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Motherhood and Maternity

History, Religion, And Myth, Feminist Critiques, Motherhood And Development Discourses, Contentious Debates

Motherhood the world over is commonly understood in terms of a generic terminology. Regardless of country, clime, or class, age-old mythologies in all cultures eulogize motherhood and impart to it an importance that goes well beyond the physical act of birthing. At the level of twenty-first-century popular culture, however, motherhood and maternity have been appropriated by modern-day consumerism, particularly in Western cultures where specialized stores like Mothercare sell fashionable maternity apparel, and Internet sites like The Mothersbliss Shopping Experience offer both goods and advice on mothering. While religious symbolism stresses motherhood as creation, modern-day marketing targets the "mother-consumer" to sell fashionable maternity clothing, lingerie, and accessories as a form of "Pregnancy Chic!"

Given all the numerous contextual underpinnings, the concept of motherhood lends itself to a variety of interpretations across culture and historical time. It therefore needs to be analyzed in terms of history, culture, myth, art, and more lately in terms of the scientific discourses that shape new reproductive technologies and population control policies, all of which focus on women's bodies and their biological ability to become mothers. This article touches upon all these contexts, drawing illustrations from diverse cultural, social, and geographical locations to point out that motherhood is valorized in all cultures, yet the notions, symbols, and cultural practices that constitute motherhood and maternity are neither homogenous globally nor stable chronologically.

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