I’m Childfree, and I Don’t Want to Murder You, I Swear
You guys, what is with this trend in mysteries/thrillers where the killer ends up being the childless woman who SECRETLY WANTED CHILDREN ALL ALONG *gasp* and doesn’t think the mothers around her are doing a good enough job so she’s fine with just straight up murdering them. Alternatively, there’s the charming version where her inner emptiness (caused by lack of said children) means she is totally fine with sexing other people’s spouses and you know, a little light homicide on the side.
Okay, let’s do this.
I am a childfree woman, and last I checked, I’m pretty good on the not-murdering people front. The yawning space inside me where a baby should be isn’t crying out for the innocents’ blood, despite what some books may tell you. I mean, sure, sometimes I want to strangle people because they’re monsters who don’t believe in equal rights or leave their trash RIGHT NEXT to the trash can (really, dudes, its like two more steps. What is wrong with you?) But I mean, really murder someone? No, man, I’m good.
But I’ve read this spate of women-centered thrillers lately where the childless women are suddenly banana-pants and up to no good. (I’m not mentioning them by name here because hey, spoilers. I mean if you want to know which ones specifically annoyed me, feel free to ask). I mean sure, they may SAY they are happily childless, but really deep inside they are full of resentment and the desire to just straight-up murder people they call their friends when they get in their way.
“Well, okay, sure Sonja,” I hear you saying. “But like, that’s just the way thrillers go sometimes. In this post-Gone Girl world, we are all about the twisty endings and BETRAYALS and crime. This is now Trump’s America! ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.”
Listen, I get that. I do! I mean, in certain books, everyone is fair game to do the murdering. Equal opportunity murdering, I say. (I’m referring to certain types of media here, not real life. Police, please don’t come to my door. Also exceptions apply re: harmful stereotypes. Ahem. Carry on)
But after a couple of books, and movies, and comics, and the general life thing of “You’ll never know love until you have a child” I’m kinda tired of this cliché?
I mean, here’s the thing. Here’s where I have to do the thing where I say I really genuinely admire parents and I acknowledge having children is a brave and beautiful thing and it’s a different kind of love. I know this sounds sarcastic, but my tone kinda froze that way a long time ago: I really mean this sincerely. To be a good parent is hard, hard work, and Beyoncé knows, we need more of them around on earth.
But I don’t think my life is empty because I don’t have children, and I’m tired of being condescended to in life and by some of the books I read. I mean, maybe a childless person isn’t a straight up killer or after your partner, but they’ll at least be sad and alone.
After all, as these books and critics say, what will happen when you grow old? What legacy are you leaving? How do you make meaning of your life? What is it all worth anyways?
Well, let me worry about my life and choices, and you can worry about yours. Having children or not having children doesn’t guarantee you anything in life.
Until then, my friends–especially my lady author friends–let’s stop setting up childfree women to be fallback villains. I think childfree women can be the antagonists in stories, but let’s change the motivation a little, huh? Instead of relying on this thread of emptiness or secret resentment that tends to demonize choices made by women (in a world that is rapidly trying to take choice away from women) let’s just agree that we can all exist and have fulfilling lives in different ways.
Give me a break here, is all I’m asking. I mean, if you don’t that’s cool. I won’t come after you with a knife or anything….
(That last part was a joke.)