As a childfree person, I feel like I often have to defend against the stereotype that childfree people hate children. Based on the comments from my last post about being a childfree person who actually likes kids, it’s clear that this still surprises people, no matter how many nice intentionally childless folks they meet. Since I’m also vegan, I’m sort of used to people acting surprised when I say that no, I don’t care what you eat, and no, I don’t care if you have kids. I get that I’m making two non-normative choices, but I also get why both make people defensive: Because these sorts of choices in particular come with the implication, however incorrect, that my behavior alone casts subjective judgment on that of others. But why are some childfree people overtly nasty and others not? In my case, there’s a story behind it.
Last year I was working at the COP15 climate conference and true to my nature, I was really into petting any dog that came around our outdoor stations. I was working with a woman one afternoon who saw me snuggling a really fantastic mutt and said, with the most frighteningly open hostility I think I’ve ever experienced, “I hate animals!” WTF? I thought. You hate animals? Why?? What did they ever do to you besides provide food, clothing, and companionship? Not only was I appalled, defensive, and felt immediately protective of the dog; I wondered what would possess someone to direct such unwarranted hatred at another living being.
For me, that was a really defining moment because later, I wondered if that’s how childfree people sound sometimes when they say, “I hate kids.” To someone who adores children, it likely does. Now, give me some credit: I never walked around pushing kids off the sidewalk. But meeting that rather atrocious person helped me realize that because I want people to respect that I don’t have kids and don’t eat/wear/use animal products, I’ve got to be really open about my ambivalence to other people’s choices. Most people who know me would hopefully agree that no, I pretty much don’t care if you eat a bloody steak in front of me or have five children. Hell, I’ll even cook your steak and play with your kids. But it isn’t enough to feel that way or even act like you’re cool with others’ choices. You’ve got to get out ahead of the bad press and say, “No, listen, I’m not going to hate on you.” You have to be very intentional about this sort of thing. You’ve got to actively consider how you want to influence others.
Britgirl, who runs the childfree blog Like It Is, covered this same topic a while back. She asked her readers if they thought childfree people were unnaturally hostile, specifically online, and the comments seem to indicate that they are. But I wonder, is that a symptom of the way many people are blunt and often rude online rather than an indication that childfree people are generally anti-child? Are some people more inclined to say awful things about parents and children because it’s just the internets?
Why do you think childfree people get such a bad rap? Is this an Internet-only phenomenon, relegated to childfree forums where people sound off about annoying parts of our pro-natalist culture? Why do we assume that a group of people is homogenous, that all childfree people are the same?