Childless Women Do Not Lack "An Essential Humanity"

Childless Women Do Not Lack "An Essential Humanity"

An easy way to piss me off is to make a sweeping generalization about a large group of people and claim that they all possess the same characteristic. While it seems obvious to me that this is a wrong and misguided thing to do, there are actually people out there who do this. Not only do they make untrue generalizations, but sometimes their words are published on popular websites.

I should probably ignore things like this that piss me off, and most of the time I do. But every once in a while it's impossible. The example this time is a woman named Carol Sarler who wrote an article in the Daily Mail, putting down childless women. Not content to say something just slightly less offensive, she states that childless woman “lack an essential humanity.”

Much as I like to trumpet the importance of a woman's right to choose all things at all times, there's one choice I simply cannot understand: the choice of an otherwise sane and healthy woman not to have children. [...]

[If a woman] says she hasn't a shred of maternal feeling in her, moreover, if she says she would prefer to concentrate on her career and that a child would only get in the way of it, then my head might acknowledge her right to do so. But my heart whispers: 'Lady, you're weird.'

Sarler points to recent research that shows that “far from bosses and colleagues always being suspicious of a working mother, the opposite is becoming true: it is the childless woman who is regarded as cold and odd.” (When I read that, my first thought was that I’d really like someone to do a breakdown of the results of this study. I’ve seen Bella DePaulo tear through enough of these types of studies to be suspicious right from the beginning.)

If Sarler had worded her article in such a way that encouraged employers not to discriminate against hiring mothers, and also not to assume that childless workers are automatically harder working, that would be one thing. But Sarler says that mothers are the better workers and that bosses are right to distrust women who don't want children. Apparently, being childless means you’re out partying all the time.

It's not the mothers, for a start, who are going to turn up late and hungover after a night on the razz; they'll have been up, dressed and alert for hours, having cooked a family breakfast and delivered their children to school. On time.

Nobody appreciates being generalized about. I know plenty of childless women who have huge hearts; they certainly don’t booze it up every night and arrive at work late the next morning. In fact, they often do a better job as aunties and godmothers than a lot of mothers do with their own kids.

I’ve always leaned farther to the side of not having a child than being able to picture myself changing diapers and soothing temper tantrums. So when I hear these misguided and just plain wrong opinions about childless women, I’m even more positive that I could remain happy in the ranks of Women Who Are Awesome and Childless for the rest of my life.

What’s your opinion when you hear something like this?

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Amy Clare, guest blogging at The F Word, responds to Carol Sarler’s article by writing her an open letter.

Thank you so much for writing this well researched, intelligent and thoughtful article on the subject of childless -- sorry, barren -- women. I’ve been wondering why I haven’t had a promotion lately, and you have solved the mystery! It is all down to the bad vibes given off from my empty uterus, which I have selfishly chosen not to use! Thinking about it, my choice not to pass on my genetic material explains a lot of other odd stuff as well -- like why children, ‘normal’ people and cute furry pets alike all hurry along looking frightened when they pass me in the street, or why I’m able to refrigerate things just by touching them. I hadn’t realised I was ‘weird!’

Pamela Troy says this is "an example of an especially obnoxious form of arrogance -- inflating a personal preference into a moral imperative."

Unfortunately, people afflicted with this form of smugness invariably feel compelled to either write essays about it or offer long, earnest explanations to anyone unfortunate enough to bring the subject up in conversation. Such people can’t merely say, “I’m a vegetarian.” They must add, with an air of faux apology “I prefer not to engage in the cold-blooded murder of innocent animals.” They can’t just say, “I don’t have a TV,” in response to someone asking, “Did you see Lost last night?” They must add, “I prefer to spend my time reading, or going for walks, and really, I just can’t understand how anyone can sit indoors staring at that boob tube...”

I liked what Forever Amber had to say, too.

[W]hen I hear another woman say she’d like to have children, I think... well, nothing, really. Partly because it’s none of my business, but also because I learned something a long time ago that I think is a basic truth. It’s this: we are not all the same. Women are not all the same. Men are not all the same. We want different things, like different things, are good and bad at different things. Different. [...] And as far as I’m concerned, as long as people aren’t actually hurting anyone else with their choices, I don’t really care how they choose to live their lives.

(Contributing editor Zandria blogs at

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