Motherhood, Redefined (To Include Men, Naturally)

Motherhood was abandoned by feminism a long time ago.

Chubby Baby

Looks like it’s you and me, kid… for about nine months, anyway.

Enticed by the promise of economic power, repulsed by the body horror of childbirth and the mental torment of parenting, we have worked hard to become more like men.

Who can blame us? They have taken advantage of a drone’s greater mobility to arrange the world to suit themselves for thousands of years. They reinterpreted us and brutalized dissent. Archeology tells us that women once had a vibrant culture of our own. We once commanded respect for our uniquely female qualities. Whatever we once had has been crushed or commandeered.

Mom, Who Are You?

A young child sees his mother as the highest authority and, if you squint hard enough, it almost looks like childish rebellion writ large to reframe motherhood as the most base of pursuits. She’s just a Housewife. The Career Gal may be told she doesn’t Have It All without a family, but she has her money to keep her company. She has her freedom.

The Housewife doesn’t have it all, either, but she has plenty to do. The nostalgic among us find immense fulfillment in the long haul of training up little people. But it’s a slog. Whims are starved in favor of schedules. Kids are full-fledged people, and terrible roommates.

Outside of the occasional joke about biological clocks, we tend to ignore any urge to have kids. Sex is a game we can play with just about anyone, kids are an awkward side-effect. The professional world is inverted to women’s reproductive lives. If we want kids at all, we inevitably miss out on career growth we can never make up.

This is so blatantly rigged against us, but the refrain is praising our presence. Young women outnumber men graduating college, we’ve joined the Boy’s Club at last.

Education is vital, but a capitalist education prepares us to be workers. Because only women possess that magical capacity to Have It All – Build a career to rival any man’s while cooking dinner, reading bedtime stories and kissing boo-boos. Afterward, she and her man change hats and become sexual provocateurs. Perplexingly, patriarchy has painted us as both sex props and mother hens. For about 30 years of our lives, we are expected to effortlessly hop between these two poles.

I’m assuming Having It All means having about two hours’ sleep a night.

Women are more heavily affected by lack of sleep, too. Being taught the candle is meant to be burned from both ends places an even harsher burden on us than it would our male companions. It’s a small thing, but I think it explains a lot. We are not as alert as we should be.

Patriarchy’s Final Frontier

Our focus on proving we can beat them at their own game has allowed everything else to slide.

Cig And Tea

Gosh, I sure with *I* could disregard everyone else’s wellbeing in favor of my own selfish interests, too!

The Code of Hammurabi, the oldest written law, goes into loving detail about what women can and can’t do. Nations needed sons, you see, to defend themselves and secure resources. Our labor was necessary to build the world, and we were conscripted. But a woman’s power is a terrifying combination of mysterious and undeniable. You can’t see how a baby is made, and you can’t fight it, either.

For the most part, men have contented themselves with running things rather than contemplate the mystery. And they discovered recasting making life as a weakness saved them the trouble of denying it happens.

Forever until the 1970s, religious messages of martyrdom held mothers on a pedestal. Denied most other options, women were talked into rearing the next generation as a sacred duty. These days, motherhood is strategizing between work meetings and Netflix binges. And we’re mostly fine with that, because we are done being martyrs.

But the political project of papering over women continues to find new frontiers, and even motherhood isn’t exempt. The linguistic and cultural recognition of the exclusive relationship you have with someone who forms within you is under question. 

Countries around the world have seen fellas publicly claiming the heretofore physical and sexed title of Mother. 

2020, The Year of Male Moms

On March 30, 2020, a bespectacled Spanish man named Alex took advantage of International Transgender Visibility Day to announce that he, too, is a mother. “[Some] trans people don't desire to realize a transition of the body and accept themselves how they are. It's important that trans people are recognized for who we are, for our felt identity. It's legitimate to be a woman, including without doing a transition.”  

How is that, exactly? 

Masks Off

Ok, it’s time to get real – What did he just say??

Courts in France have been arguing over it, too. In June, a 51-year-old man who has been legally recognized as a woman since 2011 won a ruling declaring him the mother of his children. Who were created with the help of his wife, the only way such things happen. Presumably she is on board with this, maybe he promised he’d do half the housework, too.

Days later in Brazil, a prominent academic was busy arguing on Twitter that, “The ‘mother' category is the worst possible choice if we want to approach pregnancy, childbirth, the puerperium and breastfeeding from a feminist perspective. Like really bad. Conservative. Excluding. It just gets in the way.” Yes, motherhood tends to exclude anyone who hasn’t given birth to a child. There are common exceptions, both joyful and tragic, but we all have one thing in common.

At the end of July, a famous Indian activist kicked up dust over not being considered the mother of his adopted daughter. “You don't need a uterus to be a mother. Anyone can be a mother, a mother could be a man, a woman, a transgender.” He said in an interview. “The only requirement is to love someone unconditionally.” By this sappy and shallow definition, I am my grandmother’s mother. This is trans politics.

Mothers Clap Back

Each of these examples was met with furious backlash from women. Mothers all over the world chimed in to point out the obvious with characteristic dark humor, “I would love for Alex to tell us about his experience having his children, the reduced workday he had to ask for in order to breastfeed them and the side effects after having those children. I'm sure he has a lot of experience to share!

