Childbirth from Eve to Trump, a Labor of Love or a Labor of Oppression
A critique on childbirth that exposes the power of the female body and explains how this power is manipulated and twisted against her.
Lysistrata as Food for Thought
The women in the anti-war play Lysistrata enforce a successful sex strike in order to stop the senseless violence and wars that are constantly perpetuated by their men. By refusing sex, these women denied the men of all sexual pleasure. The women acted in solidarity and held each other accountable, so that for once, there voice could be heard. The intense and humorous effects of this impenetrable denial is consistently conveyed through blatant references to the male genitalia. While this play objectifies men and the uselessness of their protrusions, it accentuates the inner power of the female reproductive system. This is not just to say that women can merely control the present generation of men with their vaginas, but that they can also control the future because of their uteruses.
One key fact slipped into the mix of all of the raunchy humor, is that the biology of women provides a kitchen and bed for the children, which in Lysistrata’s case ends up developing the next generation of warriors. By withholding sex then, the women consequently assume power because they no longer support the male tradition of systemic conquest, domination and oppression. Whether those initial conquests be the wars fought between men or the domestic battles fought between the man and woman, men always come out as the victor. This is because of the patriarchal structure of society, which has most clearly imposed itself since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of time according to the Bible; a book that itself acts as an example of male authority.
However, if women stop providing potential male dominators in the painfully delivered form of harmless baby boys, women can dictate the new structure, whether it be a system of equality or one beyond equality. Ultimately, with Lysistrata in mind, it begs the question; why do women in this generation who are still being subjected and oppressed by male expectations choose to bare children?
If we look back at the beginning, the book of Genesis declares the fall of humanity and its punishment. Importantly, as the story goes, this stumble into everlasting sin was caused by Eve. She was the one who listened to the serpent, ate from the Tree of Knowledge, and shared with Adam. For Eve’s punishment, God not only made it so that Eve’s existence was centered on the pain of childbirth, but also that her only desire would be her husband and that he would “rule” over her.
Eve is not just one person though, she is womankind. Her burden is every woman’s burden. Women are the one’s who come with the parts and have to deliver the baby, a delivery that exceeds the maximum amount of pain a person is supposed to handle. The obligation to her husband, Adam, then also means that all women are divinely commanded to be submissive to man and must focus on aiming to please mankind.
This Bible is at the heart of the Christian religion, and though it declares God’s word, it was undoubtedly written by man, or men I should say. The rhetoric of the Genesis story clearly outlines the male agenda of domination and creates a mechanism for it to be pursued; that mechanism being the desire for man that women were damned with, which physically culminates in pregnancy and childbearing. The fact that it was Eve who started all of the trouble acts as justification for why men must take the lead. If not for male leadership, it is implied that women would constantly falter and manipulate. This assumption can be exploited by all men, believe it or not, turning Eve’s punishment into the blood flow of the patriarchal systems that pumps back and forth excuses as to why women are stereotyped as manipulators that simply cannot and must not be equal.
Childbirth is Oppression
So now that we have established the innate biological power women have over men, and the negative pretenses that have been asserted about women, we can now examine why, even though women have gained rights throughout history, women still play by men’s rules. It is because childbirth is indeed a labor of oppression that is socialized as a means of love.
In reality, childbirth comes with a division of labor and it is this division of labor that sets up the system of oppression. Oppression is best explained as a cage with its bars forged by social rules and laws that confine and limit one’s potential. Because of woman’s biological capability, men argue that having and caring for children is a woman’s responsibility and that it is his responsibility to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table. Thus, the women are caged in the home by their domestic responsibilities, while the men are out free. The child becomes an anchor strapped to women which confines women to the home and limits their potential; even though women have gained more freedoms throughout the 20th century, the stereotypes and wage gap still clearly asserts that their place is best back in the home, rather than the career field.
Women are purposely socialized as motherly and nurturing, which are just euphemisms for weak. Girls grow up playing with dolls to prepare for having to one day act like one, and play with baby dolls to literally practice for their most important future career. Disney and the idea of a princess needing her prince perfectly feedback in to the biblical narrative. Beauty and the Beast is a particularly special example because it literally romanticizes falling in love with our oppressors; and we girls unknowingly and whole-heartedly accept this as a perfectly good example of love. Beauty and the Beast is all 3 of my roommates favorite Disney movie, which helps explain why there is so much demand and hype for the new live version coming out in March. Love becomes the center of explanation in all of our social practices, however, we do not have a clear definition of love. Thus, I contend that love is just an abstract excuse used to explain irrational actions, making it easier for all people to be manipulated.
Young girls are socialized so intensely into this loving and motherly role that having kids becomes an expectation. I recently went to my sister’s Christmas party and we were talking with her boss’s wife about having kids. My sister had just started her family and was telling the wife how she wanted to have at least 2 more kids. The wife, whose kids are now full blown adults, then told her that while raising the kids will be hard work, it will be plenty worth it. She then went on to reminisce and romanticize all of the special moments in her own kids’ lives. Finally, she turned to me and asked how many kids I wanted. I simply and firmly answered “none.” However, she refused not accept my answer. She then asserted that she could see it in my eyes that I was going make a great mother. She said it as a fact, as if I had no choice in the matter.
This came from a women who I had never met until 5 minutes before that conversation and yet here she was, laying out my life for me; this stirred a rage in me that I had never felt before. I tried explaining that though I am only 19, I have carefully thought this decision through and have based it off of many reasons, reasons not likely to change. However, she completely disregarded my free will and capability to think as a rational human being and kept arguing, “you say that now,” and “you will change your mind.” Every time she would say these things, I just wanted to scream, “NO!” I did not though, I kept my composure only because I did not want to get my sister fired.
Trump as a Reminder and Call to Action
The most sickening thing of this all is that this harsh denial of my right to my own body came from a woman. Trump’s election and push to defund Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services is just another example of how women are denied the right to their own body. Whether this denial comes from our socialization or in the form of legislation, either is a direct imposition on women’s rights because it forcibly presses women into the confines of motherhood. We as women need to recognize that we are responsible for the next generation; whether we want to birth one or not. Women have power, we merely need to exercise it. Maybe a sex strike is necessary. Why continue a lifeline of oppression where your son will oppress your daughter, just because of the nature of the social system? Though a sex strike may sound extreme, it will effectively reclaim the woman body, enforcing that as long as pregnancy is a possibility of sex, and abortions are banned, we will refuse to participate in the continuation of male conquest, domination, and oppression.