________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


Whatever Floats Your Boat: Perspectives on Motherhood.

Maryanne Pope & Shannon Lyons (Co-creators). Heather McCrae (Producer, Director & Editor). Supplementary Education Resource Kit written by Jennifer Cecconi.
Calgary, AB: Pink Gazelle Productions (www.pinkgazelle.com), 2007.
Documentary 53 min. & Facilitated Discussion 20 min., DVD plus CD containing Supplementary Educational Resource Kit, $24.95 DVD only; $74.95 DVD and CD.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**½ /4

"To be or not to be . . . a mom?" This is the question discussed by a group of women as they spend a weekend cruising a river on a houseboat. Unexpectedly widowed in her early 30's, Maryanne Pope finds herself pondering the future: bereaved of her husband, does that also mean that she has lost the prospect of becoming a mother? For that matter, does she ever want to be a mother? Of course, there was a time when women had little choice. But now, many options – single parenthood, stay-at-home motherhood, working motherhood, the choice to be child-free, to name a few – are possible, and so Pope invites 12 female friends to join her for a weekend of leisure and exploratory talk. Whatever Floats Your Boat: Perspectives on Motherhood is the result of that weekend.

     In the 53 minutes that comprise the DVD, we learn (to no one's great surprise) that women who are childless still experience great pressure from society at large to explain their circumstances: women who are infertile feel enormous pain and loss, women who have chosen a career over marriage and motherhood (either or both) feel censure, and those who are postponing motherhood for any number of reasons hear a biological clock which ticks ever more loudly as their possible fertile years diminish. And, those women who are mothers – whether through adoption, giving birth, marriage to someone with children – talk frankly about their frustrations with their children and with the situation of being a mother, as well as about the genuine sense of fulfillment that they experience.

     Perhaps these responses will be novel to young women (i.e. women in their late teens and early 20's) viewing this documentary, the target audience for this supplementary educational resource. And I am curious as to how men might view this film (the only man on the boat piloted the craft and hefted heavy coolers full of chilled beverages – he never was part of the conversation). Although the content in the educational resource CD included with the documentary DVD stated that the women on the boat represented a variety of educational and socio-economic backgrounds, they were an articulate group of white, middle-class women; no one was a lesbian, or impoverished or a member of a visible (or invisible) minority group. Those voices were missing.

     I have mixed feelings about this resource; while the topic is undoubtedly worthy of exploration, at times, I found that the "ladies' weekend" context was a bit contrived. Putting a group of women together on a boat for a weekend of food, relaxation, pleasant scenery and good company provides an opportunity for open and candid discussion, but at times, the "vacation video" footage, and the confessional scenes filmed in the bathroom detracted from the film's message.

     This is a resource which has a limited audience: it is best used in university and college, perhaps in women's studies or family studies course. I can't see it working for many Grade 12 students. The facilitated discussion might be a useful example for instructors with limited teaching experience. As for the assignments featured on the supplementary education resource CD, they are for post-secondary students; high school students would find them very difficult, both because of the background knowledge needed, and the unlikelihood of their having access to the type of library or research materials which could assist them. Preview and consider carefully before purchasing.

Recommended with reservations.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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