05 October, 2009

Redrawing the battlelines: I am not childless, you are not a mother. We are women.

To the naked eye, this article might almost look like it has the makings of a feminist piece on discrimination against child-free women. Almost:


A few years ago I was pleased to see articles like this pop up; after all it was rare to have someone defend the position of the child-free by choice against the barrage of both subtle and direct accusations that choosing not to procreate made you a failure as a woman.

Indeed, this article was warmly received in some femi-circles I move in. But over the years I have realised: it's a trick. A dirty rotten trick.

First of all, this article isn't for child-free women, it's against them. See the way they repeat the accusation over and over, and put it in bold in the headline that child-free women are selfish? Fair enough, this woman says a friend called her it once, but I'm not sure that justifies the emphasis the article puts on it, which is increasingly suspicious when you realise that "selfish" is the Fail's very own favourite accusation to level at women who choose not to have children.

Second of all, if this were a book it would flop, because the protagonist is so inherently unlikeable. She's unbearably smug: not having children means she and her husband can go five on luxury holidays a year. And for the author of what momentarily sounded like a semi-feminist statement, she's the perfect embodiment of the Fail's sexist attitude towards women and mothers: by not having children she is able to devote every free moment to pampering her husband; it wouldn't be fair of her to have children because her having a career would mean she would be neglecting them (wherever have we heard that before?). I'm seriously starting to think this woman may be a plant.

But more than all that, this article does women, child-free or not, no favours, for two reasons. One, it's clearly designed to set women against each other. Look at the comments (a depressing 500+ of them), an equal split of "Who's going to look after you when you're old? You'll be in a home paid for by MY child's taxes!" and "Who's going to pay for your kid's education? MY taxes!". It's classic divide and conquer; we can't fight sexism if we're too busy fighting each other. Two, drawing such distinction between mothers and the child-free only serves to encourage women to define themselves by their reproductive status, which re-enforces the belief that a woman's sole purpose in life is to procreate, and once she has done that her contribution and usefulness to the world is over (hence the blatent discrimination of post-menopausal women by just about everybody). Well, that's simply not true. All of us, whether we choose to have children or not, have more to offer the world than our uterus. We are not just mothers, or the childless of child-free or whichever label you choose to use. We are more than that. We are women.


  1. Well said. I am almost certainly not going to have children, however I will fight for the right, (Beastie stylee) for any other couple, or woman or man to have/adopt a child if they want and can care for one/two/a load, and their rights in the workplace etc. Amen to this post :)

  2. http://childlessbychoiceproject.blogspot.com/2009/10/not-having-kids-is-not-best-thing-i.html

    I've posted this up on the Feminazi wall, but this has given a bit of insight into how the story was manipulated (the Fail writer pretended that the interview with the woman was actually her first person - boo!), and she seems a bit pissed off about the fact they made up quotes about her imaginary friend Marie thinking she was selfish.

    Who'd have thought my dissertation topic would relate to Daily Mail articles on subjects other than Liz Jones?

    HT: Seal Press Facebook fan page

  3. Bridget - if this is true (and I'm always inclined to believe the interviewee in these cases), then that's fucking ridiculous. I'm glad she spoke up though!

    I do think that, at first glance, the article did seem very pro-CFBC; it's only when you actually read it that the message becomes apparent. Thing is, nobody calls men selfish when they choose not to have children, just like nobody says working fathers harm their kids. It's always the woman's fault.

  4. How is it that a woman is "selfish" for not wanting to have children?

    Did anyone think that they don't want to have children *because they'd be a shit mother*? I want children. My best female friend does not. She wants to work. I want to raise a family. She doesn't want kids because she doesn't want to have to quit her job and be supported by a husband. But we've agreed that if she does have a baby, its daycare is at my place, free. x3

    I don't understand. Some people just don't want to have to be responsible for another's life. It's also a really difficult and mostly-unrewarding job. I might want to have enough children to operate a slave labour camp, but what reason other than "religion" is there for women to HAVE to reproduce?

    Sometimes I wish I didn't want children. It's far more sensible.


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