Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty is guided by a simple argument: that motherhood is the place in our culture where we lodge – or rather bury – the reality of our own conflicts, of psychic life, and what it means to be fully human. Mothers are the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings, for everything that is wrong with the world, which becomes their task (unrealizable, of course) to repair. To the familiar claim that too much is asked of mothers – a long-standing feminist plaint – Rose adds a further dimension. She questions what we are doing when we ask mothers to carry the burden of everything that is hardest to contemplate about our society and ourselves.

By making mothers the objects of licensed cruelty, we blind ourselves to the world’s iniquities and shut down the portals … More