At some point, Ari Fitz kind of forgot that she even has a womb. The YouTuber is a masculine, Black, queer woman — and in embracing her masculinity and watching family and friends embrace it as well, she tells Refinery29, she lost touch with the idea that something society codifies as purely feminine, like pregnancy, is even possible for bodies like hers.
It took another masculine YouTuber, Frankie Smith, getting pregnant to jolt Fitz out of that idea and to make her think about the intersections of masculinity and pregnancy. The result is a gorgeous new short documentary called My Mama Wears Timbs, which explores Smith’s experiences as a pregnant, butch woman of colour.
Early into her pregnancy, Smith approached Fitz about doing a maternity clothing fashion video for her YouTube channel, but when Fitz started Googling maternity photoshoots she realized that pregnant women like Smith are hardly ever represented.
"The images are not anyone who would look like myself or my friends," Fitz tells Refinery29. "They're all of a girl in a flowy dress with her boyfriend or husband and she’s in nature and she has a flower crown." You know the type.
There's nothing wrong with these kinds of photos, of course, but they paint a picture of pregnancy that will never reflect women like Smith. It was then that Fitz knew this was a much bigger conversation that needed to happen. She created the documentary to show that "masculinity and motherhood can co-exist and it’s not that deep," she says.
She's right. The fact that Smith is a cisgender woman who has always wanted a baby and decided with her partner that she would get pregnant is not a difficult concept to grasp. Yet, when people look at Smith in her snapbacks and men's jeans they have trouble connecting her pregnancy to her identity as a butch woman.
"By being gay you're already outside of the norm. And then by being a tomboy as a woman you're already outside of the norm again," Smith says in the video. "So whatever you are, you're put into a category and you're expected to not do anything that goes outside of that category."
Fitz theorizes that Smith and masculine pregnant women like her get weird looks or confuse people because those people essentially think of them as men. The problem, she says, is that people struggle to understand intersectionality.
"There are people who will embrace your masculinity, but they do it through the knowledge of male-hood," Fitz says. "People think in their minds that they're accepting, but they’re fitting you into the box that they understand."
The box of masculinity that we as a society understand doesn't allow for "feminine" desires like wanting to carry a baby. If a masculine queer woman is in a relationship with a feminine-presenting woman, as Smith is, the automatic assumption is that the more feminine woman would carry their child. Yet, that's not always the case, and the way that a couple like Smith and her partner gets a baby doesn't really matter.
"Children don’t care about how you’re dressed," Fitz says. "A newborn isn’t worried about the fit of her mom’s pants or whether or not she wears a dress."
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
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