Feminism, marriage and motherhood can co-exist.
You do not have to have kids just because you are a woman. You are not defined by whether or not you choose to procreate, or get married. You are whole, all on your own, and no one has the right to tell you otherwise. In the same vein, you are not selling out, giving into societal pressure or not a feminist if you choose to have children. So, why does feminism sometimes feel so anti-motherhood? Feminism, by its very definition, is advocating for equal rights for women; it should be inclusive. But sometimes moms and those who are married get the feeling that they’re being left out of the conversation because of their life choices.
Everyday Feminism, the online platform committed to talking about and encouraging feminism daily, recently ran a post highlighting this ‘glitch in the system’: ‘if feminism truly is for everyone as much as we say, why do we so frequently talk about it at the expense of a very large group of women?’ says writer Nikita Redkar.
‘I’m talking about stay-at-home-moms and wives, who seem to be regularly excluded from the movement because of their willingness to place raising families and children over the pursuit of a career. The mainstream understanding of feminism seems to view women who choose to stay at home as catering to the patriarchy’s prescribed gender norms. We’re taught that to be radical is to not want children or a significant other –and sometimes to go as far as writing that desire off as utterly reprehensible. On the other hand, women who choose to focus on their careers, instead of prioritising family, are widely praised bastions of feminism who use their fierce independence and intelligence to contribute to academia, the GDP, literature, and any other traditionally male-dominated field you can think of.’
This is why there are women who feel that they have to choose – that they can’t be a feminist and a mother, as if the two are mutually exclusive.
‘Feminism is just an overused term. Women have been given these bodies to produce children… I don’t want to be a man. One day I look forward to making dinner for my husband and children. I don’t want to be a career feminist,’ said actress and model Lisa Haydon in an interview last year.
While I don’t agree with her sentiment, I understand how she came to the conclusion that she could not be both. But not all women who choose motherhood and marriage opt out of careers. Some of us are out here, trying to juggle it all, while still living with feminist morals and values – and I think for us, it stings that little bit more.
Nikita goes on to say: ‘I’ve met married women and stay at-home mothers who are independent and as invested in their passion and activism as women without a partner and/or kids. Their responsibilities at home don’t make them any less ambitious, any less aware of, or any less committed to feminism. The more time I’ve spent on the internet, the more I’ve realised how much not having children gets bedazzled to the point where it diminishes the feminism of women in different economic situations. Think about every article, listicle or tweet that champions chronic singleness at the expense of relationships or marriages. We’re constantly bombarded with (oft en humorous) internet jokes about loving pets while hating babies, why pizza is better than boys, etc. And as much as I love those memes and understand any joker’s need to cater to the underdog, I can’t help but feel a little bad for the women who do really, really love children. It’s unfair to believe they don’t respect themselves as women because of that.’
And while we’re on the topic of single (cat) ladies, there is a mother out there who has it all, does it all and says it all: Beyoncé; and even she came under fi re in 2013 when, in an interview with Garage magazine, she said ‘Out of everything I’ve accomplished, my proudest moment, hands-down, was when I gave birth to my daughter Blue.’ She was labelled by many as anti-feminist and criticised for putting motherhood above all of her other achievements. But, as so eloquently noted by Chaunie Brusie in an article for Babble, a news and lifestyle blog for mothers, ‘We have to remember that women are more than the children they bear and women do not have to have children to matter. But choosing motherhood proudly does not take anything away from feminism. Being proud to be a mother is allowed. Celebrating motherhood is allowed. Counting motherhood as a superpower is allowed. And in no feminist handbook is it written that “domestic achievement” is somehow less of an achievement than making the entire world’s collective jaw drop anytime you open your mouth.