I was sitting in my Feminist Theory course – which only discusses the white woman’s viewpoint, but that’s something to discuss at another time – and as we were deconstructing the theories of radical-liberal and radical-cultural feminists, the topic of motherhood and reproduction arose. I’m not going to sit here and give you a history lesson on the issue but what I do want to do is pose the question: where do queer women of color fit in this discussion?
There are many layers to peel back when discussing reproduction but at the most fundamental level, women are seen as closer to nature for they mostly provide life and repopulate the Earth. In our androcentric society, however, women are seen as merely a means. Women are ultimately the vessels that men use to plant their seeds and ensure that their wealth and assets stay within the family, and their lineage continues.
Now take this black woman whose body ultimately does not belong to her due to the objectification of her parts. Black women are singled out for their “child-bearing hips” and their ample curves. Men (white men, primarily) historically have equated a black woman’s curvaceous body to having many healthy kids. But as the times press onward, and more and more women are having fewer to no children at all, that objectification for reproductive purposes turns into hypersexualization for carnal purposes. For queer women that do not fit the “real woman” mold of marrying and having kids, this becomes an acute problem.
Black women that either have nonfunctional reproductive organs, none at all, or are lesbian identified and opt never to bear children are seen as “damaged goods and are ostracized and devalued. As a result, these women are subjected to being victims of sex crimes. A childless woman is only uplifted since men see her as a sexual toy to play with over and over and not have to worry about the surprise of a kid. Lesbian women are vilified for they are seen as women that are going against the “real order.” The adversity lesbian women endure is a conflated mix of homophobia and sexism. As a trans* woman, I see and hear about men who use us like rag dolls because men feel that they can achieve their sexual pleasures and never have to worry about a kid. They sensationalize our bodies and treat us like blow up dolls to be used, tucked away, and reused over and over again for their sexual exploration.
Today, my doctor told me what I, at first, took as excellent news. I received her phone call and after hearing the words “your hormone levels are practically by the female range,” I jumped for joy, and the rush of euphoria invaded my body. But then I stopped and thought about the implications of the reality of the real progression and physical manifestation of my womanhood. I thought about years down the road and how men will continually objectify me as a blow-up doll because I cannot have children. I had a moment of self-hate for though my feminism doesn’t view reproduction as an essential focus of womanhood, at that moment, I felt like such a disgraceful woman. I’ve always been a woman, but now that my hormone levels reflect that yet I have no means of reproduction, I felt less than a woman defined. I have now entered this phase in my life where I am skeptical of any approaches by men because knowing I am unable to give them children; I am afraid that they will see me as that means of sexual exploration and here to fulfill their carnal desires. I know that a uterus doesn’t mean a damn thing, but these oppressive systems of cisnormativity and the nurturing archetype have me all discombobulated. Being inherently hypersexualized for walking with a black woman’s body, what extra layer of sexual scrutiny am I welcoming into my space as a black woman that cannot have children? What are the dangers of not being able to serve the reproductive function? I feel like I am simply a slave to patriarchy and my body has been claimed by all men at once. Penetration of my body of any man will cause me to question my significance or purpose as the receiving party. When I’m catcalled or sweet talked on the street, I question the intent since my organs do not serve a multi-purpose. Of course, I know my worth and know that these thoughts are ridiculous, but we never have spaces to discuss these concepts, and that can truly be detrimental to the self-esteem of many women.
Queer women of color that choose not to or cannot bear their children battle the double edged sword of not only having to deal with sexism and the stripping of their womanhood as being illegitimate, but they also then must battle patriarchy, the commodification of their bodies, and sex trafficking. I’m not saying that women who bear children do not, but I am addressing that queer women of color who do not or cannot do experience a higher risk of objectification and sensationalization. What changes is the means that men see women – we are now a means of climax; a means of sexual exploitation. We are now at higher risk of violence due to our decisions to control and redefine our bodies and its function. For these reasons, it’s so important that we as queer women of color have open discussions analyzing the intricacies and complexities of motherhood, reproduction, body politics, and our sexualities.