Iyer, Niranjana, Herizons
Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun
W. W. Norton & Company
In Madre, Brown University professor Liza Bakewell explores the position and representations of females (and the feminine) in Mexican culture by examining slang expressions that incorporate the word madre (mother). For instance, if you smell something dreadful, you would exclaim that it smells of madres. Saying an object is me vale madre means it's valueless. A mad razo is a violent blow. Puta madre, meaning whore mother, is said when you're frightened or pissed off. Bakewell lists over 50 expressions with madre, and the list continues on and on.
None of the madre expressions are used in polite company. While a few have positive connotations (the term virgin madre, for example, means a pure and heavenly virgin mother), most expressions are used to describe nasty, offensive situations. This is not so for expressions including the word padre (father). These are usually references to something awesome, magnificent or super.
Bakewell, as adept with the why as the what, offers a brilliant analysis of the collusion of the Roman Catholic Church, the creators of the nation state, the judiciary, intellectual tradition and pop culture that casts women in an unmediated whore/virgin duality. …