Refiguring Family:

Rhetoric, Feminist Voices, and Digital Publishing


We began our research wondering what it meant that a 21st-century call for exploring family rhetoric invoked more responses from women—particularly from women concerned with the perceptions, definitions, and expectations of motherhood. We wondered if the large number of submissions about mothering or written from the perspective of mothers weren’t telling us something important about the connection between family and feminism and about the discursive spaces created by digital publishing venues like Harlot. As we explored our wonderings we learned a good deal about family, rhetorical figurings, feminism, digital spaces, publishing, and our journal.

When examining Harlot's special issue "head-on" or from a non-meta perspective, we learned a number of rhetorical lessons about women's experiences with family. We learned about the ways infertility is framed, how family is defined in our culture, and the very real effects these framings and definitions have on our culture (Arola). We learned how a lesbian mother humorously navigates assumptions about motherhood and LGBTQ with teachers, students, parents, and children (Balay).

We discovered how different media are remediating family roles (LaVecchia), emphasizing motherhood as the most important aspect of a woman's identity (Ingalls), and how the Internet is transforming mother-daughter relationships (McLeod Rogers). We discovered the ways Facebook is changing how we interact with family and friends (Spears & Driscoll). We read about the effects of an abusive mother and how one moves on carrying this history (Hunt). We came to understand the significance of family rituals like the carvings of a family name on a tree (Davies) and the effect a father's gastronomical practices can have on his daughter and her memories (Webb).

When examining our research from a meta perspective, we also learned a number of important lessons. We learned that the chiasmus of Plato's statement "Necessity is the mother of invention," is also accurate: Mother is the necessity of invention. Based on the submissions we received, Mother with a capital M appears to be one of the dominant influences which inspire authors to consider and write about the rhetoric of family. Our authors eagerly critiqued the rhetorical figures of Mother through feminist lenses and re-figured Her.

Finally, our survey has helped us understand the place of digital publications like Harlot in academia, scholarship, and feminism. The survey helped us comprehend the significance of CFSs and the dissatisfaction many of our authors have with traditional academic compositions. It has helped us appreciate how assumptions about referential reading practices are discouraging to authors. And it has helped us understand better the need to express emotion and feel empowered by one's work and contribution to academics, whether or not it be in traditional forms and styles.