Sarah Kasbeer recently published an enlightened article on Bustle.com. She talked about how being childfree was not so much a “choice” for her, but something more. Let me explain.
Beyond Childfree as a Choice
First, Kasbeer expresses what so many women have conveyed to me about being very clear they do not want to have children. She writes, “The fact is that I’ve felt flawed for a very long time, like I might be missing a chip. Specifically, the ‘motherhood’ chip.” Until women see through the pronatalist assumption that something must be “wrong”’ with you if you don’t want kids, they honestly think there might be.
For Kasbeer, not wanting children goes beyond a lifestyle choice – beyond a choice at all. This too is so true for many childfree women (and men). As far back as the 80s, there have been a number of terms that are related to feeling this way.
The term, “early articulator” has been used to describe people who knew from an early age that they did not want children. As I have written, in addition to just sounding cold and forcibly scientific, the word “articulator” has not made a lot of sense to me. What is an articulator? Someone who articulates. But articulates what? Definitions mostly have to do with our speech or giving “clarity or distinction” to something. Ok, using “early articulator” could reflect that we made it clear and distinct that we did not ever want kids early in life, but boy, beyond sounding like a medical condition, could this characterization be – well, more articulate!
This phrase is more informal that “articulator,” but for many childfree people the word “decide” is not quite right, because they felt they never really did decide – instead they had just always felt this way.
Childfree by Orientation
This phrase was suggested a few years ago by blogger Jane Arizona. “Orientation” gets at the idea that she never really chose it; instead it has just felt like who she is, and will always be. This also points to the idea that it is not so much about deciding one is childfree as having the “realization” that one is and will remain childfree.
Childfree as Part of Identity
Kasbeer takes “I have always been and will be this way” idea further and describes it as being childfree as part of her identity. She writes, “The fact is that childfree is not recognized as an identity — the kind of born-this-way mentality that sexual orientation and gender identity rightfully command.”
She is so right. Well, Sarah Kasbeer, I recognize it and applaud that you have so succinctly expressed how many childfree feel and have not been able to put just the right word to it.
I also think that many childfree women will relate to what Kasbeer goes on to write:
In some ways, being childfree is also an expression of my feminism. If the only way for women to achieve equality to men is the divorce of childbearing from womanhood, as Shulamith Firestone theorized in The Dialectic of Sex, perhaps not having kids is part of my desire to assert myself in the world, unconstrained by gender.
So, for those of us who knew early or always knew for sure, let’s drop the articulator, the decider, the orientation as a way to describe this part of our womanhood. In this pronatalist world of ours, dare to go beyond “choice” and describe being childfree as part of your identity – part of all of who you are.
This is right on. It took me a while to come to terms with it, but I was born this way. Being child free is part of my innate identity.
Thank you so much for this. I am absolutely a Childfree by orientation/identity person. I was never meant to have children. Not now, not ever. It’s not a “choice,” and I’m sick to death of this being the dominant form of framing.