M.A.M.A. Issue n.5: Margaret Rapp and Louise Camrass

The ProCreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 5th edition of this scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA



Louise Camrass

My work is a response to my experiences and observations of life.
For many years I have worked with film and video using both narrative and abstract forms. I have made many short narrative pieces while continuing to develop a visual language through the improvised gathering of images. I am particularly interested in light and composition, and how atmosphere can be created through framing, editing, colour, sound and rhythm.
This approach to the moving image translates directly into how I think about painting, drawing and clay.
Moving between figurative and abstract forms allows me the freedom to find images which most closely express recurring themes of sex and death, the absurd, poetry and light.
I am most interested in finding ways to convey inner feeling, the visual equivalent perhaps of a song or a piece of music.

Reflections Of A Multicultural Mom by Margaret Rapp – From Mom Egg Review Vol. 13
On my son’s third birthday, he got chicken pox. We cancelled his party, but I still gave him the present he most wanted – a Barbie doll. Although I am a “modern” Mom, I was a little uncomfortable giving him a Barbie, so I gave him a Barbie and Ken; and, since he is an inter-racial child and I wanted to be politically correct, I gave him a black Barbie and Ken (although Barbie did have a blonde streak in her hair). My son loved his gift and I can still see him, sitting in front of his cake with a birthday hat on, his face speckled with pox marks, holding up his Barbie (Ken had already been relegated to the unused toy box).

For the next two weeks, while he was recuperating, Barbie was his constant companion. When he went back to daycare, he wanted to take his Barbie for show and tell. While I had my misgivings on how the other children would react –would they make fun of him—I stuck to my feminist principles and didn’t discourage him. That afternoon when he came home, he threw his Barbie angrily in the corner. My first thought was that he had been teased or called a sissy. Then he tearfully said the words that are still imprinted in my mind. “I want a white Barbie.” He had never used the word white to refer to a person before. Years later, I learned that it was actually Jessie, a black girl who lived down the block, that had taunted him about his “black” Barbie.

I hate the word “bi”. Like in I am the mother of a biracial child. I keep expecting to see a child that is painted black on one side and white on the other like those mimes you see in the park standing like statues. It comes from that puritanical Calvinism where everything in America is bifurcated, cut in half, polarized. Like either/or, good/evil, black/white. And you are always expected to come down on one side or the other.

Murphy Brown was very big on TV when my son was small. After his Dad took off, I played the Murphy Brown role – the fast talking, independent woman who raised a child on her own. It worked very well until they found out I had a mixed race child. Even then, it could work if they thought he was adopted. Once they found out I had him the old fashioned way, I was relegated to the welfare Mom role –the woman who was too stupid to keep her legs together and was dumped when she got pregnant.

I know that my son has spent much of his childhood longing for some traditional nuclear family that he will never have (as do many children from both black and white homes). But our society is much more multicultural now than it was when my son was born twenty-six years ago. These days he self identifies as a German Haitian Dominican Jew. And we do have a “biracial” President.

My son is grown now – a muscled young man with light golden skin, deep dark eyes and the somewhat rounded features that compliment his dimpled smile. His dark curly hair is slowly turning into male patterned baldness — a trait which I find attractive but I suspect he is embarrassed by as he has taken to wearing a hat. He lives with a friend in Harlem and writes lyrics for a pop singer that plays the small downtown clubs. Like most starving artists, he walks dogs to pay the rent, It is hard to believe that he is actually a grown man who has to lean down to hug me instead of looking up at me. So why am I still so worried?

Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago, my son called me from the police station. He was picked up at 6am in Harlem in front of his house. When he protested that he had rights, he was arrested. After two days he was released. He spent two days in jail, lost two days work for which he was not paid, his only good winter jacket was torn when he was roughed up and he saw a homeless man beaten down by police while he was in the holding cell.

The particulars of why he was arrested aren’t important. The charges were dropped, the judge apologized. His legal aid attorney told him he should file charges for false arrest. He made some halfhearted noises about filing charges, but never followed through. He seemed defeated by the whole experience. When I told people what happened, indignant at my son’s mistreatment, the first question they asked was what did he do wrong? After a while, I kept quiet about it, ashamed that he had been arrested. I began to believe he had done something wrong. And I wondered if he would have been arrested if he had been white.

Two months ago he told me he was frisked again in the same neighborhood on his way to work. This time, when the arresting officer “copped an attitude” when he tried to find out the reason he was stopped, he didn’t say anything and let her frisk him because he didn’t want to be late for work. I didn’t know if I was more relieved that he had chosen the pragmatic approach to stay out of jail or saddened that he had learned the lesson society expected him to learn – that he is a second class citizen who knows enough to shut-up and keep his head down. And he was still late for work.

