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Collins, Patricia Hill. “Shifting the Center: Race, Class, and Feminist Theorizing About Motherhood.” Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency, n.d., 45–65.


This article is the third chapter from Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency (edited by Evelyn Nalano Glenn and Grace Chang), one of the first edited volumes focusing upon scholarship about the diverse and intersectional experiences of women relating to social construction of motherhood. Collins' piece explains that when examining motherhood in feminist theory, white middle-class mothers experiences have been privileged while the experiences of others are marginalized. She suggests that the solution is not just to introduce women of color’s experiences into this dialogue of white middle-class motherhood, but a complete change in how we think about motherhood itself. Collins' main argument is that for women of color race and class is inseparable to their experiences with motherhood. Thus, the experiences of white middle class mothers need to be decentered to allow for greater attention to those of women of color and those who are not middle class. Collins discussed how the focus on white middle-class women’s experiences has led to a problematic dichotomization in feminist theory; of male/female, the public sphere/the private sphere, and breadwinner/caring after the household as the normative dynamics in families. However, when examining women of color’s experiences with motherhood these dichotomies become blurred. Collins coins the term “motherwork” to describe this blending of binaries. Women of color have had to work outside the home, while simultaneously doing the carework for their children’s and community’s survival. Collins goes on to explain that all motherhood for women of color is formed by survival, power, and identity. To Collins maternal empowerment encompasses three issues 1) the struggle to control their own bodies and the choice to be mothers or not, 2) the process of keeping the children that are wanted, planned or not, 3) and the pervasive efforts by the dominant group to control their children’s minds.


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Race/ethnicity: Native American/Indigenous   Race/ethnicity: African American/Black   Intersectionality   Race/ethnicity: Latina/Hispanic