Most Americans believe that motherhood does not define a woman

Hoang NguyenData Journalist
August 24, 2017, 2:00 PM GMT+0

62% of women believe that society judges women who decide not to have children too harshly

In a recent interview with Australian magazine Stellar, 23-time tennis Grand Slam champion and soon-to-be-mother Serena Williams said “I have so much respect for so many women [for giving birth]. I am about to be a real woman now, you know?” Her remarks caused an uproar and many women took to Twitter to voice their disagreement.

YouGov data reveals that 75% of Americans disagree with the idea that a woman is not a real woman until she is a mother. This goes for both women (80%) and men (71%).

The poll suggests an underlying social issue. 51% of Americans believe that society judges women who decide to not have children too harshly. Women in particular think this, with 62% agreeing with that statement. Men are more likely to be split, with 41% agreeing and 39% disagreeing.

What do Americans believe constitutes a “real woman”?

57% say that it’s her DNA or XX chromosomes and the next leading factor is her sexual identification (37%). These answers are consistent among Americans who are over 35 years of age, although those 55 and over believe even more strongly in DNA (65%).

Millennial respondents tend to be more divided, saying that DNA (47%) and sexual identification (44%) play nearly equal roles in determining a woman’s gender. Greater acceptance of transgender rights might explain why millennials value self-identification and genetics as equally important factors.

When it comes to ideas surrounding birth and motherhood, YouGov’s poll found men and women vary in opinion. 28% of men consider motherhood crucial to the endurance of the human race and therefore a social issue, something only 17% of women agree with. 45% of women think that the decision to give birth is a woman’s alone, a statement that only 31% of men agreed with.