November 27, 2014

Childless Woman Taboo

When a woman reaches a certain age, she is expected to start thinking about having children. If she doesn’t, society demands an answer. (Telegraph)

Childless Woman Taboo

Childless Woman Taboo

Sarah Rainey recently took up the much discussed and debated February Vogue article in which Dame Helen Mirren “confronts the final female taboo“: childlessness. Like many commentators, Rainey finds Mirren’s candor refreshing in a media maelstrom prone to condemning childless celebrities (or at least badgering them to explain and justify why they are childless.) Regarding her own experience, Mirren explains that women never judged or harassed her. Men did.

[It] was only boring old men. And whenever they went ‘What? No children? Well, you’d better get on with it, old girl,’ I’d say ‘No! F— off!’ ~ Dame Helen Mirren (Telegraph)

Female childless celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Kylie Minogue are relentlessly interrogated. Pregnant? Baby bump? Just pudgy? Why no baby bump? When will you become mother? Why aren’t you a mother?

“The expectation is that they [women] will marry and have children,” explains Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Childless by Marriage. “If they don’t, everyone wants to know what’s wrong with them.” (Telegraph)

What’s Right with Them

Sure, once upon a time, looong ago childbearing was an almost essential and unquestioned connubial responsibility. Make babies to chop firewood, grow crops, protect us from marauders, care for us when we are old. I get. We get it.

But one of the really groovy perks of living in the first world in the dawn of the 21st century is that we’re no longer locked into this breed-or-bust marital model. Here’s a telling statistical arc.

An ONS study in 2010 found that just one in nine women born in 1938 remained childless, rising to one in five women born in 1965. It is projected that a quarter of 45-year-olds will be childless by 2018. (Telegraph)

Who are these disreputable, irresponsible scallywags? It’s time to expose them, to reveal them for who and what they are!

“You will find them among the higher educated, the ambitious and the high-flyers,” explains [author Fay] Weldon. “They, like Mirren, have a different but equal service to make to the community. They should be praised, not condemned.” (Telegraph)

Oh.

Right. Different but equal. Ambitious, highly educated high-flyers.

Childless Women: From Taboo to Equality

A Strong Woman

A strong woman stands up for herself.
A stronger woman stands up
for everyone else. (Credit: Quoteswave)

Yet, as Mirren articulates, women are frequently derided when childless. And while she lays the bugaboo at the insensitive feet of men, it seems that she may be oversimplifying the equation.

‘s post “Childfree: All Women are Created Equal” sees women as the primary culprits, perpetuating the medieval childless taboo upon their female contemporaries.

It was mostly women who were negative about my decision… I saw that it’s often women who don’t support other women’s life choices; it’s often women’s stereotypes of what we should be and do that get in our way. (Flurt!)

We’ll let Dame Mirren and Ms. Anderson debate whether men or women are more to blame for reinforcing long stale judgments and condescension toward childless women. What is evident is that the taboo endures despite statistical shift and more widespread recognition that motherhood should be a decision, not destiny.

Men, women, society. Something is stuck. Or clinging. Either way, it is high time we move forward. There’s a bright future ahead. It is a Technicolor tomorrow where equality reigns and we encourage and celebrate diversity of all flavors. Moms respect dads. Dads respect moms. Let’s start with that! And parents respect childless couples. And childless individuals. And childless by choice respect parents. And all of us embrace and support those who wanted to be parents but couldn’t. We might even discover that it is pretty fascinating to hear each other’s stories about why we are the way we are, to listen without judging or sneering or condescending or belittling. Sounds great, right?

To all women with children who unfairly judge those of us who have decided not to follow in your motherhood footsteps, I say, “accept every woman for who she is. Respect the decisions she has made for herself. Just because her choices are not the same as yours is no reason to criticize or belittle. She is not any less a woman than you are because she chose not to have children. Women need to support one another and to encourage one another to be who and what we each want to be.” (Flurt!)

Transform Childless Taboo into Folklore

In truth, it is “boring old men” and myopic mothers who perpetuate the breed-or-bust stereotype for women. But it’s also true that many of us in the childless by choice camp perpetuate “breeder” stereotypes that offend parents. Sometimes it is unintentional. Sometimes not. Often we are just as guilty of judging and sneering and condescending and belittling. Perhaps it’s a defensive mechanism or a way to vent after absorbing yet another breeder bingo. But it is not helpful. And it too reinforces the divide between parents and childless couples.

Let’s stop. We can. I challenge us to transform childless women taboos into folklore. Trite, amusing folklore. Yes, we can.

Can’t we?

Related articles

You’ll Change Your Mind: Why No Kids? Celebrity Edition

One of the comments that the childfree just love to hear is, “You’ll change your mind!”

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 05:  Actress Port...

Here’s a gallery of celebrities from our friends at mommyish.com  that are still rocking the childfree lifestyle.

The list includes the childfree celebrity “all stars” Cameron Diaz, Simon Cowell, Jennifer Aniston, and

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi with a funny quip about why they don’t have kids:

“We thought about it. We love to be around children after they’ve been fed and bathed. But we ultimately decided that we don’t want children of our own. There is far too much glass in our house.”

Ten Celebrities Give Their Reasons For Being Childless By Choice

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Here’s a good piece of celebrity eye candy coupled with some intriguing answers from some that are childfree: Ten Celebrities Give Their Reasons For Being Childless By Choice | Mommyish.

We promise to post some more celebrity and childfree intrigue soon. Some of these things are old news, but never dated, and still an interesting reads or resources maybe…

From Mommyish:

Celebrity reproduction is a huge industry. With websites devoted to Hollywood pregnancy and starlet offspring, celebs are constantly pressured to explain their choices about having children. We here at Mommyish feel pretty sympathetic towards these celebrities, because hey, awkward questions suck! Unfortunately, actresses like Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz seem to be regularly harassed about the contents of their uterus and just when they’re going to procreate.

