Being "Woman Woman": Performing Femininity at the Intersection of Motherhood, Womanhood, and the Academy


  • Kelsey Marr University of Saskatchewan


Global trends of delayed motherhood, long-term postsecondary education, and the proliferation of assisted reproductive technologies have been associated with women who work in the academy as post-graduate students and professors. In 2015, I worked with postgraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan to explore
how these trends affect students’ imagined reproductive futures. In this paper, I examine the relationships among delayed motherhood, studenthood, and performances of femininity in the imagined reproductive futures of women postgraduate students. Whereas previous studies have focused on the disruption and (re)performance
of gender within the context of infertility, I examine how in participants’ imagined reproductive futures, it is their careers and education that they highlight as they negotiate gendered identities. I argue that by engaging with discourses and performances of “being a good mother” and the “superwoman” identity, participants repair the threat posed by academic and professional lives to their emininity, and they naturalize their imagined reproductive futures in which they are both academics, professionals, and mothers. In doing so, femininity is an assemblage enacted through participants’ own actions, words, and performances. By examining how postgraduate
students enact performances of femininity in their imagined reproductive futures, motherhood scholars can open a discussion on the tensions between the cultural norms of parenthood and student culture.

Author Biography

Kelsey Marr, University of Saskatchewan

Marr is a graduate student of medical anthropology and a graduate teaching fellow at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research interests include (in)fertility, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), assemblage theory, and student culture. She is currently examining the extent to which ARTs factor into imagined reproductive futures.


How to Cite

Marr, K. (2018). Being "Woman Woman": Performing Femininity at the Intersection of Motherhood, Womanhood, and the Academy. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, 9(1). Retrieved from