Sunday, May 11, 2008

What do you see in this picture?

I'm fascinated by how pop culture shapes, and is shaped by, our society's view of bioethical issues. Here's the Mother's Day cover of the New Yorker.

It shows a woman peering gooily into a shop window, mooning over a warm and wriggling litter of--wait for it--not puppies, but diapered babies. Meanwhile, her male companion tries to drag her away from the window, eyes rolled heavenward in the universal male posture of "Not this again!"

There's a lot to unpack here, beginning with the idea that women view motherhood the same way they view a new pair of shoes; that men view women's desires to become mothers with the same exasperation as they view the shoe-buying habits some of us have; that babies are like puppies (warm, fuzzy, commodities)....

You can play too! What other assumptions and analogies are implied here?

6 comments:

Andie said...

How about the assumption that women necessarily want babies to begin with? It's not a universal female trait. We don't just live life to fill our wombs, yet pop culture continues to insist that we do.

SabrinaW said...

Beat me to it, Andie! In my experience, there are plenty of men who drive the production of children, and they also claim a "deep biological need."

Also, I like the possible implications of walking into a "store" to "buy" exactly the type of baby you want.

Anonymous said...

It rocks my soul to see babies equated with animals. Have we really become a society that has the audacity to think we deserve to go out and purchase only the "best of the best". What ramifications will that have for those in the world who don't fit, who aren't perfect. And who will set the standards. What will happen when you "age out"-the other end of the spectrum. Surely the old aren't perfect, they are costly and they don't even look good. No imperfect babies, no adults over the age of.....

La Pobre Habladora said...

And desirable "perfect" babies - all white.

SabrinaW said...

Don't forget the infantilization of women in that portrayal - she is the irresponsible and impulsive child and the man is the responsible adult.

Sue Trinidad said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments! A picture is indeed worth a thousand words ... one more reason to try and be critical consumers of the zillion and a half images that hit us every day.