In my search for people involved with the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood (NAOP) that was in existence in the 70-80s, I recently found a wonderful woman named Marcia Drut-Davis. She was President of the Long Island Chapter from 1974 to 1977. In 1974, NAOP had its first national convention, and afterwards, she and her husband agreed to do an interview with 60 Minutes. Not just any interview, mind you-they agreed to invite her in-laws as well, and have the pre-recorded segment include Marcia and her husband telling them they did not want children.
In 1974, this was a big deal—a bigger deal than Marcia could have imagined.
When the segment aired, in Marcia’s memoir she writes, “..the more I watched, the more upset I became. Several hours of film had been cut to three minutes of pure propaganda.” Where was her talk about her passion for teaching, and role as mentor? Cut. Words from her husband? All on the editing floor. The childfree couples were portrayed as “selfish and insensitive, flaunting their material wealth and hedonistic pleasures…Our commentary on the positive aspects of parenting was nowhere to be seen. Our discussion of the many joys associated with that lifestyle, joys we would miss, had been omitted.” Mike Wallace even ended the segment saying, ” ‘Pardon our perversion for showing this on Mother’s Day,’ wearing an expression of intense concern.”
Marcia was shocked that the purpose of the segment –”to speak the truth about the realities of parenting, gain societal acceptance for those who choose not to parent..had been lost completely” and she feared that viewers’ “preconceived notions about the childfree would be confirmed.”
In a recent phone interview with Marcia, she told me that she and her husband encountered backlash like you can’t imagine. She lost friends and was harassed by strangers as well as people she knew personally. At that time Marcia had also been a sought after substitute teacher and was about to get a teaching position. What happened after the 60 Minutes segment? She was never called again to sub, and did not get the teaching position. In time, she went back to graduate school, and twenty years later, with a name change (by marriage) she finally taught again. After returning to teaching her school district nominated her to be National Teacher of The Year.
Listening to Marcia tell this story made me realize how far we have come. When I have been part of network television segments, including The Early Show, I have not encountered anything like this. Curiosity–yes. Myths and judgments–yes, but the kind treatment that Marcia faced, no. We see more stories in the media about being childfree than ever before, and while we have a ways to go in terms of total acceptance, one thing I can say is we’ve come a long way since 1974.
Postscript: I have contacted 60 Minutes a number of times to see if the show on which this segment aired can be purchased, and so far no response.
Read Marcia’s story in her memoir, Confessions of a Childfree Woman.
Who else has stories of how the childfree have been treated in the past?