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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Amy Schumer’s Beach Body Isn’t Up for Discussion

Source: InStyle Magazine

Body shamers typically emerge from their turtlenecks around this time of year. They shed their down parkas and fur-lined boots just in time to judge those who feel comfortable in their own skin. Dana Duggan, swimsuit designer for South Shore Swimwear, started the season off with a splash when she decided to attack Amy Schumer’s recent swim-inspired InStyle magazine spread. Duggan took to the publication’s Instagram account to publicly voice her ugly opinion regarding May’s “beauty issue” cover model.

“Come on now! You could not find anyone better for this cover? Not everyone should be in a swimsuit,” Duggan wrote under the guise of her swimwear brand, no less.

Schumer appears on the cover wearing a white, one-piece Ralph Lauren swimsuit, and it’s not hard to see that she’s looking her best and loving her life from that image alone. Duggan’s comment, however, contradicts the issue’s overall message by fixating on the fact that Schumer—like most American women—isn’t your average model. Many followers responded by reminding Duggan that Schumer’s a real woman with a real body, and that bodies of all shapes and sizes are beautiful in their own way. Unlike traditional models, Schumer represents the everywoman, and that’s refreshing to see in today’s sea of size 2s. Her confidence demonstrates that women don’t have to be stick-thin to be gorgeous. She’s beautiful without feeling the need to conform to society’s preconceived notions of perfection.

While Duggan went on to defend her claims that Schumer looks “like a pig” by citing the first amendment, she also told The Huffington Post that she’s “tired of the media and publications trying to push the FAT agenda. It’s not healthy and it’s not pretty. What is wrong with featuring healthy and fit cover models?”

But it’s in that statement alone that she proves her opinions are motivated by nothing more than pure ignorance. She cannot assess Schumer’s health from this or any image, and she cannot claim this cover supports the so-called “fat” agenda when Schumer’s size 6-8 frame doesn’t even come close to the average American woman’s dress size. (Hint: It’s 16.) We’ve cultivated an acidic attitude toward female body image that’s permeated our society to its core.

Many believe women should maintain an unattainable visual aesthetic in order to satisfy the public’s gaze. Even though much has changed in recent years, such societal pressures still remain.

Luckily, thanks to magazine covers and other such public displays of defiance, we now see images that reinforce the idea that beauty isn’t only skin deep. We now praise women for their actions, not their appearance. And those who still face judgment over their looks no longer back down in the face of criticism. Instead, they stand up for themselves and for others in an effort to command the respect they deserve.

True beauty lies with our diversity, but we are still too stuck on conformity to recognize the best of what’s before us. Perhaps, if we’re constantly confronted with cover models that look more like Schumer, we will finally come to see and accept the beauty already in our midst.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)