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When Women Have Womb Envy

I09 knows me so well.  They had a post yesterday afternoon titled, “You are Suffering from Womb Envy.”  Well, yes, yes, I am.

Though apparently, because I identify as female, I am suppose to have penis envy.  I’m supposed to be checking out penises and wishing I had my own.  I can’t say that has ever happened to me.  I’ve never sat there and wished I had male genitalia.  If anything, the opposite is true: I am glad I don’t have male genitalia, even if it means I earn 77 cents to every one of Josh’s dollars.

Dystopia

Image: Timothy Swinson
(I’m bringing this back for a second day in a row because what else illustrates penis envy other than a metal penis-like pole encased in barbwire? I love this picture’s versatility so much.  How many other ways can I use it?)

Interestingly, Freud’s penis envy stems from a place of feeling unwhole.  Of seeing a body with more and wondering why your own body has less.

Womb envy was an idea created by Karen Horney in response to Freud’s penis envy.  Womb envy comes about, according to i09,

When men realize that they are not as in control of their lives as they thought they were. They want a son to carry on their name. They want a family. They’re powerless to do that on their own. Achieving their goals depends mostly on the labor, and control, of someone else’s body. They envy women’s ability to produce the life, and they envy women’s ability to be certain of lineage. No mother doubts the maternity of a child. Fathers aren’t so lucky.

The theory was created almost as a tit for a tat — you think we envy you?  Well, then we’re going to say that you envy us — but what about those of us who read the paragraph above and thought, “aren’t I a woman?  And yet that spoke volumes of my psyche.”

I don’t feel in control of my life when it comes to family building.  I want another child to carry on my genes; who allows me to relive childhood again through them.  I want a bigger family.  And I can’t do it on my own.  I can’t even do it with Josh.  And I don’t think I can do it anymore at all with my eggs.  Achieving my goal means paying someone to help me; a lot of money with no promise of it working.  So I envy women who can just… produce life.  Who decide they want a child, have sex, and feel a child in their womb.  Who carry that child to term and deliver that child according to plan.

Just because you have a womb doesn’t mean that you have a womb.

Poor short-sighted Karen Horney.  How was she to know that there would be thousands of women who grapple with their child’s maternity despite being the mother?

Even with a womb, I have womb envy.  And it makes me feel unwhole.  It makes me wonder why my body was made with less.

17 comments

1 arwen rose { 02.19.14 at 8:07 am }

As a genetic woman who was born without a womb I can most definitely say I have womb envy. Not penis envy no way! Womb envy all.the.way.

2 a { 02.19.14 at 8:28 am }

I don’t understand why anyone would have penis envy – all that stuff flapping around seems like way more maintenance than I’m willing to take on. Especially when you use that image.

And I don’t have womb envy (well, at all really – I am pretty content to be me) because I have less. It’s because I have more – in the form of an overactive immune system. What a blessing that is. *eyeroll*

That’s me – always looking on the bright side of life…

3 Pepper { 02.19.14 at 8:42 am }

This. So completely agree. I have serious womb envy. And not a hint of penis envy. Who wants to deal with *that all the time??

4 JB { 02.19.14 at 8:43 am }

I would not prefer a penis, thank you. Sweaty and annoying and in the way.

But I do envy those women–like you said–who decide to have a baby, have sex, and then feel a baby in their womb. No stress, no pressure, no worry. I envy that. I envy women who are easily fertile, who have two working tubes, who ovulate every month without question. Maybe I don’t envy a womb as much as I envy reproductive organs that work correctly. After three surgeries, my “womb” was fixed, but my organs, not so much.

that picture cracked me up yesterday–thanks for reposting today

5 Prairie { 02.19.14 at 8:50 am }

I went into TTCing thinking eggs & sperm were the required ingredients. Nope, functioning womb required too. Like JB I required multiple surgeries to fix that 3rd vital ingredient. Only then did things ‘work’ with the additional medical intervention of a c-section to get fetus to baby bc the surgeries left my womb unable to safety labour. Womb envy, yup, got it.

6 A. { 02.19.14 at 8:53 am }

How about ovary envy? I envy women with functional ovaries that produce eggs in line with chronological age; that produce human beings; that don’t force you to introduce another woman into your marriage/family in order to experience parenthood at all. A penis? They’re so unpredictable, not to mention silly looking 😉

7 Nicole { 02.19.14 at 9:06 am }

The only time to have penis envy is when we are camping or out for a hike and in sore need of a bathroom. Otherwise that stuff seems like it would just get in the way. It is a liability and a vulnerability!

8 gwinne { 02.19.14 at 9:06 am }

What is that picture actually of? Because now I can only see a metal penis too…

Yeah, I have ovary envy too. (My uterus seems to do a decent enough job, at least with a lot of medicinal support.)

But mostly I just want to say, you sound “down,” and I’m sorry.

9 Holly E { 02.19.14 at 10:26 am }

I have “get drunk and get knocked up on accident” envy… because I’m still not quite sure what the hell is wrong with me! Could be eggs, could be womb, could be hormones, we’ll find out in April.

But damn it, every one I know is so friggen fertile they have no idea what it takes to MAKE a baby.

10 Katie { 02.19.14 at 12:05 pm }

Yeah, you could totally swap the genders in that description and describe infertility perfectly. So then does this mean that my husband is envious of another woman’s womb, since mine is defective? That sounds scandalous.

11 Geochick { 02.19.14 at 12:23 pm }

I totally have womb envy. It’s slowly fading because I’m getting old anyway, but still there. Especially now that in talking to Baby X about his adoption.

12 KeAnne { 02.19.14 at 1:08 pm }

Yep, womb envy. Have a lot of it.

13 kateanon { 02.19.14 at 3:48 pm }

I have womb envy, no doubt.

I can’t do it on my own. I have a weak, ruined and faulty uterus and pretty effed up eggs, so I can’t even have someone else with their womb carry a part mine embryo. I can’t do it with the man I love, since he’s had a vasectomy. I can’t have any control, since any form of motherhood involves someone else’s womb and thousands (upon possible other thousands) of dollars. I’m totally envious of those who wish to use their womb, and then do.

14 chickenpig { 02.19.14 at 7:38 pm }

What about when you have a perfectly fine womb and all the stuff that comes with it, but you still can’t just do the nasty and have a family? I have sperm envy.

15 Courtney { 02.19.14 at 10:58 pm }

Loved this post. I have Fallopian tube envy. I have none and so my only choice is IVF. Which didn’t work because I have bad eggs. So I have egg envy too. What the hell I really just have bam let’s have a baby and get pregnant without a thought envy. Even with a son via adoption I don’t think it.will.ever.go.away.

16 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 02.21.14 at 11:41 am }

Aw, Mel. You sound like you need a hug this week.

17 Catwoman73 { 02.21.14 at 12:20 pm }

Oh man, does this ever resonate. Just when I think I’m getting to an ok place with the hand I’ve been dealt, another woman confidently announces her pregnancy at 12 weeks (sometimes earlier… ), and I am sent back to that terrible place where I start to wonder what my purpose is, if not to continue to reproduce… And even worse, I start to think I’ll die before I ever figure it out. Sending hugs Mel- you aren’t alone on this one. At all.

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