Debunking the Stork

We've seen how artistic images of pregnancy have been scrupulously avoided during early medieval times. But the misogynistic mindset was even more prevalent during the 17th century and beyond as they went to even greater lengths to conceal life's true and natural origins. In the guise of "protecting" little children from the stark realities of childbirth, a preposterous myth was created that had a stork dropping the new baby down the chimney. It seems obvious that the chimney was a thinly disguised metaphor for the woman's birth canal.

The stork myth also specifies that the souls of unborn babies were located in the waters of marshes and springs, as seen in the bottom greeting card. This fictional concept could also have had its origins in the amniotic fluid within which the growing fetus is submerged. Down through the ages, the sanguine details of pregnancy and delivery had been the exclusive domain of women. That's why there are midwives but not mid husbands. While everyone loves new babies, queasy men in particular don't want to be reminded of where they really come from.

But scratch a little deeper below the surface of this diabolical fairy tail and you will find something even sneakier going on. If you were a confirmed woman hater and wanted to create a scenario that demeaned women's role in the birthing process all the while masquerading as an innocent child's fable, you could hardly improve on the stork myth. After all, claiming that some dim-witted bird delivered the baby instead of the mother is an ingeniously subtle way of denying women the recognition and appreciation they deserve for spending nine uncomfortable months in the creation of a new life.

At the same time, the storks breezy intervention trivializes women's role in the painful process of giving birth. The myth implies that if a dumb bird can do it, how hard can it really be and what do we need the mother for in the first place? But there are even more pernicious motives at work. The total denial of the female role in childbirth not only belittles women, it dehumanized them as well. This makes it permissible, if not downright necessary, for men to legitimatize and justify their complete subjugation.

Jealous and resentful of her prodigious reproductive capabilities, those devious myth-makers replaced her birth canal with a sooty chimney and her amniotic fluid with an "unclean" stagnant pond. Then they dragged some poor schlemiel of a bird to take the credit and presto, the woman is completely out of the loop. Graphic proof of this outrageous conspiracy against women can be found in the adjoining 100 year-old birth announcement cards showing the proud father, the maid and the stork, all celebrating the arrival of a new baby--- with the mother nowhere in sight.