Mothers aren’t deleted enough from the feminist movement, let's push them a little bit further into the corner!” 

When I became a mother one of the things that hurt me was that this movement did not embrace us. Women are fired after they have children, have no daycare, have obstetric violence, domestic violence, workplace bullying, sexual abuse.”

I can't believe that being a mother, choosing, and living it turned transphobic.”

These women have been abandoned not just by the Women’s Movement (Who calls it that anymore, anyway?) but by liberal politics in general. The quest for equality is lost in a desert of verbiage, stuck in a fever dream that words are the problem.

You're Right

You’re right, I shouldn’t have called you my boyfriend. I won’t do it again!…

Words, sisters, are the solution. We must keep using ours, even as so-called ‘liberal’ politics is going around getting people fired for saying the wrong things. 

Not-So-Liberals

Merriam-Webster defines ‘liberal’ as, among other things, “Not literal or strict; Loose.” We also have, “Broad-minded, especially: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.

Modern ‘liberals’ have elevated rejection of traditional forms to modern art. As well as a moral Rorschach test. And if you don’t see what they see, you are wrong and probably bad. Because everybody knows rejection of traditional forms is how we demonstrate our modernness. How we demonstrate we are good.

The cognitive dissonance of an authoritarian orthodoxy devoted to rejection of tradition seems to be getting to them. We who speak up for the female sex as half of humanity are told we are just too ignorant to understand. That being born female, molested or raped, getting pregnant, having a baby, a miscarriage or even a period gives no insight into womanhood.

Sure, whatever you say, honey. The little women with ovaries are always quiet when someone with two balls says so.” Women on Twitter inspire me every day. 

The Big Picture Emerges

The fight in Brazil spurred Andreia Nobre to ask, Who benefits from all this?

The definition of what it means to be a woman cannot be changed to “anyone who identifies as a woman.” Women suffer discrimination in patriarchal systems because they are born female. It is the female body that can give birth. And our reproductive capacity is exploited by patriarchy. Gender identity does not prevent … pregnancy.

Answer Is No

I don’t have much left, and you can’t have it!

Andreia quotes Gallus Mag’s collection of different ways the Trans Movement contradicts the Women’s Movement. It’s hard to understand how so many don’t see the conflict. Many of us say we welcome transwomen in the bathroom and locker room. A few aren’t so sure about sports. 

But the chorus of mothers was deafening. In Brazil and India, France and Spain, they cried out from where feeling and embodiment intersect. To be a mother is to be the Earth and the Sun to a tiny life that only gets further and further away. To be a mother is to come face to face with the gory holiness of life and see if you flinch. It’s soaring joy and cavernous sorrow, sometimes simultaneously. 

Like all transcendental experiences, it’s indescribable. The few words we have represent the core experience of humanity – We were all born. But only women can get pregnant, and no change in vocabulary will change that.

And while liberalism is busy eating its own head, conservatives are taking control. Abortion access has been slowly rolled back for years, and these two trends collide in a devastating place for half the planet. You know, the female half.

Do It For The Good of MANkind

If birth control is limited and abortion access gone, pregnancy is inevitable. For half of us.

And if we can’t even identify ourselves, or each other, we are powerless. Broodmares again. The trend continues of tens of thousands of young women lining up to rid themselves of their femaleness, convinced their body is the source of their unhappiness.

Motherhood is foundational to the female identity. It’s a heaving reality, a distant memory, an iconic archetype. She is Mother Earth. She is the snarky comments you imagine in the head of the other mom in the waiting room as your kid runs around in a circle, again.

She is the eternal persistence of day following night. She is why we are here. 

Having babies is not our purpose. It’s our evolutionary starting point. We have much more to offer the world, but we have undermined ourselves by working so hard to join the Boy’s Club. It’s time to make them come to us.

Who Are Women?

But who are women when we’re at home? Docility was bred into us, wild women have fewer children. What we wouldn’t shed willingly was taken from us by force. Every available paradigm made a framework for the male gaze, we’ve lost the demarcations between needlework and domestic submission.

Flight Of Witches

Anyone remember how the next part goes?

When keeping offspring alive and running a homestead, the man will often be the one going out and getting stuff, whether it’s money or meat. Mainly because you are going to be on your ass having a baby for about a year. Then you have to take care of your little darling and, of course, Hubs can’t breastfeed. Er, excuse me, chestfeed.

This is just the reality of parenthood. Nature delegated certain tasks without asking us, how terribly inconsiderate of her! 

Feminism Needs Moms

Pushing this aside and joining the rat race has gotten us here. To a place where 51-year-old men can be declared mothers by the court in a country whose very existence is threatened by violent unrest. It’s a strange use of tax money, but it was overturned anyway. One of his lawyers called this “a scandalous example of a rigid, immobile justice system.” 

Nature is pretty unmoveable, and if pregnancy is inevitable and mandatory, we all know who will be sitting at home with Baby.

We have to face the spooky, bloody, vital force that is motherhood. Women must embrace our roots in rearing humanity and leverage that as the power it is. We have to push back while we still can.

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