On Motherhood as Ambiguity and Transcendence: Reevaluating Motherhood through the Beauvoirian Erotic

Comparative and Continental Philosophy 13 (3):207-219 (2021)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT This paper presents an analysis of motherhood as potentially ambiguous and empowering, using the Beauvoirian concept of the erotic. I argue that Beauvoir’s notion of the erotic can allow us to reevaluate “nonproductive,” repetitive, apparently immanent activities—such as going through pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding, and raising a child—as projects through which we disclose freedom, and, thus, as projects that possibly lead to transcendence.It is often argued that Beauvoir considered these experiences to be ways of embracing immanence and avoiding transcendence. Yet even supposing Beauvoir’s argument was against not maternity per se, but the oppressive construction of the institution of motherhood under patriarchy, can maternal engagement be viewed as an existentialist, phenomenological project? I claim that Beauvoir’s own premises show that it must be so considered once motherhood is recognized as potentially joyful, ambiguously erotic, and creative.

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