For many many centuries our bodies have been objectified, used and manipulated in the benefit of those who know how to take advantage of them. Never on our own benefit. For centuries women have been trapped in a holy and unrealistic representation, very far from the reality of what being a woman means. What even is to be a woman?
Defining what it means to be a woman, in my opinion, is impossible. I believe it is a definition that depends on every individual woman that exists in this world. And it is not what I’m here for anyways. If we can’t define womanhood, how can we define motherhood? The concept has been so used and abused that we can barely make sense of it anymore.
The theory is very easy. You give birth, you have a child, you become a mother. But the implications behind it go way beyond this simple explanation. Why do we, women, still have to give up on motherhood in case we want to pursue a career? Why is it wrong to make that decision? Why is it wrong to decide to stay home and take care of your children?
I have recently been investigating the concept of motherhood in Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf. That’s a long time ago. There wasn’t a solution then, and now, over a hundred years after her death, we haven’t quite found one yet. Women still struggle to conceal work and family, but why? And why is it always us that have to make the sacrifice?
I believe, as Virginia herself did, the problem is in the spheres. Think of everything that happens outside the house as a public sphere. Primarily your job, but any form of political voice, decision-making power, access to education. We were late to the party of all public sphere accesses.
Now if there is a public there has to be a private sphere. This one is slightly easier to understand. Anything that has to do with the privacy of a household belongs in the private sphere. Ironing, cooking, cleaning… all those things that we automatically associate with the female sex. Motherhood is amongst them.
Why is it problematic to define motherhood through the privacy of the home? You don’t give birth at work, do you? You don’t raise your children at work either. There are no children in parliament. We were locked inside a house for centuries. With no access to information, no access to decision-making, and with no power over our own bodies.
Motherhood still only belongs in the private sphere; at home. And we can’t bring it to work and to parliament because those spaces have always been defined by masculine values. And regardless what you think of motherhood, it is not a masculine value. This is the problem.
Motherhood does not belong in the public sphere. Why? Is my question. According to Virginia Woolf it is because all these public spaces have always been masculine; women had to copy masculine behaviours in order to move away from domesticity, we stepped out of the “comfort” of the kitchen and jumped into a world of frivolity dressed in suits.
We were thirsty for a voice, we wanted to make our own choices, and so we did. But we still live with one foot in each sphere. We follow certain masculine requirements to fit the public sphere, to be able to have a place in a space that was not built for us. But no matter how hard we want to take a step forward, there’s always some sort of magical energy that keeps pushing us back.
We, women, have stepped into the public sphere. But men have not stepped out of the comfort of their parliaments to give us a hand in the kitchen. The distinction between the spaces is too gendered. These things are masculine and this things are feminine. We had the need to fit the masculine values, and we still do, in order to be modern human beings who can sustain themselves. But nobody wants the kitchen.
The forgotten kitchen. That’s, I believe, where the problem lies. Nobody has had the need to step into the kitchen. In a capitalistic world where only what gives you money is an ultimate necessity, very few men have had the obligation to step into the kitchen. They already had access to all the comforts of capitalism, why turn their back on them?
We need to reinvent our spaces. Until we do, women will always have to bear the weight of the kitchen in their shoulders. And a kitchen is too heavy if you want to conquer a kitchen-free world.