These last few years, the topic of feminism has been very hot. When in February Emma Watson appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, the world burst into flames: showing your breasts is the ultimate betrayal of the inner feminist ethic. Thank God, Emma answered back to them:
Feminism is about giving women choice.
So where do we stand with regard to motherhood?
Even though many claim it to be part of our genes and thus an instinct, parenthood should be first and foremost a choice. A conscious choice. And this is the crucial part. Since the beginning of times, breeding has always been part of the normal life cycle of any human being. You are born, grow up, get married, have children and die. Those unable to breed were pitied and looked at with forlorn eyes. Not having children was a disgrace and a burden. For over two millennia, women had no say in the matter. They probably did not even question it, as this was the way the world worked. Besides, contraceptives did not exist and sexual education was minimal.
Things are different nowadays: we have more power over our biologic clock and are far better educated. The implication X chromosome → breeding is, however, as strong as ever. Having children is considered the ultimate glorification of womanliness. The one and only.
Thus, how can we speak of voluntary childlessness?
We indeed cannot. Once a woman approaches her 30s, the feared question glides towards her. And not once, a billion times.
So, how many children you think you’ll have?
It’s not a question about the possible desire to have them, as that is given for granted. It’s what society, friends, family expect you to do. And answering “I (or we) do not want them” is an atomic bomb, better to be avoided at weddings and other family events. I am one of those women. I don’t think I will want to have children and, whenever I drop the atomic bomb, all I hear is cliché answers, such as “Oh, I also thought that way at your age. Wait and see!” or “But you’re so young, you will change your mind!”.
To cut a long story short, no one is willing to hear that you might not want to procreate. Or they are not eager to accept your choice to be voluntarily childfree. This is because women are stigmatized in the role of mothers. These two figures seem to be inseparable. The truth is that we are not: you can be a woman without being a mother. You already are a perfectly beautiful glorification of womanliness just as you are.
Some people have already embraced this progressive view of female roles. It is the first step towards what feminism really means. Nevertheless, it is still a life choice that rarely speaks its name. Society isn’t ready yet.
For centuries women have been drooling at female emancipation and independence. About a hundred years ago, we started to fight for what we believed were our rights, e.g. voting. Abortion and divorce followed on the heels. This spring, Iceland became the first country in the world to enshrine equal pay for men and women, a milestone on the road to a new era. The greatest battle women must face now is the one for motherhood. We cannot speak of feminism until the world faces the truth. Breeding is a choice. Our choice.
Featured image: Motherhood, Nelly Romeo Alves (Wikimedia Commons)