Feminism and Fertility

My views on birth control somehow blissfully line up with the rest of my religion. This is a wonderful thing, but it almost certainly would not have happened for another 50 years were it not for the fact that my Church’s teachings lined up with my feminist views.

Wait, you think that feminism is synonymous with contraception and abortion? That liberating women means freeing us from our bodies, from ourselves?

Oh dear.

Feminism for me means refusing to accommodate men by being less of a person.

From my early teens I had only thought about how this applied to sex in terms of my mind. There was no way that I was going to separate my brain from my sexuality for the majority of guys who were interested in my body but not my mind. Holding true to this principle was easy because I was not sexually attracted unless I was intellectually attracted. Who wants someone to “buy me champagne, because they say that they admire my brain” when one can actually have both a sexual and intellectual connection?

But then I took a class on feminist philosophy during the same semester that I first really heard Catholic teaching on contraception. And I realized that separating my fertility from the rest of my sexuality was simply stupid in light of my goal of being uncompromisingly woman.

My sexuality is composed of my ability to be a mother as much as it is my ability to be a lover. Why should I insist on maintaining the unity of my mind and body, only to tear my sexuality apart and suppress half of it in order to please a potential lover?

I determined to live by a very simple rule: if I am fertile, and not desirous of pregnancy, then I do not engage in sexual intercourse.

It seems silly to others, after all, why not just suppress the fertility that I do not desire to use in order to engage in the pleasure that I do desire? The answer is that I do not want to use any part of myself. My fertility, just like my mind, is a part of who I am as a woman. It is not something which I engage or disengage as needed. I am not a mind which uses my body, nor a body which uses my mind. I am a person. And I refuse to be less of a person in order to accommodate men.

And that is why authentic feminism and fertility awareness are inseparable  for me.

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24 thoughts on “Feminism and Fertility

  1. Michelle

    This is great. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes I try to think back and imagine myself as that woman who was ok with suppressing her fertility…separating fertility from womanhood to try and figure out how to reach others. It’s difficult though. I can’t really seem to understand WHY I felt it was ok other than that I wasn’t AWARE of the disconnect. Nice post.

  2. Jenelle

    I love the connection to mind and body. I don’t think I have ever heard wholeness explained in that way before – it makes so much sense!

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  4. Rebecca

    I’m having trouble putting my thoughts into words. I agree completely. I had just never thought of it before. I’ve never been proud (or not proud really) of my womanhood. I just never really gave it much thought. Thank-you for this.

    1. Rae Post author

      I guess that one of the good things about growing up in an overly-gendered/restrictive subculture was that I never had the opportunity to not think about being female!

  5. Joy

    Fantastic post and defense of the idea that true power is insisting on being loved and value for who we are in our fullness, not seeking to control or even eliminate our fertility to appear more attractive. Well done.

    1. Rae Post author

      ” true power is insisting on being loved and valued for who we are in our fullness, not seeking to control or even eliminate our fertility to appear more attractive. ” Ah, so much more concise than my post! I like it. And thanks. :-)

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  7. Kathleen Quiring

    Absolutely fabulous. These ideas are still quite new to me, so I delight in learning more from you. I wish more women understood it this way.

    I wonder if I am the first Protestant in this discussion to say that I think this is wonderful and beautiful and true?? I always rather enjoy being the oddball :)

    1. Rae Post author

      I think that you’re right that you are the first Protestant! Thanks for your support, and I think that it is great that you can take the best from multiple traditions. :-)

  8. Rachel Harold

    This is an interesting facet on married love. Your clear exposition would be a good education for intelligent, open-minded and prayerful contracepting people. Though I wince a bit at the innate hostility that you build your argument on. Is there a need to defend ourselves from our husbands? Men are not the hunters and enemies that modern feminists make them out to be. Additionally, I would argue that a majority of women who are not married and using contraceptives are not after the pleasure of sex, but are trying to please a potential husband, so that she may get married and get off contraceptives.

    1. Rae Post author

      When writing this post I was thinking more generally of heterosexual sexual interactions and not of Catholic married love.

      I do not feel like I need defend myself against my husband because he is a great guy who genuinely loves all of me. I hope that someday all married women can feel the same way.

      I had to re-read the post to see what you meant about innate hostility as I certainly had not intended it. But as I reflect more, I think that maybe there should be *more* hostility. I live in a culture that suppresses women in the name of liberating them. Both men and women perpetuate a male-centric view that rejects the ideal state of natural health for women and seeks to suppress it with drugs. It is wonderful if you have been protected from that, but it is still reality for the vast majority of women with whom I interact. And I don’t typically *feel* any hostility, but now that I reflect on it more, I think that it might be right for me to be more angry and defensive about an issue which is so wrong and hurting so many people.

      Of course there are many women in many different situations and it is always dangerous to generalize. :-)

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