When Pregnancy Is the Only Time a Woman Is Treated as Powerful
Pregnant women feel empowered to ask for things they’d never dared — but they’re also told what to do more than ever
For many women, pregnancy is an honor — the canonization of a certain type of femininity. Often, it’s the only time society celebrates a woman, besides her wedding. There are baby showers. Pregnancy photos. Gifts. Special food. Special attention. People on the subway give up their seat for you. Men hold open doors. When I was six months pregnant with my daughter, I went on a trip to New York to visit the offices of the love and relationships website I was working for at the time. Everyone was so kind. Cabs pulled over for me. People moved out of my way. I joked with my boss that I could murder someone in Central Park and get away with it simply by pointing to my belly and shrugging.
The next time I was in New York, a year later and very unpregnant, I got shoved into the street. Pregnant, I had been special. Unpregnant, I was just another annoying white tourist who didn’t know how to navigate the subway.
Pregnancy is power. Our culture bestows esteem and honor upon women who conceive and carry children. Fawning over and fetishizing the rising tide of our bellies.
“Pregnancy is the first time in life I felt really important,” my neighbor Stephanie confesses. Stephanie is the mother of four children. She was an evangelical Christian, and she clung to that faith, which provided reassurance and structure to her life. But with each birth, she began to question the demands from her church that she submit to the authority of her husband and white male church leaders.
“When I saw what my body could do, what I could do,” she told me one day as we watched our children play together at the park, “I just woke up. I realized I knew what I needed more than any of those men.”
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