Please Stop Assuming All Women Want To Procreate

Source: Pexels

When my former colleague became pregnant with her first child, she revealed that our health insurance provider filed maternity leave as short-term disability. Despite the fact that she was about to bring new life into this world—essentially the most able-bodied function of any such mammal that comes to mind—to the insurance company, she was handicapped for the foreseeable future. Handicapped! Paid leave debates have raged incessantly in recent years, for sure, but few discuss the methods used to secure such benefits in our current climate.

However, upon deeper consideration, such perceptions of new mothers seem right in line with how society treats women overall. For some reason, we’re regarded as weak creatures whose sole purpose on this planet revolves around perpetuating the species—a responsibility that requires the sort of strength no man can comprehend. By the time every woman reaches the age when most start families of their own, in society’s eye, we’ve merely transitioned from “boy crazy” to “baby crazy,” for our true aspirations are limited to mating and procreating only.

Except that’s entirely untrue. 

Countless women have little desire to pursue motherhood. Despite society’s assumption that unmarried, childless women are lonely or unfulfilled, many genuinely prefer this sort of lifestyle.

In an Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post, actress Jennifer Aniston specifically addressed the issue, as she’s likely the most famous victim of society’s tendency to shame women who refuse to adhere to the unwritten handbook that dictates how we should live our lives. For decades, Aniston has had her face plastered across tabloids, her life on display for all to see, as the public speculates whether this angle or that purchase indicates that she might be pregnant. 

Although Aniston rarely acknowledges said tabloid fodder, in this instance, she could not help but highlight that the sheer amount of resources spent on trying to uncover her supposed pregnancy “points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.”

“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child,” Aniston wrote. “We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone.”

“Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.”

Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

But Aniston fails to recognize that, in many cases, people who swear by marriage and motherhood can’t fathom a world in which women opt out of this traditional path by their own volition. Women who have no use for these institutions must constantly justify their decisions, as if these choices are unnatural and embarrassing. Doing so almost feels like being the one non-Stepford wife in town—you are unwelcome and irrevocably misunderstood.

Collectively, we must allow people to live as they see fit, even if those choices aren’t what we’d choose for ourselves. Might those who don’t want children right now inevitably change their minds? Absolutely. If I were to meet someone whose genetic code seems worthy of reproduction, I’d certainly entertain the prospect, but I won’t fall to pieces if Prince Charming’s horse accidentally makes a wrong turn along the way.

To most, I’d likely be considered a spinster at the ripe, old age of 30 simply because I’m not married and I have no urge to walk down the aisle any time soon. Thus, in my lonely state, I’m left to listen to the ticking of my internal clock—the metronome that beats in rhythm with my waning childbearing potential.

Except there’s no time bomb, no sadness, no jealousy. In fact, I can’t help but wonder how many of the married couples I know will get divorced when they finally realize they subconsciously settled for the one they were with because it was a logistically appropriate time for them to start a family. Society might’ve paved one path, but no one said it was the only way to go. Find another route or blaze your own trail. Listen to what’s in your heart, not what’s been put in your head, as that’s the only surefire method for finding your way.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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Playground Politics for the Trump Era

We should’ve seen it coming.

The moment Senate Republicans refused to hear Judge Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination—screaming “La La La” with their fingers jammed inside their ears, no doubt—our democracy transformed into the middle-aged, predominantly male version of Mean Girls.

“You can’t sit with us!”

Republicans were determined to attain ‘Queen Bee’ status no matter who got burned in their wake. Most didn’t seem to care how such actions might undermine democratic tradition, as they were merely out for revenge against President Obama. Garland’s credentials were hardly relevant—his bid floundered before it even had the chance to flourish.

But now, as Senate Republicans once again work to subvert our country’s founding principles by stealing health care from 22 million of Americas most vulnerable citizens behind closed doors, it’s clear to see that these behaviors weren’t the exception, but instead, the new rule.

Melodramatic as it may sound, Donald J. Trump’s fledgling presidency, and the contentious campaign on which it was built, exacerbates this trend toward infantile impulsivity. After all, those drafting the latest version of the health care bill essentially established an offshoot of the boys’ club we all know D.C. to be. At this point, it’s not even far fetched to imagine these 13 men congregating in some makeshift treehouse with a “No Girls Allowed” sign tacked to the door.

For modern Republicans, party “trumps” people, so to speak. Despite the fact that these elected officials were chosen to represent their constituents long before Trump moved into the neighborhood, they seem desperate to remain in the good graces of the curmudgeon-in-chief. Few have had the backbone thus far to speak out against Trump’s polarizing policies, not because they agree with his views necessarily, but because they don’t want to lose their seat at the lunch table.

Most Republicans are so unprepared to defend their actions, in fact, that they’ve actually tried (and failed) to curtail press freedoms within the halls of Congress. Let’s just say, these so-called leaders never would’ve survived my eighth grade history class. Our teacher, Mr. Finn, warned us that, if we crossed paths in the hallway outside our designated class time, we might still be subject to an on-site pop quiz. No one enjoys being caught off guard, but when your grade’s on the line, you’ve got to use any opportunity you can to excel.

Of course, we are talking about the party that used the national debate stage to argue about the implications of male hand size, so perhaps shining in the spotlight isn’t their strong suit.

But at the end of the day, the bell tolls for those who’ve compromised their dignity to appease the man who, judging by the true results of the 2016 election, wasn’t actually the most popular candidate in America. Delaying the vote on a bill that’s more reminiscent of a death sentence cannot and will not absolve this group of the guilt associated with their methods, either. Their colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—must hold them accountable for its content and its creation.

Trump himself deemed the bill “mean” in a private meeting with Senate Republicans—and he’s the Regina George of this entire mess, so that speaks volumes. Yet, even if the bill still isn’t as “kind” as he’d prefer, there’s no doubt that he’d sign it into law if it manages to pass. Like the rest of his cohorts, he’s determined to destroy Obama’s legacy by any means possible.

From climate change to Cuban relations, Trump will scribble his name on any executive order or piece of legislation that undoes Obama’s landmark achievements, even if it means compromising America’s future in the process. He’s all about spectacle, not substance. “Getting things done” means nothing if, in the end, everything’s come undone.

Maybe, if we promise to stick a gold star at the top of each document that crosses his desk, Trump will finally sign something that benefits the greater good.