I wasn’t surprised to find an article about a woman not wanting to have children as part of the BBC’s Women’s 100. Although most of us grow up with the image of our future white picket fence family with 2.5 children and a dog, this is not for everyone. Yes, we may consider it the norm. But thanks to progress women are no longer forced to stay at home with the kids; that is if they don’t want to. If you are a stay at home mum and it is your decision and you love it, good for you! I’m not one of those people who say you can’t be a stay at home mum and a feminist. To my mind it all comes down to choice.
Holly Brockwell who wrote the article for the BBC said she knew she might be criticized on social media because “there’s nothing about creating another human that appeals to me”. I’m not surprised that she was. But not for the reason you think. People will have their opinions – case in point here I am blogging about my own – and they are welcome to them. I, like Holly, however, was appalled at some of the abusive tweets she received. Yes, people should have a right to their opinion. No, they should not have the right to beat someone over the head with it. This was precisely what some of these responses did.
Although some tweets were positive and supportive of Holly’s decision, many suggested that Holly was selfish for not wanting to have children. Others suggested that the world was better off without her reproducing. Whether a woman wants to have kids or not is her decision. It is her body. Given the pain and stress labour and pregnancy can cause is it any surprise pushing a human body out or your own doesn’t appeal to one and all?! Holly also noted the majority of aggressive tweets came from men. Now, although I haven’t done the research, I’m sure a man not wanting to have kids would not cause quite such a social media storm as Holly’s decision. Now, true it is (currently) only women who can physically birth a human but it takes two to tango. Women don’t unilaterally fertilize their own eggs. This is not a complicated idea, we all know the biology behind it. Yet, if a man decides for whatever reason he does not want to exercise his ability to make a child no-one seems to be hurling abuse.
Holly makes a very good point about men trying to take charge of the female body. One man suggested that the NHS would be better off funding a laryngectomy to stop Holly talking than funding her sterilization. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree that NHS should fund sterilization for Holly, this man is literally trying to find a way to silence the female voice. He wants to stop Holly having the right to an opinion, let alone her own body, because he doesn’t like what she is saying. What type of society are we living in where this is an appropriate response to one person, one female’s opinon. This issue seems to higlight the continuing underlying sexism in our society. There are still people that expect women to conform to gender roles, to be the life-giving mother, rather than the woman they want to be. Whilst our society is not in danger of extinction – which might explain outrage at female refusal to reproduce – whose business is it that Holly doesn’t want to have a child, beside Holly’s? Who do these people think they are that they have a greater right to decide how a woman uses her womb than the woman herself?
Outraged equality rant aside, I have said that I don’t agree that NHS should fund Holly’s sterilization. I do think a woman wanting to sterilize herself does have this right (as long as they understand that the irreversible repercussions of this should they change their mind) I don’t, however, think that with the state of the NHS budget that they have money to spend on elective surgery. I like to think I have considered this from all angles, particularly that some people simply can’t afford to pay for elective surgeries, but the NHS do fund free contraception. Now whilst it is a hassle to take a pill everyday I continue to think the NHS’s money is better used to cure physical ailments, research diseases and my favourite topic providing better mental health support across the board. To my mind, whilst we still have long-term illness, diseases for which there are no cures and waiting lists for therapies, the NHS money is better suited elsewhere. Despite this, I remain a staunch defender of Holly’s and all females (and males) right to choose. Until the time society weighs a female’s right to choose and be open about how she uses her body without incurring abuse you will find me beating my feminist, egalitarian-seeking drum.
To read the BBC’s article on Holly click here.
To read more from BBC Women’s 100 click here.