Edge of Everywhere

Archive for January 2011

Cool art alert: Moved by the negative reactions to her and other women’s decisions not to have children, Miriam Schaer embroidered real quotes onto white baby dresses with red thread, creating a shocking visual representation of the societal prejudice against childless women.

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.

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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.

I got an email from WordPress the other day with my 2010 summary, letting me know that even though I barely wrote on this blog over the past year, a surprisingly large number of people visited it, which was nice to hear. I hope that my past writings will continue to be of use as a representation of one of the ever-growing number of asexual voices online.

The other recent occurrence that reminded me of this blog’s existence and prompted me to start writing again was the Jezebel article “Deep-Pocketed Woman Will Pay For Platonic Love.” The woman in question made a long Craigslist post expressing her disinterest in sexual relationships and offering compensation for a platonic companion, with many details about the type of relationship she seeks. The writer finds the subject “oddly riveting” and tries to dissect her motives, but doesn’t seem to know about asexuality. Luckily, many commenters chimed in and expressed their hope that the platonic relationship-seeker (and Jezebel’s readers) would visit AVEN to learn about asexuality and discover that platonic companionship is a completely normal thing to want–and doesn’t have to cost anything.

I don’t talk much about asexuality in real life, but things like this article make me feel like it’s my responsibility to help spread the word that asexuality exists as an orientation and a valid framework for different kinds of relationships. That way, maybe people like the woman in the article would be more likely to find validation for who they are and what they want, and ultimately feel less alone.