Methodological Pauses: Knowledge-Creation with/in an Unfinished Ethnodrama” tackles the issues surrounding the tenure track during the Covid-19 pandemic for mother scholars in academic institutions by offering an alternative methodology outside of the institutionalized knowledge habits we are accustomed to, to advocate not only for change in knowledge creation, but bring awareness to the challenges women academics face concerning conflicting narratives of society, academy, and motherhood. Both of these works offer new methodologies to create much-needed spaces for women while bringing awareness to two very different social issues while centering on the mother figure. 

The last creative works explore how art can physically change the spirit and offer avenues of healing at the personal level and globally. Natalie Bruvel’s “Cat Attack Collective: Painting and Installation in the Postmaternal” explores how art provided a means of healing before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her collaborative work with her son often subverts the normative masculinist archetypes of Madonna and Child/mother, and instead focuses on issues of bonding and labor. Lastly, Batya Weinbaum and Susana Sanchez Valenzuela take us on a journey in “Reinstalling Great Mother Presence on an Island of Women Today” to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, to explore how Weinbaum’s street art project expanded visitor’s conception of the mainly heteronormative, masculine narrative of so many myths. This tour will immerse you on the island and the work happening there to enrich global visitors of the mother figure in many forms.

Apart from the intersectional creative and scholarly pieces, many authors focused on healing and trauma in other fields that connect to mother studies. Maya Bhave’s “Reflections on Matrelinqual Identity: How Mothers Conceptualize the Loss of Proximate Mothering” address the changing dynamics mothers experience once their children reach adulthood. Bhave’s work highlights the growing need for additional research into maternal thinking past the adolescent childrearing stage. Tracy Sidesinger’s “The New Community Psychoanalysis Paradigm: Utilizing Relational Theory and Matriarchal Governance Structures as Foundations for Social Change” advocates for better healthcare infrastructure in the US via relational theory and matriarchal governance structures. Arguably, these pieces demonstrate that mother studies and psychology are interconnected fields that can offer solutions or lenses to vast social and medical issues leading to improved mental health at the individual and community levels. Lastly, Krista Marie-Clark Cline, et al. perform a case study to examine the link between role strain, role enhancement and depressive symptoms in mothers of high school athletes. This study lays the groundwork for examining depressive symptoms in the growing number of mothers of student-athletes in the US.

The commonality of “community” continues within the pieces of Lindsey Reuben and Lincoln Addison. Reuben’s work “Breastfeeding Against the Clock: Motherhood on the Tenure Track” explores the issues breastfeeding mothers face within the academy due to the lack of community understanding and complacent acceptance of dominating masculine narrative concerning motherhood. Addison’s work “Migrant Mothers in High Value Horticulture: Learning from One Zimbabwean Mother’s Story in South Africa” echoes across the globe the issues facing the migrant mother’s in South Africa through the retelling of one mother’s story to overcome and provide despite the lack of familiar and community support. These works highlight the importance of community acceptance and support for mothers in order for them and their children to thrive in a patriarchal society.

Finally, it is essential to address where we were and where we are headed through textual analysis of the world around us by utilizing the lens of motherhood. Charlyn Marie Ingwerson forges a new path for mother studies by introducing us to Maternal Critical Theory as a means “that recognizes this dynamic counterpoint to authoritarianism destabilizes the centricity of the patriarchal myth and readers participate in a cultural shift toward maternal authority.” This new means of engagement expands the lens of motherhood studies and cracks open new possibilities for ensuring the mother figure lives on in new, powerful ways. Shelby Hennessy’s analysis of Alejandro Morales’s 1992 The Rag Doll Plagues,  “Cross-Racial Conversations of Motherhood: The Multifacets and Faces of Motherhood in Alejandro Morales’s The Rag Doll Plagues,” highlights other author’s sentiments for a more community supportive motherhood, outside of the patriarchal narrative still present today. Lastly, Debadrita Chakraborty in “Can Bollywood mothers speak: Exploring motherhood agency and subjectivity in mainstream Hindi Cinema” and Christina H. Hodel’s “The Pyramid Effect: Gender, Class, and Sass on Dance Moms” look at film and media portrayals of mother figures to determine when and through what means mother figures have agency within a patriarchal, male-dominated society. Chakraborty’s work offers this look of the mother figure through analysis of various Bollywood films in India. In contrast, Hodel’s work looks at the dynamics of forming gendered power in the US.

This edition of JourMS has been a labor of love, yet it is crucial to recognize the continued hardships that marginalized individuals, mothers, and mother scholars continue to face. By centering the maternal, the mother figure, I hope these selected pieces offer a starting point to answer those questions of healing trauma and advancing social change first poised in the initial call for papers. We can perhaps see threads of where we have come from, where we stand, and maybe where we can go. After all, we all hope our children and future selves find a way to a better future. The groundwork for that future begins here, within these works emphasizing love and peace, enriched by the guiding hand of maternal studies. 

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