Sara Ruddick—Reconfiguring Perspectives on Motherhood

Sara Ruddick, whose seminal 1990 book, “Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace,” helped develop a feminist perspective for reviewing and analyzing the practices and intellectual disciplines involved in rearing children, died on March 20.

We note Ms. Ruddick as a reconfigurer. She offered a context through which mothers could see, understand, and take themselves up differently and more honestly. She championed a way to alter the style of mothering. Ms. Ruddick shifted the focus away from motherhood as a social institution or a biological imperative to a responsive experience based on the attentive, day-to-day practices of educating and rearing a child.

Ms. Ruddick, from our perspective, understood motherhood as a relational activity. That is: shared, meaningful, and fluid practices that integrally shape the identities of both the child and mother. She promoted a being-with that required attention, an understanding of beliefs and values, and the realization that consistent, grounded practices, and genuine responses to a child’s demands created pathways for the choice-driven, love-founded development of child and mother.

Ms. Ruddick, a longtime professor of philosophy and women’s studies at the New School for Social Research, provided a means to reframe motherhood from a socially configured role, complete with sets of abstract quality requirements that teased one to chase perfection, to a person-to-person, moment-to-moment lived experience founded on articulated passions, driven by meaning making, and manifest in and through concrete actions and doings.

Her insights support a position of nonviolence: mothers by and through their nurturing practices and activities cannot accept or admit violence in social or workplace settings. Thus, mothers, by and through lived experience and passionate practices, must naturally resist militarism and war.

Further, in her re-articulation of motherhood and its relational, existential definition, Ms. Ruddick made a place for men as “mothers.” Since, motherhood is founded on the relationship and the practices that lead to growth and nurturing, motherhood is, from her perspective, sex-neutral. And with this comes a reframing of traditional male roles and the nature of masculinity and the paternalism.

Thank you Sara Ruddick; we are grateful for your trailblazing.

For more:
See William Grimes’ New York Times obituary of Ms. Ruddick.
review of  “Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace.”
Or investigate our Naridus 5-Minutes Helper Book™ , a tool on the power of relationships and passions.


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