The genre of parenting magazine articles: perpetuating the myth of motherhood

Women today are taught to believe that mothering is instinctual and that when they have children they are supposed to love taking care of them. This notion perplexes many women who give birth without immediately feeling kinship with their baby. Some, in fact, experience panic and guilt wondering what is wrong with them, and while they watch and listen to �other mothers, they desperately attempt to figure out if what they feel is justifiable. Often they keep their anxiety to themselves, fearing that they will not be accepted by society if they voice their refutation of the concept of intuitive maternity. What no one has told them is that the concept of inherent mothering is actually socially constructed. Although previously genre was defined exclusively in terms of form and content and referred to literary works, modern rhetorical theorists have recently redefined the term genre and applied it more broadly. Contemporary genre theorists have come to the conclusion that while form and content are still integral in examining genre, function and context are equally important. In other words, the social, historical and rhetorical forces that shape writing, the way writers use these forces, and the effect on the reader can reveal a great deal about a particular text. These forces strongly influence the purpose or function of a text, and it is the rhetorical activity or exigence behind that purpose which helps to classify genre. The exigence, which is something that strongly invites a response, helps to provide meaning and rhetorical character to writing. By examining the purpose and exigence of a text, the function and context can help to classify its audience or discourse community and therefore its genre. This project will examine parenting literature, specifically parenting magazines, beginning with an analysis of the rhetorical situation, which is the relationship between the reader, writer and social context in which the text is created. I intend to suggest that the audience of parenting magazine articles are significantly influenced by the social and rhetorical forces used by writers of these texts, and that the relationship is recursive because of the effect the readers have on their creation.