Gabrielle Union says career women are shamed for not having kids earlier. She has a point.
Gabrielle and her husband, NBA star Dwayne Wade have only been married for one year – and even though he already has three sons of his own – she admits she still feels a sense of pressure to become a mom. And these feelings, these pressures and stigmas placed on women, are not uncommon.
“So far, it has not happened for us,” the actress told Redbook for the October 2015 issue. “A lot of my friends deal with this. There’s a certain amount of shame that is placed on women who have perhaps chosen a career over starting a family younger. The penance for being a career woman is barrenness. You feel like you’re wearing a scarlet letter.”
First of all, we want to commend Gabrielle for her openness and honesty, especially since she doesn’t have to talk about such a personal matter. And that’s just it — this is a personal decision that should be respected by others. It’s a choice that’s made between Gabrielle and her husband, not between Gabrielle and the entire world.
But also, the actress communicates a very important problem many women face — women who decide against having a child earlier in life (or at all) and are, as a result, discriminated against. So, why exactly are women looked down upon by some for not choosing motherhood? Laura Carroll, who wrote The Baby Matrix, states, “The child-free have come out of the tributaries of society in the last 10 to 15 years, but the childfree choice is still not totally accepted as an equally valid choice as the choice to have children,”
Carroll calls society’s collective ideology on parenthood “pronatalism,” and says, “The reason boils down to pronatalist social and cultural messaging that has exalted the role of parenthood for generations. When we question pronatalist beliefs and see them for what they are – beliefs – we will also see that choosing not to reproduce is just as normal as the choice to reproduce.”
Essentially, we as a culture, are still not totally comfortable with the decision some women make to not be moms.
Gabrielle continues, discussing the flip-side of the situation: being a mother AND having a career. “The reality is that women are discriminated against in the workplace for being mothers. As much as there are strides being made — you get pregnant, your career takes a hit,” she states. “You can’t have a bad day. Don’t you dare cry at work. Don’t raise your voice. Especially if you’re a black woman in corporate America — now you’re ‘the angry black woman.’”
Basically, it’s not easy being a woman no matter what you do. You decide to focus on your job instead of raising a kid? You face scrutiny. You want to have a baby AND work? You’re also punished, because “having it all” is actually a lot more complicated than we thought.
Women who are discriminated because they have children is a very real thing and actually has a term: “Mommy profiling.” MomRising‘s co-founder Kristin Rowe-FinkBeiner reports that, “Mothers are 79 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers with equal resume and experiences,” and “Mothers were offered $11,000 less in starting pay than non-mothers with the same resumes and job experiences, while fathers were offered $6,000 more.”
The bottom line? You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And Gabrielle Union’s interview with Redbook is another perfect reminder that we’re probably still far from “having it all” as women.
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