Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Ladies, are we hypocrites? Following the defunding of Planned Parenthood, we were up in arms. There were protests in favor of defunding. There were protests against defunding. Of course, the epic pro-life versus pro-choice debate was alive and well. The word bodily autonomy came up frequently. As defined by UC Santa Barbara students, “bodily autonomy is defined as the right to self-governance over one’s own body without external influence or coercion.” - UC Santa Barbara
This definition brought me to the conclusion that we, ladies, are hypocrites. We talk a good game, and we demand that the patriarchy respect our bodily autonomy. We demand the right to date who we want and have sex with who we want. We want to plan our families and raise our children, unfettered by a male-dominated society's opinions and conventions. However, we do not even give each other this "right."
How many times have you gone to a social function, as a young, single woman, and have been subjected to conjecture regarding why you are still available? How many times have you been affronted with someone's unsolicited opinion about your personal reproductive choices? It sure does not feel like we are governing our bodies without influence or coercion. Everyone from our mothers to the US Government has an opinion on what we should be doing with our bodies. You would think that if anyone understands this struggle, it's us. Yet, the worst perpetrators of this violation are other women. So, ladies, it's time to get real. We have to make more of an effort to stop judging each other's personal life choices. Here are a couple of things we need to stop doing immediately, just to get us started.
Stop asking your single friends when they are going to start dating, get married...etc. It is not as weird as it seems. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are 110.6 million single people in the United States, and 53.2 percent are women. If you must know why: we are living longer and finding more ways to feel fulfilled. Millennials, especially, are choosing to remain single. Their generation redefined the way the world sees love. Because of Millennials, we are seeing gay and lesbian couples on television. We are also getting an in-depth, intimate look at transgender men and women and their fight for love and acceptance. We are compassionate and anti-bullying. We are learning different ways to love our neighbors, friends, and classmates. It is not surprising that this new and beautiful concept of love would extend to self-love.
Stop sharing your unsolicited opinion on other women’s family planning choices. This is one that just triggers an unreasonable amount of animosity within me. There is absolutely nothing that will end a conversation with me faster than sharing an opinion on other people’s reproductive choices. The topic is the women’s version of the Kobayashi Maru, disguised as a friendly cocktail conversation.
Who here is guilty of telling their friend, “So, when will you have a baby?” The other thing I hear often is, “when are you going to have another baby?” There is no right answer to this question. We cannot win if we do not want children. We are terrible parents if we let our child be an only child. If we have two, it should be a boy and a girl. Even then, there should be another boy, or girl, to keep the first boy, or girl, company. If you have two boys, it’s “when are you going have the girl?” If you have two girls, then it’s, “When will you have the boy?” God forbid you to have three children, then you have gone too far.
We need to stop looking at women that do not want children like they are some sort of monsters. They have a right to not want children without judgment. People remain childless for a multitude of reasons. However, the main reason you should keep your opinion to yourself is that sometimes your friend’s choice not to have children is not a choice at all. According to The Mayo Clinic, between 10-20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. While you may mean well with your jocular comments about babies, you may be rubbing salt in a fresh wound. She may be trying to process the unfathomable heartache of having a baby born in heaven, instead of in her arms. Sometimes, the reasons are as simple as not wanting to pass on a genetic disorder, or they just are not in a place financially to support a child. They could also just not be great with children, and that’s okay. It is not a secret signal for us to attempt to change their minds.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the women that have three children or more. We have all said or heard things like, “wow, you have your hands full,” or my personal favorite, “you’re done, right? Three is plenty. You don’t need any more kids.” Just like we have the right to not want children without judgment, we also have the right to want a football team without judgment. When it comes to other women and your family size choices, there is no satisfactory answer that you can provide, because it is subjective. Do what you like and let your friends and neighbors do the same.
We cannot demand bodily autonomy if we are not giving it to each other. So, before you go out there to fight the power for your bodily freedom, make sure you are fighting for it at home. Next time you see a young single woman at a party, do not ask her why she is not dating. Ask her what she’s been up to instead. When you attend dinner with your family, and you are asked when you will give them grandchildren, politely remind them of your bodily autonomy. Remind them why it’s not a good time for you to have children. You can also lean on their support if you are among those women that are infertile. Remember, ladies, we are our greatest allies, and change starts at home.
What are your thoughts on this? What is one thing that another woman has said to you that shocked you? Share your thoughts!