The slideshow and quotes are worth examining. Here are a few highlights:

Simon Cowell:

“At my age, definitely. The reality is, with the way I live my life, I wouldn’t have the patience. I’d sort of want people born at the age of 10, I think.”

Fergie:

“I don’ t want anything clouding my focus.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Actress Portia d...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

“We thought about it. We love to be around children after they’ve been fed and bathed. But we ultimately decided that we don’ t want children of our own. There is far too much glass in our house.”

“I love the little suckers; they’re so cute but I love sleep so much and I worry about everything.”
Related articles:
Enhanced by Zemanta

Even Movie Stars are Challenged by Parenting and Non-Parenting Roles

Celebrities make it look so easy, with their $17,000 diamond studded pacifiers and twelve nannies,  but is parenting easier for the rich and famous?

Here are a few quotes from superstars on the challenging role of parenting and the joys of being childfree. See they are just like us!

Julia Roberts is playing mom to Ryan Reynolds in a new film Fireflies in the Garden but even this supermom finds parenthood demanding:

“I think it’s challenging for everybody in different ways. My challenges as a wife and a mother are very different from the ones portrayed in the movie, but I think for everybody it’s a hard challenge.”

Tori Spelling just gave birth to her third baby:

“I’m always questioning, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I okay at this?”

Kendra Wilkinson, the former Playmate and party girl,  is famous for her comments on how parenting changed her sex life.

“The sleep. I used to go to bed around 3 a.m. and wake up at 3 p.m. Now I get up at 3 a.m. and stay up until 3 a.m.”

Mad Men star Christina Hendricks‘ on screen character is currently expecting. Recently, she was asked was asked if she is ready to take on the role of motherhood for real:

“We enjoy other people’s kids very much,” Christina told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush on the red carpet at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, when asked if she and her husband, “Body of Proof” actor Geoffrey Arend, are planning on having children. “We’re having fun right now.”

“We’re having a lot of fun,” Geoffrey added.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22:  (L-R) Televisi...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The media are obsessed with pregnant celebrities and are on constant baby bump watch. Does it help an actresses career to get publicity from pregnancy? Does it hurt a career to say no to kids? Actresses Kate Walsh and Cameron Diaz have both spoken up about not being moms and have received a lot of press for choosing their childfree paths. The queen of all stage moms Kris Jenner revealed to US Weekly in August  that she puts pressure on her famous Kardashian daughters to have kids. It makes you wonder, pregnancy or no pregnancy, if it is all just for the ratings.

Not a Loser, Baby

Kate Walsh More cover girl

The Hollywood headline reads “Kate Walsh (television star of Gray’s Anatomy and Private Practice) Embarrassed For Not Having Kids”.

This newsflash did its job and caught my childfree eye. I had to read more. Maybe not coincidentally, the article is in MORE magazine, a magazine “that celebrates women over 40”. However, it seems that in this case, not having kids by 40 means this star is more likely falling or failing.

In the article Kate Walsh says, “I feel like a loser. I would definitely love to be a parent. But I definitely don’t think I want to do it on my own. Things are just going to go the way they go… I thought I’d be married and have three or four kids. I always knew I wanted to be an actress, but I think I always wanted a quote-unquote normal life because I had a very untraditional upbringing.”

So normal is two kids and a dog right? Not for the nearly 50% of American women who are not moms. (source savvyauntie.com)

Maybe Kate should talk to Oscar winner Dame Helen Mirren, who swore off childbirth after seeing a film on the subject as a kid, “I swear it traumatised me to this day. I haven’t had children and now I can’t look at anything to do with childbirth. It absolutely disgusts me.”

Childfree and carefree Cameron Diaz

Or she could listen to outspoken environmentalist Cameron Diaz, who recently defended women who don’t want children in Cosmo by saying, “I think women are afraid to say that they don’t want children because they’re going to get shunned. But I think that’s changing too now. I have more girlfriends who don’t have kids than those that do. And honestly? We don’t need any more kids. We have plenty of people on this planet.” Diaz adds she might still have kids of her own.

Every celebrity rag is filled with photos of pregnant or potentially knocked up stars. We are obsessed with bump watch and all the joys of charting famous bellies and how quickly they grow then disappear.

Maybe Kate Walsh’s PR agent thinks she is a loser for not cashing in on the craze and publicity nexus of the moment. (Although, her article has caused quite a stir of its own.) It seems more and more actresses are joining the Hollywood Baby Boom. Currently pregnant stars include: Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Selma Blair, Maya Rudolph, Alyssa Milano, Alicia Silverstone, and three of the five Spice Girls.

Suri cruisin' with her $1,700 purse

The paparazzi have gone after the celebrity spawn as well. Photos of the little fashionistas are making cover stories. We’ve always wanted all the goodies and clothing of the rich and famous, and now we want our kids to wear what their kids are wearing too. Does that include the $1,700 Dolce and Gabbana purse of Miss Suri Cruise, age 4? For Ms. Walsh, her ability to protect a child from the paps and lack of privacy might be influencing her decision.

With the Hollywood baby boom exploding, we could use some other childfree personalities to speak up and share that their lives without children are still worth living, and that having less is sometimes more.

Some Notable Childfree Movie Stars

George Clooney

Cameron Diaz

Hugh Grant

Renee Zellweger

Katharine Hepburn

Oprah Winfrey

Hilary Swank

Charlize Theron

Angelica Houston

Steve Martin

Marisa Tomei

Ellen DeGeneres

Portia DeGeneres