The Discursive Construction of Motherhood in Mumsnet Talk: In Simple Words

I’ve been meaning to write an ‘up goer five’ explanation of my thesis for ages and finally got round to it today. If you haven’t heard of it yet, up goer five is a method created by geneticist Theo Sanderson for explaining complex ideas in a way everyone can understand: by using only the top 10,000 words in the English Language. If you want to know more, the scientific american blog has a great summary. This is what I came up with:

I’m looking at how mums say who they are when they talk to other mums on the computer. I’m looking at what they can say and what they can’t say, who they can be and who they can’t be, because of the words they can use, the words all around them and the words that have been said before.

I want to know whether having a child is about being a man or a woman, and if it is, how we make it that way. I want to know what it is possible for women who have children to say, what it is easy for them to say and what makes sense to them. I also want to know how they try to use words to say or to be something different even when it’s hard to do and it doesn’t seem to make sense. I want to know whether the computer helps them to do this, makes it harder, or maybe both.

The up goer five version of my thesis is kind of a perfect example of how language constitutes reality. It was very difficult, if not impossible, to express certain concepts within this kind of restraint. Just like it’s very difficult to envisage new ways of being a female parent within the discursive constraints at work in everyday interactions. If you want to have a go, there are a few editors around to help you keep within the strict constraints! I used Sanderson’s own.

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