Medias and William, a young couple in rural Uganda, are trying to have a baby—to no avail. They’ve been together a long time, and their options are becoming limited.
“People say, ‘She’s not a woman. She doesn’t have a child,’” Medias says in Paul Szynol’s short documentary, premiering on The Atlantic today. “I try to avoid people because they show me that I’m worthless.”
Not a Woman follows the couple on their journey to conceive. They turn to in vitro fertilization, a process that involves a series of invasive and painful procedures that are often unsuccessful. Throughout, Medias reflects on the enormous emotional toll infertility has taken on her life.
In Uganda, women without children encounter a considerable amount of social stigma. “They are derided, branded as useless, and often ostracized,” Szynol told The Atlantic. “Some women face domestic abuse or are driven out of their homes and into uncertain and perilous fates.” The stigma attached to childlessness is almost always shouldered by the woman, said Szynol, irrespective of whether it results from male-factor infertility.
After regularly visiting Uganda and speaking with dozens of men and women about their experience with infertility, Szynol decided to make a film about William and Medias because he was moved by their resilience. “Medias was vulnerable yet strong, pained yet dignified, and William, instead of succumbing to cultural pressures, remained supportive of his wife,” Szynol said.
With the film, Szynol hopes to “highlight the deep, widespread, and invisible suffering that infertility [causes for] millions of women in cultures that view them in such a reductive and utilitarian way.” The director was initially concerned about Medias’s reticence—he described her as being “inconsolably silent” throughout the process of filming—but it ultimately became clear to him that this was emblematic of the story he was telling. “Her wordlessness is a potent symbol of her and many women’s voicelessness in this situation,” Szynol said.
Author: Emily Buder