Friday, April 25, 2008

Love and basketball and "Traditional" Motherhood

Agu Itebe

Women’s Studies 2010

Kristen McCauliff

25 April 2008

Love and Basketball and “Traditional” Motherhood

The movie Love and Basketball seems to tell you all you need to know, in the title about the storyline of the film, but these two topics in the name are only the surface of the critically acclaimed movie. Love and Basketball came in second in its opening weekend in the year 2000. Making more than $8 million in sales and grossing over $27 million in the box office, this movie produced by the renowned producer Spike Lee, gave thousands of movie-goers the opportunity to see a movie portraying possible feminist ideas (The Internet Movie Database). The movie, based in the 1980’s, follows the lives of two neighbors, Monica Wright and Quincy McCall, who both share an incomparable love for the sport basketball. Monica, being a female ballplayer goes through a tough time both on the court and in her own home. Her mother Camille, a stay at home mother, seems to have strong opinions on how she believes a female should behave, and her views has a direct effect on her and her daughter’s relationship. For Camille, being a stay at home mother drives her role in the movie. Because of misinterpretations and backlash, people often believe that housewives like Camille have a negative view in the feminist community. This paper will argue that although Camille acts as what people might consider a “traditional” (stay-at-home) mother in the movie, her role in the household does not make her any less of a successful woman than her talented daughter, Monica.

The role Camille Wright plays as the mother in Love and Basketball epitomizes the traditional motherhood role. She seems to fit the “perfect mother” stereotype flawlessly: she quit her job to raise her children, she cooks, she cleans, and she takes care of her working husband. In our everyday society most people have opinions on this kind of livelihood. I believe that one position looks well upon it, believing that it is an honor to just take care of one’s husband and children and another side has taken another point of view and looks negatively upon taking on this traditional job. In society a traditional mother is usually defined by what we see in such shows as “I love Lucy”, “The Simpsons”, “The Brady Bunch”, and “Seventh Heaven”. These women are stay-at-homes mothers, who alls job is to take care of their families. Due to many feminist’s ideas denouncing the forced traditional motherhood role. Many have blamed feminism for the negative stigma that sometimes now arises with the traditional stay-at-home mother position. In the movie, Camille shows us that, agreeing with most feminists, being a stay-at –home-mother does not have to take away from empowerment.

Feminists do not in fact believe that being a stay-at-home mother is negative. They actually believe that stay-at- home mothers often face the ever-oppressing double bind. They can choose to stay at home and give up what they truly want or they can decide to juggle work and motherhood and be looked down upon by society. As Susan Faludi’s piece, “Blame it on feminism”, that we read in class explains: women shouldn’t be forced to choose between public justice and private happiness. In this case, Camille chose to give up her catering career when she became pregnant with her first child, to take care of her household and kids. Because feminists speak negatively about mothers having no choice in sacrificing so much for motherhood, many interpret it as them denouncing motherhood as a whole. Many blame feminism for the negatives stereotypes placed on traditional mothering. As one opinionated author states, “Today's anatomy-obsessed feminists enjoy a stronghold on American academia that strips child-rearing of its value, separates actions from their consequences…” (Peck). Individuals who believe this have misconstrue misunderstood the feminist’s ideas. Most of today's feminists however embrace the traditional ideal of motherhood. All we want to do is eradicate the oppressive idea associated with it which values women exclusively in terms of their childbearing functions positioning them firmly in the domestic sphere” (Ir-shai and Ross).

Camille plays an important role in her household as well as the movie. She is the stabilizer in her home and takes pride knowing that her children and husband’s lives run smoothly due to her hard work. Though she takes pride in what she does, she is still taken advantage of, and feminists would agree that this is where the work of a housewife becomes negative. Because Camille is expected to take care of the house she is often stepped over and forgotten. In a scene where Lena, Camille’s oldest daughter, is braiding Monica’s hair, Camille walks into the bedroom and tells her two daughters how tire she is, telling them that she needs to go and lie down. Nathan Wright, her husband, then comes into the room holding up two dress shirts and asking his wife which shirt he should wear the next day to work. Upon answering the question and pointing to which shirt she liked better, he proceeds to ask her to iron both of them tonight “just in case”. Camille then nods, puts a small fake smile on and takes the shirts (Love and Basketball). Through scenes like this in the movie, it is understandable as to why viewers might get a negative impression of the traditional housewife. Her role throughout the film is dedicated to her being “behind” her husband or supporting her children. It seems as though there is no real Camille. On the other hand there is Monica, her second daughter, who takes a completely different role in the house: she will not help with things such as setting the table, chores her mother thinks she should learn. Camille’s conventional way of living and Monica’s more modern style have a strong influence on their relationship.

Camille and Monica have two very different outlooks on the way they view themselves as woman. As discussed earlier, Camille tends to stick to the conservative, matronly way while Monica takes a dive into the non-traditional role of a basketball playing “tomboy”. Because they have such different perspectives on womanhood they look at each other in different lenses. It is clear that Monica has no respect for her mother as a housewife, and many individuals believe feminists do not have. When Monica’s father asks Camille to iron the two shirts, Monica looks away when her mother takes the shirts, cringing, as if her mother accepting to iron both shirts hurt her physically. Camille looks down upon her daughter for a different reason. Her daughter, Monica, is not the daughter she wished/ expected her to be. In a scene where Camille and Lena are setting the dining room table as the father sits and watches and Monica sits and complains about her basketball game, Camille comments to Monica, “I wish you would grow out of this tomboy phase” as she also adds in that Monica should do something with her hair. Both these women have strong opinions on what they believe should represent women and in their eyes the other does not. In an ending scene, Monica learns to respect her mother for her role in the household. Close to the end, Monica confronts her Mother about how she feels about what her mother does. She tells her mother that she always looked down upon her for letting her husband step all over her as a housewife. In turn Camille replies, “Is that really all you think of me”? Camille explains to her naïve daughter how she ended up in the position she is. She got pregnant, and chose to stay at home to raise her kids. She is glad she did it and adores the job that she does. Monica finds a new respect for the woman who has raised her all of her life, sees the success of her hard work: two grown, intelligent, strong-willed women, her and her sister.

The ending scene of the movie shows Monica, who has now made it into the WNBA, and Quincy, her husband with their baby daughter. Monica is now a mother, and though she has chosen to not take the traditional role of the stay-at-home housewife, it is clear that her mother’s role in her life has had an impact on the mother she will be. Camille, who chose to be a housewife, was no less successful than her daughter who got drafted into the WNBA. They chose different routes in their life, but both ended up successful in what they wanted to do. Feminists believe that it is the women’s choice to choose what she wants to do, which was showcased in the movie. Feminists again do not denounce motherhood as a whole. “Common to all feminists is the conviction that motherhood is not the only means for realizing womanly potential” (Ir-shai and Ross).

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