"Tu deviens ‘femme de’, ‘mère de’"* : francophone geographies and gendered subjectivities of French-speaking migrant mothers in Kingston, Ontario.

Authors: Laurence Simard-Gagnon*,
Topics: Gender, Women, Cultural Geography
Keywords: mothering, gendering, linguistic minority, migration, institutions, francophone geographies, Ontario
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

*you become ‘wife of’, ‘mother of’ (my translation)

This paper explores life-stories and experiences of gendered subjectivity (trans)formations of francophone migrant mothers in predominantly anglophone Kingston, Ontario, Canada. More particularly, it highlights how the combined circumstances of migration(s) and of navigating francophone minority institutions and networks in Kingston tend to enhance the potency of gendered social scripts around the identities and roles of women and of mothers in their lives. It also points to how these combined circumstances crystalize gendered markers of francophone identity and of motherhood in their daily geographies.

Francophone institutions in Kingston, anchored in the history of struggles for francophone rights in Ontario, revolve for the most part around families, children, education and/or health. These institutions are central in the lives of francophone mothers as they provide them with both services and employment opportunities. In this paper I demonstrate that they also adhere to discourses and practices that assume a strict distribution of labour along gender lines and a sharp division between public and private space, and in that way (re-)iterate and validate particular versions of womanhood and of motherhood. Further, I discuss how these institutional pressures towards gendered identity construction are exacerbated by individual women’s experiences of migration, and particularly the type of social and economic opportunities that were made available and/or lost for them when moving to Kingston.

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