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            03 / 11 / 15

            How will performative parenting impact children's identities?

            • Ah summer, the season of all of my favorite vices: white power suits, #hotdoglegs, $7 snow cones at the Brooklyn Flea, and my most recent guilty pleasure—@assholeparents, an Instagram account of kids crying for ridiculous reasons. Think Dog Shaming, with more tears and less forgiveness.

              Like Dog Shaming, it’s the curated nature of the content and comedic storytelling that makes @assholeparents so addictive. Each post featuring a tantrum-throwing toddler, as the frustrated parent behind the camera broadcasts the spectacle that is ‘parenting’ out to the world as a means of cathartic release. Counter to what the name suggests, parents here are the true protagonists, with @assholeparents serving as platform for self-expression as this new generation of moms and dads navigate the rough waters (and new identities) as parents, or as I like to call it performative parenting.

              @assholeparents is yet another example of how social media is fueling the rise in performative parenting we see today. This evolving form of expression among millennial parents is turning into a phenomenon with its own visual codes and cues:

              1. Children as props, not participants

              In the art of performative parenting, children are often visually depicted as props within a larger story that is unfolding on screen. The image below (left) shows what happens when @ramblinpeach wouldn’t let his infant son drink his beer, with the outlandishness of his reaction as justification for a public shaming. On the left, a post from a friend that popped up on my newsfeed, innocuously sacrificing their screaming daughter to a T-Rex for our viewing pleasure. Beneath each performance, lies a potential reservoir of deeper meaning: these parents are attempting to establish a sense of authority in moments where children, as children tend to do, question who is truly in control. And perhaps social media has become another mechanism for regaining that sense of control and ownership over one’s identity.

              Art of Performative Parenting 1

              2. Adults as protagonists

              With kids as props, each story is told through the vantage point of the parent, with moms and dads playing the lead beautifully. From the commentary to the composition of each frame, parents’ voices and faces are central to the story—as each post speaks to the tension behind the struggle to balance the individual with his or her new role as parent.

              Art of Performative Parenting 2

              3. Superimposed Marks of Maturity

              In more subtle performances, markers of mature identities are seen imposed onto kids: from hipster outfits (ChildrenwithSwag middle) to names (HipsterBabyNames.com far left), to faux tats and banter voice over by mom (@oxeyedbaiby_on right), kids are groomed to seamlessly fit into and act as extensions of pre-existing, adult-centric environments.

              Art of Performative Parenting 3

              4. Artistic Expression

              The level of design and direction highlights the depth of thought and vision behind each post, as performative parenting becomes a new medium for artistic expression among moms and dads. Each moment carefully curated to convey a feeling or idea: Some focus on glamorizing the banal moments of childhood, and others on crafting a picturesque view of what parenting can look like. Bonus points to @mamawatters for working in baby man bun and vintage cloth map.

              Art of Performative Parenting 4

              But what does all of this artistic performance of parenting lead to? What happens when these children with swag grow up and reflect back on these curated moments and supplanted identities at such a young age?

              As parents continue to use performative measures to create and resolve their identities, how will this projection impact the development of their children’s identity moving forward?

              And what happens when these parents are no longer in control of the narrative? After a child assumes the reigns of their social media presence, will the notion of performative parenting lose all relevance for this generation of Moms and Dads? Or will performative parenting evolve and live on for more tenured parents, taking on new shapes across new social forums?

              Article by Katiy Woolard

            • 2. Adults as protagonists

              With kids as props, each story is told through the vantage point of the parent, with moms and dads playing the lead beautifully. From the commentary to the composition of each frame, parents’ voices and faces are central to the story—as each post speaks to the tension behind the struggle to balance the individual with his or her new role as parent.

            • 3. Superimposed Marks of Maturity

              In more subtle performances, markers of mature identities are seen imposed onto kids: from hipster outfits (ChildrenwithSwag middle) to names (HipsterBabyNames.com far left), to faux tats and banter voice over by mom (@oxeyedbaiby_on right), kids are groomed to seamlessly fit into and act as extensions of pre-existing, adult-centric environments.

            • 4. Artistic Expression

              The level of design and direction highlights the depth of thought and vision behind each post, as performative parenting becomes a new medium for artistic expression among moms and dads. Each moment carefully curated to convey a feeling or idea: Some focus on glamorizing the banal moments of childhood, and others on crafting a picturesque view of what parenting can look like. Bonus points to @mamawatters for working in baby man bun and vintage cloth map.

            • But what does all of this artistic performance of parenting lead to? What happens when these children with swag grow up and reflect back on these curated moments and supplanted identities at such a young age?

              As parents continue to use performative measures to create and resolve their identities, how will this projection impact the development of their children’s identity moving forward?

              And what happens when these parents are no longer in control of the narrative? After a child assumes the reigns of their social media presence, will the notion of performative parenting lose all relevance for this generation of Moms and Dads? Or will performative parenting evolve and live on for more tenured parents, taking on new shapes across new social forums?

              Article by Katiy Woolard