This research examines the political, cultural and legal systems of the contemporary United States that turn mothers into monsters. Through the modes of embodied research and dance choreography, this research explores the incredibly powerful, conflicting emotions, desires and impulses that mothers are compelled to sanitize or repress to align with codes of civility. The lack of access to reproductive medical care, minimal maternity leave policies, and the constructs of default parenting demonstrate that little of the expectations of motherhood have changed over the past century. Using personal, embodied experience as a new mother alongside Adrienne Rich’s institution of motherhood, Eve Tuck’s conception of Monsters and Avery Gordon’s notions of Hauntings, Chin examines the ways in which anxiety, guilt, shame, trauma and unmet societal expectations haunt mothers and over time, create monsters. Using mass distributed American horror films as an additional point of departure, this research explores the impact of embedded cultural expectations of suppressing feminine rage and the lauding of unsustainable self-sacrifice of mothers in deference to their children. The research is synthesized through physical movement that explores the interplay between monstrous, uncanny movements and touches of comfort and support. The choreographic process draws on historical dance references of rageful, ghostly feminine figures, such as Petipa’s willis from Giselle, as well as the recollection of Chin’s first-hand experiences gestating, birthing and sustaining a small child. The performance iteration of this process was performed by a cast of 9 dancers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in January 2023 at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts.
Williams Chin, Abby
"The Monsters Who Raise Us: Unearthing the Haunted Institution of Motherhood,"
Survive & Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine: Vol. 8:
1, Article 15.
Available at: https://repository.stcloudstate.edu/survive_thrive/vol8/iss1/15