The Childfree

The Baby Matrix in College Coursework: Latest Q&A with Professor Kimya Dennis

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimya Dennis, Assistant Professor at Salem College, who was teaching the sociology course, The Childfree, for the second time and was using my book, The Baby Matrix, as part of the curriculum. As she did last year, Kimya graciously answered a few questions after the course was finished:

You created The Childfree course, and this is the second time you have taught the course. How do you think this course has contributed to discourse regarding The Baby Matrix, pronatalism, and reproductive rights?

This course gives students more access to readings like The Baby Matrix, Aralyn Hughes’ Kid Me Not, and many peer-reviewed journal articles about the childfree, childless, and overall reproductive rights. It also includes work from sociologist Amy Blackstone and the werenothavingababy website, as well as your online Families of Two: Childfree and Beyond and lauracaroll.com websites.

It is not surprising that most people have never heard of overall freedom to consciously consider if (not just “when”) they want to have children, let alone read books, journal articles, and websites. It is also not surprising most college students, across academic institutions, have never heard of this freedom and have never read the increasing amount of material on this topic.

I am still saddened when I encounter students who have been taught, and firmly believe, that they are required to have children to prove adulthood, womanhood, racial-ethnic-cultural womanhood, and/or faith-spirituality-religion. I toll the delicate line between encouraging liberation and choice and respect for culture and different lifestyles.

The Childfree
Kimya Dennis, Ph.D.

The second time teaching this course was quite liberating as a professor. I was less antsy about addressing certain topics and my students (who I call “scholars”) were quite open to sharing their opinions, reading materials, and having a give-and-take learning environment.  This environment included talking about sex education and discussing “college sex education” that can debunk certain myths and exaggerations about biological sex, gender identities, sexuality, our bodies, sexual pleasure for people who seek such pleasure, and reproduction. We also had Planned Parenthood visit for a wonderful discussion of the history and contemporary necessity of Planned Parenthood.  Anyone who knows me knows I am a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood and want access to these types of health resources across socioeconomic status and across race, ethnicity, and culture.

We also discussed cultural variations in The Baby Matrix and the ways in which pronatalism and definitions of “family” vary across cultures. Variations include race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual identity, sexuality, physical-mental health, and religion-spirituality-meditation. For most cultures adulthood, manhood, and especially womanhood are narrowly defined by having children (most often biological rather than adopted) in an overwhelmingly patriarchal, gender disparate, heterocentric, and heteronormative environment.

When such environments are challenged there is often anger and outrage. I appreciate being able to engage in open discussions of reproductive freedoms, birth controls, sterilization by choice, and overall choices that defy certain narrow categorizations of humans. These narrow categorizations of humans are a result of inequalities on the basis of power and the tendency for humans to require things to fit into characteristics and categories. And, rather than characteristics and categories being able to equally coexist, they are compared and ranked.

How has The Childfree course shaped your perspectives as a sociologist?

This course adds to my knowledge as a sociologist, shapes my teaching, and illustrates a diversity of experiences and opinions. Sociologically, it is important to be reasonably informed about research and news stories. It is also important to talk to people, face to face and eye to eye, to understand what people are experiencing and expressing. This helps me become a better sociologist and also a better person. There is give-and-take in this. This is not a one sided learning environment because college students have a range of experiences and beliefs that should not be silenced. They contribute greatly to my classrooms and learning environments.

When discussing reproductive freedoms people in some cultures pretend these topics are “common sense” as though freedoms and choices are widely known and widely accepted.  This is when I remind people that this is not common knowledge and it is not commonly accepted. I also want people to use their wider lens and take off the rose colored glasses to see what is experienced by other individuals and other groups of people. All of this shapes my experiences and knowledge as a sociologist.

How has The Childfree course shaped your perspectives as a childfree person?

