Thanks to mainstream media, the images we see everywhere about pregnant women isn't really accommodating of diversity, we think.
Read: 8 awesome maternity photo shoots that will make you go wow!
Just like there are different women out there, how pregnancy looks across the spectrum varies too. And it's time we get out of the pigeonhole that has limited our perspective quite narrowly.
"Life of a pregnant butch"
Ever wondered what it is like to be pregnant, black, butch and queer at the same time? Ari Fitz, an indie film-maker and popular YouTuber is a masculine, black, queer woman who began with a mission to illuminate the world about motherhood among lesbian couples and how it all looks and feels when a butch woman carries a child in her womb.
Ari produced a short documentary-film that challenges what motherhood looks like in her film titled My Mama Wears Timbs—a seven-minute documentary that focuses on Frankie Smith, a pregnant masculine-of-center woman.
As part of her maternity photo shoot with her wife Tia, we see Smith in her element and rocking her tomboyish-appeal with élan. The film manages to capture the essence of her true self— being masculine, being not-so-girly-girl yet a complete woman with a womb.
Seven months pregnant and glowing from motherhood, Smith effortlessly has maintained her sense of style and self despite not fitting in the mold of what society expects her to be like.
My mama wears timbs
The journey to make the film began when Smith had approached Ari about doing a maternity clothing fashion video for her YouTube channel Frankie and Tia. But when Ari started her research work for maternity photo shoots, she realized that pregnant butch women like Smith did not exist around much.
"The images are not anyone who would look like myself or my friends," Ari told 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." Not that there's anything wrong with those kinds of maternity shoots, but the lack of representation and diversity was troubling for Ari as well as for women like Smith, who are androgynous.
“I just feel like as a woman this is what my body is for… I don’t want to feel like just because I dress a certain way that people are going to make me feel like I shouldn’t be a mother or be pregnant” said Smith, as reported by Lesbianyx.
In Ari's own words, she created the documentary-film to show the world that "masculinity and motherhood can co-exist and it’s not that deep."
The fact that Smith is a cisgender woman, who always wanted a baby and decided with her wife Tia that she would get pregnant, isn't out-of-the-blue news. However, Smith in her boyfriend jeans and a baseball cap doesn't really fit in the sea of cascading pastel-hued dresses and flower-adorning pregnant women.
"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 said 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."
Ari is of the opinion that masculine pregnant women like Smith get peculiar stares from people as society associates butch pregnant women as men only. The problem, Ari asserts, 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," Ari explained. "People think in their minds that they're accepting, but they’re fitting you into the box that they understand."
For instance, Smith spoke about an incident when she and her wife Tia were at the mall when a man who found them attractive saw her baby bump. “He made this face like I just did the creepiest thing ever and he didn’t even try to hide it and after that, I started to feel insecure… It just sucks that it has to be that way” recalled Smith.
It is this perception of masculinity about androgynous women that does not allow such women to fulfill their feminine desires. If a masculine queer woman is in a relationship with a feminine-like woman, as Smith is, the automatic assumption is that the more feminine woman would bear the 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 said. "A newborn isn’t worried about the fit of her mom’s pants or whether or not she wears a dress," she added.
It was this very encounter with Smith that made Ari realize that pregnancy wasn't all that impossible for her, despite being 'masculine' queer. “I feel like you were the first person who showed me that I could do this. I just kinda felt like by being a masculine woman that I just wasn’t going to carry” recalled Ari.
Watch the short film here:
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