Lately, it seems that every single television show takes any kind of woman and turns her into a mother. She can be a Playboy vamp, a stripper, an affected teenager, or a surgeon, but at some point in her fictitious or reality TV role as a woman leading a happily single existence while having a lot of sex, she gets the urge to have a baby. Becoming a mother has become vogue — the “in thing.”
Kendra, former Playboy bunny who had sex with Hugh Heffner voluntarily (gagging here), is now settled down and pregnant. Pink (who I adore because she’s such a rebellious punk), is pregnant. The Kardashian sisters are each filing away their sexual escapades and viral sex tapes and preparing for babies.
On a more fictitious level, Kate Walsh’s character in “Private Practice” just gave up a relationship because she wants a baby and he doesn’t, since he’s already been there and done that. In “House,” Lisa Edelstein’s character, after years of service as head of the hospital — a powerhouse of a woman who has to dress sexy in every episode, adopted a baby because she could no longer wait for House or any other man to give her one.
And then there are three mothers presently blossoming at “Grey’s Anatomy.” Callie, (Sara Ramirez) is the eternal Madonna — a straight woman turned gay, who has been wanting her own baby for a long time and almost lost Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) because of it, since the pediatric surgeon never wanted kids for herself. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is a new adoptive mom after many failed attempts at having her own baby — and the most realistic one to me, since she’s not sure how good she will be as a mom. And then of course, we have Christina Yang, played by the ever brilliant Sandra Oh, who finds herself pregnant for the second time. And for the second time, she wants to get an abortion.
And there’s nothing wrong with this — except that aside from Christina Yang’s characters, there are few other representations of women. What about the women who don’t want to be mothers? Where are their voices? And why are the voices of mother-want-to-be’s so much louder? It seems that they are everywhere, telling all young women that eventually, they all need to settle down and have babies, especially before their biological clocks start humming, followed by the incessant whine of “what if you’re never a mother?”
I have been thinking about Christina Yang since a few weeks ago. I love her character. Aside from the fact that her writers fell off the track by making her have a nervous breakdown and dance on a bar drunk as a skunk, Sandra Oh’s character is brilliant and so different. She is a surgeon — a die hard, unrelenting, and un-self-sacrificing woman, who hates more than anything to lose herself in a man she loves. She even gave up her lover sot hat she could have a chance to operate and learn from the best in her field. She is single-minded, obtuse, and unapologetic — and I know she’s not just a figment of some writer’s imagination. There are women like her out there. Women who don’t want to have children or be mothers. Women who have no problems saying that they don’t even like kids. And it’s not because the child will interfere with her work or domesticate her. She is just not interested in having kids. Motherhood is not in her nature.
And there is nothing wrong with this. But the world makes us all feel like there is. There is something wrong with you if you’re a woman and don’t want to have any kids. You’re a cold bitch if you choose a career over family. You’re unnatural. Feminism of the seventies told us that we had choices, but the choices always included kids — women had to learn to have children, careers, and dinner at the table by five.
But what if you don’t want to have any? Hugh Heffner has sex with a lot of babies (they may as well be), but you don’t see the world crushing him with self-righteous diatribes because his Playboy mansion is not full of his children running around in their undies — and I am sure he has fathered many. But men are different, right? Rules don’t box them in. They get away with everything — including being in their 80′s and having sex with girls of 18. No gross factor there.
Women are controlled – subtly and and not so subtly. We have been conditioned to define ourselves via our biology. We have the children, therefore, we must have children. Commercials tell us our roles — our defining roles as women: mothers, care givers, cooks, cleaners, carpoolers, wives, volunteers, educators, and self-sacrificing do-gooders. Our neighborhoods define our place in society: mothers, care givers, cooks, cleaners, carpoolers, wives, volunteers, educators, and self-sacrificing do-gooders. Let’s add some negative ones here also, like nags, overweight hags, gossips and trophy wives. Now television shows — reality and non-reality — overwhelm us with maternal figures — no matter where they got their start from. Sex bunnies gone mom. Pop stars gone mom. Infertile women gone mom. High school drop-outs gone mom. And out of all of these, we only have one woman who resists motherhood: Christina Yang.
Where are all the others? Where are their voices? I want to see more representations of Yang’s character everywhere, because these women do exist. Although I got married and have two kids, I am the daughter of a woman who resisted conventional roles of women. I watched my mother growing up, keenly, as if I were observing a rare stone that never belonged to our region. She was as unique as they come. And even though she chose motherhood by adopting me — it was more for companionship than it was for a desire to show maternal affection — she had none — or at least she withheld it out of self-preservation. But I am reminded of her when I come face to screen with Christina Yang — and I wish young girls had more of her uniqueness with which to identify. I have learned so much from my mom — I learned that all women are different, and we can choose different paths in life than the ones we are told are especially pink-lined for us.
Just because women can have babies doesn’t always mean they should have them. We are not all made of the same cloth — we are not all designed to mother — even if biologically, we can.