The Right Kind of Mother: Intersections of Race and Class and Choice

Brandann Hill-Mann

A truly pro-choice society would offer more support to mothers - all mothers, regardless of class or privilege or the color of one's skin.

This post originally appeared at

I need only remember the coverage of Nadya Suleman last year (no, I will not call her that ridiculous and dehumanizing nickname) to begin a conversation about how we in society not only undervalue motherhood, but how the way we view it is connected to race and class.

When I compare it to the way the media portrays the Duggar family, as loving and wonderful, it fills me with contempt. Nadya Suleman was a torrent of horror for bringing eight lives into the world because she dared to be using public assistance at the time. Now she is to be laughed at for letting us see how she manages (and some of it is familiar for those of us who don’t have fourteen children!). She dared to have a funny name that didn’t roll of the tongue easily, and she had little else other than a plan as to how she was going to get by.

The month of May, with Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, reminds me that, especially in North America, motherhood is glorified culturally. We act as if it is the most sacred of callings that any woman can aspire to. But that calling becomes less beautiful should any woman enter into it under anything but the most perfect of predetermined conditions.

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She will lose a few points for being unmarried. Should she speak with an “urban accent,” or possibly use English as a second language, she loses more points. More points are deducted the more pigment that is obvious in her skin or if her eyes have a funny shape. For every government form she has to fill out, knock off a few more. Suddenly, the sacred calling to become a mother is a horrible shame, and we find a woman stuck in that horrible rock/hard place cliché where she will be demonized for choosing abortion because she has no resources and labeled a leach for choosing to raise her child in the same conditions.

A truly pro-choice society would offer more support to mothers. To all mothers, regardless of class and privilege. We find more and more that women of color and lower class are more likely to lose their children because they are less likely to have resources and support to fall back on. Like Renee from Womanistmusings says repeatedly at her blog, “[i]f a woman decides to opt for adoption or abortion, because she feels that she will not receive the support needed to raise her child, how can we reasonably say that a choice has been made?”

The last time I checked, the word choice meant that you, me, and that person next to you all get to decide for ourselves what is right for our own situations. Irrespective of the color of your skin or the money in your pocket, the choice to use your lady bits to bring forth life or to nip it off before it starts is yours and yours alone, and includes all of the choices. Including the choice to be a parent.

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