June 21, 2006

Childfree Advocacy vs. Awareness

A spontaneous strategy meeting was instigated by Jerry, the founder of No Kidding! last weekend at the child-free festival in Toronto. I could be found poolside at about 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, but I did catch the tail end of what looked like a very productive discussion about how to make chapters better and where the organization is going.

The people from places as far as the United Kingdom and California were at the table, plus at least one person from the Toronto chapter of this international social club for childfree adults. About a dozen people in all.

The founder and the couple acting as spokespeople and strategists for the five-year-old organization are absolutely adamant that No Kidding! is not an advocacy organization.

It's a social club, plain and simple. However, given the number of interviews that Laura and Vinny

have done, I'd say they feel it is important to enlighten others about being childfree.

This couple represents a moderate voice and they do a good job of portraying a childfree couple that has made a conscious choice about having children. However, the character of this organization and what Laura and Vinny, as the NK! spokespeople, stand for is not advocating a childfree lifestyle. They do not promote it to others, they simply tell their unique story.

It's a very "live and let live" philosophy. That makes it very comfortable to be a member. It doesn't matter what your reason is for being a childfree adult, or whether you are single or married. If you want to meet other adults who want to do fun things (and don't need to line up a babysitter first), then you now have an avenue to do so. That's why there are 90 chapters around the world. It's a very successful model, and a volunteer-lead and volunteer-run organization that is still in its infancy. The internet as a social tool has really made it all possible.

It can be a fine line between advocacy and the goal of awareness. Extreme examples would be population control and pro-choice advocates. The pro-natalist extreme is represented by the religous right as Purple WomenTM contributor Twiga wrote about in her recent post. It seems to me that when we, the childfree, are portrayed in mainstream media we are often reduced to unflattering sound bites. I am glad to know that people like Laura and Vinny are out there to balance the often negative stereotypes.

Technorati Tag:


nomadshan said...

I appreciate the awareness (not advocacy) focus. I don't want pro-natalists pushing their lifestyle on me, so it's only fair not to do the same from our angle. That being said, I think I advocate the childfree lifestyle simply by living it, just as I advocate recycling just by putting my cans on the curb every week. Positive role models lend credence to any pursuit, and we are bound to sway a few people toward a childfree choice just by being reasonable, happy humans.

kT said...

I think sometimes, though, it's easy to hide. I do. I'm 28 and single, so people assume that I'm waiting to have children. More often than not, I just don't bother to correct them because I don't want to hear "oh, you'll change your mind," or "why not?" Part of me wonders if they might not be right? I don't think so, but you hear the same things over and over and begin to think maybe They have a point.

Sometimes I wish I was willing to speak out more and assert that this is my choice, not a by-product of circumstance.

nomadshan said...

Yeah, just because you're single doesn't mean you're a pre-mom. That's a frustrating cultural hangup.

Teri said...

I skated by in my 20s on the same "oh, maybe someday" notion. The subject was just too personal to correct anyone's assumption.

kT said...

It's good to know I'm not the only one doing it. Sometimes I feel I should speak up, challenge those stuck on the idea that there is a "right" path for life. But then I'd have to explain that I don't want to get married, either.

twiga92 said...

I hated the "you'll change your mind" comment when I was in my early married years. Well, I still hate the comment, but I don't seem to get it anymore. I do wonder why people just assume that someone else will make a choice just because it's the "norm" in society. I think that's what makes it hard for me - the assumptions that other people make.

Teri said...

In a way I agree with the author I am currently reading on the subject, that our silence is not helping. It perpetuates the paternal, pro-natal, mother as be all and end all view.

But let's not advocate. Let's just BE childfree.

A new word for our lexicon, initiated by a childfree festival attendee...childFREEDOM!

NikkiJ said...

There are levels of silence. Not everyone wants to come out in the media and have the spotlight on their private life, but childfree people do need to speak up when in the company of others rather than keeping quiet because it's easier or they don't want the hassle. People will assume you either have or want children until their assumptions are challenged. But they will remember you if you are one of the poeple who challenged their own assumptions.

CarpeWritem said...

I am very intrigued by Nikki's last comment, and I must agree that there are different "levels of silence". No doubt. I must say, however, that one may want to speak up about being child-free only if they're passionate about the subject and comfortable with the ensuing attention. I'm not trying to create a contingent or limiting viewpoint, I'm just stressing the fact that there are many different child-free personalities out there, and some might feel better addressing the subject only if asked. Some people don't want to stick out, some do.

Overall, I agree with Teri: Just BE child-free. I believe that society will eventually grow to accept us, whether we talk about our decision now or later. After all, we aren't going anywhere - we'll be around for quite a while.

Teri said...

NikkiJ - I have alterior motives for wanting to be in the spotlight because of the book I am writing. Reporters still make me wary. I hope that what we are doing with this blog will help childfree folks develop some fortification for their interpersonal interactions here. It is certainly helping me.

CarpeWritem - I really like your blog handle. Thank you for leaving this comment (and taking the time to read a back post with lots of comments). It's important to have the male perspective.

Often I am more comfortable with just being. I can't hide behind my 20s anymore...starting to look my age!