Recently my son told me he was glad that he had been raised in an “alternative” family. He felt that it gave him a more worldly and tolerant outlook on life. What I learned is what it feels like to worry every time my son walks out the door.

My life time commitment to feminism and feminist writing is a direct result of my experiences living as a single mom in New York City. I have met many interesting and diverse women I would not have met except for this one commonality and their stories are reflected in my writing. I continue to write short stories and plays for various reading venues in New York, blog on DailyKos and hopefully will get my novel “After the Music Died” published this year.app – Margaret Rapp

M.A.M.A. Issue n.4: Becky Tipper and Lynn Lu

The ProCreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 4th edition of this scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA



Paradoxes for the Virtual by Lynn Lu
collaborative Skype performance with Birgitta Hosea
Lab451 LONDON; Camden Image Gallery; London, UK. 2015
In a game of Exquisite Corpse, Lynn Lu (live) and Birgitta Hosea (projected from SKYPE) explore intimacy and the generation of interpersonal closeness across a virtual divide through a scored series of shared confidences.


We talked a lot about eating you in those early days. You were made of apricots and berries and soft new bread and cotton candy, your tiny nose like a chickpea. How could we not want to consume you?

We weren’t the first, of course. Saturn, god of time, devoured his own children. Although in his case he ate them to undo them, to reel back the unfurling inevitability of what they would become. To bring time to a halt. We didn’t want to undo you; we simply wanted to savor how sweet you were to the lips and the mouth. It seemed the only sensible way to love you.

Back then, I knew you through my mouth more than I ever expected to: pressing my kisses on you, sliding strands of your dark hair through my lips (your hair glossy and strange as a baby horse). I nibbled at your edges, murmuring how edible you were.

I remember how, later, you learned the word edible and rolled it on your tongue. For a time, you asked of each thing we encountered, “Mama, is that edible?” relishing that you could slice the world in a new way, drawing a line between the parts of it we might eat and the rest (paper, candles, certain mushrooms, stones, and people).

I remember too, when you learned to crawl how you’d squeal with glee when I chased you on my hands and knees, and I’d warn, “I’m going to eat that baby!” And then when I caught you, I’d feast on your tummy with kisses. You know, even now, I’d eat you in one bite if I could.

And then I remember one time – it’s something I’ve never told anyone before. Picture the scene:

You are nursing and there is only us in the whole mute night. When you are done, I wipe a drop of my milk from your chin and hold it on my fingertip. Just one drop, carefully, as if it is both sacred and poisonous. No one can see me; even you are asleep on my lap now. I open my mouth and ready my tongue as if for the fall of a snowflake.

I bring it to my tongue – this food that my own body has made – and it tastes of what it is like to be you, before language dawns and crashes into your little life, where cries and milk are the closest your mouth comes to speech. It tastes of love, of apricots, of ice cream, of eons of other women and babies awake, half asleep, under stars, under skies, under cover, under fire. It tastes of life before I had words for anything, before I could even have told you who I was.
And I think to myself, if anything has the power to stop time, it’s this.

Becky Tipper writes short fiction and non-fiction, which has been published in The Mom Egg Review, Literary Mama, The Mother’s Milk Writing Prize Anthology and elsewhere. She won the Bridport Prize for flash fiction in 2011. Originally from the UK, she now lives with her husband and two children in Maine. Find her at: thebookflea.com

"Perspectives on Maternal Thinking" By Jenny N.

As part of our ongoing series with MOM – The Museum of Motherhood, MAMA Mothers Are Making Art announces new works and texts.

August 2015, MOM features the words of Jenny N.

In her book, Maternal Thinking, Sara Ruddickdefines what she understands to be the concept by this same name. It should be noted that this definition has a social, historical, and cultural context. The vision of maternal thinking, as she perceives it, has come out of our notions of what type of person mothers should be and what role they play in our society.Ruddick states: “The agents of maternal practice, acting in response to the demands of their children, acquire a conceptual scheme – a vocabulary and logic of connections – through which they order and express the values of their practice” (Ruddick 1989). “Maternal thinking,” she goes on to say, is guided by a mother’s interest in their child’s preservation, growth, and acceptability. Preservation begins whenever the mother reasonably believes her child to be a viable being and continues on through their first years of life. The mother is consumed with protecting her baby during these vulnerable years. Growth occurs following these first few years, when the mother is still entrusted with the child’s protection, but now wishes to see the child grow physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially. Acceptability refers to a mother’s desire to mold her child into the type of person that is socially accepted. A reflection no doubt of what we value in our society, I once heard a mother remark on the playground, “Why would they not want their kid to be smart and athletic?”

