2023 chapter

Challenges to Neoliberal Parenting and The Rise of the Ideal Stepmother

By: V. Renegar & K. Cole*

Source: ORCID
Added: August 24, 2023

While the wicked stepmother stereotype continues to persist, the current political moment also presents us with a new image of the stepmother in the figure of First Lady Jill Biden. Biden serves as an exemplar of the “ideal stepmother” because she fills the role of a deceased mother, practices intensive mothering, and deliberately obscures her status as a stepmother. Renegar and Cole argue that rather than stepmothers embodying the destruction of the nuclear family, they show us another way to parent. However, even the language used to normalize stepmothering is caught up in and fraught with the same social and ideological contradictions that are so present in the wicked stepmother archetype. This chapter explores an emerging version of stepmothering that attempts to, and perhaps successfully does move past the age-old trope of wickedness. They call this the Ideal Stepmother and see it embodied in the way that First Lady Dr. Jill Biden was introduced to the public at the Democratic National Convention in 2019.