When Words Get in the Way: Who are We as a Collective Community?

by | Mar 20, 2022 | Pronatalism | 0 comments

I founded New Legacy Institute with the intent of bringing together the larger community of people without children. There are millions of us around the world, and we are a growing demographic. And yet, we are neither a highly visible group, nor are we recognized in the majority of workplace policies or public policy.

While all of our life journeys to not having children differ from one another, many of us have naturally sought support within like groups. As such, we use language that best reflects the nature of our stories and experiences.

Recently, on New Legacy Radio, I had the opportunity to speak with Joan Eisenstodt, who shared the work she was engaged in around bringing the Childfree-Parenthood-by-Choice movement into the mainstream. I also spoke with Jody Day, who is known as the founder of the Childless Movement, whose work over the last decade has brought awareness about and support for women who wanted to have children, and did not have children for many different reasons.  This was an important distinction in defining people’s experiences of loss and grief amidst the definition of childfree choice and acceptance.

When I wrote a short book about my perspective and experiences, in 2015, the terms we used then were different that today. Given all of the complex layers of experiences in between, we have somehow come to a place in time where we are primarily defining ourselves as either childfree or childless.

Last week, I spoke with Laura Carroll, a Childfree Choice expert, who has been writing and educating about the childfree choice for over two decades. We spoke about what needs to be done to bridge the seemingly binary composition of our collective community, in an effort to focus on what impacts us collectively. How do our experiences differ? Where do they intersect?

When we begin to look at our different experiences, they are far from the polarity they have come to be perceived. Of course the narratives differ among our experiences, however the need to identify so separately, is perhaps driven by some of the same forces the have led us to defend ourselves as women and people without children. The unconscious biases of patriarchy and misogyny expressed by others and within ourselves, in both knowing and unknowing ways, is at least in part, something to consider.

I began to use the term ‘People Without Children’, as an inclusive phrase, for the Institute. I did this out of a failure to find another word or phrase to more aptly define our collective community, and without a negating language. This is where the term childfree is experienced as a more positive identification; it is not only about having a clear sense of not wanting to have children, it may also be embraced as one identifies with being in acceptance of not having children, or recognizes their circumstances, and celebrates the fullness of their own life.

However, this term is often interpreted as being exclusively celebratory of not having children, rather than identifying from a certain perspective and experience of not having them. From this perspective, those who are involuntarily childless find it challenging to embrace this term.

The irony of our struggle for non-negating and fully inclusive language is not only reflected in the status of women in any given culture, it is also due to the pronatalist definition of family. Family is nearly always defined as people with children, who are economic units to countries, thereby placing a higher value on parenthood.

If people without children were not ‘othered’ in the first place, it would make the most sense to say that first, we are people, and there are people with children.

So where will we go from here? Please share your thoughts! 


When Words Get in the Way: Who are We as a Collective Community?
20 March 2022


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