I double majored in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) in college, which isn’t the joke. I got my women’s studies degree from a Catholic university, which is a joke. ‘Psychology of Human Sexuality,’ became my favorite class because it was the perfect cross-section of all of my academic interests, and a few of my personal interests.
An imposing burly figure with a silver goatee stood behind a podium in front of our 100 person lecture hall. The professor’s image screamed of traditional male gender roles, but his career did not. He made his living conducting longitudinal research on women in long term lesbian relationships. I think he and I were both confused at how we ended up at a Catholic university. He reached the end of his lecture on how becoming a parent affects one’s psychology, and he opened the floor for discussion.
I was sitting in the front third of the lecture hall, and the rest of the hall was packed. Unlike most of my psychology and WGST classes, this one was equal parts men and women. There were psychology students taking the most interesting class in their major, students from other majors taking an intellectually stimulating elective, perverts desperately attempting to understand how they got that way, and probably a few Catholics praying for our souls.
He addressed us all, “By a show of hands, if it were possible, how many guys in this room would want to carry a child and give birth?”
Without any hesitation or second guessing, I raised my hand.
The professor looked directly at me and, almost surprised, he said, “Oh good. What’s your name?”
The ‘Oh good’ is what threw me. He said it as though no one had ever raised their hand for that question before. I turned my head and saw that I was the only man out of an entire lecture hall to raise my hand. Unprepared to speak, I stumbled to get out my name. My intent was to answer a poll question by raising my hand and it quickly turned into me volunteering for a very personal interview.
“Ok Murphy, can you tell us why would you want to carry a child,” he asked as though I was prepared to defend my unique opinion, as though I had arrived in class that day fully prepared to make an argument that could sway my entire gender.
I felt 100 pairs of eyes piercing through the back of my neck. I realized in that moment that this was the closest I was ever going to come to understanding what it felt like to be a black person in my high school any time we discussed race.
I cleared my throat. “There is an incredible bond between a mother and child, having shared one body. This is a bond that no man can ever experience, and I think given the opportunity I couldn’t pass that up,” I sputtered out.
The professor quickly realized he had overestimated my closing argument and attempted to bail me out by saying, “For what its worth, I’m with Murphy, I’d want to carry a child as well.”
…And that was pretty much the end of the lecture. We all stood and shuffled to the door. Knowing I had solidarity with the large psychologist who studies lesbian couples did not make up for hearing every male conversation pass me saying, “Ya man. I have no idea what that fag was talking about. I’d never give birth. and get my shit all stretched out, screw that.”
It was in that moment I realized I might not be the typical male, but at least my considerations go deeper than mutilated genitalia.
Yes, childbirth is excruciatingly painful, but any mom I have talked to has said she would not trade pregnancy for anything in the world. Mothers talk about pregnancy as the most exciting and powerful experience of their lives. Mothers talk about the personal journey of giving up control of your body so that it can play host to a real whole person. When that person arrives, mothers cannot describe the bond created by sharing the same body.
I guess I understand how some men have trouble looking past the pain of childbirth when answering this question. I can accept some men’s inability to step outside of his gender role to even consider experiencing something inherently feminine. I even understand that a lot of men have simply never asked a woman a question before, let alone a question about the experience of childbearing. The thing I will never understand is if pregnancy is popping off at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, how am I the only man in the room who would even consider renting it from Redbox?