The Mommy Myth

The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women

The Mommy Myth

Taking readers on a provocative tour through thirty years of media images about mothers -- the superficial achievements of celebrity moms, the sensational coverage of dangerous day care, the media-manufactured "mommy wars" between working mothers and stay-at-home moms, and more -- The Mommy Myth contends that this "new momism" has been shaped by out-of-date mores, and that no matter how hard they try, women will never achieve it. In this must-read for every woman, Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels shatter the myth of the perfect mom and all but shout, "We're not gonna take it anymore!"
  • Free Press | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743260466 | 
  • February 2005

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Reading Group Guide

The Mommy Myth
The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women
Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

1. How would you describe the state of motherhood in America today? Do you agree with the authors’ premise of the “new momism”—that women are being conditioned to believe they can find true fulfillment only through the perfection of motherhood? How well do they support the arguments and ideas they present in The Mommy Myth?

2. What are the tenets of feminism, and how have they been distorted through the years? Do you agree with the authors that “the new momism is the result of the combustible intermixing of right-wing attacks on feminism and women” (24)?

3. The authors cite numerous instances where newscasters reported a story as fact but did not offer evidence or statistics to back it up. Why do you think the American public is so willing to believe what is reported in the media, particularly when no supporting data is offered? Does it surprise you that government officials are the major source of news for the networks?

4. What role has politics played in the rise of the new momism over the last several decades? How have conservative mores in particular shaped the American culture’s representation of motherhood?

5. What ignited the enormous popularity of the celebrity mom profile, “probably the mos see more

About the Authors

Susan Douglas

Susan J. Douglas is the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination, Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media, and Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922. Her journalistic articles have appeared in The Nation, Ms., In These Times, TV Guide, and The Progressive.

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Meredith Michaels

Meredith W. Michaels is a writer who doubles as a philosophy professor at Smith College. Her research and writing focus on the way that cultural changes affect our understanding of reproduction, parenthood, and childhood.

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