Melanee Thomas and Amanda Bittner, eds.
Mothers and Others
The Role of Parenthood in Politics
UBC Press 2017
New Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network December 18, 2017 Lilly Goren
Melanee Thomas and Amanda Bittner have assembled a fascinating and important exploration of the role, understanding, and perceptions of mothers and motherhood within the realm of politics. Mothers and Others: The Role of Parenthood in Politics (University of British Columbia Press, 2017) opens up many avenues for understanding and considering what we mean and what we think about when the concept and reality of motherhood is introduced into political dynamics. This relationship, which is often a tension, as explored in the book, includes those who have run for and occupied elected office, have been appointed to public office, or have otherwise held public office.
The book moves beyond this arena to consider, as well, how motherhood is communicated and why it is communicated in the ways that it is or where it is perhaps subsumed—and thus not communicated—by those running for office. Much of the discussion within Mothers and Others is also the contrast between how motherhood is seen for female public officials and how it is perceived in relation to male public officials. Many readers will be familiar with the different approach that the media has towards female candidates, especially around the issues of balancing home life and public life, but this collection of essays delves deeply into not only this overt example, but how and why this has come to frame our consumption of candidates for office. The final section of the book examines the perspective from citizens themselves—with research exploring how and when individuals who are mothers or fathers become involved in politics and how this shifts and changes over time. This section also helps the reader to think about what we, ourselves, understand about our own political knowledge and that of our fellow citizens, and how and where we may utilize that knowledge in many of the decisions we make, from voting and civic engagement to economic consumption. Thomas and Bittner both start and conclude the book by highlighting the need for more research and analysis, especially in regard to our understanding of the public workplace and how and where women and mothers have been incorporated into that space, but also how they remain outsiders in that space. This book will be of interest to many readers across a host of disciplines, as it is a complex comparative study—incorporating data and analysis from a host of different political systems, countries, cultures, and perspectives.