Lesbian women disrupting gendered, heteronormative discourses of motherhood, marriage, and divorce
Despite shifts in societal attitudes, lesbian women who separate and divorce still must cope with recriminating societal messages that blame and condemn them for not conforming to the gendered heteronormative dictate of married motherhood. Guided by feminist theory, we conducted a qualitative analysis of narratives from 17 adoptive lesbian mothers who had dissolved their relationship. The women’s narratives revealed five cultural discourses that they variously embraced, resisted, or disrupted: (1) the ideology of the good mother; (2) divorce is bad for children; (3) marriage is the ideal way to live; (4) couples should stay together for the children; and (5) lesbian ex-lovers should be lifelong friends. All women embraced the cultural belief in “the good mother,” which is the linchpin of gendered oppression, but they were much more disruptive regarding the remaining four discourses surrounding marriage, divorce, and lesbian relationships. Their assessments of life after separation revealed that divorce can actually be better than marriage for their children; marriage is often overrated; having children can complicate a marriage; and remaining friends with one’s ex-partner is not always desirable. The feminist tenet that oppression and agency coexist was revealed as the women both engaged and resisted dominant cultural narratives in order to navigate the dilemmas of crafting a new life for themselves and their children post-divorce.
Journal of Lesbian Studies
Allen, Katherine R. and Goldberg, Abbie E., "Lesbian women disrupting gendered, heteronormative discourses of motherhood, marriage, and divorce" (2020). Psychology. 321.