'Ain't I A Woman?' Feelings on Femininity and Fertility
I submitted this post to the Endometriosis Foundation of America for their internal blog titled The Blossom. I was asked to provide my personal account on fertility for National Infertility Week.
Below is what I submitted. The article was accepted and featured.
Be fruitful and multiply.
For centuries, a woman’s ability to "bear fruit” has been a metric for womanhood and femininity—a commodity of sorts. Marriage arrangements built upon “child-bearing hips.” The fattier the thighs, the easier to market and be sold. If a woman couldn’t bear a child, she wore the barren stamp; deemed unworthy of love. The owner of a woman’s vagina is a controversy all its own. A man’s belief that a woman’s body is his to do as he wills and creates laws and rules to benefit his overall goal—population.
Today seems to be no different.
Changing the narrative of womanhood is still a never-ending fight with fertility at the helm. Infertility, a widespread issue that affects women around the world, is no longer hidden behind fancy adjectives or coined labels that trigger insecurities. A woman’s vessel is constantly romanticized as simply the well to human life and nothing more. If she is unable to harvest a man’s seed, it’s an automatic strikeout from the relationship game—leaving the bench a non-factor.
Our grandmas, aunties, sister friends, and the like look at us perplexed, confused as to why we haven’t “popped one out” yet. Unaware we’ve turned our bodies into pin cushions and lab experiments just to be able to conceive. Unbeknownst to them, many of us have lost parts of our womb or the womb itself, in order to fulfill these “womanly” duties. But to them, it’s just a waste of those "child-bearing hips" passed down from generations past.
In her time, Sojourner Truth asked: “Ain’t I a Woman?” in response to how her black skin categorized her differently than her white counterparts as if her body parts were any different other than a few shades of melanin. With her fervor, I ask the same question regarding myself and other women, no matter the color of their skin, who struggle with fertility, have lost the functionality of their womb, or only carry parts of a whole.
Ain’t I a woman? Ain't they, too?
Is my womanhood defined by my ability to produce another human, despite the fact I give birth daily? Doesn’t my ability to birth ideas, projects, even myself attribute to my womanhood, my femininity? Doesn’t my ability to nurture and care for others as a mentor, help plants grow, care for animals, and nature itself, attribute to my maternal instincts?
We are not defined by our physical ability to give birth. Such is a patriarchal view that should be discarded. Even some of our sisters in femininity adhere to these antiquated views. They gather in coffee clutches, exclusive sister circles, brunches, and the like making snide remarks and comparisons. Asserting their lives are more important than the woman who is unable to bear fruit. Judged by a struggle none of us asked to withstand. It’s time we let go of one of the one-sided definitions of femininity and rewrite our narrative. We are women whether we produce a physical or figurative “seed,” our wombs are worthy of the recognition and admiration of survival.
Ain't I a woman?
Yes, I am.