The first time I was told that my career as a female flying trapeze catcher would make me infertile my response was, “That is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard.” It was said to me by a fellow female catcher in Los Angeles. As her face fell I realised that she was not regurgitating a sexist and absurd myth for us to both mock but was in fact genuinely concerned about the impact catching would have on her future fertility.
Before continuing with this piece I want to stress that I am addressing this myth not because it has a scientific leg to stand on but because it comes from a long history of medical pseudoscience being weaponised to cull the physical potentiality of women, both in and out of circus and sport. Myths like this one, and the culture that has supported them to the point of other women buying into them as gospel, are as ludicrous as they are harmful. They have deep-seated roots in misogyny, utilising a culturally learned feminine helplessness as a tool of keeping women in a subordinate societal role. They rely on fear, poor understanding of the reproductive system, and outdated views on the biological differences between the sexes, and they have no place in modern-day circus. The exact origins of this particular myth are unknown; the furthest back I have been...
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Morgan Barbour is a model, writer, movement director, and circus artist. Her work has been featured in publications such as Insider, GenderIT, Al Jazeera English, The Journal.ie, Circus Talk, and HuffPost. She has been a vocal advocate for victims of sexual and domestic abuse and has publicly criticized the legal system's handling of such cases in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland. Her European debut play, By the Bi, was recognized by Amnesty International UK as a production inspiring audiences to think about human rights. She is a former professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a visiting special lecturer at Central St Martins.