A conversation with a friend yesterday got me to thinking about some things. We’ve all been told it’s not OK to discriminate against somebody because of their race, gender, handicap… anything that’s beyond their control. But when it comes to peoples’ personal choices, apparently it’s open season for scorn, derision and downright nastiness.
You see, I’ve decided to not have children. When people find this out, there’s apparently some unspoken signal that it’s now open season on my choice. I understand that a lot of people have a hard time comprehending why I’d make such a choice (though the reasons are many, and good), but your lack of comprehension is no reason to harass me. The “childfree” (as “childless” implies something is missing in one’s life) have developed a phrase for this particular harassment: Breeder Bingo. It’s the lines that childfree people hear so frequently you could fill a Bingo card with them. I’ve had many of these said or written to me, both online and in face-to-face conversation. Lines such as:
“You’ll change your mind when you’re older.” (Ah, yes. Because obviously at 30 I’m still too young to know my own mind.)
“But you’d be such a good mother!” (How can you tell that? I bet people thought Andrea Yates would be a good mother too.)
“What if your parents had thought the way you do? You wouldn’t be here!” (Yes, and I wouldn’t have to put up with this interrogation, either.)
“Who will take care of you when you get old?” (Retirement planning.)
“You’re not a real woman/real grownup until you’ve had a child.” (Since 9-year-olds can have kids, I doubt this is true. And yes, I’ve been told I’m not a “real woman.” Isn’t that charming.)
The list goes on: “You don’t know what real love is until you’ve had a child. You must have been abused as a child to hate children. You must have serious anger issues to hate children.” Strangely, even though I refer to the childfree movement as the “BabyHaters,” I don’t hate children. But in expressing that I don’t want them, it’s assumed that instead of loving children, I hate them. There is, apparently, no middle ground for child ambivalance.
It’s also interesting to be in the cultural minority on other things that may or may not be considered personal choice. I used to be classified as morbidly obese. Being fat isn’t necessarily a personal choice, but it isn’t necessarily genetic either. For myself, it turned out to be complete personal choice; I made the choice of what to eat, and it turned out that those choices made me fat. So since for some people it’s a personal choice, it’s OK to make fun of them. Hell, I was again in the Personal Choice Minority when I lost weight using the Atkins diet, and was harangued with lines like, “don’t you get tired of eating all meat?” (Not really, since I’m eating more vegetables now than I did when I did a low-fat diet.) “Your cholesterol will go off the chart.” (Actually, my triglycerides are way down and my ratio is fantastic. Total cholesterol is 148.) It goes on and on. Since it’s not a part of my genetic makeup to follow the Atkins diet, it’s therefore fair game for discrimination.
I guess my point is that no matter whether you’re a minority for reasons beyond your control or for choices you’ve made, there’s no excuse for harassment. If you choose to have children, I’m not going to discriminate against you for it; you’ve just made a different choice than I have. If you vote for the other party, I’m not going to treat you like a lesser person for it. If you’re overweight, I’d gladly tell of my personal experience, but only when asked. As long as your choices don’t infringe on my own rights, you can do whatever you like. Make whatever choices you want. I just wish people would offer that same respect to me.