One generalization that I face every single day as a woman in society is the idea that simply because I am a woman, I will one day have children. It has been something that has been forced upon my conscious for as long as I can remember as something that I must do in order to be a full woman. Well, sadly our culture doesn’t look highly upon women who choose not to have children and even worse claims that if you don’t want or can’t have children you must be less of a woman. This is a very personal subject for me because as a woman when we reach a certain age, people just expect us to have children or to at least want to have children someday.
Explaining to people that I don’t want children is one of those uncomfortable conversations because once you tell people that, most of the time you get written off as being selfish, they assume you must not like children, or sometimes you get the phrase, “Oh, you will change your mind.” But, what people don’t realize is that having a child shouldn’t be this right of passage to a full life. A lot of times people will also ask, “Why don’t you want kids?” This is a valid question, but I would argue that if someone has made the decision to not have kids then it doesn’t need an explanation because each person has full control over the course of their life, and just because they choose not to fall into this one stereotype doesn’t make them any less of a person. However, for those in dire need of an explanation, there are many reasons women are not having children. Nowadays, especially there seem to be more reasons to not have kids than to have kids. One factor is that women are placing more of their energy on their careers than having babies and again, this is something that each woman is entitled to. Another is that the economy’s middle class is getting thinner and thinner and people just don’t have the time or money anymore to settle down and raise a family, and the other factor is climate change.
In a Guardian article by Ro Kwon, she writes, “In a 2018 New York Times poll, a third of Americans of childbearing age cited climate change as a factor in their decision to have fewer children.” The radical changes occurring all over the globe due to climate change certainly cause for concern, one begins to think, do I really want to bring a baby into this world? For years growing up, as a Generation Z baby and for many Millennials, we were told that we would be the ones that had the responsibility to fix everything that past generations ruined in terms of the environment. That it would be up to us as a collective to take the steps necessary to change the course of the history of the planet. Now, that is a huge responsibility and an unfair one at that, that a generation would be responsible for the course of our humankind on this planet. That is not to say that all hope is lost and that there aren’t still things all of us can do to save the planet, but with the way things are going now in terms of rising ocean levels, increased temperatures all over the planet due to global warming, decreasing snowpacks, and deforestation, to just name a few the future looks bleak and overpopulation is one of the many reasons why all of these negative impacts are happening to the environment. I don’t want to come across like a “doomsday prepper” or someone with no hope for the future of humanity, but I want to be realistic and these are just some of the questions young women now have to ask themselves as they consider all of the potential outcomes and impacts of having a baby and the responsibility it holds.
Then there is the issue of people having children who simply should not have children either because they are unfit parents or because they are not able to take care of them. There has been a drastic increase in children in the foster care system. In this NBC news article, “Chicago has seen a 33 percent increase in the number of children in foster care. In Texas, children in foster care have reportedly contracted Covid-19 at nearly double the rate of the general population.” The pandemic has only made this issue more troubling because fewer families are willing to take in these children. This is a side of the story that is rarely ever told, those happy families we see in commercials rarely ever tell the story of a child in foster care and the pain of being hopped from one house to another.
The media for decades has been promoting family life. It is something that we see almost every day in commercials, magazines, television shows, movies, music, etc. No matter where you turn someone or some company is advertising to parents and parental figures. This is nothing new to us as a culture, and before the Women’s Rights Movement of the 70s women were largely seen as the homemaker and delicate creatures whose only purpose in life was to stay at home and raise children. So, to this day there is still some of that mentality ingrained in people from that past societal standard, but it is our social responsibility to progress past this outdated notion and further efforts to promote gender equality.
This thirty-second 2010 Super Bowl commercial sponsored by Tim Tebow, titled “Focus on the Family” was very controversial because the website they were promoting was a conservative Christian pro-life ministry. They don’t say too much during the commercial and on surface level it seems like a wholesome family ad, but they left a large part of the story out and at the end of the ad left the words “For the full story go to FocusOnTheFamily.com Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life.” The very context of the ad was missing, yet they got away with it because of the fact they didn’t overtly say this is what they were advertising, but this certainly didn’t stop the backlash that came when the commercial came out. Tim Tebow lost some endorsement deals and that was pretty much the extent of it, but the message was still out and this type of advertisement only promotes the idea that if you don’t have a baby then you are wrong. Religions push this idea because they believe it is a woman’s moral responsibility to have children and spread the faith and it has been this way for centuries.
However, the single woman’s perspective is rarely ever told in advertising. The single woman is largely left out of marketing as a whole group. This Fortune article brings light to an ad campaign paid for by the high-end skincare SK-II, this commercial that aired in China in 2016 tells the story of the single woman, or the “leftover women” as said in the ad, young women past the age of 25 who are unmarried. It is a very powerful message and calls for social change. These women don’t want to disappoint their family, but the pressures put on them to find someone to marry is immense, there is even a “marriage market” where parents will try to actively find suitors for their daughters. At the end of the ad these women go to a marriage market with their parents, but instead, they use it as a place to show their pictures and their messages to the world that they don’t need to be married to live happy lives and that their stories deserve to be told too. They don’t need to be in relationships to be somebody, they are somebody and they are powerful. These are the women who are constantly harmed by advertisement companies leaving them out of the media world. It makes them feel like they must not matter or that their life is somehow less. I highly encourage everyone who hasn’t seen it to watch it at the link below.
Marketing organizations and companies benefit from leaving out single unmarried women without children in their advertising because they believe they are not worth trying to sell anything to. They believe that families will make more money for them because they are trying to sell to more people and that by specifically advertising to them, they will make more profit in the long run. However, these companies couldn’t be more wrong. In this Business Insider article, researchers found, “A solid majority of single women don’t plan on waiting until they’re married to pursue mortgages, according to recently released data from Bank of America. About 2 in 3 single women (65%) reported that they would rather not wait until they were married to buy homes, regardless of how old they were.” Women are dominating the housing market and this is rarely ever talked about in media, and more than that they are an economic force to be reckoned with as this article by the Guardian states, ““Arguably, women are now the most powerful engine of global growth,” the Economist wrote back in 2006. And a Harvard Business Review article from 2009 notes that “in aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined – more than twice as big, in fact.” So, if only these corporations could see the huge marketing target they are missing out on maybe they will begin to change the way women are portrayed in the media, it is certainly about time.