Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Maternal Thinking

For some mothers, giving birth to and living with children inspires something akin to a religious respect for nature. (Sara Ruddick)

Despite many years working on a Ph.D. in ethics and feminism, I never read Sara Ruddick's oft-cited, oft-criticized (for being "essentialist") book Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace. I probably read some excerpts along the way and joined in the criticisms, fancying myself a radical feminist uninterested in motherhood.

But this week I started reading the book as part of my resolution to read some whole books this year, the first year of motherhood being singularly ill-suited to reading books. My copy of Maternal Thinking is the British paperback with its ugly jacket art; I probably picked it up for a few dollars at the library book sale because I thought a feminist philosopher ought to own a copy, even if she never read it. I found it again over New Years because it rested on a bookshelf in my son's play space, behind some building blocks.

It is a wonderful book. Carefully argued--with all the usual criticisms addressed in the first chapters, ye lazy critics--impassioned, engaged, emotionally astute, blindingly smart, it has me engrossed. The notes to chapter four cite Iris Murdoch, Adrienne Rich, and Virginia Woolf, who might as well be the troika who rule my thinking life, as well as Spinoza, that old heretic.

Highly recommended.

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