The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

Shifting the Center

In “Shifting the Center: Race, Class and Feminst Theorizing About Motherhood” Collins says, “Native American, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American women, motherhood cannot be analyzed in isolation from its context”(56) She highlights the fact that women in overlooked and arduous communities have taken motherhood and acted it out in a manner in which counter the assumptions of the dominant culture. For racial ethnic women in America, motherhood is much about survival as shown in her statistics. It is also a search for self-identity and a struggle for maternal empowerment. Collins does not wish to promote one group’s motherwork over another, instead she feels that we should move towards a median, which will in turn point towards feminist theorizing embracing differences as a vital part of being united. 

In Motherwork and Physical Survival, Collins quotes “When we are not physically starving we have the luxury to realize psychic and emotional starvation,” from Moraga p.29. Understanding that racial ethnic children who are “physically starving”(61) have no assurance that they will physically survive, although commonly seen in society, still created a painful reality check within my thought process. The statistics behind Hispanic children and poverty, where Collins states that one third of those children who survive infancy live in poverty, made me realize the complexity behind mothering. Mothers hold survival in their hands and have an immense responsibility beyond the paternal figure and their “domination in the political economy and the household.”(57) Referencing back to my home town and actualizing that in my lifetime I have known people who live within this statistic, helped me internalize Collins work. 

When reflecting on my community it immediately brought me back to my family. As a Latina with immigrant roots, the mothering that came about when my grandmother brought all 9 of her children to the U.S., can be considered heroic. Brining them into an impoverished community where people were known to either be caught in the system, live on the streets, or become involved in violence, she had to create a home environment in which they stayed out of it. Though the Hispanic statistics behind mothering and survival are astonishing, I believe that (when actually embraced) Latina mothers have the instinctual ability to create an environment in which their children stay focused on what they are expected to do or become in their lifetime. Concluding with Collins saying “survival, power and identity shape motherhood for all women”(72) and noticing that these factors should stop being marginalized for the sake of accurate theorizing, we can move towards the her hope of creating that median. 

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Comments on: "Shifting the Center" (1)

  1. merrrrkate said:

    Your analysis of Collins’s piece was wonderfully clear and the personal anecdote made the stuggles of minority mothers come alive. A great point the piece makes that you refer to is the very real threat to basic survival these mothers have face for not only themselves, but their children, too. White feminists seem to forget about the multidimensional antagonisms other races have to deal with outside of patriarchy.The white Christian monopoly on American society often denies people of color and other religions access to basic modes of survival and almost never acknowledges it, making the plight of the white financially secure learned feminist look like a luxury in comparison. Unfortunately, as with most institutions and schools of thought, feminism is also dominated by whites and what their collective thought processes conclude is biased and only true for a fraction of females, not all. I think the term “shifting the center” perfectly embodies what needs to happen for minorities to be rightfully included, because right now the basic frame of core beliefs supposedly for all women were contrived by once exclusive type. Thankfully Collins and Anzaldua take steps in that direction.

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