We on the left think about, talk about, and write about discrimination all the time. After all, part of being a liberal is being at least somewhat social-justice minded. However, there is one kind of discrimination that is rarely brought up: Discrimination against those of us who are childfree by choice. Despite the fact that it is never talked about, it is every bit as real as racism, homophobia, misogyny, or any of the other kinds of discrimination that are so commonly posted about on sites such as this one. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening, though, and that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem.
We live in a world that caters to parents and children. This makes sense; after all, children are our future, and procreation is how we keep the human race going. This is perfectly understandable. But, this widely accepted societal position also means that those of us who choose not to become parents often get a pretty raw deal. A lot of this comes in the form of medical discrimination. I know that I have never wanted children. As a lesbian, obviously it’s not difficult for me to not get pregnant. However, there is the issue of things like sexual assault. It’s not a happy thought, but it is something that all women must think about and be aware of. To that end, I don’t even want pregnancy to be a physical possibility. So, I have tried, on 4 different occasions, to have a tubal ligation performed. In all 4 instances, I was refused. Why? Because I am supposedly too young to know that I don’t want children. I am now 34, and have yet to find a doctor to do it. Think about it- if a woman who wanted an abortion was treated the way childfree people who want tubal ligations and vasectomies are treated, there would be a whole movement to put a stop to it. Why is this choice not getting the same kind of attention?
This got me to thinking, so I asked the Childfree community of Reddit to share some of their experiences regarding discrimination with regards to being Childfree, and they happily delivered.
One user described living in a culture that doesn’t even have the language to describe a person who never wants to get married or have children:
A little closer to home, another user described, much like my own experience, being unable to get permanent birth control until both partners in the relationship were past a certain age and/or had children:
A third user described not just medical discrimination, but pointed out how silly the “selfish” argument is:
Yet another user describes multiple doctors treating her with disrespect and refusing to let her make her own choices, as well as the social stigma all of us are all too familiar with:
Another user described blatant discrimination in the workplace (contrary to popular belief, Childfree people have families as well):
Another case of special treatment for parents in the workplace, along with blatant harassment that was allowed to happen unchecked:
And of course, there is the blatant, unchecked discrimination when it comes to funding for college and other government programs against people who do not have children:
I’ll add to that the fact that people get massive tax breaks for having children. Why should the government subsidize something that is clearly a choice? If they cannot afford to have kids without that help, they should have fewer children, or wait until they can afford them.
The final shot describes being bingoed (this is the term in the Childfree community regarding the idea that we don’t know what we are doing by choosing not to have children) by the doctor who would eventually perform her tubal ligation. It also is a wonderful, all-encompassing comment that perfectly describes the frustration we all feel at having our choices questioned and ridiculed on a regular basis:
All in all, the fact that this sort of discrimination isn’t even seen as discrimination is very telling. We have a million blogs, websites, and articles chronicling the challenges of parents. Those of us without children are regularly pressured by parents who want grandchildren, friends who assume that we have no responsibilities, that our lives are less meaningful, and that we should be built-in babysitters because we don’t have children. There is constant invalidation, aside from the aforementioned very real forms of discrimination that we experience.
In fact, this widely praised viral video that a mother of two made, directed at her childfree friends, pretty much sums up how we are viewed by many parents:
The bottom line is this: Being childfree doesn’t make us irresponsible, afraid to grow up, or selfish. It doesn’t mean we have unlimited money and leisure time with no responsibility whatsoever. It doesn’t mean we don’t sympathize with the plight of parents. It doesn’t mean we hate children. It simply means that we don’t want children. All we want is for our choice to be respected, just like parents want their choice to be respected. Is that really too much to ask?
Featured image via Flickr