Friday, December 25, 2009

Child-free for the Holidays: a Discussion from LiveJournal (edited)


[image is from here]
[Slightly revised on 28 Dec. 2009 ECD]
I like the question that follows and believe this to be an important issue that is, in my experience, too rarely discussed, leaving those of us who are, whether by choice and privilege or not, without partners and without children of our own. I found some of the answers to be implicitly classist and racist, also misogynist, so I removed 'em or edited them, 'cause I'm not gonna promote that CRAP here.

I hope it is clear, but I'll make it so explicitly, that some societies are facing genocide, and the "choice" to not have children, if all Indigenous women made it, would be genocidal. And no woman of any ethnic heritage should HAVE to have children.

Some societies are so impoverished and have had their cultures and communities so destroyed by white male supremacy and Western cultural imperialism as well as corporate capitalism, that one must give birth in order to ensure one is taken care of in one's later years, assuming that the child lives and that the parent lives into her later years. And no woman in any economic condition should HAVE to have children.

Forced sterilisation has been and remains a crime against humanity, notably women's--it necessarily is a violent invasion of her body due to forces and decisions which are not hers; this issue is too often left out of "reproductive rights" debates, as if the only issue is "abortion" and access to it. It isn't. Another issue, for poor women, for mentally and physically disabled women, is the right to not be forcibly sterilised. We also cannot forget the issue of same-gender relationships, intersexuality, and transgenderism, each of which impact many human beings' abilities to have children. Many people are disabled in ways that do not allow them to have the option of having children.

Many girls and women are raped at times when the rape causes pregnancy; there are girls and women who do not wish to have an abortion under those circumstances, or who, for any number of reasons, cannot have one even if they wish to. And many extended family members, in many societies, share the child-rearing duties, such as the elder members. I was raised by my grandmothers, primarily. There is stigma on women who have children and on those who do not. There is a particular stigma on poor women who have abortions and on those who do not. And the pressure on women to be baby-birthers, to spend a great deal of their lives attending to fulfilling that patriarchal imperative, organising their life energies exhaustingly around that imperative, is fiercely coercive if not bullying, and ubiquitous x 10 in the society I have lived in.

My female cousins were married to men and/or pregnant by the age of twenty-one. This was a product of their culture. There was no other way females did adulthood where they grew up. None were raised to consider going to college. All had had several children by the time they were twenty-five. All of them have divorced the fathers of their children. In most but not all cases the children were raised by them, not the fathers. My male cousins have also had children, neither of them in a context of marriage. One of them is the father/parent to both his children. The other has not been the father/parent to any of his three children. Nor has he provided for them financially. And, he has been and remains poor. Given his poverty, I'll add that more of his money has gone to pay for pot and alcohol than to his support his own children. He has utilised his male privileges and entitlements well--which is to say egregiously, to not be accountable to the women who bore children he helped bring into the world. He is a very irresponsible and sexist guy. (I speak more about him in the post on MacKenzie Phillips outing her "Papa John" as a rapist and incest perpetrator.)

So this is an issue of ageism, ableism, sexism, heterosexism, racism, classism, colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism. It is also an issue of CHOICE, and the choice by any woman to live child-free ought to be respected by all men.

There were ten answers, and now there are eight. A good friend of mine is expecting her first child, to be born from her body, in a few weeks. She has a caring partner, a man, the "biological" father of the child to be born, and he will be the primary parent, as she wishes to continue her work life, which happens inside the home but requires her time and energy be spent at a computer. They have access to financial and medical resources through his family, should they need them. I adore infants and can't wait to hold the little one. I love children. It enrages me beyond words to hear of children being abused and neglected, both in a family and by civilisation.


