I need to stop reading about politics before bed. Last night, I had a dream about the Republican National Convention. After Clint Eastwood told Zombie Reagan that he’d make a fantastic Supreme Court Justice because he can’t die, I somehow had an argument with Mitt Romney.
You see, Dream!Romney seemed to believe that horses all eventually evolve into unicorns. Therefore, all horses – no matter their set purpose or their owners personal feelings about unicornism – should be treated as “pre-unicorn.”
This produced the memorable line, “Just because you believe in unicorns doesn’t mean you can regulate all horse-owners.” Yes, even in my dreams, I argue about politics. But, the dream did give me something to chew on.
The metaphor there is fairly obvious, if heavily imperfect.
During the Bush presidency, the CDC suggested that all women* of a child-bearing age (so the majority of the cis-women in the US) start taking pre-natal vitamins and treat themselves as “pre-pregnant” – to protect the potential fetus, of course.
It’s obvious where my brain pulled that unicorn dream sequence from.
I’m a woman who desires to be childfree. This is almost unheard of in the Christian realm. A woman who desires to be married but not produce kids? No way! This has gotten to the point that people have protested it to my face. My fellow child-free women with whom I’ve connected over the years have expressed the same types of stories – the family friend who expressed shock at a woman not wanting to have kids, the complete stranger asking if there’s a fertility problem, the knowing smile and “You’ll change your mind,” from everyone and their dog.
You see, if we take the parlance of my incredibly strange unconscious dream state, it is as though people are functioning on a number of assumptions: 1. That unicorns are awesome, 2. That every horse wants to be a unicorn, and 3. That means we need to treat horses as though they are “not yet” unicorns, regardless of the will of the individual horse.
I hope you see the metaphor there, and excuse the crassness of comparing women to dumb animals (not my point).
Here’s the thing (go with me here): being a unicorn is a lot of responsibility, and it takes a lot of effort to grow that horn. Sure, with an awesome horn, you can do sweet things like goring your enemies and healing stuff (depending on which mythology you choose). I don’t deny that unicorns ARE pretty dope.
But, I imagine – if horses were sentient – some of them would be pretty confident remaining horses. Some horses are racers who can probably outperform unicorns in some ways and be equally awesome. Some horses do other awesome things like transport and tough jobs that are hard to do. And some horses might just think a horn out of the middle of their head would cramp their style and interfere with living the life they want to live – you could really hurt yourself on that thing, and it’s a little scary to suddenly have to take responsibility for something so potentially harmful.
I think this is why that line from my dream stuck out in my memory so well – it is what I believe. Regardless of whether or not you happen to believe it is my duty to one day become a mother, that doesn’t give you a right to make policy decisions centered around that belief. This applies, in a realistic policy scheme, to the hiring process, to elections (raising concerns about woman politicians becoming pregnant in office, for example), or to advice about our health.
Especially in health – for many childfree women under 30, it is very hard to find a doctor to perform a sterilization procedure. Instead, many must get an IUD or some other semi-permanent form of birth control until they're over 30 and “mature enough” to make the decision not to have kids. Meanwhile, an 18 year old can make the life-changing decision to have children, no questions asked (or, at least, very few, especially if she’s married).
A friend of mine got married earlier this summer. She’s my age, and said that, in the few days after the wedding, a number of different people – many of whom had no connection to each other besides her – told her, “Now you’re all grown up!” as though marriage was some kind of rite of passage into adulthood. She rightfully got angry – she has a college degree and has been working in a career level job for years, but it’s getting married that finally made her an adult? Um, no.
Rather than treating (especially single) women as something that will eventually evolve into something more awesome (and, by extension, treating us as “not-awesome” until we do), learn to see us as individuals with hopes and dreams, not as a group that is just waiting to move onto the next stage.
I am quite content with not being a unicorn – in fact, I think I make a pretty awesome horse. …okay, I think I’ve hit the end of that metaphor.
My point here is this: horse, unicorn, whatever – you don’t have to reach “the next stage” in order to be a grown up. Being married doesn’t make your life more valid. Having a kid doesn’t make you an adult. Making your own decisions about what’s best for you and how you can best contribute to making the world more awesome – that’s (only a part of) what being an adult means. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
*NB: The CDC was referring to cis-women, but not all who identify as women are born with a uterus, and not all who have a uterus identify as women.