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The Expectation of Women to Have Children

Updated on March 16, 2015
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

"Motherhood" 1860s
"Motherhood" 1860s | Source

What defines womanhood? There are so many definitions. Woman is usually a label for an adult female or the stage when a girl enters puberty; however, what of the women who cannot procreate or do not want to? What then defines their womanhood? In my opinion, womanhood is about independence; whether emotional, financial or another form. Technically, when females enter puberty, they learn to take care of themselves, or they're supposed to. This prepares them for the steps that follow to reach independence up until the point they are entirely self-reliant.

Are you a fan of "Sex and the City?"

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Sex and the City

Along with the many gender topics discussed, Sex and the City has several episodes providing commentary on motherhood. Some characters want to be mothers, some aren't sure and some just don't want to, but seeing the different perspectives gives the audience an opportunity to see a diverse take on each issue, and perhaps come to an open-minded opinion on each one.

"Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" [S.4.Ep.11]

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) accidentally becomes pregnant after sleeping with Steve (David Eigenberg), and has to decide whether or not to have the baby. Each of her friends has an opinion about what she should do. What makes the episode interesting is its inclusion of two sides: Miranda considers abortion while Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is angry because she cannot conceive.

Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) admits to her friends that she had an abortion when she was in her 20's, after a one-night stand, but is afraid to tell her boyfriend Aidan (John Corbett) because she doesn't want his potential judgement. To her relief, he accepts her after she tells him. For women, the fear of how others will judge the decision not to have a child can be overwhelming because the response can go from unsupportive to violent.

"A Woman's Right to Shoes" [S.6.Ep.9]

Carrie's friend Kyra (Tatum O'Neil) invites her to a party to celebrate her new baby, but requires all guests to leave their shoes at the door. By the end of the night, Carrie's shoes have been stolen. When she confronts Kyra, the price is considered too crazy to be repaid. Kyra's reasoning is that Carrie's choice to spend so much on shoes is unacceptable, but the amount of money it takes to raise a child is justifiable.

One common parenting debate is if it's more important to have children or to be capable of affording them. While most agree nothing fully prepares someone for parenthood, it can be dangerous for the child(ren) not to have the necessities to survive due to cost; therefore, a childless woman should not be scorned for refusing to add another person to her bills if she doesn't want them.

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"Catch-38" [S.6.Ep.15]

Carrie is dating Aleksandr (Mikhail Baryshnikov) and she questions if she wants children, down the road; unfortunately, her new boyfriend has a child, and had a vasectomy because he doesn't want another. Her age plus the early stage of the relationship makes her insecure. The uncertainty of her future makes her anxious because of how women are perceived when they may or do want children. The biological clock makes women out to be desperate and unconcerned with the needs of the man, creating imbalance; unless the man wants to procreate, too.

Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is diagnosed with breast cancer and when she asks the doctor how it happened to her, he tells her one of the findings in research has been women without children. As a man, this may seem like nothing more than a statistic, but to a woman who has chosen not to have children, it is an insult. It makes the choice not to have children punishable by inevitable medical problems. In reality, the two are not linked.

Sex and the City 2

In Sex and the City 2 Carrie's marriage seems to be on solid ground, but she is confronted by a fan who questions why she and her husband John (Chris Noth) are not planning to have children. Even with Carrie's success as an author who married the love of her life, other women invalidate her happiness with the same gender-biased inquiry. Had someone examined John's life, they would not likely ask when he plans to have children, as though there is something missing.

"This continually is said about me: that I was so career-driven and focused on myself; that I don't want to be a mother, and how selfish that is."

- Jennifer Aniston, Allure Magazine

What do you think of Aniston's response?

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Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston is the subject of an article that focuses on her lack of motherhood. When interviewed by Allure Magazine for their January 2015 issue on the topic, her response is brilliantly formulated, and addresses the gendered expectation for women to be mothers, while men are rarely asked if they will be fathers. A woman may have it all, but if she hasn't given birth, her life is considered incomplete. Like in the Sex and the City episode A Woman's Right to Shoes, her life is invalidated, and she is looked upon as selfish for spending money on herself rather than on a child she doesn't even have.

Shows such as Sex and the City are there to encourage people's minds to think twice and to be there for those with unpopular opinions who need to feel their thoughts still matter. Whether a viewer is pro-choice or pro-life, whether they define womanhood by puberty or by giving birth, hopefully the characters with an opposing opinion can deepen our own understanding of each situation when faced with it in real life.

© 2015 social thoughts


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