I’ve been thinking recently about how I became so unorthodox: childfree, atheist, asexual, radically feminist, anti-racist, vegan, anti-capitalist, zero waste.
I was born as at least one of these, while others are conscious choices.
I don’t know what makes me — and a significant minority of people — so resistant to accepting the status quo when most people go through life never questioning what they’ve been taught, or becoming hostile to having their ideas challenged (something I’ve both observed throughout my life).
But I don’t think that we — the questioners, the amateur philosophers and sociologists — are particularly remarkable. Certainly, there are millions of us, and we tend to agree on many topics. Although that might make us seem “weird” or eccentric, it reinforces the idea that there is nothing new under the sun and even radicals find their ideology somewhere. Maybe our genes make us naturally contrarian. Maybe someone, somewhere, at some point in our lives told us to challenge “the man”, even if we don’t have a conscious memory of it. Whatever it is, something makes us prone to question rather than conform.
We understand the importance of social norms. But they become dangerous when we stop thinking about why they’re there: rules, whether legal or cultural norms, are useful when they prevent people and institutions from causing harm to others, but that’s not what many of our rules actually achieve. Yeah, random acts of violence being not only illegal, but also frowned upon is a positive. Legal loopholes allowing the wealthy to hoard their riches in secret accounts, rather than being taxed to help ensure basic rights, are indisputably not.
Neither are social norms or legislation stigmatizing marginalized sexualities and genders, or conditioning about women’s and men’s roles in the home, at work, and in society.
Or you know, the obligation to have children, even if you don’t want to.
We’re given all this messaging before we’re even born (see: gender reveals). And those of us who make conscious, alternative choices aren’t necessarily immune to groupthink either. Just go take a look at any comments section of an article where someone has renounced veganism. I’ve met self-identified feminists who are insistent, to the point of aggression, on upholding completely arbitrary and dogmatic tenets of patriarchy. This holds true for me too. I’ve also been guilty of holding white supremacist, sexist, or speciesist beliefs while not being aware of it.
Like I’ve mentioned before, until I was 22, it had never occurred to me that being childfree was an option. I dreaded having to do it someday, but I still knew that I would. It was only after I became strongly involved in the then-nascent blogosphere (I’m old, y’all) that I realized that foregoing motherhood wasn’t any different from the other cultural hallmarks of white supremacy, patriarchy, and Christian normativity that I’d chosen to reject on my way to becoming a carefree black girl.