This course makes me even more definitive and vocal about reproductive freedoms and my decision to be childfree. I am also more confident and adamant about not needing to explain why I am childfree. I appreciate being able to respond to the question “why” with “because I did not and do not want to have children.” The simplicity in that answer often shocks people because they anticipated a long explanation. I explain to students that my short answer is important because the number one rule to having children is for children to be wanted.

Yes, people should have the mental, emotional, physical, and financial means to provide for children.  But, even with overall perfect life circumstances, the desire to have children should be present if children are to be loved and kept safe. After I get students to understand that childfree people are under no obligation to explain, just like most parents and aspiring parents do not explain their decision to other people (and perhaps not even to themselves), I then provide varying reasons for why having children is not of interest to myself and to some other childfree people. This is where students enjoy reading articles, websites, and watching videos about the childfree.

This course gives me a platform to discuss being childfree and talk to a group of people who are interested in the topic. Some people have never known someone who is childfree or never knew having children is optional rather than required. I am very appreciative to have opportunities to engage in these discussions.

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Thank you, Kimya!

How I admire her trailblazing scholarly endeavors!

 

Regretting Motherhood

Orna Donath, Ph.D.

Israeli Scholar & Author Orna Donath Making Waves With her New Book

Sociologist and author Orna Donath is making waves in Europe with her new book, Regretting Motherhood. I have interviewed her here before about her research on motherhood and regret in Israel. She has now published a book on this topic. Check out the Q&A on her book and how it has been received in Europe: Continue reading “Israeli Scholar & Author Orna Donath Making Waves With her New Book”

thanksgiving and being childfree

What Thanksgiving and Being Childfree Have in Common

I like to bring this post back around at Thanksgiving time. What do Thanksgiving and being childfree have in common? Myths. Like the myths out there about the childfree, there sure are some myths about Thanksgiving . Check it out: Continue reading “What Thanksgiving and Being Childfree Have in Common”

orna

Update on the Work of Israeli Scholar and Author, Orna Donath

I recently heard from Orna Donath, an Israeli scholar and author I interviewed awhile back on the childfree in Israel. She has two new published articles about motherhood and regret in Israel based on her Ph.D. work. Check them out and my interview with her here:

Continue reading “Update on the Work of Israeli Scholar and Author, Orna Donath”

Laura Carroll, LiveTrue books

Print and Digital Book Cultures: Can They Exist Side by Side?

With the advent and innovations of print technology, there is a lot of talk about whether printed books are well on the road to dead. Author Alix Christie has an interesting view in the San Francisco Chronicle – check it out.   Continue reading “Print and Digital Book Cultures: Can They Exist Side by Side?”

Laura Carroll, professional book review

Nod to Black History Month: Great African American Nonfiction Books

This month being Black History Month, I’ve been perusing some great African American nonfiction. Before I list some books to check out, do you know how Black History Month started? Check it out. Continue reading “Nod to Black History Month: Great African American Nonfiction Books”

question-marks

What the Childfree Like Most and Least About the Christmas Holiday

On my blog, La Vie Childfree for awhile I did a monthly “Childfree On-the-Ground” question. At the beginning of the month, I asked a question, collected people’s responses over the course of the month, and then reported back on what people said at the end of the month.  Here is one “OTG” question Continue reading “What the Childfree Like Most and Least About the Christmas Holiday”

book

Nonfiction Books To Be Thankful For

Reading Rifflebooks giving thanks for November nonfiction releases inspired me to think about nonfiction books I am thankful for… There are so many! Here are just two that immediately came to mind: Continue reading “Nonfiction Books To Be Thankful For”

talking about the childfree

Ruminations on the Book, Baby Bust

According to the recently released book, Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family by Stewart Friedman, it summarizes a cross-generational study of college students that  produced a “stark discovery: the rate of graduates who plan to have children has dropped by nearly half over the past 20 years.” In tracking the childfree choice since the late 90s… Continue reading “Ruminations on the Book, Baby Bust”