In modern society, women enjoy more freedom and opportunity than at any point in history. Feminism has expanded our rights and made women more equal overall. Still, there is room for improvement. While women are more likely to go to college and start a career, there are still many sexist social expectations that women must face.
Not only do you have to be a working woman to meet modern standards, but many women are expected to be nurturing mothers. This expectation of motherhood, on top of a demanding job, can be difficult to juggle for any woman.
As a result, more women are choosing to stay childless. You would think that childless women would be accepted. What a woman chooses to do with her body is her decision, after all. However, childless women are not usually seen in a positive light. In fact, some parts of our culture are outright sexist to women without children.
How Are Childless Women Viewed in Media?
Unfortunately, as we mentioned, childless women are not typically viewed in a positive light. Movies, televisions show, and even fairytales have subtle and sexist, messaging aimed at childless women. In short, popular stories we all love malign women without children.
In these tales, childless women are either seen as murderous, selfish, deviant, or crazy. Think about Snow White’s childless stepmother who plots her murder or Peggy Olson from Madmen. These women are depicted as unfeminine and overly ambitious. On the other hand, you have media depictions also referring to childless women as crazy cat ladies or frivolous spenders.
Really, there are plenty of examples of this kind of casual sexism all around us.
Sexism and Reproductive Pressure
But this type of sexism is not just seen from the media, it is embedded into the very fabric of our culture. When we talk about childless women, the conversations surrounding this topic are often quite rude and sexist. Especially if you identify as a child free woman, you will get some major criticism.
Many people simply view childless women as selfish and un-womanly. For much of history, to be a woman was to be a mother. Society is moving forward from this notion, through the introduction of more gender equality. Still, we haven’t fully freed ourselves of this idea that women need to be mothers.
So, it isn’t uncommon to have people question childless women and their decision to take control of their bodies. Most of the time, a woman’s family will be the biggest offenders. They will ask when a woman will have children.
Even when someone says they won’t have kids, their opinions are invalidated. Childless women are often told that they will change their minds. Some women are even told that they will never have a fulfilling life without children. But what is the truth? Will you regret not having children?
In truth, you should make whatever decision is best for your health and happiness. Having children can be wonderful. However, if women don’t want to be a part of motherhood, we don’t have to be sexist towards them.
In fact, scientists have found that most childless women are happier than women with children. Researchers concluded that childless women felt more in control of their lives, which led to more happiness. This doesn’t mean that we have to stop having children to be happy. It does mean that we should give women the option to choose for themselves without judgment.
Here are some famous people and their thoughts on being childless by choice:
“Here’s where I come out on this topic: We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies…. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”
“If I had kids, my kids would hate me,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “They would have ended up on the equivalent of the Oprah show talking about me, because something [in my life] would have had to suffer, and it would’ve probably been them.”
In 2003 the Sex and the City star told O, the Oprah Magazine, “I try not to listen to the shoulds or coulds, and try to get beyond expectations, peer pressure, or trying to please—and just listen. I believe all the answers are ultimately within us. When I answered those questions regarding having children, I realized that so much of the pressure I was feeling was from outside sources, and I knew I wasn’t ready to take that step into motherhood.
“Childhood was heartbreaking enough for anybody. I don’t know that I could handle my own child, especially if I had a girl, going through what I went through growing up.