As a single woman in my early 20s, I could frequently be found in a bar or line, asking a complete stranger: “So, do you have a favorite parent?” Which, I suppose, might go some way toward explaining the “single” part of that sentence.
The thing is, I grew up in the kind of family where any question was valid and all questions were answered, no matter how bizarre they were or how easily we might have been able to find out the answer ourselves. My mother would ask people in the supermarket how they lost their finger. My father would ask drag queens if they had any kids. My grandmother would ask if vegetarians ate ham. I had no idea that there was such a thing as an inappropriate question. Health, money, secrets, sex; I asked about them all. We all did.
So it was interesting to read a new piece of research, published by Peanut—an online community for women at every stage of the fertility journey, from pregnancy to motherhood to menopause—that listed a whole array of unwanted questions we should try to avoid. These include some absolute floor-filling classics. You know, the ones that are rolled out at every birthday, Diwali, Eid, Christmas: “Are you married?” “When are you going to have kids?” “Was it planned?” “Can I play with the baby?” Turn it up, DJ, it’s the soundtrack to my womb.
But there were a few others that felt less familiar to me. For instance: “When are you going to give him a baby?” Or: “Why do you look like that?” Perhaps my partner’s ambivalence about parenthood and the fact that I have always looked like a nectarine left at the bottom of a backpack protected me from this sort of invasion.
The report, titled “The State of Invisibility,” surveyed more than 3,600 women across the UK and the US in September 2023, and—as you might have guessed—a lot of what came out was people talking about feeling invisible. In fact, 30% of women said they felt invisible often, while 42% reported feeling invisible sometimes. What’s more, 93% said they felt unappreciated or unacknowledged, while 93% of women said that, since becoming a mother, their prebaby identity felt it had been reduced to simply “mom.” All of which shows us that feminism is needed on the frontiers of fertility and motherhood just as much as it is needed in the bedroom and workplace.