Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Recent years have seen the proliferation of mommy culture in digital spaces with Instagram influencers showcasing aspirational images of family, internet memes providing humorous responses to the difficulties of motherhood, and YouTube vloggers creating parody content that intervenes into the expectations of perfectionism around parenting. These digital communities serve two primary purposes, the first as aspirational/instructional texts, and the second as outlets for mothers struggling with the societal expectations of mommy culture in the 21st Century. These struggles are often related to issues of time, gendered labor within family units, and self care. Social media content provides community space for mothers who are isolated in contemporary culture by increased distance from family, living patterns, and 24/7 demands. Using the #MomSoHard—an offshoot of the YouTube vlog #IMomSoHard—this paper will perform an ethnography of the digital communities of care that emerge around this hashtag to examine mothering in contemporary culture. It will be particularly interested in how mothers use these digital communities to work through societal expectations about parenting and to crowdsource advice that might have historically been performed by in-person communities, but are now moving online because of larger socio-cultural trends in neoliberal late capitalism that demand increased individualism and fetishize personal brands. In performing this digital ethnography of mothering communities, this paper will be especially interested in how issues of class, race, gender, and national identity play out within these environments to examine who gets to participate in mommy culture in digital space.