Art Feminism Life Photography

On Being a Social Outcast (OR: My Uterus is My Own)

I wrote this today on a thread on another site. I wanted to archive it here for the future:

As is usual whenever there is a discussion about being childless and the reasons why… lots of people chime in with their stories of how wonderful it is to have children.It can be a very dark road being childless – even if you didn’t want children.

As a 30 year old woman who lives with a man I am asked probably at least once a week when I’m going to start a family. When I say I’m not, I’m told I am selfish. That am I not doing what I’m supposed to do. That I should let my partner go so that he can find another woman to have children with (he doesn’t want children either…). When people find out I have been surgically sterilised through choice, they look at me like I’m sort kind of freak who eats babies for breakfast. It’s just not socially acceptable to be a woman who chooses not to have children.

I’m always hopeful when I see threads like this, that they will be a place to discuss being childless. That it will be a place where, just for a brief moment, we can come together and not feel like total outcasts from society.

And then, as usual, people start to post about how having children changed their life, how it’s the only way they could imagine their lives, and inadvertently pouring utter heteronormativity all over the thread. I get it, it’s not your fault. You’re just doing what society expects you to do, which is having children and talking about how wonderful it is.

But spare a thought for those of us who have to face difficulties for our own choices regularly. And perhaps next time you see a thread discussing why people choose to be childless, just refrain from talking about how having children is the best thing in the world. Because we know that’s how we’re supposed to feel, but for one reason or another many of us don’t.

As an aside, I have an ongoing interest in the state of motherhood and it’s exploration through art. If you are interested at all, I highly¬†recommend reading up on The Photographers Gallery Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood¬†exhibition that was on a few years ago.

The book is simply excellent. Do buy it and support a wonderful gallery. The pictures are printed extraordinarily well, the hardbound binding is beautiful, and the essays are brilliant.