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What the bias against childless women tells us about society as a whole

By Nina Steele 

At 53, George Clooney is childless and going by the overwhelmingly positive articles that are written about him, it is obvious that this has not affected the way in which he is perceived by the media. By contrast, at 46, Jennifer Aniston’s childlessness is generally mentioned in derogatory terms, with some going as far as claiming that Brad Pitt dumped her because she didn’t want to start a family.

Sarah Teather, former UK Families Minister, was accused by her then colleague of not being up to the job, just because she was childless as reported in this Telegraph article. In a similar move, an article in a tabloid newspaper claimed that a colleague of Theresa May (the UK Home Secretary), suggested that she would put voters off if she ever became the leader of the conservative party, because she has no children.

I cannot recollect anyone ever suggesting that the likes of Michael Portillo and William Hague would not make good Prime Ministers just because they were childless. And of course, Ted Heath who became UK Prime Minister in the 70s, was both childless and unmarried.

The fact that two of the most powerful women on the planet are both childless (Oprah Winfrey and Angela Merkel), has unfortunately still not brought about a sea change in the way that childless women are generally perceived.

Every celebrity pregnancy is relentlessly dissected. It is not an exaggeration to use the word obsession to describe the coverage that mothers and babies receive in the media nowadays. Businesses have jumped on the bandwagon, and children are now used to sell pretty much everything.

Being a mother is therefore very valuable to the economy as a whole. This explains in great part, the bias against childless women. To these established interests, we are both a threat and an anomaly.

Which is why it is heart-warming to hear the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Helen Mirren and Cameron Diaz making a strong case for childless women, whenever they are faced with intrusive questions about their childless status. Strong role models are needed in order for childless women to be left to get on with their lives and treated with the same respect accorded to childless men.

If anything, you can even go as far as to argue that not having children allows one to contribute more to society, for the obvious reason that childless women can have an unbroken career, with all the tax implications. But of course, in a child obsessed culture, it is too easy to overlook these factors. What a shame!

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