In this stunning blend of memoir, theory, and cultural criticism, a new mother examines the intersection between misogyny and motherhood, considering how caregivers can take back their bodies and pass on a language of consent to their children
Motherhood and the culture of misogyny in America are not often explored in tandem. The connection is women’s bodies.
When Amanda Montei became a parent, she struggled with the physicality of caring for children, but even more with the growing lack of autonomy she felt in her personal and professional life. The conditions of modern American parenthood—the lack of paid leave and affordable childcare, the isolation and alienation, the distribution of labor in her home, and the implicit demands of marriage—were not what she had expected.
After #MeToo, however, she began to see a connection between how women were feeling in motherhood and the larger culture of assault in which she had grown up. In American society, women are expected to prioritize their children, often by pushing their bodies to the limit and ignoring their own desires and needs. As she struggled to adjust to the new demands on her body, this stirred memories of being used, violated, and seen by men. She had the desperate urge to finally say no, though she didn’t know how, or to whom she might say it.
Written with the intellectual and emotional precision of writers like Roxane Gay and Leslie Jamison, and drawing on classic feminist thinkers such as bell hooks, Silvia Federici, and Adrienne Rich, as well as on popular culture from The Bachelor to Look Who’s Talking, Montei draws connections between caregiving, consent, reproductive control, and the sacrifices women are expected to make throughout their lives. Exploring the stories we tell about psychology, childbirth, sexuality, the family, the overwhelm mothers feel trying to be “good,” and the tender bonds that form between parent and child, Touched Out delivers a powerful critique of American rape culture and its continuation in the institution of motherhood, and considers what it really means to care in America.