Single, Never-Married, Childfree Women of Color
Single women are almost exclusively defined within the heterosexual paradigm and in relation to other people. The number of never-married women and childfree women continues to increase. However, we know very little about their subjective experiences and identities outside of the heteronormative frameworks and we know even less about women of color outside of these contexts. My research shines a light on the experiences and perceptions of never-married, voluntarily childfree women of color, and how they construct their identity through their personal experiences. I apply the theoretical frameworks of Standpoint Theory and Decolonial Feminism through an intersectional lens to examine the social, economic and cultural contexts that shape their identities. When studying never-married, voluntarily childfree women of color, explanations range from macro-social forces such as women’s increased participation in the labor force to micro-level motivations such as the desire for more autonomy and freedom. I further explore these factors and intend to answer the following question: How do never-married, voluntarily childfree women of color experience and feel about romantic love, singleness, sex, and attachments in society? Qualitative methods in the form of semi-structured interviews were used to gather in-depth information from 40 participants. These women, who have remained never-married and voluntarily childfree, have a distinct point of view and their narratives could provide pertinent information to the variances and cultural shifts in gender norms, patriarchy, capitalism and heterogender family structures in American society.
The Autonomous Woman
Whether we refer to women as childfree or childless, women’s fertility or lack-there-of is still placed forward in both terms. With the emergence of women who have remained never-married, single and childfree a new way to describe these women is necessary. The current terminology is inadequate and imperfect; and although there may not be just one way to refer to these women, I proffer the that these women should not be defined by the children they chose not to have or the marriage they did not enter. These women are an entity on to themselves and should be described that way. They should not be viewed as the never-married or childfree but as autonomous. These autonomous women are self-governing. They are independent and have power to make their own decisions. Defined as “their actions also reflect their genuine interests and/or values. Autonomy is a bit broader than independence, although the terms are often used interchangeably, in that, independent actions need not be driven by values.” Their independence is born of a need and desire to live their lives in a fashion that is conducive to their beliefs and self-sufficiency. These women are not free from burdens as self-governance is hard, and they have responsibilities as much, if not more, than other people. They are not liberated as they had nothing and no one to be released from. They did not gain their independence from eradicating themselves from a bad marriage or an unhappy relationship. They have chosen not to be mothers, but they are no martyrs. This was not a tortured decision fraught with doubts and fears, but a choice to live a singular life than what might be expected – an autonomous life.
Crazy Cat Lady or Feline Feminists?
We are all familiar with the infamous characterization of the cat lady, a woman of a certain age, who is single, childless and her only emotional connection is to a cat. They are depicted as unappealing, emotionally stunted, and often psychologically disturbed. This damaging identity is propagated by fiction in all forms: film, television, literature and song. However, what if these crazy cat ladies are not crazy at all. What if they know something we do not? Maybe their lives are not so sad or lonely. What if they are living their lives exactly the way they want? Let’s find out! Stay tuned.