Calling for nothing less than a radical reform of family law and a reconception of intimacy, "The Neutered Mother, the Sexual Family, and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies" undertakes an ambitious and even revolutionary rethinking of the law's approach to the family.
This new book by one of America's foremost feminist legal theorists argues strongly against current legal and social policy discussions about the family because they do not have at their core the crucial concepts of caregiving and dependency, as well as the best interests of women and children.
Unlike other work focusing on similar themes, "The Neutered Mother" argues that is the nurturing tie between mother and child, and not the sexual bond between husband and wife, that should be protected and subsidized as the center of society's concern for the "family." Martha Fineman is especially interested in pointing out the importance of nurturing work to the larger society as well as making a connection between mothering and other kinds of caregiving. She explains that the symbol of the child may stand for the elderly, the ill or the disabled just as the symbol of the mother is not strictly tied to gender--women can choose not to be mothers (or caretakers) and men can become mothers when they do the caregiving work associated with motherhood.
"The Neutered Mother" scrutinizes the definitions of family and mother throughout the volume while paying close attention to issues of race, class and sexuality. In addition, Fienman convincingly contests society's refusal to dignify, support and respond to the needs of caregivers and illustrates the burden they must bear due to this treatment.
"The Neutered Mother" is a crucial step toward defining America's most pressing social policy problems having to do with women, motherhood and the family.
""The Neutered Mother is...an extended essay that elegantly and persuasively argues that caretaking relationships are systematically devalued in American law and culture and traces the ideological underpinnings of that disregard."
-"Las and Social Inquiry
"This book undertakes an ambitious--even revolutionary--rethinking of law's approach to the family. Martha Fineman seeks to recenter legal and social concepts of family around caregiving and dependency, rather than around the sexual tie between men and women. She offers a positive vision in which the inevitable depedency of some members ("children") is recognized as creating derivative dependency in caregivers ("mothers"). The problem lies not in dependency itself but in society's refusal to dignify, support, and protect it. "The Neutered Mother is original and important, a significant step forward in solving questions within feminist theory and in several areas of contemporary legal and political struggles involving women and motherhood."
-Martha Mahoney, University of Miami School of Law