ABSENT MOTHERS AND MISSING CHILDREN
Dying children are the sweet creamy centers of literature.
Perri Klass, Other Women's Children
The devaluation of mother is always at once the devaluation of women.
Andrea Liss, “The Body in Question: Rethinking
Motherhood, Alterity, and Desire”
Representations of children in AIDS discourse are often cited as evidence of the “changing face of AIDS, ” but images of dying babies also embody moral ideas about who deserves AIDS and who does not. 1 Appeals and policies made on behalf of ill children are also coded attempts to preserve and control cultural ideas about childhood, motherhood, citizenship, and the nation. The child figure is simultaneously a way to convey and create conceptions of race and innocence and produce conceptions of women as good (or bad) mothers. While dead children and babies speak to the historical fact of childhood mortality in the epidemic, their deaths offer opportunities to reassert what counts as childhood and motherhood in the United States. Such symbolic uses of children's deaths in representations of AIDS come with consequences for both women and children.
Select images of ill children divert attention away from the actual everyday realities of children and women with HIV and AIDS. Not only are the lived complexities of most children concealed behind the spectacle of the dying (often white) child, so are the lived complexities of most women. Furthermore, as discussed in Chapter 2, just as only certain types of women get to be the suffering, sacrificial Little Eva, the mouthpiece of moral pedagogy and compassionate democracy, only certain children get