Well, as usual, life has been hectic and updating the blog always seems to be at the end of a very long list of things to do. I’ve been meaning to post about a couple things for a while now, so here they are.
A friend and colleague of mine recently shared this article, 23 Things You Should Never Say to a Childfree Woman. Reading through the list, I immediately started to think: how ridiculous would these sound if they were directed at a man. For example, #6) You’ll change your mind when you meet the right woman, or #11) It’s a dad thing or #16) Just find a surrogate and have kids. I’ll babysit. Sounds crazy right? Well, these are equally crazy when directed to a woman. A quick search on Google using roughly the same words as the article title brought up 116,000,000 results! On these websites, I noticed that words like freak, selfish, and taboo are often associated with a woman’s decision to be childless. More than one website made reference to “coming out” regarding the decision to be childfree, suggesting the fear and judgement that women face when making this decision public. Men are generally not defined on the basis of whether they choose to have offspring or not, but women who choose to be childfree often face stigma and judgement.
Let’s STOP the judgement! Why can we respect the decisions that others make for themselves about what is right for their lives? No one should ever have to justify this decision to you. What works for you may not work for others. Also, if you wouldn’t say it to a man, then you shouldn’t be saying it to a woman.
In a similar vein, this wonderful comic by Bill Watterson captures how difficult it is to carve your own path in life. In the last year, I have had many conversations with colleagues and students along the lines of this comic. When your personal decisions do not line up with accepted notions and measures of “success”, it can be difficult to justify those decisions to others who have very different ideals and goals. I share this here, because I feel like this is one more way in which harmful judgement and self-doubt manifest and interfere with female scholars in archaeology. Given the current economic climate, I find that many of my students are filled with doubt and fear about the future, but I also see them as incredibly wise and open to different definitions of “success”. Many of my students are first-generation college students who face the daunting task of justifying their decision to major in Anthropology to doubtful parents and family. When I advise students, I try to help them reflect on what will make them happy and recognize that happiness and “success” are not the same thing. Do not let others’ definitions of failure define you either. “To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed” is my new advising, mentoring, and life motto, thanks Bill.
As always, I invite your comments and participation in this discussion.