Cover image courtesy of Duvet Days.
So! Let’s talk wombs today.
I don’t think anybody reading this here is going to argue with the fact that the uterus is pretty fucking important. It’s a vital organ in the role of reproduction; back when populations were less resilient to things like warfare, disease, and famine, it was common practice to create various means of devotionals (sculptures, paintings, poems) for mythological fertility goddesses. In spiritual circles, the concept of the Divine Feminine often invokes imagery of a uterus, talking about how challenging this energy involves “receiving” and “creating” (think: Venus archetype!) Everyday language is also couched in metaphors relating to the uterus; even if you’re not birthing an actual human being, you can “birth” ideas. You can “nurture” your friends. You can “mother” yourself. So intertwined are these terms that we struggle to untangle the literal from the figurative.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been out here asking why we need to use these terms in a day and age where not all of us womb-owners want to use our uterus’ in the way society is keen for us to. Why refer to something I’m working on as “birthing” a project? Why say I’m “fertile” with ideas?
This way of speaking to and thinking about womb-owners used to cause me a lot of anxiety. These things didn’t bother me so much when I was younger because, no matter how much people around me asked if I wanted children, I knew where I stood. Like, no thank you, I really don’t fucking want them. But then I got older and society’s insistent needling of the question took root, no matter how much of a goblin I tried to be by hiding behind media and fictional ships. At 24, when I went to schedule my consultation with my gynecologist for sterilization, I felt relief, and then fear. The dreaded “what if you change your mind?” finally sank its claws into my neck and put me in a stranglehold. How could something I felt so sure of, something I knew I’ve wanted since I could speak, suddenly seem so unsure?
My answer: hinging femininity (and womanhood) on the status of our wombs.
As beautiful as the idea of “birthing” things is, the language we use when referring to the feminine ends up trapping womb owners in this catch-22. If you’re a woman but you don’t want children, are you really a woman? If you’re a woman but you had to get a hysterectomy or weren’t born with a womb, are you really a woman? And if you’re not a woman but have a womb, well, where the hell do you fit in to the conversation about your reproductive health since the language around it always insists womb = woman?
My first workaround to this problem used to be that I would just detach myself from such language (of course I don’t birth my goddamn ideas, ideas aren’t what come out of a uterus!) But it gets exhausting. In order to negate the terminology around me, I was also having to negate the fact that I have a womb, which just isn’t true. I have one and it’s still important for me to pay attention to it because it provides vital clues about my health every day. These days, I’ve managed to reach a compromise; it’s not perfect and it certainly won’t work for everybody, but this is just one idea I’ve come up with as a sterile, childfree woman who still has a uterus.
Instead of negating or distancing myself from the concept of #wombmagic, I’ve decided to tackle the concept head-on and accept it as a part of me. Instead of rejecting the Venus within, I embrace her in my own way, knowing that she exists for all femmes. Instead of letting intrusive thoughts gnaw at me because I can’t seemingly reconcile the fact that I am feminine but “barren,” I claim both at once. I’ve learned to avidly track my cycle and appreciate the days I’m ovulating more, not because I want to get pregnant, but because I still have cycles and well, let’s just be honest here: the effect ovulating has on your body feels amazing.
It’s also helped me to learn how to “take back” the language that used to make me feel alienated. Yes, I am fertile — with ideas on how to get my video series running. I do like to nurture — I nurture my friends by checking in on their emotional needs, and give their pets scratches behind the ears. I do enjoy receiving — messages from the spirit, gifts from loved ones, and yes, my boyfriend when he penetrates me.
Maybe it’s contradictory if the point is to deconstruct and move away from this language that unintentionally excludes some womb owner. I don’t think it has to be! Of course we shouldn’t let this language be seen as the only way we conceive (haha get it — conceive? I thought it was hilarious) of ourselves. I like to think we as a species are now equipped with enough scientific knowledge on how to accurately describe things like the menstrual cycle without using gendered terms, or talk about the lived experiences of women without reducing them down to the status of their uterus in the first place. We know too much now to rely on such reductionist ways of thinking.
But — and take this with a grain of salt as I am just one sex blogger with some opinions — I don’t think that needs to mean that we get abolish all of the figurative language if it helps other women and femmes overcome the anxiety of feeling like they don’t fit in. Reappropriation can be a powerful tool for turning negative, hurtful terminology on its head. Language isn’t static and our lexicon is ever-evolving.
The point I’m trying to make at the end of the day is: let the fucking womb holders decide how they’d like to refer to their uterus.
Let it be a beautiful goddamn metaphor if they want it to be because they don’t have one but are seeking their version of divine femininity.
Let it just be a means-to-an-end if they only need to track their reproductive health for practical purposes while they transition.
Let it be okay to have a uterus without placing the unspoken expectation that it must be used for it’s “intended purpose.”
Let it be what we’d like it to be.