WORK-LIFE BALANCE / DEC. 18, 2013
version 3, draft 3

Not 'Having It All': Do We Stigmatise Childless Career Women?

Do we still judge childless women? We continue to debate whether women can “have it all” while assuming men can. And when some employers don't hire women who are or who might become mothers, it's easy to see why women are choosing to have kids at later ages. The teenage pregnancy moral panic doesn't help either- it further reinforces the idea that kids will ruin your life- if you're female. But when women postpone pregnancy or skip it altogether to avoid discrimination, do they unwittingly invite discrimination of a different kind?

In 2013, it would be great to say No, certainly not! However, a survey by the Infertility Network UK found that the majority of childless women aged 35 to 45 have felt stigmatised. The Telegraph reported that “60% of women in this age bracket [are] feeling judged for not being mothers,” with friends and family being the greatest sources of pressure. The poll received funding from the pharmaceutical company Merck Serono, and though many will feel that a poll funded by a company should not be trusted, it is difficult to see how the drug company would have benefitted from this study in any way except for increasing its public profile.

However, this data only reflects the experiences of women who have difficulty conceiving. Women who choose to remain childless have coined the term “childfree” as a reaction against the way having children is seen as the norm while choosing not to have children is seen as deviant. Victor J Callan's reveals that women may choose to be childfree because they rate the costs of raising kids as higher and the benefits of having children as less than women who choose to have children. But some childfree women have a simpler reason for their choice- it's just not right for them.

The theory of evolution has been used to keep women in their place for decades. Science was used to 'prove' that women are biologically destined to want children, to be heterosexual and even biologically destined to want commitment and not play the field! Even when the Kinsey studies proved differently, people ignored the huge similarities in women's and men's behaviour and instead focused on exploring the minute differences. It's only recently that this has begun to be challenged, and even now articles 'proving' psychological differences between the sexes remain popular. That's why women who don't want kids seem outside the norm.

But sexist attitudes about women being naturally maternal may . They've already changed significantly over the past few decades, with childfree women now able to be . As are childless by choice, the stigma may gradually decrease even more.

So, if you are childless- whether it's by choice or not- the future looks brighter. Society may still be stuck in the Dark Ages, but it's all uphill from here.

Image source: www.dailymail.co.uk

 

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