May 25, 2006

Good on Us

Actually what the woman said was, "Good on you!" She repeated it a couple of times in our conversation. This from a woman I met at a networking event last night. It was nice to hear.

Her response was in reaction to my introduction of Purple WomenTM, the blog to book project by, for, and about childfree women. I joined this women's networking group a year ago, paid the initial fee and now I am evaluating my association in light of the continuing the monthly dues. My involvement has thus far turned up unexpected results, if not "big payola," and it's been an interesting testing ground for talking about being childfree in a controlled, yet public setting.

The most unsettling reaction I’ve had at one of these events so far was from a woman who said, "Well, I guess I'm a Purple Woman but not by choice." I knew I was in trouble when she proceeded to tell me that she had ovarian cancer that precluded her from having her own children. Then she shared with me that she met and married a man who already had children that needed a mother. You see, she still felt childless because she did not physically birth her own child. I decided it was more important to listen to her story than to debate the fine points of being purple. Also, she seemed a little hostile.

The woman I met yesterday, a mother herself, was definitely an advocate for reproductive choice. I was flattered when she approached me and inquired further about the project. She wanted to know if I had read the book "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and I admitted I had not yet, but was delighted to tell her one of our blog contributors had reviewed it. I told her that one surprise I've had is that the more I read, the more I find that we, Purple WomenTM, are at the center of controversy, politically and morally, yet we are not united in voice or action. This seemed to surprise her so I attempted to enlighten her further.

As we have been reading here, thanks to our duo-citizen contributor (NikkiJ) who keeps up with news across the channel, childless women are becoming quite the concern to establishments in Europe. For example, the tax base is threatened if we are not producing little tax payers. Out of all developed nations, only the U.S. continues to exceed the population replacement rate.

To this my new friend exclaimed, "Oh, like there aren't enough people on the planet already? What are we, baby-making machines?"

I relished this comment and replied, "Yeah, why aren't we the heroes?" We had ourselves a chuckle.

If only it were that simple. Sure, we should be heroines. If it were simply a matter of resources wouldn't it follow that if there are less people, there will be more to go around? Not when it comes to institutions and their investment in the status quo. Can governments/ schools/ churches successfully downsize? Even the corporate world has trouble with that one. So, yes, I agree it’s a bit of a crisis. What to do?

Accolades are not usually what we get back when we talk about our childfree status in public. Some of us are more insulated by our conscious or unconscious choice in our circle of friends and the associations we make along the way. The conversation I had yesterday was validating, and made my attendance worthwhile, though it's hard to put a value to it. I gave her a Purple Woman! button and she promised to pass it on to a childfree friend.


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1 comment:

NikkiJ said...

My feeling is that as more and more men and women realise that having children is a choice and decide not to parent, government, economy, schools, corporations et al are going to have to face it and deal with it. Right now, it appears most have a head in the sand approach, ranging from denying it is something to be worried about, to calling it a national timebomb.

Their knee-jerk reacttion is to pay women/parents money to have children or have more children, whether this be cash or via more tax breaks for parents and asking companies to have flexible working places (I work for a company that does have flexible working, but even I can see that the reality is that it's difficult if not impossible to combine flexible working with moving up the corporate ladder, expanding careerwise and personally and making more money to keep the economy growing.

I would not be surprised if childfree people then get blamed for everything from lack of services to the price of petrol! - simply because we aren't producing future tax payers. Women will get the most blame, of course. But eventually they are going to have to reckon with us as the force that we are, because they won't have a choice. For one thing we'll probably be keeping the travel industry afloat :) Not to mention companies.