When I’m not being a student, I typically get temp jobs working in a variety of offices. Once things get settled, and folks realise I am married, they often start asking about kids. “Do you have kids? No? When are you having kids? It’s not too late, you know!”
This may seem like an opening for a post about being child-free, but it’s not.
I often put these questions off with flippancy or a shrug or just saying we’re not interested in having kids. In my experience, this will often have people leave the issue be.
Sometimes, though, people will hound and hound and hound.
“Oh, it’s different when they’re yours. But what about Don, what does he think of all of this? What about your parents? What about– what about– what about?” [1. Everything in quotation marks in this post is a paraphrase.]
Do you want to know the secret way of getting people to never again ask why you’re not having children?
At some point, drop into a conversation that your husband’s disability is genetic.
Without fail, that has stopped every single person who has asked and asked and asked about children, even when the “genetic” bomb isn’t dropped in a conversation about having children.
One of the reasons why the focus of abortion! abortion! abortion! whenever talking about reproductive rights really bothers me (and a lot of others) is because of the assumption that people like Don & I shouldn’t have children (because – oh no! – the child likely will have Marfan’s just like Don! And everyone knows people like Don are a burden on the system/have miserable lives/are never happy/can never be married/are all the same/should be stopped/are just an example for the rest of us). When people focus on reproductive rights only involving abortion, they neglect that, for people like us, the pushback is to not have children. Don’t burden the system. Think of the children – and don’t have any.
I’ve seen similar conversations play out around the feminist blogosphere. [1. I have decided not to link to specific examples, because it’s a general attitude I’m talking about here. And also, who wants to start a blog-war? Not I, said the Anna.] When older women have children, there is always a sudden upswing in “BUT THE CHILD MIGHT HAVE A DISABILITY!” (Yes, the child might. And the child might fall out of a tree and land wrong. Or the child might grow up to be the next Stephen Harper and prorogue Canadian government. WHO KNOWS!) “Think of the children!”
The same fears are reflected when discussing women with disabilities having children (with bonus “but how will she care for the child?”), or when parents forcibly sterilize their disabled daughters.
This pains me, perhaps especially as someone who doesn’t want children. It pains many other women who, for a variety of reasons, are discouraged or outright prevented from having children they want. That, in North America, these women are overwhelmingly women of colour, lower class, disabled, queer – that they’re often women who have been institutionalised in some way, be it a “medical” institution or a “criminal” one – is not a coincidence.
In my experience, marginalized voices who speak out about this disparity between on-line feminist discussions of abortion and on-line feminist discussions from a broader reproductive justice framework [1. FREE Halifax: Feminists for Reproductive Justice & Equality. We meet every other Tuesday for teach-ins & movies about Reproductive Justice. Look for us on Facebook.] are often shouted down, or ignored. We’re told our issues are “special circumstances”, or “pet projects” or “in the minority” or “don’t apply to as many people” or … Well, basically everything feminists in general are told when they talk about issues that are “special circumstances” that don’t apply to enough people (read: men) to count.
Frankly, I end up not knowing where to go from here. Do we, who are limited on spoons or forks or energy or time, keep trying to push for more mainstream feminist discussion on these issues? Do we form our own spaces, our own groups, and have our own discussions? Do we write blog posts that seem to dwindle down, rather than lead us all into the future?
I don’t know. I know and respect people who have made each of those choices, and still others that I haven’t mentioned. But I don’t know what the right one is.
Maybe they all are.