a little rant on biology

I was pondering privilege at the playground today and wondering if there is such a thing as male privilege, and if so what it is.  I concluded that it does exist and is overwhelmingly biological.  If a man wants to have genetic children, he can do so without going through pregnancy or delivery.  I realize that pregnancy affects people differently and that I struggled with it more than most, but still, what an incredible privilege.  My female readers, imagine being able to have a child without facing a C-section or an excruciating vaginal delivery.  Without facing the prospect of throwing up nearly daily for three months.  Imagine being the proud parent of two children without 18 months of weight gain and discomfort or pain and heartburn and acid reflux and so on.  Without having had to interrupt all your interests and hobbies and athletic activites.  I could go on, but you get the point.

Sometimes I ponder what it means to be a woman and whether I’m happy being a woman.  Usually I conclude that I’m not exactly sure what it means to be a woman, but whatever it is, I am very happy being female.  I wouldn’t want to be a man.  Except.  Except for the pregnancy part.  I can see trading genders merely to avoid that problem.

I was pondering today also the recommendation from the AAP that one breastfeed exclusively for six months.  Six months!  I did this with both my children, and I honestly can hardly believe it.  In black and white it seems crazy – that one should be the sole source of nutrition for another human, around the clock, for six months.  It is impossible to do such a thing without major disruption to one’s career and life.  Of course, many women use formula partially or entirely, but the fact remains that our government recommends breastfeeding.  Exclusively.  For six months.  When combined with the standard 12 weeks of maternity leave that is typical for professional women – and the even more meager benefits other women get – it’s crazy.  But I’m not sure it would be better if the government were to say give 6 months paid leave so that women could fulfill the AAP’s recommendation.  While I support more leave in the general sense, I’m not sure I support the government overtly forcing the issue of the six months of exclusive breastfeeding, especially since the evidence to support this (as opposed to some breastfeeding) is rather tenuous.

I realize that there is institutional sexism and various challenges women face, but for me personally, these pale in comparison to biology.  Yes, it was tough being the first female engineer at my company.  It was annoying being the only woman in my group for a decade and often feeling like I represent my entire gender when I open my mouth.  But, this is insignificant compared to the trial of pregnancy, childbirth, and around-the-clock breastfeeding.

5 thoughts on “a little rant on biology

  1. admin Post author

    You’re totally right, Daniel.

    But this brings me to the point I forgot to make. Many people talk about biology as the difference between the sexes as if it were insurmountable. The fact that death is a very rare occurrence in childbirth these days is evidence this is not so. And most of the problems I described above can be overcome by technology, and I am sure, if we do not nuke ourselves, will be in the centuries to come.

  2. Rosa

    Funny this topic has been quite on my mind lately. There are many times in the last month that I have wished pregnancy on Chris, just once, just for a week or so. One of the things that my friends and I notice is how easy it is for our husbands to socialize, work out, get time for themselves, etc which it is much harder for us when our children are young and generally need more of our attention, then say, their fathers. On the other hand, is it merely a social norm that we, as women, are upholding by not demanding the same sorts of expectations from our husbands? Chris spends much more of his time with G and spends more time at home than many of his peers; yet when we hang out with our friends and their families, the group inevitably splits into mothers with the kids and fathers socializing. Have you noticed this phenomenon as well?

  3. admin Post author

    Hey Rosa – given your latest blog, I’m not surprised this topic has been on your mind. I have noticed this happen, the socializing thing, but I’d say it’s not typical for us. Jonathan is better with kids than I am, and he spends less time with them, so he always seems to hang out with them when we’re out. But we are both a bit anti-social and tend to avoid parties. We’ll have dinner with one other family typically or something like that.

  4. Rosa

    You bring up a good point – I have not noticed this happening as much when we do dinner with another family, particularly if the family is one that comes from “my” social circle rather than Chris’.

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