Guest Author - Lori Bradley
Married No Kids has been online for nearly 10 years. I think from time to time it's beneficial to bring to light some of the compelling early articles that had a big impact and deserve a re-run. Here is one from 2004 by an earlier BellaOnline editor titled:
Does Motherhood Make You A Woman?
"Angelina Jolie appeared on the Today Show this morning to promote her new film Taking Lives. As it often does with female stars, the conversation turned to how on earth she can juggle all the things in her life - career, charity work, and MOTHERHOOD.
Up popped a photo of a smiling Jolie with her adopted son from Cambodia. When Ann Curry asked how being a mother had changed her life, without hesitation she said, it has made me a woman. It begs the question, what was she before?
Now don't get me wrong. I am in support of adoption, and I think it's wonderful for women to have children if they want them. My objection to her statement is the belief that motherhood is the true path to becoming a woman that those of us without children aren't REALLY women, and that fulfilling your destiny on this planet is hopelessly intertwined with breeding.
Her comment was in stark contrast to the beginning of her interview where she talked about the roles she has chosen to play in her career. She said she sees women as strong, feminine, intelligent, and sexy. And if a character isn't all of those things, then she isn't enough of a woman for her to play. No mention of motherhood. Period.
I think it is important for all women, parents and non-parents, to embrace who we are at our very core, and to express ourselves with the talents we possess that make us unique. For some, that may mean having babies. For others, it may mean giving birth to art, music, dance. It may mean breaking the glass ceiling and leading a Fortune 500 company. It may mean practicing medicine, becoming a lawyer, writing books.
There are literally millions of things that can make you a woman. Motherhood is not the answer for all of us."
I agree completely! It's interesting to read this article now because in the years since 2004 there's been increasing pressure for women to define themselves as "feminine."
Clothes are frillier and more "girly." I'm hard pressed to find anything to wear that is tailored and cute. Non-girly clothing is relegated to the polyester two-piece suit section of department stores. Most mainstream clothing looks like maternity clothes from the 70's. I suppose that's the intention since pregnancy is increasingly portrayed in media as the ultimate expression of "femininity."
Now, with increasing right wing power lust, comes increasing polarization of the sexes. I saw an article recently that boldly stated that men are (once again) embracing their masculinity. When had they lost it? In the 90's when men began to publically embrace equal responsibility for fatherhood and child care?
Why do restrictive gender roles symbolize social power to right wing pundits? Isn't the ability of all individuals to adapt and act collectively in any situation, regardless of feminine or masculine response, a sign of a truly strong society? And, of course, women are gaining political power on both the right and the left. We are not returning to the June Cleaver high-heeled Super Mom ideal of the 1950's anytime soon. So, the argument for a "new" femininity or masculinity is moot - and extremely divisive.
And, as I talk with more child-free women I find that many of us rejected stereotypical feminine behavior early on. Some of my childhood neighborhood friends wanted to "play house" - mimicking activities witnessed everyday with mothers. I never understood it. When I had free time to play the last thing I wanted to do was imitate the cycle of "feminine" chores my Mom faced every day.
I didn't like frilly clothes and my mother hated them because they were hard to clean. I never wanted an Easy Bake Oven or baby dolls for gifts. Sometimes my best friend and I got pawned off for babysitting by the mother of another neighborhood girl of more feminine inclinations. She loved dresses and playing house and that's what we did on long afternoons, strictly supervised in indoor play by her own stereotypically feminine mother.
I still remember the relief the two of us felt when our own parents came home and we ran out of that suffocating house to run free, get dirty, find a ball game, play in the tree fort we built with neighborhood boys. Girly-girl femininity was suffocating to us. Even then, we knew it took away our sense of freedom and power. Interestingly, I met up with my childhood friend 30 years later and she is also happily child-free.
So, the notion that women are less female if they don't breed or care for adopted kids doesn't make sense to me. Women and men can be caring, nurturing, community-minded - with or without kids. And,what difference does it make if people choose to define us as less feminine? I never saw anything wrong with behavior that was masculine. The ability to embrace both the feminine and masculine side of my personality presented a world of new possibilities and excitement when I was a kid. It still does today.