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Undo Motherhood delves into the global phenomenon of women regretting motherhood. It exposes the impact of the patriarchal norms surrounding motherhood, highlighting the societal pressure on women to embrace this role, only to be left unsupported by fathers and society once they become mothers. Despite being dedicated and excellent by societal standards, these women grapple with the oppressive role of normative motherhood, often considering it a regrettable mistake that robs them of their existence.
This video is a multimedia version of the project Undo Motherhood published as a photo book in 2022 by Schilt Publishing (Amsterdam). Check out the book here.
Episode 01 – Exhaustion
Episode 02 – Isolation
Episode 03 – Resignation
Episode 04 – Acceptance
“The author dismantles the enumerated prejudices around the powerful conservative institution, dismantles conventional and prepackaged behaviors with a research that is ruthless and hard probing as it is beyond sincere. Her narrative manifests the controversial side and the discussed fact: it is as persuasive as the texture of velvet and as impactful as a ruinous fall onto concrete.” – Globalist
“The subjects in her images, although seemingly quiet and reflective, almost look as though they are screaming for help. You can see the desperation in some of their eyes, along with love, confusion, guilt, and every other emotion that undoubtedly comes from having and loving a child but realizing parenthood was probably the wrong decision. It's these complex emotions that Diana attempts to unpick, taking various perspectives from those she photographed and interviewed.” – Creative Boom
“Respectful, intimate imagery makes visible a continuum of ambivalence.” – J. Sybylla Smith, curator
Her personal projects revolve around the topic of “individual liberty versus established norms” with a strong focus on gender issues and feminism. In her work, she combines documentary-type style with cinematographic elements, which she has inherited from her long trajectory in cinema production and distribution. Undo Motherhood was her first completed long-term project published as a photo book in 2022 by Schilt Publishing (Amsterdam). Since then, it received a lot of media attention around the world appearing on the cover of The Guardian in July 2022. Currently, Diana is working on two new multimedia projects about masculinities.
“In my mid-thirties, I was constantly asked by everyone, from family members to complete strangers, about when I was going to have a baby, even in a professional setting. At that time, I hadn’t quite made up my mind, and this constant pressure – affecting such a delicate and personal decision – infuriated me and made me want to understand what was behind it. As I began my research, I very quickly discovered that there is a B side to the story of motherhood which is rarely talked about, and as such, it does not receive almost any attention in the collective imagination. Therefore, I decided to challenge the dominant narrative and shed light on the ultimate taboo surrounding motherhood: a decision that – just like any other major decision in life – may be regretted. The project took me to seven countries, from Mexico to Singapore, several times over the past five years where I met these incredible women who had the courage to speak honestly about their lives.
All the women in the project are excellent mothers and love their children, and yet they hate the oppressive role of mothers that has robbed them of their own existence. They suffer through it in silence, feeling it to be the worst mistake they have made. Five years later and now as a mother myself, I can only echo the words of the American writer and 70s feminist Adrienne Rich. She said that as much as motherhood means a love-based bond with your child, it is at the same time a conservative oppressive ideology with its rigid codex of moral rules that prescribe how you must feel, think, and behave as a mother. In my opinion, it is a perfect invisible and often internalized mechanism to keep women under control in caregiving subservient roles. I think it is time to raise uncomfortable questions about motherhood. It is time to ask what we consider natural, to redefine the outdated collective image of the mother (and father), and – among other things – to challenge the traditional social order by promoting a factual co-responsibility among parents because gender inequality begins at home.
– Diana Karklin, Director