The title of this lecture will likely strike you with confusion. Not only do the physical and mental capacities of both activities differ greatly, but so are the ways the two are deemed by society. Some believe that there cannot possibly be a comparison between giving birth and writing books, yet perhaps that that is exactly the problem.
Dr. Noelle Leslie Dela Cruz, a philosophy professor at De La Salle University and well-versed poet, visited the University of Connecticut yesterday to give a lecture comparing giving birth to writing books. This strange comparison opened the audience’s mind to more concepts than anticipated. The comparison revealed the effects of assigned gender roles and how something so natural and socially expected harms all of society in ways that are not talked about enough.
Dela Cruz began her lecture discussing the definition of work. Crediting Andrea Veltman, she listed the four criteria of work. These included: the process of developing capabilities, a process which supports a worker’s values, something that provides a purpose and something that integrates elements of the worker’s life. Dela Cruz listed these criteria to furthermore compare the two different types of work of writing and birthing. Although they are both considered types of work, one is more highly respected than the other, as not everyone is expected to become a writer, yet every woman is expected to become a mother.
For much of her presentation, Dela Cruz pulled much of her inspiration from Simone de Beauvoir, a French philosopher, writer and feminist. Beauvoir’s view on reproductive work stemmed from her ideas on transcendent versus immanent work. She explained how transcendent work expands horizons to the future while immanent work does not produce anything durable. This raises the question of which is which. Is the work that women put into motherhood transcendent or immanent? Which one is writing?
Dela Cruz pulled from Beauvoir’s opinion that literature is good when one is committed to it. Beauvoir tied this concept to the fact that women cannot become good writers since they cannot offer the commitment, as they must dedicate their lives to housework. She then took this claim a step further by offering a possibly controversial notion: Not all women want to be mothers, nor can all women be good at it. This idea sparks the thought that society places a pressure on women to be good mothers and nurture the next generation, but how can someone who was not born to be a mother be expected to execute such an important task well?
Veltman’s voice made another appearance when Dela Cruz made note of her question on what kind of labor is valued and what kind of labor isn’t. Veltman asks a very intriguing question: Is the labor of the oppressed less valuable because the oppressed are performing it, or do the oppressed perform it because it is less valued?
Whether society acknowledges it or not, the labor put into motherhood is not valued to the extent that writing is. However, because the responsibilities of motherhood supersede all other aspects of a woman’s life, mothers cannot dedicate their time to whatever is deemed as “meaningful” or “valuable” work such as writing. They are therefore deprived of opportunities to be seen in the many positive ways that men are.
Dela Cruz’s lecture was not only intended to expose the fact that women are deprived of chances to prove themselves in society, but also to alert the need that parental responsibilities should be shared equally so as to give women the opportunity to learn how to become a great writer without having to face judgements from the rest of society.