By Sarah Prial
St. Jane Fellow
Decisiveness is not often my forte, especially when it comes to deciding whether or not I want dessert. (In this case, kidding myself is my forte.) Then there are things in which I am so firmly rooted that not even the most earth-shaking life events could change them: the love of my family, acceptance of religions other than my own, and the personal decisions people make for themselves and their bodies. For instance, my partner and I will not be having children. And though we often joke about it, even keeping a “no children” piggy bank in the kitchen, it is very serious for us.
I originally intended to write this piece about why I did not want to have children. Specifically my personal choice, not my partner’s, as we have different reasons. But as we plan our wedding, more and more (often well-intentioned) people ask us when we will be having children. When we tell them we won’t be, they insist to know why. And after telling my story again and again, which is incredibly painful for me, I realized something important - it’s none of anyone’s business but mine. I don’t owe anyone that information, yet they all seem to expect it. And I am overflowing with gratitude that our immediate families have never once questioned our decisions.
With or without the explanation, I am almost always told “You’ll change your mind.” And I’ve moved past trying to laugh it off and accept it - now I’m just angry. How dare anyone say they know better than I do? How dare they demand an explanation?
Then, I decided to speak to my friends and my family. And I found that the “it’s none of your damn business” indignation does not just apply to my personal decisions. So I’d like to speak for other women as well. I want to speak for the women who are trying to have children.
There are the loving family and friends and sometimes acquaintances that pat their stomachs and say “When? When?” not knowing about frequent miscarriages. Then, there are the women who have children and yet their loved ones, (and perfect strangers!) want to know when will they have more. “Three children are so much better than two!” They seem to bypass the realization that what works for that person is not what will work for every single woman on the planet.
When did society lose respect for our autonomy? When did one of the most personal decisions a woman (or a couple) can make become everyone’s business? This is purely rhetorical, as I realize now, as I’ve watched elections and policy makers make it it there business, that it has always been this way.
I used to be angry for myself. At the questioning of my personal decisions, and the subsequent dismissal of them. The demand that I share my reasoning, which rips my insides out to share. But now I’m angry for my family. And in this case, every single woman is my family. This is an issue beyond “wives and daughters” - the women on whom so many lawmakers make their decisions. And I - no, we - fight for our family.
Women are told that they can’t be angry. But I don’t care anymore. I’m angry at those who constantly cast aside my decision. I’m angry at the people in ivory towers who won’t allow any of us that decision in the first place. Because anger is a reasonable and rational response. And anger can be the strongest force to help a person fight for what’s right.
So let’s get angry. Because it is nobody’s damn business. And they need to know that.