Throughout the life of a woman, you are guaranteed to hear these questions; “when will you have kids”, “When will you settle down and have children?”, or “Isn’t your clock ticking, yet?”
Those loaded questions become more insistent as a woman get older.
At some point in the history of society, the mere physical existence of the womb has become the defining feature of womanhood, and there is almost a “must use” policy on it. Thus, society has shaped what it means to be a woman to be solely linked to fertility, having, and caring for children, and this has negative effects on the lives of women. From how we date, to career possibilities, and to even how we view ourselves.
In basic terms, there are groups of women who are child-free; those that choose, those unable to carry children, those who cannot afford to have children, and those who cannot afford fertility treatments or adoption. Does the lack of children in their lives make them any less of a woman? No.
Yet, if a woman is without a child in the 30s and 40s there is huge pressure placed upon them to either freeze their eggs, fight tooth and nail to be seen as person with different needs, or to rush to settle down and have a family that they didn’t really have in their life plan. This is all due to the vilification of women who do not have children, just look at how Jennifer Aniston has been portrayed as “Poor Jen” by the media for being childless, as if the emptiness of her womb is a defining factor of her happiness.
We make these assumptions about women with no children, and we frequently fail to understand that many who are child-free have a range of unique reasons and that many have made a choice to remain child-free. We seldom afford them the space and freedom to exist without children, without comment or implied judgement.
This issue is tackled by British filmmaker Maxine Trump, whose new documentary ‘To Kid or Not To Kid' challenges the taboo of the women who choose to be child free while also exploring her own indecision about wanting children. It was originally meant to be released in cinemas but due to coronavirus it was released online and can be found on Amazon Prime.
Choosing whether or not to have children is an increasing question within the Millennial and Gen Z generations, and the UK birth rate hit an all-time low in 2019. Both generations have seen countless waves of feminism fail to deconstruct the idea that women pay the penalty, financially as well as physically (the gender pay gap in the UK is at 11.9% currently) when it comes to having a child.
Women the world over have been fighting to be seen for more than their reproductive organs for centuries, because we know womanhood isn’t linked to childbirth. Not every biological woman can or wants to have children, and not every woman (including Transwomen) is built to carry a child themselves. Womanhood is part of our gender, our identity, our life trials, our strengths, and our weaknesses. Womanhood is so much more than our internal organs and more than our fertility.