In The Motherhood Imperative: Fertility, Feminism, Art, Miriam Schaer examines two extremes of motherhood – society’s bias against childless women and what she calls ‘reverse mothering’. By bias, she means the widespread hostility toward childless or child-free, who are disparaged or worse in cultures around the world. Non-maternity, whether chosen or by circumstance, is nowhere considered normative, leaving childless women facing a spectrum of disdain.
Even the United States harbours a significant movement to outlaw one form of childlessness by choice – abortion – through a relentless campaign to make it unavailable and illegal. Anti-abortionists have murdered doctors, threatened clinics and legislated unnecessary medical procedures for women to impose their idea of motherhood. Exploring this became part of her artistic practice.
By reverse mothering, Schaer explores the situation many encounter as parents age beyond their ability to care for themselves and must be cared for by others. These others are often their children; most often the female children.
Her own mother passed away after a long decline marked by dementia. Caring for her led the artist to consider what it means to be a mother and to have a mother while exploring the relationship with her own mother as she faded before her eyes.