Studying Mothers In Mommy Wars. Where Do Maternal Studies Start?

infant pic on AllThingsMaternal blog

Blogs abound. This one by Helena Vissing addresses the complexities and nuances of the maternal subject with reference to psychoanalytic feminism, including my book.

“Bueskens (2014), in her introduction to Mothering and Psychoanalysis, argues that if we recognize the mother or “the maternal” as a valuable subject from which to generate knowledge, it may not only free women from the constraint of the institution of motherhood, but also shift our “epistemological, political, social and psychic horizons” (p. 4). How is that for a promising statement?” You can read the whole post, which is short but potent here.

Mothering and Psychoanalysis book launch

Anne Manne

Anne Manne

We had a wonderful launch for Mothering and Psychoanalysis last night. You can view photos from the launch by John Mayger here.

Book launch of Mothering and Psychoanalysis

You are invited to the launch of my edited book Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives at Readings, Hawthorne, August 28th at 4pm. The book will be launched by the wonderful Anne Manne.  Come for a snack and a chat. Hope to see you there! Oh, and you can also pick up a copy of the book at the launch. Directions: Readings Hawthorn — 701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122

Breastfeeding ‘in public': A personal and political memoir

Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.


Karen Armstrong Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

Karen Armstrong
Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.


In this article I offer a reflective autobiographical account of being asked not to breastfeed my then 13 month old at the Hepburn Bathhouse ostensibly for “hygiene” reasons and ultimately―for the organization changed their story―for “safety” reasons.  I explore the scholarly literature on breasts and breastfeeding especially as it relates to the public/private distinction on which the controversy implicitly rests making the case that it is our collective inability to symbolically place breasts―are they sexy or are they maternal? Are they natural or are they medicinal?―that renders “public” breastfeeding so challenging.  I make two further arguments: first, that breastfeeding controversies are increasingly defined by what the sociologists Michael Bittman and Judith Pixley call “pseudomutuality” (1997, p. 81), or, by a pretence of mutuality, such that discriminatory individuals and organisations routinely claim to be “pro-breastfeeding” and; second, claiming our right to feed in public is part of a broader maternal politics of embodied citizenship shifting extant norms premised on the ideal of the unencumbered, autonomous subject. Reconfiguring the image of the ideal-typical citizen as one who may also be pregnant with, birthing and/or nurturing another is part of this politics. In this view, breastfeeding “in public” is literally a transformative “coming out” redefining public space.

This chapter will be published in J. Jones, M. Porter and L. Raith. Mothers at the Margins. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015.  (Please note: This link is to the table of contents and introduction. I will upload a copy of this paper soon).


I will be presenting the chapter in modified form at two conferences:

1. MIRCI “Mothers, Mothering and Motherhood From Ancient Greece to Contemporary Times” Conference, May 23rd-24th, 2014, Hellenic Education and Research Center in Athens, Greece.

2. Australian Breastfeeding Association Conference “Liquid Gold”, Melbourne, 1-3 August, 2014.


Breastfeeding in public – panel discussion

WIW poster D1_CP1

I am hosting a panel discussion on breastfeeding in public at the Words in Winter Festival in Daylesford on Sunday August 3rd, 1pm at The Rex. Joining the panel will be noted academic and writer Dr Fiona Giles author of Freshmilk: The Secret Life of Breasts, Anna Kaplan documentary film maker and producer of The Booby Trap, Susan Reddrop and myself.  You can see the program here. Hope to see you there!

Demeter Press author interview

Demeter Press interviewed me in relation to the publication of Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives. They asked what the topic brings to the literature, about “therapy as a form of paid mothering” and what my favourite feminist book on motherhood is.  This interview can also be accessed here.

Demeter press interview with Petra Bueskens

Demeter press interview with Petra Bueskens


Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives


Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives

Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives

I am thrilled to announce the publication of Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives This book brings together the different disciplinary strands of psychoanalysis, sociology and feminism to consider motherhood and mothering. The psychoanalytic focus includes both theoretical and clinical applications ranging from textual analysis of films, books, art, theory and popular culture through to qualitative research on mothers, clinical case studies and analyses of therapeutic technique. The sociological focus includes a critique of therapy culture and its gendered implications. This collection is not only a contribution to psychoanalytic feminism but also, and importantly, a contribution to the feminist and sociological critique of the institution of therapy and the role of the therapist. Examining the maternal turn in psychoanalytic theory and practice and the rise of women therapists, this book seeks to shed light on the feminisation of therapy. Taking shape around five core themes: the therapist as mother, the mother in therapy, mothers in art and culture, psychoanalytic theory of mothers and mothering, and sociological interventions in therapy culture , this book endeavours to generate dialogue across disciplinary borders while placing mothers, mothering and motherhood at the centre of analysis.

The book can be purchased from Demeter Press for half price until Sept 1st here.  It is now available on Amazon too. You can purchase it here.




These days breastfeeding is often in the headlines. How did something so common become so contentious? Following a diverse group of new mothers and couples, Breastmilk engages delicately with contemporary debates surrounding infant feeding. With a revealing series of conversations featuring medical practitioners, academics, and parents, filmmaker Dana Ben-Ari questions why very few women succeed in breastfeeding exclusively for the recommended period. Observing and respecting tensions between biology and gendered social pressures, Breastmilk is a refreshingly open contemplation of this most natural and nurturing act.

Come and check out the panel discussion after the screening of Breastmilk at the Human Rights, Arts and Film Festival this Sunday May 11. I’ll be there with the wonderful Dr Fiona Giles author of Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts, Associate Professor Lisa Amir and Clementine Ford.

Single mothers and the sexual contract


I wrote this piece after reading many of the comments on the Parenting Payment for Parents – NOT Newstart facebook page. It begins with a story about my own experience of single motherhood and contrasts this with how difficult things have become. I critique the new “Fair Incentives to Work” legislation which has forced all recipients of Parenting Payment Single whose children have turned 8 onto the woefully inadequate Newstart payment. I make the argument that this is a human rights violation because it essentially discrimates against women with children who are not married. 

Read ‘Single mothers and the sexual contract’ at On-Line Opinion:



How Psychotherapy Fits into a Dissolving Social Structure

 I wrote the article “How Psychotherapy Fits into a Dissolving Social Structure” in response to a heated exchange between the sociologist Professor Eva Illouz and three members of the Israel Psychoanalytic Society Dr. Itamar Levy,  Dr. Anat Palgi-Hecker and Dr. Eran Rolnick in the weekend magazine of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.  The article was published in the August 10, 2012 weekend edition of Haaretz.  This article is only available to subscribers and can be read here:


A longer version of this article will be appearing in my forthcoming book Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives, Demeter Press, Spring 2014.

Petra Bueskens | Mother, scholar, psychotherapist | Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne Daylesford