Hegemonic Motherhood: Reconceptualizing Femininity and Family through the Lens of Voluntary Childlessness

Deanna Trella, Bowling Green State University

Discourse on motherhood has evolved into an understanding of what is ‘natural’ and constitutive of healthy femininity. Transformations in economic potential, advances in contraception, and a shift in gender roles became an impetus for social change in the home. Challengers of the voluntarily childless lifestyle proclaim that individuals who remain childless are selfish and subversive. Research findings suggest that this decision is fraught with personal, economic, and social ramifications for childless couples. Research fails to highlight this population and adequately explain this complex decision. This study provides a synopsis of literature on voluntary childlessness focusing on how a belief in hegemonic mothering has hampered intellectual development. I demonstrate how a mother-centered conception of femininity has inhibited our ability to understand the impetus for and ramifications of voluntary childlessness. As political initiatives advocate marriage while constraining the definition of family, it is intriguing to consider the fate of voluntarily childless couples.

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Presented in Session 151: Gender and Reproduction