Mothers, absent from family photos

Dn her feminist commitment, Laura Vallet has a simple practice: counting the place of women in the different sections of society. In her job, the librarian, specialized in children’s literature and blogger on this theme, regularly counts the share of girls and boys in fiction, questioning the way in which each is represented. In her privacy, the 35-year-old mother recently counted her appearances in the family album.

“Of the 450 photos I sorted, my husband appears twice as much as me alongside our children”, points out the mother of a 9-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, who only appears once on her own. “I felt a deep annoyance not to appear in any photo of everyday life when I am so much a part of it”, comments Laura, who appears mainly on “the ritual photos” carried out each year by a third party at their place of marriage.

Intimate experience or the umpteenth manifestation of the mental and emotional burden that most often falls on women? To corroborate her intuition, Laura posted a terse question on Twitter on Monday, January 3: “Mothers: do we take a picture of you? » Nearly 400 responses, like so many ” me neither “. “It resonated with many women, I did not expect it”, she says.

“A system where the mother is always wronged”

“As soon as we raise a subject, we bring out a new reality of the mental and emotional load”, she notes, referring, in the specific case, “taking photos, sorting them, creating albums to allow the family to build their family story”.

For Illana Weizman, sociologist and author of This is my postpartum (Marabout, 2021), this illustration of the emotional charge is far from trivial. “It contributes to the burden on mothers in almost all areas of parenthood, to emotions, to memories”, believes the feminist activist on the site madmoi cell, according to whom the enthusiasm around this tweet highlights “a system where the mother is always wronged, where she always has to think of everything. »

An observation shared by Claudine Veuillet-Combier and Emmanuel Gratton, psychologists and researchers at the University of Angers and authors of Photographs of contemporary families, cross-perspectives between sociology and psychoanalysis (Rennes University Press, 2021). “We observe that it is often the women who manage the family heritage, who take the photos, classify them, comment on them and share them”, analyzes Claudine Veuillet-Combier, interviewed by France Inter.

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Worse, according to several testimonies published following Laura’s tweet, this dynamic contributes to the invisibilization of women in the family sphere. “On my side, with the photos, we believe that it was the dad who bathed my daughter every day”, comments a surfer, specifying that the photos in question came, on the contrary, to underline a rare moment of everyday life.

“Women need to make a visual record of the fact that men take care of the children, further analyzes Claudine Veuillet-Combier. Men don’t need to show it, as if in the end, in a traditional and stereotypical way, it was normal for women to take care of children. »

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A stereotype that fuels a distorted vision of the family. “I also take care of taking the photos. My albums are therefore my husband, a valiant single father, who raises his three children alone, what courage”, quips another internet user. “Not at all representative of who takes care of the kids the most”, still supports a mother. To anticipate possible remarks from his offspring, a user repeats often to his two children: “Don’t forget that if the three of you are with your father in the photo, it was because I was behind the camera! »

Among the hundreds of testimonials received by Laura are “painful stories” of mothers with no ” no trace “ everyday moments spent with their children. In a post published on the HuffingtonPost American, the photographer Chelsey Hill remembers having made the same observation, concerning the absence of memories with her mother:

“I know that I spent hours with my mother, while she read me stories, brushed my hair or played tea party with me. But there is no hard evidence of those times. »

have to beg

The photographer then embarked on a personal project: “take my picture alongside my daughters. » She encourages other mothers to do the same, “regardless of their photography skills.” Among the testimonials received by Laura, some mention more or less successful tricks to make themselves more visible, such as asking their companion to take a picture of them. “I bully my husband on a regular basis, otherwise it looks like I’m not even here in my own life”, quips the cartoonist and blogger Maman BCBG. Many women regret having to “begging”, evoking inevitably missed photos, because without any spontaneity.

For many, the selfie appears to be the ideal parade to compensate for their erasure. “I have zero photos of me with a child or spouse. Except selfie taken by me”, testifies Lisa on Twitter. “The only photos I have of me are selfies, and with my daughter, it’s selfies for two”, abounds Edwige on the same social network. Others, less numerous, opt for the option of the professional photographer: “But zero regrets, now I have a few more successful photos! »

How to create awareness? After one “huge argument on the subject”, a mother says she challenged her husband “to find a single photo of our daughter and me that isn’t a selfie. » By noticing the absence of an image of his wife, the latter realized the problem, before spontaneously taking a photo of their family.

“For some, it has helped to move the lines, to take things in hand”, rejoices Laura, convinced that “it is also on these everyday details that things will change. »