The stork is delivering as we speak! I hope you can join me in celebrating this joyous news – although you should know, the stork is the United States Postal Service, and I am expecting my first book, not my first baby!
It sounds somewhat crass (even to me whose book this is) to even try and pass off a book in the same way in which women announce they are expecting baby/babies. Sadly, writing books, which is one use of a woman’s creative energy, does not seem to be as valued as a woman’s ability to procreate, another use of a woman’s creative energy. Among the circle of friends I grew up with, children still seem to hold a more cherished place. On facebook.com, my “friends” post weekly updates as to the progress of their babies, pictures of their “baby bumps” and pictures of their newborns. Just through reading comments, the excitement is palpable.
Following suit, I’ve been announcing my book and its stages of creation both on facebook.com and in person. There is not as much excitement. At least it doesn’t feel that way. I do get congratulatory comments, even facebook.com “likes” just as expecting moms do. Most people want to know what it is about and when they can get their own copy. They are happy and interested but in a way that seems very different from the reception my sister and friends have received when they have announced their pregnancies. Unlike the announcement of a pregnancy, my book elicited no jumping up and down, no screaming, no OMG’s!
Aren’t women supposed to be valued for more than just having babies? Shouldn’t I get a few screams of excitement over the news? It is no secret that I screamed and jumped up and down when I found out the good news. I have also put a lot of time, energy and thought into my new creation. To me, that has to count for something. The reception I have received over my book has made me wonder: does society still value women only for their procreativity? Or better put: are we, women, valued more for procreativity than other uses of our creative faculties?
At the same time, I know what having a child would do to my career at this point. I am a female religious scholar. In the publish-or-perish world of academia, books need to be written; careers depend on publication and other scholarly endeavors. It seems that most women in academia, whether partnered or not, still must choose between children and careers; if they choose both, I am convinced that they must have some kind of supernatural power. Honestly, I don’t know how I could publish, teach, grade, advise, prep, research, do housework, wash the clothes, take out the dog, feed the cat, prepare meals and care for children all at the same time.
It has been years since I read the feminist insight that women should be valued as much for their various creative endeavors as their procreative power. This idea has traveled with me because it has resonated with me. In the end, I must say that while I haven’t yet, I’m optimistic that I too will experience the benefits of this creative process. Much like babies do, I imagine a day will come when my book will take on a life of its own. At least, I hope it does. As I count the days before my book is available for public distribution, I wonder if society has really reevaluated the worth of non-procreative, yet creative, woman’s work. Maybe, one day women will not have to choose between babies and books to stay in academia. Maybe, one day there will be screaming and jumping up and down for woman’s publications as much as there is for pregnancies. For now, it is a wait-and-see situation.
Ivy A. Helman, Ph. D.: A feminist scholar currently on the faculty at Boston College teaching in its Perspectives Program and an Adjunct Lecturer at Merrimack College. Her most recent publications include: “Queer Systems: The Benefits of a More Systematic Approach to Queer Theology,” in CrossCurrents (March 2011) and Women and the Vatican: An Exploration of Official Documents(2012).