Posted in Blogging, Bullying, Childless by Choice, Weight

Never having given birth doesn’t make me any less of a real woman…

Or: So, if I don’t have kids, I should be ashamed of my stretch marks?

 

There’s a quote that floats around Facebook that has always bothered me, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out exactly why. This is the quote:

tiger stripes

The last couple of days though, it hit me. It talks about having earned her stripes, like through pregnancy. And pretty much every time that I’ve seen this shared it’s always accompanied by something being said about how women should be proud of the “tiger stripes” they earned while they were carried another human being inside of them. Or women talking about how they earned their stretch marks through carrying all of their beautiful children and that they are so proud of that and that they wear them as a badge of honor.

I’m all for women feeling better about their bodies, and I have nothing against women being proud of being a mother.

What bothers me about this quote is how it makes me feel as woman who has never had kids and yet has stretch marks. Because what’s implied in this quote is that if my stretch marks weren’t earned via pregnancy I should be ashamed of them and that I am less of a woman because I am not a mother. I do not feel like I am meant to be included with the women who are supposed to feel better about their stretch marks. Because having earned my stretch marks through weight gain and loss is not something that is exactly celebrated in society.

I feel like this is kind of like the “real women have curves” type things that have been going around, and that I have myself shared in the past. I recently realized that if an “inspirational quote” is attempting to make one group of people feel better about themselves while shaming another group of people, it’s plain and simple bullying. I have stopped sharing things that might make other people feel worse about themselves because they don’t fit into what was described.

It feels like there’s a competition as to who is a “real woman”. There’s no reason why it should be a competition. What should it matter if a woman has given birth or not? If you identify as a woman, then you are a woman. No matter what shape or size you are. Or what gender it might say on your birth certificate for that matter. You don’t have to look a certain way or be a mother to be a “real woman”.

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8 thoughts on “Never having given birth doesn’t make me any less of a real woman…

  1. Woah. This gave me complete pause for thought I particularly like the idea of eschewing ‘social competition’ altogether – that we can be inspired and inspire others without attempting to stand on the heads of other groups. Well written. Thanks for the brain bulb!

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  2. Love this! I HAVE earned stripes from carrying my four kids, but that certainly isn’t the only way they’re earned! And my pregnancies can only account for the stretch marks on my stomach. (The ones on my butt, I’m pretty sure, are from my incredible ability to eat fast food with reckless abandon… Haha!) No, but in all seriousness, my pregnancy stretch marks are symbolic for me, and yes, they are reminders of my children, but having babies is not the only thing that defines us as women, nor is it the only valid reason to be proud of our stretch marks! The ones on our hips, are because we are round, and goddess like, the ones on our breasts, are because our ample bosoms are raw symbols of our femininity, just to state a few examples. Our stretch marks represent our struggles as women, the growth of our bodies and our blossoming into womanhood; and the definition of what it is that makes us women is vast and boundless… Be we thick or thin, stretch marks are the lasting souvenirs of changes in our lives, our bodies, and should never be seen as a source of shame… Even the fast food ones!!! 😉

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    1. I think it was the implied assumption that stretch marks only come from pregnancy that bugged me the most. I honestly think that with a lot of these memes that are meant to be empowering to women the people that come up with them have good intentions, but they seem to lose sight of the fact that not all women are the same or have the same experiences. That things that might be empowering to some women might only be the cause of more shame and pain for others. I’m all for empowering women, I just think that we need to be smarter about how we go about it.
      And you are right, stretch marks, or any other “flaw” that women are taught that they should be ashamed of, are not anything to be ashamed of at all. No matter how they were earned.
      Thank you for commenting. 🙂

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  3. Yes! I totally agree with what you’re saying. As a woman with no biological children but with two wonderful step children, I also feel a bit left out of the “woman = mommy” phenomenon (trust me – step-parents are just as excluded as non-parents in these internet memes!). All of our experiences as woman should be equal and I applaud you for translating yours into a lesson in treating others with kindness. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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    1. There are plenty of ways to empower or celebrate women without making others feel left out and it’s really unfortunate that they aren’t used more. I’m sorry to hear that you too have been made to feel left out or “less than” because of the narrow ways that womanhood is defined a lot of the time.
      Thank you for commenting. 🙂

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