On Friday, Feb. 1, the University of Maine hosted a screening of feminist filmmaker and women’s rights activist Maxine Trump’s new documentary “To Kid or Not to Kid.” After the screening, a Q&A panel of community feminist activists discussed the many challenges faced by women today. The discussion focused on the stigma faced by women who choose not to have children. The film, “To Kid or Not to Kid,” reflected these issues through personal experiences related to child rearing and choosing not to have children, including the filmmaker’s own personal account.
“I never dreamt of having kids. When I was younger I never wanted anything to tie me down,” Trump says at the beginning of the film.
The movie highlights how quickly the conversation shifts from women wanting the freedom to chose not to have children, to the innumerable societal pressures and hurdles women face. Countless headlines and TV interviews flash depicting the harsh backlash women who don’t want children face. Many articles featured stated that women weren’t actual women until they reproduced, the majority of which were written by men.
Trump’s experience was also woven into the narrative stories of several other women and her husband, all bringing in different perspectives on the topic of childbirth.
The documentary told the story of one woman’s decision to undergo surgery to become sterile. She described the difficulty surrounding this choice and the isolation she felt, saying most of the process involved men discussing what was right for her body behind her back. She and Trump were left wondering why doctors so frequently tell them they should want kids, implying that their opinion is invalid and unnatural. Many women who were criticized for choosing to not have children discussed facing similar stigma and opposition.
The panel following the film featured Trump, Andrea Irwin, a representative from the Mabel-Wadsworth Center, Amy Blackstone, a sociology professor at UMaine and researcher on women’s rights and childfree living and Jessica Wade, the woman behind “The Childfree Choice,” an online community for people to discuss the decision to not have children.
The audience voiced the opinion that men are often treated with respect when discussing reproductive issues. Members voicing this opinion claimed that when men choose to become sterile, they do not face comments from doctors such as “you’ll change your mind,” nor are they subjected to “invasive and unnecessary” inquiry as described by Wade, as much as women do. However, the crowd discussed their hope as the phenomenon of people today who are “golden girling it,” or choosing to live with friends to avoid the perceived loneliness of aging without children, increases.
Trump is currently about to embark on a tour across the U.S. to show “To Kid or Not to Kid”. Updates on the film’s release and any other of her projects can be found at https://www.tokidornottokid.com.