Is mother a synonym for woman? For the overwhelming majority of human history, the answer to this question was a resounding yes, in a way that fatherhood is/was simply not. If aliens landed on Earth at any point before widely available birth control and asked “which ones are the women?”, the answer would be “the ones with the babies”.
Technology has altered our ability to easily see this reality, but has it altered the reality? Can women be considered women if they are not also mothers?
I don’t think so.
Women can be humans, of course, but what makes them the woman kind of human is being a mother. In order to show you that this is true, consider the following thought experiment: if the end goal was to rid the planet of every last woman yet have humanity continue, what machines would you need to build? What jobs can women, and only women, do?
In a pinch, men can do housework. Not a problem. The history of military logistics demonstrates this adequately. Typically, men didn’t bring women along to do the cooking, cleaning, organizing and tidying and caring for the sick and wounded. There is nothing biologically special about any of that work. Men don’t generally like to do that work, and will choose not to, but when required, they step up and troops get fed, clothes get washed and wounds are bandaged. The Gender Paradox, describes what happens in countries where women have the most freedom to choose to take on occupations that are not typical housewife work – there is more gender segregation than in markets where women have less freedom. Given the luxury of choice, women choose to do women’s work.
But there are only two types of work that women, and only women, can do, and they are intimately related. Going back to my thought experiment, the two machines we would have to create in order to replace women entirely would be sex dolls and artificial wombs. Assuming that anal sex would not be an adequate substitute for vaginal sex for the majority of men, sex dolls would need to replace women’s function as sex partners designed to fulfill physical needs. I will assume that friendships between men will substitute for any emotional needs women provide.
Artificial wombs would be required to gestate future humanity. Eggs could be harvested from female fetuses, who could then be aborted, and easy peasy, we have a world of men! Oh, please. No complaining about aborting female fetuses now. If the owners of the wombs have the ultimate power to determine which babies live and which ones die, what difference does it make whether it’s a man or woman who owns the womb? My womb, my choice, right?
Every other thing that women do, men can also do, except for these two things.
Woman = sex = mother
This is simply not true of men. Men cannot be reduced to a single, or two related tasks, because woman cannot do what men do. From the dawn of humanity, until the Bureau of Labor Statistics Report for 2017, men invent, design, build, operate, repair, maintain and replace the various technology that makes human existence possible, so that women can be mothers in safety. Men exist and work so that women can exist and work. And women’s work is very simple: have children. It is literally who she is.
A woman who does not have children is a human being, but she is not a woman. And as a human, her value becomes only what she can give to the actual women, who are mothers. She metaphorically becomes a man, but without the ability men have to collectively advance humanity. This is what Camille Paglia meant when she said that if women ran the world, we’d still be living in mud huts, eating sticks.
Human life has value. A woman’s life has a particular value that only women can achieve: a woman is not a woman unless she is also a mother.
Cry if you want to, but technology doesn’t change any of this.
What technology might do is replace women altogether.. If machines can have sex and grow babies, what use are women at all?
Lots of love,