My newest podcast obsession is The Longest Shortest Time. Today I listened to the most recent episode, "Kicking Ass While Pregnant," and I couldn't wait to post about it. The host, Hillary Frank, interviews the writer of the newest iteration of Spider-Woman, a Marvel comic book character that has existed for 40 years. The writer, Dennis Hopeless, decided to convince Marvel that Spider-Woman should be pregnant. (His wife had given birth to twins five months earlier, so the power of pregnancy and parenthood was fresh in his mind.) To his surprise, they loved the idea. So, for the first time, Marvel had a title character that was with child. How perfect for Oh, the Iron Man is this?
Though I believe strongly in gender equality, there is one biological reality separating men and women that I cannot completely reconcile: pregnancy. Men can't get pregnant, despite what Arnold Schwarzenegger has told you. And seven months into my second pregnancy, I am feeling this gender separation pretty strongly. My husband can sympathize, he can try to help, but he doesn't know what it's like to (somewhat) willingly lose control of your body, to feel elated and trapped at the same time, to feel powerful and powerless all at once, to feel another living thing bouncing around inside you. And he will never know how those things feel. It is biologically impossible.
What does that mean for gender equality? Will we always be in a "separate but equal" situation because of pregnancy? The most viable way to level the playing field is to eliminate pregnancy altogether. Science could someday bring us to a world where no one needs to carry a baby for nine months. But having done this pregnancy thing twice, even with all the weird and inconvenient side effects, I would never want to lose the privilege of being pregnant, of giving birth, of breastfeeding. These biological realities are almost magical in their effects.
If anything, I would want the world of Junior, where Arnold Schwarzenegger can, against all biological realities, be pregnant. Imagine if husband and wife could decide who wanted to the carry the baby. Imagine if they could take turns: you carry the first child, I'll carry the second. What problems would be solved in this country and this world if men had to worry about pregnancy as much as women? If men had to experience the mood swings, the constant trips to the bathroom, the contractions, those little kicks and somersaults in the womb? Arguments over abortion and birth control would effectively end. Our snail's crawl to reasonable family leave policies would transform into a sprint. The gender pay gap would close.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that doctors and scientists should just drop whatever they're doing and start figuring out how to get men pregnant. Right now. This is your only job, ladies and gentlemen. Get on it. If we work hard enough, the world of Junior could become our reality.
But what do we do in the meantime?
To be continued...