Yesterday in the midst of reading about CNN’s blunder in their handling of the Steubenville rape case, I was caught up in an unexpected argument at work. The argument was over whether or not women who choose not to have children are “selfish”. Apparently I, as a young woman, am extremely selfish for living a fulfilling life without children.
The expectation that women will and should have children is omnipresent in our culture. It is even seen in the often fiercely feminist Pagan community. I especially see it in the triple Goddess concept of Maiden, Mother, Crone. (This is especially poignant because this conception of the Triple Goddess is not an element of classical myth; it was born of the Feminist Goddess movement of the 1970s).
This idea is wrapped around the assumption that a woman’s worth is characterized by her reproductive abilities; that the three stages of maiden (before childbirth), Mother (in the midst of birthing and raising children), and Crone (the inability to have children any longer) are the stages that define a woman. It is as if there are no other important parts to a woman’s life.
The sad part is, we don’t even seem to be realizing we’re doing it.
I am none of the above and I have no plans to procreate in the foreseeable future. I do, however, think about it a lot. The other day my partner asked me why (with a slight hint of panic in his eye), but my generation stands at the precipice of a new way of thinking, and the decision to have children is no longer an easy one. Today, we have the choices, but we are also still pressured to conform to the ways of a thousand generations of our ancestors: ancestors who did not have easily obtained birth control, and who could devote their lives to being in the home, raising children.
I am a fully independent being whose self worth is not tied up in my potential to bear children. I am lucky enough to live in an age of science, and to experience the most freedom we, as women, have ever enjoyed. While there are those out there who are fighting to take that away from us, our right to choose is one of the most powerful rights we have in the sovereignty of ourselves.
The power to choose is also one of the most significant that we, as witches, have.
The phrase, “Witch, know thyself” says it all.
My energies lie elsewhere: in my partner, in my coven, in my new priestesshood, in my writing, in my career, in my graduate work, and none of these things would be possible if I were to choose to have children right now and devote myself to their care.
I am not “selfish” for choosing differently. If feminism did nothing else, it gave me the right to choose how to handle my body and my family making decisions. The fact that I hear this mainly from other women is one of the worst parts about the whole thing.
We need to come up with new concepts of what characterizes womanhood. We need to reach beyond the archetype of the triple goddess and embrace new ideas of what women are and what their possibilities can be. While the triple goddess may be an easy archetype to grasp, we are more than that. My Lady is more than that. The Craft that I practice is about more than that.
I am not “selfish”; I am a witch who is here to help reshape the world. Whether I decide to create life has no bearing or relevance on my place in that unfolding reality.