The paper "Feminism and Childlessness" is a great example of a research proposal on sociology. More and more women in western nations are choosing to remain childless or bear children much later in life than women in previous generations. According to Baldwin (2013), more women in the United States and Britain are reaching the age of 40 without children but most are choosing or have shown a desire to have children at this advanced age. Women who reach the age of 40 without children have to rush arrangements to have children; some make hasty decisions to visit sperm banks co-adoption or have children with partners they would not have considered right (Baldwin 2013).
This research explores how feminist ideology is affecting women’ s decision to have children in the Australian context. It also explores whether the increasing number of Australian women who reach the age of 40 without a child have any regrets and whether they will experience any pressure to do so once they reach the age of 40. Introduction Although Australia can be regarded as a pronatalist society the number of women who are beyond the age of 40 and are childless is increasing (Anderson 2007; Jackson and Casey 2009; Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008).
In Australia society, motherhood is directly linked with feminine identity. According to Gillespie (2000), the decision to remain childless in society cannot be separated from “ the dominant social-cultural discourses surrounding femininity motherhood and reproduction” . Gillispie (2000) asserts that pronatalist society identifies childbearing as the natural role of a woman which cannot be separated from her feminist identity. A woman who lives her whole life without having a child is considered to not have fulfilled her obligation as a woman and as a human being. According to Gillspie (2003), one of the main reasons Australian women choose not to have children is the rise of feminism.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008), more Australian women are choosing to delay childbearing or not to have children at all. However, some of the women who reach this advanced age without having children are living to regret their decision. According to Carey Graham and Shelley (2009) women who decide to abstain from childbearing challenge established social and moral norms in societies where pronatalist discourses are dominant.
In the views of Carey Graham and Shelley (2009), the social exclusion and stigma that is associated with being childless may be the main reason childless women beyond 40 express regret their childless status. Social exclusion against women may occur at different times and different places according to the society’ s social attributes. According to Popay et al (2008), individuals may be excluded from social relations in many ways beyond economic exclusion. Pronatalist social-cultural expectations of women require a woman to mother at least one child in her lifetime (Park 2005).
Pronatalists believe that women have a social-political religious and familial obligation to bear and rear children.
Abma, JC & Martinez, GM 2006, Childlessness among older women in the United States: Trends and profiles. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, pp. 1045-1056.
Anderson, MJ 2007, Fertility futures: Implications of national pronatalist policies for adolescent women in Australia. Paper presented at the International Women’s Conference: Educationemployment and everything - the triple layers of a woman’s life Toowoomba QLD Australia.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, Australian social trends 2008: How many children have women in Australia had? (Cat. No. 4102.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Baldwin, K 2013,Fifty Years on From 'The Feminine Mystique' Now Childless Working Women Ask 'Is This All?', Huffington Post, February 17, Accessed 1 November 2013, http://wwwhuffingtonpost.co.uk/katherine-baldwin/feminine-mystique-is-this-all_b_2688263.html
Carey G. Graham M. & Shelley J 2009, Discourse power and exclusion: the experiences of childless women. In A. Taket B. Crisp A. Nevill G. Lamaro M. Graham & S. Barter-Godfrey (Eds.)Theorising social exclusion. London: Routledge.
Dever, M and Saugeres, L 2004, I forgot to have children! Untangling links between feminism careers and voluntary childlessness, Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, vol 6(2)
Doyle, J, Pooley, JA and Breen, L 2013, A phenomenological exploration of the childfree choice in a sample of Australian women, Journal of health psychology, vol 18(3), pp.397-407
Gillespie R 2000, When no means no: Disbelief disregard and deviance as discourses of voluntary childlessness. Women's Studies International Forum 23(2) 223-234.
Gillespie R 2003, Childfree and feminine: Understanding the gender identity of childless women.Gender and Society 17(1) 122-136.
Graham, M and Rich, S 2012, no. 36 What’s ‘childless’ got to do with it?. Alfred Deakin Research Institute (ADRI) Working Paper Series 2
Graham, M, Hill, E, Taket, A and Shelley, J 2013, Why are childless women childless? Findings from an exploratory study in Victoria Australia, Journal of Social Inclusion, vol 4(1), 70-89
Jeffries, S and Konnert, C 2002, Regret and psychological well-being among voluntarily and involuntarily childless women and mothers, The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, vol 54(2), pp.89-106
Koropeckyj-Cox, T, Romano, V and Moras, A 2007, Through the lens of gender race and class: Students’ perceptions of childless/childfree individuals and couples, Sex Roles 56: 415-428.
Letherby, G 2002, Childless and bereft? Stereotypes and realities in relation to ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary’ childlessness and womanhood, Sociological Inquiry 72: 7-20
Mollen, D 2006, Voluntarily childfree women: Experiences and counseling considerations. Journal of Mental Health Counseling 28: 269-282.
Park K 2002, Stigma management among the voluntary childless. Sociological Perspectives 45(1) 21-45.
Rowlands I and Lee C 2006, Choosing to have children or choosing to be childfree: Australian students’ attitudes towards the decisions of heterosexual and lesbian women. Australian Psychologist, vol 41, pp 55-59
Tanturri, ML & Mencarini, L 2008, Childless or childfree? Paths to voluntary childlessness in Italy. Population and Development Review, vol 34: 51-77.
Vinson, C, Mollen, D and Smith, NG 2012, Perceptions of childfree women: The role of perceivers’ and targets’ ethnicity. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology 20: 426-432.