Monday, August 7, 2000

Review: ‘Unwomanly Conduct’ by Carolyn M. Morell

My husband's and my decision to not have children has been met with some of the most heated, argumentative and prejudiced attitudes possible. Our former status as a cohabitating, nonmarried couple did not even approach the censure that our deliberately childless status receives.

The title of Carolyn M. Morell's book sums it up perfectly: Unwomanly Conduct -- The Challenges of Intentional Childlessness. Society is full of pressures to reproduce and the women who go against this norm run the risk of being accused of selfishness, pitied as incomplete or having their achievements dismissed as compensation for the absence of a child.

Having encountered this kind of prejudice repeatedly, it was refreshing to read excerpts from Morell's interviews with some 40 women, mostly in their mid-40s, who have chosen to remain childfree. Actually, Morell scrupulously uses the term "childless", having dismissed "childfree" because she says it implies that a woman wants to get rid of children. I personally prefer to describe myself as "childfree" because of what I consider to be its more positive connotation.

Our differing opinions on semantics was the only part of Morell's book that I could not relate to. It was comforting to learn that many of the women profiled within have undergone the same prejudices, assumptions and dismissals heaped upon them by society at large, felt the same barriers in their relationships with mothering women -- and shared the same belief that their choice was and is a valid one.

Published in 1994, Morell's book is a groundbreaking one. Moreover, it is an affirmation for the childfree woman. Morell, herself a childfree woman, even admits that she set out to write a book that she could read. I recommend this book to any woman who wants reassurance that her decision not to bear children is a valid one.

Posted Aug. 7, 2000 to amazon.com

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