Friday, October 4, 2013
Pregnant Femininity: Part I
I have always been fit and strong and I am wholly unused to needing as much help as I have lately. Yesterday Justin had to buckle my shoes for me...just couldn't get the right angle. It is taking pregnancy to realize just how different life is without the confidence that fitness brings...I don't like it.
The other day I was on a (short and very slow) run around the block when I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. A road worker was pulled to the side, doing some routine maintenance on the sidewalk. Whether pregnant or no I always take notice of these things out of caution. Normally I would note that the man was rather large and that there was not anyone else along the road if the man ended up being malicious. I would then note the height of the nearest fence, calculate how much speed I would need to get myself over that fence, and generally plan an escape with confidence that I could handle the situation.
Being pregnant , however, left me feeling extremely vulnerable. Let me put it this way...there is NO WAY I could hop a fence right now. I think I could run fast for a few seconds, but I doubted having the upper hand in a footrace.
Obviously the road worker was just your average road worker, out doing his job and not bothering anyone, but this experience has taught me a little bit about my own femininity.
In one of my college classes, my professor challenged us to really think about the history of female inequality from a cultural perspective. The first question you ask yourself when you start thinking along this vein is "Why/How is it that this form of inequality is present across history and culture" or " Why is it that so many cultures, historically and presently, have defined gender roles which typically favor males with dominant power?" In class we brought up the most obvious reason-that there are inherent biological differences which might lend to this progression. Our teacher challenged our thinking by asking if it were possible that those biological differences could possibly be a result of the gender role itself.
In other words, my original reasoning for the prevalence of male-dominant/ female-indominant gender roles went something like this ..." well women tend to be physically smaller than males which might explain why , cross culturally males hold power--since males would usually be able to physically threaten or protect their female counterparts." to which my teacher was asking "is it possible that women are smaller because men have taken on that role for thousands of years, and that that adaptation is a result of culture?"
I thought about what she said, and came to a sort of mixed conclusion. While it seemed more logical to me that biology begat culture in this case, I did ask myself why I felt a cultural pressure to follow certain gender expectations when I was just as physically capable as many men (with mental capacity being a given).
Pre-pregnant me needed little physical help. Sure I might ask Justin to get something down from the cupboard or open a jar but of course both of these tasks involve man-made objects that could be altered to better fit me. Pregnant me can't even get herself up if she trips over the dog (at least not easily anyway)...yeah that happened.
Despite my professor's thoughts on cultural influences on biological norms, there is one distinct biological fact which can not be blamed on culture. It's the women who get pregnant. ( After all that is the one difference we base this whole separation on right?) Pregnancy means a certain level of physical ( and let's not deny it-emotional) vulnerability and dependence. And with that vulnerability (that realization that in a very basic way I most certainly am NOT built for the same things as men, that I might need to rely physically on my husband throughout our child-bearing life) comes the sweet realization of a feminine sense of purpose...which I will save for part two. ;)
*Note-Obviously a pregnant women can and should get the help she needs from other women as well, my point is that the existence of the vulnerability itself is a uniquely female circumstance.