How Womb Envy Has Caused Men to Control Women’s Bodies
Everything Freud wrote about “penis envy” turned right side up
Women are strong. So much so, that it can be argued Sigmund Freud was terrified of the capabilities women possess. Freud wrote extensively on how girls have “penis envy” and wish that they had a penis and the power it represents. I don’t believe penis envy is what Freud described it as. Instead, it has become less of a desire to have a penis, but rather to have the power associated with being a man. At the same time, Freud refused to acknowledge how much power women have in being women. Women can get pregnant, carry a child in their womb for 9 months, and typically have all the necessary tools to nurture and raise her child, such as breast feeding her child. Men are envious of women for that very reason, they do not have the power to create life, and thus the term womb envy was created.
Womb Envy Vs. Penis Envy
The term womb envy was created by psychoanalyst Karen Horney. She believed that Freud did not address the different places in society that men and women have. She argued that women were not envious for a penis they would never be able to have, but instead envied men for their power in society. The power dynamics between men and women is taught to children at a young age, so it is no unusual event that little girls would be jealous of boys their age. Horney came up with the idea of womb envy in contrast to Freud’s penis envy. She believed that womb envy arises when men realize that they are not as in control and powerful in their lives as they had originally thought they were. Gayatri Spivak also addresses womb envy and how Freud ignored the capabilities of a woman. The term womb envy also extends to describe the envy men can feel because they are unable to perform the same biological functions as women are, such as pregnancy, giving birth, and breast feeding.
Many women find it fulfilling to create new life and take pride in the abilities to raise children. Men are unable to get pregnant so in turn they seek similar fulfillment in areas outside of the home, such as high position jobs and being promiscuous. Womb envy may be one of the main reasons that males deny women equal rights, demonize the female body and sexuality, have blamed women for the downfall of society, and explain why men are so obsessed with controlling women’s reproductive health and abortion. Why are men so obsessed with controlling a women’s reproductive system?
A Hidden Inferiority Complex
Men controlling women is nothing new. It has been happening for centuries and womb envy might be the best explanation as to why it has never stopped. Think about the ancient empires, as well as some current nations, who practiced primogeniture. Primogeniture is the ruler’s right of succession belonging to the eldest son. Without women to bear the child, there would never have been an eldest son to pass the succession onto. Men were subconsciously jealous of the woman’s ability to create new life. Without the women in their lives the rulers of these great empires would never have been born and would never have been able to pass on their lineage.
An example of womb envy in history is King Henry VIII and how he executed his wife Anne Boleyn for failing to give birth to a son. He needed a son to pass on his power to, but was unable to do so without a woman to get pregnant and birth the child for him. I’m sure he would have done it himself if he could, but he had to rely on a woman’s power in order to get a son. While women do all the heavy duty work and carry the baby for nine months, little did Henry know it was his sperm that determines whether the child becomes male or female, but sure, put all the blame on Anne.
Relying so heavily on a woman to birth an heir to the throne must have really made men envious and scared. Women had the capability to produce the next generation of workers, soldiers, and kings. Men became so envious in fact, that they began to overcompensate by seeking more power and seeking out affairs. Additionally, many laws men wrote state that they can marry as many women as they want, but a woman is only allowed to have one husband. Many of these laws included how the husband could divorce or kill his wife if she didn’t perform her “wifely duties.”
With Donald Trump being the current President of the United States, many women are worried that what limited reproductive rights they currently have may be taken away altogether. Planned Parenthood caters to women of all different walks of life by providing them easy access to birth control methods, STD and cancer screenings, and even abortions, but men continue to fight to take these rights away. Vice President Mike Pence actively sponsors bills against Planned Parenthood and actually inadvertently caused an HIV outbreak in Indiana. He’s voted against fair pay for women and minorities and has said that condoms don’t prevent STDs and pregnancy. Wow. Seems like Pence has a bit of womb envy. Why else would a man so actively fight against women’s reproductive rights? Pence is terrified of the power women are capable of having and wants to control as much of that as he can. Many other white men continue to boycott and protest outside of Planned Parenthood centers and a white man in Colorado Springs wounded 9 people and killed 3 when he shot up a Planned Parenthood in 2015. The only positive of the Pence situation is people all over the US gave over 82,000 donations to Planned Parenthood that were signed in Pence’s name. Thanks, Pence.
Many movies have also addressed womb envy. An interesting couple of lines comes from the movie Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979). The character Stan wishes to become a woman named Loretta.
Stan: I want to have babies.
Reg: You want to have babies?!?!
Stan: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
Reg: But … you can’t HAVE babies!
Stan: Don’t you oppress me!
Reg: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the fetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box?
While these few lines probably went over a majority of viewers heads, it holds an important message: Men are envious of women. The character Stan wants to have babies of his own, not with another woman. He wants to be a woman named Loretta and have a baby because “it’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.” This is probably the same thought process of other men who have womb envy and take out the jealousy through acts of control.
The 1994 film “Junior” also addressed womb envy in a comedic way. Male character Alex Hesse agrees to undergo a male pregnancy “in the name of science.” His actions become more feminine while pregnant, he talks randomly about wanting naps, walks, and massages, and experiences other typical symptoms normal of a pregnancy. While the film is considered a comedy, it hints at many instances where a man is envious of women. I mean, they wrote an entire film on a man being pregnant and giving birth, sounds like some kind of hidden desire to have the same womb capabilities as women!
Womb envy can show itself in many different ways among men in current times. It’s common to hear a husband say “we’re pregnant!” when announcing that his wife is the one that’s actually going to be pregnant. This is womb envy because instead of announcing that his wife is pregnant and going to have a child, he has to make the situation include him by saying “we.” It shows both possessiveness and control, as well as a need to be included in the pregnancy when in reality he only plays a small role in the reproductive process.
Men also get extremely uncomfortable when women breast feed their children around them in public (and sometimes even private) spaces. Men are usually totally okay with over-sexualizing female breasts, but god forbid a woman uses them to feed her child. One white man can be seen in this video absolutely fuming that a mother is breastfeeding her child at Target. This is womb envy because it isn’t something that men can do. They feel inferior to women and it makes them desire to control the female body as much as they possibly can. They even ban mothers from breastfeeding their children inside of Victoria’s Secret stores, a shop that sells intimate underwear and bras! One store employee told a mother to go outside into the alley to feed her baby. As long as men have womb envy, they will continue to try and dominate women’s lives and reproductive systems.
“If men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be like Starbucks — there would be two on every block, four in every airport, and the morning-after pill would come in different flavors like sea salt and cool ranch.” -Nasim Pedrad, SNL