“Childless Women Lack an Essential Humanity”
Posted January 12, 2011on:
The artist writes:
“Selfish… Neurotic… Irresponsible… Immature… Unfeminine… Unfulfilling… Materialistic… Uptight… Deviant” — all words I have heard to characterize my decision to not have children, a decision transforming me into a target of one of society’s remaining and widely held prejudices.
Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, addresses the question of why the existence of women who choose maternal independence over child-rearing angers or offends so many people and institutions. The work presented here is part of a continuing exploration of our culture’s pejorative views about women without kids. For Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, I hand-embroidered representative negative comments on baby dresses using red thread to create scarlet letters. Gathered from interviews with childless women, online research, and personal experience, the statements taunt and accuse, and are typical of an endless flow of critical statements that seem to be growing bolder even as non-traditional families are gaining greater acceptance.
As a women who has never had any interest in having children, this work struck a chord with me. The quote most similar to the reactions I’ve received is “You still have time; maybe you’ll change your mind. You can adopt.” Many of the others Scher uses are shockingly negative, like “Childless women lack an essential humanity” (shown above) and “Your not having children was the biggest disappointment of our life.”
I have a lot of trouble understanding why anyone would be angry about a woman choosing not to have children. I can understand the idea of parents being disappointed about not having grandchildren, to a certain point (though not the point reached in the last quote above), but I can’t get my head around the idea of anger toward and disdain for a woman whose life plans do not include raising children. Raising children is a very difficult and lifelong job. We should be glad when a woman who does not desire to undertake this job chooses not to; unfortunately, many women who do raise children do not have the desire or ability to perform the job well, which is a horrible situation for any child to be in.
Cheers to Miriam Schaer for bringing a little-discussed form of discrimination into the public eye in a clever and powerful way.