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Summary: May Friedman’s “On the Cyborg: Dialogism and Collective Stories”

Friedman devotes this chapter of her book, Mommyblogs and the Changing Face of Motherhood, to the exploration of the relational, unusually temporal, and collective motherhood that occurs in mommyblogs. She argues that this makes the genre a “new and innovative form[] of maternal life writing” (Friedman 78).

To do this, Friedman positions mommyblogs as emerging from (and representative of) Haraway’s cyborg, which is able to “embrac[e] the tension between identity and difference,” transgress borders, and make connections (Friedman 79). Friedman argues that mommybloggers use cyborg techniques to disrupt dominant narratives of motherhood.

Mommyblogs are highly relational: they are constituted not by a singular author, but by the connections and relationships to other subjects and systems. This relationality is incredibly powerful, because it constitutes a collective of mothers who are building a community together. The motherhood collective is new to maternal life writing, and is what makes mommyblogging so innovative.

While mommyblogs have the ability to shift the discourse of motherhood from one of loneliness and isolation to one of support and community, they also have the ability to reinforce discourses of motherhood that erase the experiences of mothers who are not white, heterosexual, and middle-to-upper-class. Since mommybloggers desire to be a part of the collective, they may write narratives that fit the dominant norm rather than their lived experiences.

However, there is no one final authority on motherhood, due in part to the atemporality of the form. Bloggers time-shift their conversations, edit their old posts and respond to their past selves, and link to archived posts in a new context. Mommybloggers create a collective that spans not just space, but also time.

A mother looking for comfort or solutions can enter a narrative that takes place in the past. She could write her own post intended for mothers in the future, with links to an old post by a different mommyblogger, while responding to comments from mothers in the present. Her story is a collective one, informed by commonalities (motherhood, the problem at hand, the quotidian work of a mother, etc.) as well as differences (class, race, geographic location, personal beliefs, etc.), and it enacts what Friedman calls a “composite maternal narrative” (105).

Because mommyblogs embrace the cyborg techniques of relationality, atemporality, and collective motherhood, mothers have more opportunities to negotiate and inform the shifting discourses that surround them.

Works Cited

Friedman, May. “On the Cyborg: Dialogism and Collective Stories.” Mommyblogs and the Changing Face of Motherhood. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. Print. 76-107. (link to abstract)

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 25 Feb 2013. Web. (link to article)


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