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xiii Clever Deployments A Foreword Few among us are immune to the psychological tugs of what Lindal Buchanancallsthemotherhoodcode.Infact,fewofanyilkareimmune to it. We get pulled into its emotional force, or we are repositioned by or push against those who are so pulled. When people think, and rhetors speak, of motherhood, they call forth widely shared cultural codes that operate in tension with each other, expanding women’s political voice and igniting social change but also reifying gendered norms that contract and attenuate women’s agency and possibility. Motherhood is indeed “slippery rhetorical terrain” that proves, at turns, to open up and close off possibilities for creating cultural meaning, determining personal rights, and defining social responsibility. We do seem to have a bit of an infatuation with motherhood and, for the most part, we don’t like to think of it as a strategy, of employing it adroitly to achieve particular social or personal ends or, more accurately but perhaps less palatably, deploying it to achieve them. But there is no doubt, and Buchanan exemplifies it beautifully here, that motherhood is being deployed and people can either figure out how to initiate and fuel their own deployments or they can agree to be positioned within range of others.’ The current political climate, with its two-person paradigm of pregnancy (which Buchanan also explains in this book) and fetal ultrasound bills, already has me rethinking my own language. The technologies with which we have medically and otherwise regarded and surveyed pregnancy over the last fifty years, and the ways that antiabortion rhetoric has appropriated them, have profoundly altered how we think about pregnancy and personhood. We had legally and philosophically long held to a view of gestation as a formative, pre-person fetal period experienced and attended to by the mother-as-person. Now, however, we confront impressions of pregnancy as comprising two independent persons, despite fetal dependence on the mother, with such impressions in fact foregrounding the baby over the mother. Having read Rhetorics of Motherhood, I am further called to consider anew how my own Foreword xiv arguments about women’s agency and selfhood may in fact feed the positions I wish to critique more than they fuel the changes I seek to drive. My reckoning here reminds me of my laments about parents who don’t want to talk with their children about sex explicitly because they don’t want their children thinking about “that” yet. They’re already thinking about “that,” I say. They have no choice but to think about it since sexual texts everywhere surround them. They already are in dialogue about it. You can join that dialogue and play a part in shaping it or you can choose to be omitted from the conversation, and from much more, for that matter. What Buchanan offers us here is related. The discussion about reproductive rights already is being led by an emphasis on maternal rhetorics, so we can either play a part in shaping those rhetorics or we can choose to be omitted from their conversations, and from much more, for that matter. Those of us who adopted “pro-choice” arguments wanted to push hard against empty sentimentality about motherhood and contest the erasure of women-as-persons by notions of “life” abstracted and inequitably actuated without regard for life lived. We quite justifiably wanted to fight for reproductive liberty as if women mattered, as if their lives and their desires and their purposeful decisions counted, as if “woman” was not a monolith. In our struggle, we accepted and even fortified a rhetorical distance from motherhood. But, as Buchanan points out, we have failed to tap into its potential for elevated status and rhetorical force, given how motherhood functions, to use Richard Weaver’s notion, as a “god term,” which renders all other models for talking about pregnancy, and children, and their care subordinate at best and damning at worst. As a consequence of having set up this distance, we are finding that reproductive freedom rhetoric operates now with severely and increasingly restricted currency. In fact, we are finding that our very discourse is being effectively dismantled and reconstructed to support structures antithetical to our purposes. Consider for example pre-abortion fetal ultrasound requirements, which, at this writing, are required in seven U.S. states. Couched in terms of the pregnant woman’s “right to know” and informed decision-making, the legislative and public rhetoric in support of these unnecessary procedures has deployed mother/child images characteristic...


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