#WomanCentered: JEN MARGULIES

#WomanCentered is an independent project by conceptual artist and community organizer, Natasha Marin. Inspired by Women at the Center, a project created with support from the United Nations Foundation Universal Access Project. This series of interviews seeks to tell the inspiring, interconnected stories of women’s reproductive health, rights, and empowerment.

Jen Margulies of Austin, Texas.

How has having or not having children affected the overall trajectory of your life?

Having a child has completely reshaped the trajectory of my life. I was 36 when our daughter was born, and already mid-career (maybe late-career) after working in the nonprofit domestic violence movement since the early 90s. Due to factors in my partner’s career, we ended up relocating for three years just after the birth of our child. My former job was open when we returned, but suddenly I couldn’t tear myself away from my small companion to go back to running a team at a statewide organization. Committing to being away from my daughter 40+ hours a week, plus travel, was ultimately unfathomable.

Instead, I worked evenings (and often though the night) as a consultant and freelance grant writer for nonprofits. As she’s gotten a bit older and headed off to kindergarten, I’ve continued to work this way, though now mostly in the daylight hours. I appreciate the flexibility, but it’s been a process learning how to structure this new job.

As of yet, I haven’t figured out a way to make space for my own creative work, which has largely lain fallow for the past six years.

Do you feel pressure to fulfill an idea of womanhood that may/may not correspond to who you actually are? If so, please describe.

The Woman Whose House Is Clean, The Woman Who Makes a Delicious Contribution to Every Potluck, The Woman Who Does Meaningful Professional Work, The Woman Whose Clients Don’t Even Know She Has a Child, The Woman Who Goes Out and Has Fun, The Woman Who Thoughtfully Keeps Up with Her Friends, The Woman Who Speaks Kindly to Everyone in Her Family, The Woman Who Makes Art, The Woman Who Is Involved in Local Politics, The Woman Who Is A 100% Social Justice Warrior, The Woman Whose Every Step Follows the Path of Her Highest Intentions … on any given day, I want to be or flee from any or all of those women.

Do you have advice for other women regarding birth control methods that worked well or didn’t work well for you?

Lesbianism is the only birth control I’ve ever used, and I’ve found it to be a fail-proof method. However, I understand that it isn’t for everyone.

In 2016, openly discussing one’s reproductive choices is still considered taboo, why do you suppose more women aren’t having these conversations?

Being a dyke didn’t get me out of the question of reproductive choices, now that more and more queer people are having families. I think it’s incredibly hard to talk — maybe even to think and feel — clearly and openly about decisions that are so heavily mediated by social forces. There is so much pressure on women to want children that even the choice to reproduce or not, much less to carry a pregnancy to term or not, becomes a difficult matter to discuss without heat.

I think the expectation that women will have children, the sense that child-bearing is inevitable, creates a norm that can be strong enough to shut down open, respectful conversation — and to muddy our thinking sometimes. (Do I want this? Or is it that I think I should want this?)

Where are you on the continuum of self-love? On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being Kanye West), how much do you love yourself and how do you reinforce and/or improve this?

Okay, self-love — truth be told, I love myself terribly conditionally. I feel self-love most when I feel proud of myself. That is to say, I can tell you that I love myself when I’m doing my best, achieving my highest, impressing myself. I give myself the kind of love I’d be horrified to give my child, the kind that must be earned and re-earned. What number is that?

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some vital information or critical education about your body, your overall wellness, or your reproductive health, what your advice be?

If I were to go back and talk to my younger self about my body, I don’t know that I’d have advice to offer. Rather, I would tell myself thank you.

Thank you for foregrounding pleasure. Thank you for always loving food. Thank you for learning to love running, for doing yoga, for swimming lazy laps of backstroke for hours. Thank you for making me happy and strong in this body.

But when it comes to overall wellness, I’d have advice. I would tell myself to put more trust my own goodness. I made a lot of choices early on that led me away from my most direct paths to fulfillment, because I thought that considering my own fulfillment first was selfish. It would be amazing to see how my life would have unfolded if I’d trusted my own happiness.
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