What does it mean to be pregnant? Is it a moment of fulfillment or a moment of anxiety? Is it a political, philosophical object? These are the questions philosopher Camille Froidevaux-Metterie is trying to answer Such a big belly, his stimulating new essay, published by Stock, a book about the limits of personal narrative and research. She actually mixes her voice, her experience as a mother of two children with those 28 women she interviewed in the maternity ward of the Bichat hospital in Paris, where she herself gave birth and where, she says, she got into feminism. It was motherhood that made her aware of these problems, the one who is today the leading figure of feminism.
Her entry into feminism through motherhood
Camille Froidevaux-Metterie is part of this generation of women who grew up in the 1980s and 90s, who were told: “Become men like the rest.” She had all the possibilities in front of her, but also the opportunity to be born in an environment that opened up a future that seemed very simple and obvious to her. And it was the first experience of a spontaneous abortion, i.e. a natural termination of pregnancy, that introduced her to feminism. He does not like the term “abortion” because he explains: “It is a term that means nothing. There is nothing false about this lived experience. On the contrary, it is all very true. It is aboutnatural termination of pregnancy which is an event experienced by almost every fourth pregnant woman and which is very little socially and even less politically recognized, even if things shift a bit.”
She also understands that motherhood and the natural termination of pregnancy are unimaginable: “At that time I watched it in great distress, without awareness of what I was going through. But when my child was born a little later, after the second pregnancy, it was a moment in my life when everything came into focus as I was accepted to university for the first time at the same time. this combination of these maternal, social and professional conditions leads me to notice that no one in society cares about what I experience elsewhere in the intimate sphere. And obviously, my baby doesn’t benefit much from the lessons I prepare. And that’s how this existential duality affects me. I’m starting to read—it’s the early 2000s—what my fellow sociologists, philosophers, and political scientists can write about this issue. And I quickly see that motherhood is not an object.”
“So Big Belly”, his book about the pregnant body
One of the surprises of her investigation is that, contrary to Instagram photos that glorify pregnant women with big bellies, for many of the women she interviewed, pregnancy is not necessarily all about happiness, as TV presenters say.
Camille Froidevaux-Metterie: “It was really a surprise because I know there are women who don’t like being pregnant, even who hate it. But What struck me was the almost unanimous dimension of, to say the least, a certain ambivalence. This means that what women go through during the nine months of pregnancy are undoubtedly moments of joy and serenity, but also moments of anxiety, anguish, even moments of frankly great pain. There are women who really don’t like being pregnant. They are very happy to become mothers, but they do not like this moment of pregnancy and this ambivalence. We never hear that because again there’s this elevation, this social valuing of motherhood that has to be the ultimate achievement.”
There are also many social prohibitions that women are subject to. Camille Froidevaux-Metterie: “Pregnancy is a time of great dispossession. As soon as the belly becomes visible in public space, everything happens as if women have ceased to be individuals. They are nothing more than big bellies. And so, what is important from the point of view of society is that they carry out this childhood project. The people they are, the work they do, their aspirations, the wishes they have regarding their own pregnancy… All of this is absolutely denied. And I believe that one of the goals of the book was to illuminate, on the one hand, this great dispossession, but also this very strong desire today in the new generations, to recover this pregnant body to be able to live it freely.”
Some women, like our guest, enjoyed pregnancy, and she also talks about this in her book: “For certain women, pregnancy can be a moment of a kind of re-appropriation of their own existence in the form of a reconciliation between the object body and the body of the subject. There is something suddenly that is unanimously confirmed. Something we also receive in terms of a form of respect, even sometimes admiration. There is also this element that should not be ignored, yes During these months of pregnancy, women briefly escape the sexualization they experience in public spaces. These are no longer sexual bodies, but maternal bodies.”
🎧 To learn more, listen to this fascinating exchange…
In the womb