Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It takes guts to say: 'I don't want children'

The Guardian
Last week, [Cameron] Diaz proved herself especially sensible. I'll go further. She was wise, insightful, right.

The actress told Cosmopolitan magazine that being a woman and admitting you didn't want children is taboo. "I think women are afraid to say that they don't want children because they're going to get shunned ... I have more girlfriends who don't have kids than those that do. And honestly? We don't need any more kids. We have plenty of people on this planet."
. . .
[In a previous column,] I talked about how weird it is to be disconnected from this baby-crazy culture. Like being sober while everyone else is drunk. I talked about how strange it is to not even care whether or not I'm infertile, when apparently it's all anyone else thinks about.

Was I antagonistic? Possibly. I tried not to be, but I am passionate about this. I was certainly a bit sensational, a bit flippant. The headline referred to the rise of the "dummy mummy" generation - an inflammatory turn of phrase.

The reaction to the piece was terrifying. Emails and letters arrived, condemning me, expressing disgust. I was denounced as bitter, selfish, un-sisterly, unnatural, evil. I'm now routinely referred to as "baby-hating journalist Polly Vernon".
. . .
I've registered a gender split in the way people respond to it, if it comes up socially.

Women might think I'm in denial, but they let me get on with it now. Men, meanwhile, are astounded. Flummoxed. They become aggressive, sneering. They psychoanalyse me, they try to work out what's wrong with me. Who knows why? Perhaps they feel rejected. Perhaps the idea that there are women at large who are not actively pursuing their sperm is an out-and-out affront to a certain kind of man. The same men who have spent years believing that all women secretly want to trap them into commitment and fatherhood, probably.
. . .
Here's the thing: we need to stop pretending that childlessness isn't happening to us. It is. The birth rate in Europe is in steep decline. We know this. We know that, currently, 40% of UK university graduates aged 35 are childless and that at least 30% will stay that way permanently. We know that much of this childlessness is involuntary or, at least, unconsidered, the consequence of infertility, a lack of opportunity or leaving it too late.
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