The Most Important Role? Motherhood, Marriage, and Feminism

Feminists all over are buzzing about Natalie Portman’s “my most important role” comment during her acceptance speech at the Oscars. She was awarded the most prestigious award of Best Actress for her incredible and arduous performance in Black Swan. When she addressed her fiance, she thanked him for “giving me my most important role” referring to her soon-to-be motherhood.

Some feminists are saying they were not offended by Portman’s comment; in fact, some are even expressing gratitude that a woman amongst her career peers addressed another potential aspect of a woman’s life. Others are outraged that during what may be the pinnacle moment of her career, she willingly placed herself in a stereotypical female role. Portman has always been a favorite of mine, mostly because of her intelligence and careful selection of female characters she chooses to play. Does her decision to become a mother, and pride in doing so, take away from her so far successful career?

I have grappled with this issue myself as a young feminist; I often express sentiments along the lines of “if I ever have kids…” and that is often met with a perplexed look and a “you’ll change your mind” response. It is a personal choice yet women are expected to not only procreate, but to naturally desire to procreate.

How do feminists who decide to have children grapple with the knowledge of what the presence of children can do to a seemingly egalitarian relationship (if they have a child within the context of a relationship)? I wonder also (as a heterosexual self-identified feminist) how other heterosexual feminists negotiate the possible tension between their feminist identity and the decision to enter the inherently unjust institution of marriage. How does my oppressor become my most intimate partner? If someone would write a how-to book about this, I’d greatly appreciate it!

**Another thought: we shouldn’t criticize Portman’s decision and excitement over this next stage of her life. We already exist in a girl v. girl world as is, so we can discuss the broader systemic implications but I think we should support every woman’s CHOICE!

Masters student in Houston; hoping for a career in the nonprofit sector doing feminist activism and organizing.

Read more about

Join the Conversation