But, as Ruddick astutely notes, a mother’s quest for fulfilling their child’s preservation, growth, and acceptability can be thwarted by social or physical conditions that create barriers to care. “Some mothers are incapable of interested participation in the practices of mothering because of emotional, intellectual, or physical disability. Severe poverty may make interested maternal practice and therefore interested maternal thinking nearly impossible” (Ruddick 1989). The acceptance and internalization of these three guiding principles surrounding maternal thinking has informed the perception of the child welfare system in recent years. And it is Ruddick’s point about barriers to care that is precisely why their model continues to fail mothers in our society.

As a former domestic violence advocate, my position was funded by a grant designed to facilitate communication between child protective service workers and domestic violence advocates, with the goal of increasing domestic violence victims’ safety and improving their outcomes after working with child protective. Monumental case law in 2004 established that a mother’s inability to protect her child from witnessing abuse could not be the sole reason for removing children from a mother’s custody (NYCLU “Defending parental rights of mothers who are domestic violence victims”). Prior to this decision, ACS, the child protective body for New York City, was in the practice of routinely removing children from non-offending mothers for their inability to protect their kids from exposure to their partner’s violence. Even with the state initiative to carve out positions like mine and the instrumental case law that came out of the 1994 Nicholson vs. Williams decision, child protective workers continue to operate with the mindset that mothers, regardless of health/socioeconomic/housing/domestic violence status, hold the primary responsibility for providing a necessary degree of care to children in the home. Though Nicholson vs. Williams offered a major victory in the corner of domestic violence and feminist advocates, the reality is that the practice of removing children for reasons resulting from domestic violence is ongoing.

The child welfare system continues to fail mothers in our society. As the report, “Charging Battered Mothers with Failure to Protect: Still Blaming the Victim” addresses, victims of domestic violence are less likely to seek out help from social institutions due to fear of losing their children (Ahearn, et. al. 1999). Domestic violence offenders are rarely held accountable by child protective services despite being the party that poses the risk to the child(ren)’s safety. Instead, it is the mothers who are found “indicated” [guilty], receive court summonses due to a finding of neglect, and lose their children to removals by CPS.

Barbara Katz Rothman’s theory on motherhood vis-à-vis the patriarchal may offer a way of understanding the mindset of child protective services. Rothman uses the analogy of a seed to depict the way women’s labor, literally and figuratively, is second rate to the role of men in birthing. She states: “Our bodies may be ours, but given the ideology of patriarchy, the bodies of mothers are not highly valued. The bodies are just the space in which genetic material matures into babies. In a patriarchal system, even if women own their bodies, it may not give them any real control in pregnancy. Women may simply be seen to own the space in which fetuses are housed” (Rothman 1994). She borrows a description from renown midwife Sheila Kitzinger that relates this metaphor to contemporary birthing practices: with the medical interventions and constant prodding and poking that pregnant women endure by doctors, it’s almost as if they make it seem that the entire practice would go much smoother if the woman weren’t there at all and it were just doctor and fetus. A small sense of agency is bestowed back on women as the carriers of children in our society, Rothman proceeds. “Instead, women are said to own their babies, have ‘rights’ to them, just as men do: based on their seeds” (Rothman 1994). Perhaps this sense of “having rights” to their children, rather than placing inherent value in the role women have in bringing forth and nurturing children, is where child protective workers derive their understanding of mothers’ relationships to their children. Just as mothers have rights to their children, they can easily be taken away, if there is lacking the maternal thinking that Ruddick proposes.

Working as one domestic violence advocate among some fifty CPS workers, I would exhaust myself in trying to change the culture of the office. Like Ruddick suggests, the ability for mothers to foster their children’s preservation and growth is hindered by social factors like domestic violence. And they shouldn’t be held accountable for their partners’ violence, anyway. But I see now that this change couldn’t come from just one voice battling the legacy of an archaic notion of what motherhood should be. Rather, as Ruddick suggests, “Assimilating men into childcare both inside and outside the home would…be conducive to serious social reform” (Ruddick 1989). Until we recognize fathers as equal partners in raising children, mothers will continue to be on trial if children are not being met with a certain degree of care at home. An entire cultural shift is needed to transform the child welfare system as it currently stands.

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