In this chapter, I consider how voluntarily childless (VC) women can respond not just to master narratives of mandatory motherhood, but to their own internalised narratives of wantonness – of not desiring something they ought, or of being ambivalent about motherhood altogether. This chapter, then, is about the practices of choosing and endorsing one’s desires, however clear or ambiguous, about intentional childlessness, and in the process, of learning to hold oneself as a valued moral agent, as a dissident, but non-wanton, self. Secondarily, it is also about challenging Frankfurt’s claims that the formation and maintenance of moral identities require a kind of wholeheartedness that admits of no doubts. First, I begin with a personal story of my struggles with desiring my choices – of coming to endorse, however not-wholeheartedly, my non-wanting of motherhood, and thus rejecting the pronatalist narratives that marked my first-order desires as mistaken, and my second-order ones as deviant. Second, I offer an overview of voluntary childlessness as experienced by women most pressured to reproduce in the context of the bad moral luck of pronatalism. I note that my approach, grounded in philosophical feminist value theory, is focused on women who are not involuntarily childless or infertile, and who, because of social, economic and other privilege find themselves to be the targets of pronatalist narratives of ‘desirable’ motherhood. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the dissident practices of identity-creation through which women can embrace both their certainties and ambiguities about their VC status by offering counterstories in response to accusations of wanton-hood, or of improperly, unnaturally or heretically motivated wills.
Gotlib, A. (2018), "Wanting to Want: Constructing the Ambivalent Childless Self", Sappleton, N. (Ed.) Voluntary and Involuntary Childlessness (Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 71-94. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78754-361-420181004Download as .RIS
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