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College admissions scandal points to challenges of modern mothering

Katherine HampstenMarch 22, 2019

Operation Varsity Blues, the government investigation of a college admissions scandal with more than 30 parent indictments so far, reveals a disturbing picture of parents seemingly willing to break the law to ensure their children’s admission to elite universities. The images of two mothers involved in the scandal, actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, are particularly compelling.

As a researcher of mothers and culture, I believe that our recent fascination with these women — who are mothers in real life and on screen — points to bigger questions about modern mothering.

While both mothers and fathers allegedly engaged in Operation Varsity Blues, it is the mothers who have taken center stage. The idea of mothers breaking federal laws in their efforts to secure admissions to competitive universities may be shocking, but it points to a cultural phenomenon researchers, such as sociologist Sharon Hays, call “intensive mothering.”

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