unmarked territory

by rantywoman

Women talk to women about babies. It is the all-purpose icebreaker, the way women mark territory and establish their identity. I can’t recall how many times I have been seated on the dais with other women, preparing to talk about female empowerment or human rights or economic development in Africa. Within five minutes of arrival, though, before the microphones go on and the public conversation begins, we are all talking about kids. “You have children?” “Yeah.” “Me, too. How many?” Just like those infernal forms in the doctor’s office. Number of children. Number of pregnancies. And so forth.

You might have thought that this would have changed by now, that once women had joined the Senate and piloted fighter planes, their status as mothers would have become less relevant. But it hasn’t. Despite what feminists of all stripes had desperately hoped, once women become mothers, they are still largely defined– both by others and by themselves– by the children they bear.

— Debora L. Spar, Wonder Women, p. 145