March 7, 2023

Muddling of Gender Distinctions Has Found Previously Sacred Ground

The act of giving life is the woman’s alone.

In the last few years, it has become common to see people put their pronouns in their email sign-offs, and to hear the phrase “gender fluid.”

When I was growing up, “gender fluid” was something you were more likely to read about in a pornographic magazine than in polite conversation.

But that conversation has changed, radically, and it is now perfectly normal to have discussions about 12-year-olds who want full mastectomies, and grown biological men demanding entrance to the girls’ locker room.

And then, of course, there is Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who lectures the rest of us on how important it is to “affirm” a young child’s gender preference.

Talking about gender transition surgery for children and adolescents makes me angry. Calling Rachel Levine the highest-ranking “female” in the history of the Department of Health makes me angry.

The reason these things make me angry is that it appears that women are being erased under the guise of tolerance and compassion.

At the risk of wading into J.K. Rowling territory here, it is troubling that the attributes of womanhood are being stolen from us in a societal effort to give comfort and legitimacy to a very loud, very distinct minority of people who for whatever reason are uncomfortable in the bodies God and biology bequeathed to them.

But there’s a large issue at play impacting the way we think about the role of women in society.

The other day, I was watching Perry Mason on a loop, and a commercial popped up featuring a young man sitting on a sofa next to presumably his lovely wife, who said, “we are pregnant.”

It’s not as bad as a nonbinary person using the plural “they” to refer to their single, unitary self, but it is a bit jarring whenever I see a man jump onto the pregnancy bandwagon.

I come from a generation where men drove their wives to the hospital, waited patiently in the waiting room reading magazines, and then bounded gleefully into the room after baby had been cleaned up and presented in all of his or her sweet, fluffy newness.

The day I was born, my father took my mom to the hospital, and then he paced, and he waited, and he prayed and waited some more, and he smoked, and then he paced and prayed and waited until finally, someone told him I was ready to be picked up.

My father’s story about my birth helped define the very distinct roles my parents played even from the beginning: My mother gave me life, my father gave me a home.

Of course they equally contributed to my happiness, providing love and shelter and guidelines and values, but there was no mistaking the unique roles each of them played from the first moments of my tender existence.

That’s what annoys me when I hear a couple talk about being pregnant.

“They” are not pregnant. They are “having a child” together, but the act of giving life is the woman’s alone. She is the one who vomits in the dark hours of the morning, she is the one with the swelling ankles, she is the one who feels the flutter of movement within her body, she is the one whose breasts swell with nourishment and discomfort, she is the one with the headaches and the cravings and the unrecognizable body.

The woman.

Men are an integral part of a child’s development, but they cannot be “pregnant.”

That fey little phrase is actually a dangerous erasure of the woman and a muddling of gender distinctions.

And that is why it upsets me to hear these otherwise innocuous things because they lead to bigger things like a society that believes a deputy secretary of health who was a woman for less than a third of her life should be lauded as “woman of the year.”

Or to put it another way, the correct pronouns for pregnancy are “she/her/deal with it.”

Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers

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