Discourses of motherhood in women's magazines in contemporary Britain
This research aims to find out how motherhood is represented in the text and images of women's magazines in contemporary Britain. It explores discourses of motherhood in this popular cultural form at this particular historical time, using quantitative, semiotic and discourse analyses of selected monthly magazines. Psychoanalytic theories and discourse analysis are employed to explore the construction of figures of motherhood in the text. I have identified the period of the late 1980s and early 1990s as a time of social and economic change and I seek to find out what correlation there might be between images of motherhood in the magazines and these changes, as illustrated by political rhetoric and empirical evidence of social trends. There are two main findings. The first points to the relative absence of motherhood as denoted in the magazines of the late 1980s. Motherhood is subsumed into discourses of femininity, but rarely picked out, suggesting that motherhood is an absent presence within the magazines at this time. Motherhood is rarely mentioned but where it is identified, it is either in relation to the 'caring' or the 'working' mother. The second, major finding relates to the emergence of a new figure of motherhood in the 1990s, which builds on the earlier figures of motherhood but presents a significant move away from earlier articulations, especially those which locate motherhood within the domestic arena and within the traditional family. This new figure of the Independent Mother suggests a paradigm shift which challenges the conservative assumptions of traditionalist political rhetoric.