Sisterhood Blog

Yes, Katie, Childlessness Is Still Taboo

By Chanel Dubofsky

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy of Chanel Dubofsky
Chanel Dubofsky

One of the best protest signs I’ve seen lately was at Saturday’s ‘National Protest Against the War on Women.’ It reads: “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit.” I”ll amend that in my response to the question, Katie Roiphe raises, of whether or not there’s a taboo around being childfree. Yes, there is, and I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation.

On my next birthday, I’ll be 34, which, from what I understand, is around the time my biological clock is supposed to start screaming at me, although I know folks for whom this screaming started a while ago.

But I’ve known I didn’t want children since I was one myself. I’ll be honest: There’s nothing attractive about child-rearing to me. And I hope that if I ever start to hear this alleged siren of breeding, I’ll be able to hold the fact that my life right now is the life I want, and that once children are had, I can’t go back in time and get that life again. (Nope, not even when they’re 18 or 30.)

If there is one thing I’ve learned in 33 years of living in a female body, it is that every decision I make that’s not in line with traditionally accepted gender roles will be pathologized. Without children, Roiphe suggests that I can’t even be a grown up in the right way. Apparently, what makes someone a grown up is doing what people tell you to do — even if you know, deep down, that it’s not what you want or what would be good for you.

The treatment of men who choose to be childfree is very different than that of women. (There’s a much larger conversation here about race and class, which I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge.) For many men, reproduction is contextualized in terms of proving masculinity by spreading seed, about making sure there ‘s another generation, replicating yourself — in short, exercising and perpetuating power. For manywomen, it’s about nurturing, caretaking and selflessness. You are considered a “real” grown up female when you become willing to take care of someone else, and when you accept that as the purest, most correct version of femininity.

So, yes, the taboo exists, and we feed it like a hungry newborn — with our obsession with baby bumps and the uncritical assertion that “motherhood is the most important job in the world.” Motherhood, not fatherhood, not parenthood. It’s not only the childfree who are regarded as subversive, dangerous, baffling, pathological; it’s anyone who challenges the idea that raising children is the ultimate form of satisfaction, the most beautiful and important work in the world. And by the way, that includes parents.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Taboos, Parenting, Motherhood, Childless By Choice, Chlidless, Katie Roiphe

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.