My Facebook wall is filling up with babies. Alongside the wall of babies, adverts pop up about buying stuff for babies. This didn't seem an issue in my twenties and nothing prepared me from the bombardment from all sides on hitting my early thirties. The overwhelming expectation from the world that that is what you should be doing.
At the same time I am reading more and more on 'the childless woman', about how there are more of us and how we have money to spend. The 'childless woman as aunt' or PANK (professional aunt, no kids) keeps cropping up in these pieces. In fact, there is a specific website for women who don't have children but who are aunties (Savvy Auntie).
I am an aunt to six and unofficial auntie to more and my first response to reading about Savvy Auntie was, "hurray". I take being part of my nieces' and nephews' lives seriously and am pleased to see the importance of these relationships being written about. But first and foremost, these websites have sprung up as a response to women without children who have money to spend on them.
I am less keen of a celebration of auntiehood that is a thinly veiled marketing ploy to try to make us buy things for the children we know. We are being marketed to as the new 'pink pound' and the problematic assumptions about the pink pound, i.e. that all gay people have lots of disposable income, are also true of those without children.
Also, does identifying us (women without children) as 'aunts' just try and fit us into the status quo of defining women by their caring relationships to others? After all, I haven't heard any talk of Savvy Uncles or PUNKs. This worry is confirmed by the PANK website (sister website to Savvy Auntie) which states 'being a woman means loving kids'. The emphasis on the auntie role here becomes a means to bring women without children back in line. Indeed, I have used my auntie credentials in the past to dodge the child question: "Do you have children?" "No, but I have lots of nieces and nephews?", for which read, "No, but I'm not a child-hating weirdo."
Being a 33-year-old exhibiting no signs of reproduction has taught me a lot about how far feminism still has to go and about the expectations of the current moment, expectations about what being a woman is, or indeed about what being a proper person is. If we are going to move beyond this, then we need to be doing more than claiming our position as aunts or consumer-aunts.
Just as there are reasons to celebrate having children, there are reasons to celebrate not having children. And it should be okay to say this without feeling backed into a 'some-of-my-best-friends-have-babies' corner. Surely there should be ways of celebrating different ways of living without merely having to emphasise our connection to the children in our lives?
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