By Laura LaVoie
While the recent upswing in media coverage would lead us to believe that the childfree lifestyle is a very modern occurrence, women have been not having children throughout Time. Historically, of course there were some NotMoms unable to have their own children, while others chose to focus on different facets of their lives.
One of my favorite historic NotMoms is Hypatia. You can see a fictionalized version of her story in the 2009 movie Agora. The film is essentially about the religious clashes of that era and the violence that erupted in the city of Alexandria, with Hypatia at the center of the story.
Our modern culture is child-centric. This is not a debatable fact. More than that, our child-centric culture is, in and of itself, neither a flaw nor a problem. It makes sense to me that as a species and individual cultures, we would want to place our next generation in a prominent spot in society. (That useless anthropology degree is good for something, at least.) However, throughout history there have always been people who have gone against the norm.
People, like myself, who have not had children. for whatever reason. But, before the invention of the Internet, we didn’t have an easy access to a network of others like us. We weren’t able to see our situation through any other lenses but our own. Do you think Hypatia of Alexandria started a NotMom Club in the late 300s A.D.?
Consider Hypatia, who threw herself into a world of early science and philosophy. She worked alongside men in her chosen profession, and in 300 and 400 A.D., this was a pretty big deal. Centuries before Galileo, she used the first scale model of planetary motion to figure out that the Earth cannot be the center of the universe.
Hypatia was killed by a mob in the year 415. She is estimated to have been at least 50 years old at the time. History declares it happened because of her religious beliefs, but it may have also been a little bit about her status as an unmarried woman and her role in society. Hypatia never married and never had children, choices consistent with the philosophies she followed.
I wonder if people ever walked up to Hypatia unannounced and asked her when she was planning on having children. I wonder if they warned her that her clock was ticking and she had better hurry up. I wonder if they told her she wasn’t getting any younger. You know.
I would love to live in a world where no one felt the need to ask these questions; a world where no one made assumptions. A world where people understood their comments could be very painful for women who came to NotMomhood from a very different perspective.
Like Hypatia, one of my historical NotMom idols, I would like to be in a place where I can be respected for my contribution to society and not my genitalia or my ability (or inability) to produce offspring.
Who are your favorite NotMom idols?