Do you think society puts too much pressure on people to be in relationships and/or have children? Do you think this ostracizes people who would be perfectly content to remain single and/or child-free? Is this pressure worse around the holidays?
  1. Yes. From a child-free standpoint - People (some not all) are downright condescending about me and my husbands decision not to have children. Others are downright boggled, and still others think there must be something biologically or chemically wrong with both of us. Honestly, we both just love our sleep, extra money, playing loud music and movies, spontanious sex, going out on the week-ends without having to find a sitter, etc etc etc. I don't really find it's worse around the holidays. Except for the occasional "Too bad you don't get to see any little kids open gifts on christmas morning" Yes, it really is too bad I had to spend the money that would have gone on useless toys on other things. :)
  2. Yes, definitely. I'm asexual and aromantic and my eldest brother is the same; the only one who isn't is our other brother in the middle, who only thinks with his other head. Louis and I really just don't care (although I think I care less than he does, seeing as he often goes "Ahh, maybe it's about time I get a girlfriend" and the like) and we're not fond of kids either. In fact, small children downright frighten me....
  3. In a way, I can see where there'd be a 'pressure' or something, but perhaps I'm just not seeing what you're seeing. It's more of a natural human desire to have someone else there. A partner. Someone who is always there for you. Holidays just worsen that alone feeling. Not sure if there's 'pressure' there, but just.. meh. Then again, I can't really think about taking care of a relationship, when I can barely take care of myself. *sigh*
  4. The short answers to this question are yes, yes to a degree and I think sometimes it is, yes. I have friends from all across the spectrum. It was only when I got heavily involved in supporting and educating women who are either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or who had just had babies that my perspective on societal pressures began to shift.... It pulls on my heart strings when I have friends who aren't happy in their lives because they're unhappy in their relationship or they want to be in a relationship but aren't. But I also understand that happiness comes in different packages for everyone and so respect and honour those who are happiest without a relationship and perhaps even children. Striking a balance is a never ending process though, not a final state. I can only hope that society at large will find some kind of balance too.
  5. HELL YES! Whenever I'm at any family functions this time of the year and the rest of my generation are there with all their kids I either get pitying looks or the question of "When are you gonna settle down with a husband and give your parents some grandkids to spoil?" I don't WANT to get married, too many of my friends have been married and divorced thank you very much, and sides, they DO have grandkids to spoil...they just happen to have four legs and fur...
  6. I cannot express how I got sick to death of hearing people in Bible college tell me that I "couldn't teach the men" but maybe I could marry a youth pastor or have my own children to teach without having any idea that I was divorced and am incapable of having children without divine intervention. In fact, one girl somehow got it in her mind that I had a son and no matter how much I protested to the contrary would continually ask me about him until I finally turned around and said, "My husband left me after he got his girlfriend pregnant. I can't have kids. STOP IT...What it does mean is that I have a scope of compassion and understanding for other women who have been hurt, abandoned, wounded and feel so very keenly the strange sting of childlessness that our society tells us we should be several decades beyond feeling shameful about [...]
  7. I could expound upon the reasons why, but I fear it would be extremely rambly and rather pointless, as I make little sense when I start to ramble. So, to summarize: - Some women do not want children. This does not invalidate their existence or worth as people. - Since the driving force behind most relationships and the pressure to be in them is directly related to how much sex you should (or should not) be having, those of us who don't want it (yeah, hi, this corner over here) doubtless feel that we are somehow inferior...
  8. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. Personally, I don't want kids. Who knows? Maybe someday I'd like to adopt a child. One. As in singular. Having siblings is all sorts of bad in my opinion. I learned that as a kid. I'm not one of those people who wants 10 kids and a white picket fence. My fence will be rainbow, dammit! And my house will be obnoxious and fun and there will always be music going. =)...

7 comments:

Anishinaabekwe said...

Have you read the book - Childfree and Loving It? If not I recommend that you do!

Check it out - http://www.amazon.com/Childfree-Loving-Nicki-Defago/dp/1904132634/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262026830&sr=8-1

Julian Real said...

Thanks for letting me know about the book! I'll make sure all the women I know who are struggling to be respected by family and friends, and by dominant society's sexist spokespeople, know this book exists!

Here's the link, folks: Childfree and Loving It, by Nicki Defago

Anishinaabekwe said...

You are welcome! I don't have children and don't want them ever. This book helped me just so I could say that having children was a choice and not the only way to be as a woman.

Julian Real said...

Very few women I know have or want children. I'm glad there are beginning to be support resources for women who want to live child-free and not be challenged or criticised for making that decision.

Check out Celie's Revenge blog, for another woman who is adamantly child-free. (If you haven't already!)

Julian Real said...

For example, this post!

Anishinaabekwe said...

Her blog is great - thanks for the link!

Julian Real said...

:)