Womanhood Does Not Mean Motherhood

One evening while reading online opinion pieces, I came across a long post about childbirth. I was curious to see where the author was going, so I stuck around through a short but somewhat glorified (in my opinion) description of the birthing process and the wonder the author experienced in the aftermath. Suddenly, I came across a section of the post that made me want to sigh, facepalm, and yell all at the same time. Though I don’t recall the exact wording today, the meaning behind the section is still clear: the process of giving birth defines womanhood.

Now, this sentiment is certainly not rare. Indeed, in many cultures around the world, motherhood is viewed as the idealized version of womanhood. It’s certainly prevalent in the US, where comments such as “I don’t really want to have kids” are usually met with variations on “well, you’ve still got time” or “you’ll change your mind.” This expectation for women to be mothers undermines their choice in the matter. On a broader scale, the ideal of motherhood biases conceptions on sexual health care. If a society views having children as the epitome of a woman’s worth, of course it will invest effort into making sure that women aren’t able to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant. and are restricted in the help they can receive when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Of course, everything that was previously stated completely ignores the women who never had a choice to bear children in the first place. Not all women are able to conceive children. By claiming that a woman’s worth is defined by her ability to have children, it implies that those who are not able to conceive are somehow lesser. This, of course, is not true, but could be especially problematic for trans women. In so many ways, US society infringes against the rights owed to the trans community. Being unable to bear children is just another way for prejudiced individuals to try to claim that trans women aren’t “real” women. Emphasizing motherhood as the defining aspect of womanhood needs to change. Women are women, whether they bear children or not.

Motherhood can be an incredibly impactful and fulfilling part of a woman’s life. It is not, however, what gives a woman value or the only way she will be satisfied. People do not need to have children in order to be content with their lives. Even if a person decides to have children, they have options. Motherhood is not restricted only to women that can bear children, and the childbearing process should not be fundamental to a person’s womanhood. Every woman will walk different paths through life, and each path is as valid as any other.

Images: Cover, 1, 2