The evidence suggests they do, according to a new book just published this month. It argues that living without children means rebelling against social expectations and is therefore a feminist decision. Also, that women who decide not to have children are the courageous pioneers of a movement that needs support if our planet is to remain habitable.
by Verena Brunschweiger
Recently, Pope Francis called childless couples “selfish,” which is neither new nor surprising for a member of the Catholic Church. He will be happy that past patterns and emerging evidence suggest we are going to see a Covid baby boom. Yet about 15 percent of women living in the U.S. today will reach their 40th birthdays without ever having given birth.
The Pope will pity those sad creatures, no doubt. But the author of Laudato Si is old enough to know that in 1970, Earth Overshoot Day occurred in December, while by 2019, it had moved back to July. Given the fact that the earth is completely exhausted, it’s high time to improve awareness and access to all forms of contraception and help people make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health. We should celebrate World Contraception Day on September 26! Especially for women, reproductive rights are highly important and the possibility to terminate an unwanted pregnancy mustn’t die. Female autonomy is crucial and a genuine feminist goal.
Assuming women have a right to refrain from child-bearing, does that choice lead to unhappiness? Apparently not, at least in most cases. In my new book Do Childfree People Have Better Sex? A Feminist’s Journey in the Childfree Movement, I discuss many studies that have found that the childfree lifestyle leads to happier relationships! You have more fun in general – and in bed with a partner – if you are childfree. Furthermore, there are health risks for women during pregnancy, before and after childbirth, which are usually minimized. For young women who want to make an informed decision, it’s vital to know about them.
As a feminist I’d like to see more research and action improving contraceptive possibilities for men (and more publicity for World Vasectomy Day, November 19). If you are a tad more progressive than the Pope, you can’t help noticing that there are too many of us consuming too much. Whereas most African people don’t use many resources, most Western people do, so it’s up to us to fix this—if there’s enough time.
It’s not enough to rely on governments, each person has to contribute, and recycling isn’t sufficient. Yet the myth never dies that “the problem is consumption, not population.” No, it’s not! High per person consumption levels and large populations work in concert to ratchet up environmental impacts to unsustainable levels. Do Childfree People Have Better Sex? supplies information about organizations, authors and activist groups who are brave enough to assert the obvious: it’s not only about our ecological footprint, it’s also about the number of feet.
It’s immensely sad that childfree people around the globe are ridiculed. The opposite should be happening. “We are contributing to saving the world in the only way that might truly make a difference,” writes Ellen L. Walker, author of Complete Without Kids. But female happiness and environmental benefits are not the only happy synergy I found in researching my new book.
Animal welfare is also a crucial motivation for many childfree people. One section of the book lists things everyone can do to protect wildlife and care for domestic animals. Veganism plays an important role, but living childfree has even more impact, because fewer humans means more nature, less habitat destruction, and fewer diseases spreading from species to species. New people may or may not eat animals; non-existent people just don’t. Of course, political measures are also necessary as governments and individuals are responsible for our animals.
Right-wing political parties (whose members generally like hunting, by the way) everywhere are gaining popularity. One of their core subjects: we need more native children! The danger of this is explored in another chapter of the book. Let me give you a hint: more American kids won’t make America great again—but education will. Information about our responsibilities towards nature, and towards the global South. About the empowerment of girls and women who choose the stonier, yet eventually much more rewarding path of non-parenthood. This includes rejecting the recommendations of patriarchal figures such as the Pope, who apparently doesn’t give a damn about women or animals, at least compared to the goal of perpetuating male dominance.
Ecology, feminism, and philosophy, as well as responsible politics, all lead to one conclusion: not giving birth should be applauded, not condemned. Even more so in a world where man-made climate change threatens dire consequences for all of us. It’s quite astonishing how some people conveniently continue to ignore fires, floods, heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, shortages of resources of all kinds, when it comes to deciding whether to bring kids into this world.
March in London on International Women’s Day
So which day can we look forward to? What about March 8, International Women’s Day, featuring this year’s theme: Break the Bias. The bias in our case is the Pope’s – and unfortunately not only his! He assumes that childfree people, especially childfree women, are egoistical. The opposite is true. Let’s contribute in the most significant way to the conservation of our amazing planet.