Friday, July 3, 2009

Oprah: Close, but no cigar

Did anyone catch the Oprah show today? The episode was called The Secret Lives of Moms and it consisted of a bunch of moms (including actress Cheryl Hines) spilling the beans on the "downside" of motherhood - all the dirty little secrets - the horrors, the disappointments, the messes, the upsets, the frustrations. When I stumbled upon this show while channel flipping, I thought, hmm, this might be interesting fodder for my blog. Are they actually going to come clean or is it going to be another one of these mom support sessions where all the moms (and the host) entertain each other with cute little anecdotes which amount to a big group hug and a pat on the back for being the heroines of American culture? Well, I am sorry to report it was just what I suspected it would be.

On the upside, the mothers on the show did spill the beans on the stuff that stays hush-hush and gets pushed under the rug in our reproduction-crazed culture: the loss of identity, the loss of freedom, the loss of friendships, the decline of marital relationships, the loss of a sex life, the sickening and often unbearable day-to-day tasks that mothers must endure. However, it was all said with a hearty chuckle and a yes, we all must endure this and are better people for it mentality that refuses to be shaken loose from our culture. Never once in this discussion, or any discussion on the Oprah show, is there ever any mention of the alternative choice to remain childfree. Motherhood is treated as a mandate - a part of life as required as breathing - and never as a choice. This is particularly disapppointing to me because Oprah herself is childfree by choice and leads a very fulfiling and admirable life.

Imagine how great it would be if Oprah Winfrey did a show dedicated entirely to the childfree lifestyle and interviewed couples (or even women) who have chosen not to have children. What an eye opening and enlightening episode this would be for her audience. Oprah yields tremendous power to influence and is herself a childfree woman, and yet her shows do nothing to so far as mention the alternative of living a life free of children.

As a writer on this issue, I know that a lot of people find my blog because they are searching for information on the option not to have children. More and more people are contemplating this lifestyle, and are itching for more information about what it's really like to be childfree. Those who have already made the childfree choice are yearning for acceptance and understanding in our culture. How sad that we can only find honest information and understanding on childfree blogs and websites? Despite the growing popularity of childfreedom, the mainstream media all but completely ignores the issue and it is really disheartening to me that not even Oprah Winfrey, one of the rare major celebrities who outwardly professes to be childfree by choice, is willing to break the silence on this issue and expose the truth about the childfree lifestyle.

I have decided I am going to write to the producers of the Oprah Winfrey show and suggest my idea for an episode on childfreedom. Will you do the same? Isn't it about time we get some serious, mainstream press? Isn't it time Oprah shines a spotlight on the fabulous lifestyle she herself has embraced?

Please write to the producers of the Oprah Winfrey show here. And if you'd like, please post a copy of your message as a comment to this post as well. I'll be posting mine shortly.

Oh and by the way, happy Independence Day - you know I mean that in more ways than one ;)


Childfreeeee said...

Here's the message I sent to the Oprah show:

"I would love to see Oprah do a show dedicated to the childfree lifestyle: people, like Oprah, who have made the choice not to have children. So many of Oprah's shows (such as today's) are focused on validating mothers, yet the very lifestyle that Oprah herself has embraced, the childfree lifestyle, gets zero exposure on her show. I realize that Oprah's audience is primarily women, and most women have children, however a growing segment of the American population is making the choice to be childfree. If you do an internet search on "childfree" you will see there are many, many websites and blogs dedicated to this growing lifestyle choice. Oprah could truly be on the cutting edge by shining a spotlight on the wonderful lifestyle that she herself, and many other Americans, live. There are many, many people who are contemplating this lifestyle, yet can find no information about it in the mainstream media. There is much to be discussed on this topic. Aside from the obvious discussion of the reasons people opt not to have children, other areas to explore are how our culture is rampantly pro-family, pro-children, pro-pregnancy (as evidenced by the crazed celebrity "bump watches", Octomom, Jon & Kate), the downside of parenting that are kept hush-hush (your show today touched on this a bit), the upside of a life free of children, how parenthood is never treated as or considered to be a choice - it is mandated, despite the fact that many people would be happier not being parents, about the taboo that exists against admitting one has willingly chosen not to have children, about the marginalization childfree individuals experience in our baby-crazed culture. This is such a rich and cutting edge topic and it is ripe for media attention. Who better to give this worthy subject the attention it deserves than Oprah Winfrey, a powerful, happy and fulfilled childfree woman?

Thanks for considering this topic idea."

Gumby said...

I started to watch that show out of the same initial curiosity as you.
After hearing Oprah bow down and worship at the throne of pronatalism within the first couple minutes, I changed the channel.
Enough said...

Schrodinger's Kittens said...

Unfortunately, Oprah's audience is SAHMs accustomed to endless validation. Oprah is a businesswoman. Even if she dedicated a show to childfreedom it would have to be presented as the "less-than" choice to protect her bottom line. The CFers shown on such an Oprah episode would all looove children and work with them, volunteer at children's charities etc., and we know that not all of the childfree are benevolent nurturers of "the future"--some of us just don't have 'em, don't want 'em, and aren't interested in them. That part of the childfree spectrum would never be addressed on Oprah, because it doesn't validate the mommies. But I would love to see the show you envision.

Childfreeeee said...

I thought the same thing. Oprah herself, on the rare occasions she mentions her childfree state, is careful to validate mommies. She always points out how motherhood is the toughest job in the world and she just doesn't have "what it takes". (There's that childfree self-deprication I've often complained about). Come on - we know Oprah has what it takes to do whatever the hell she pleases. She just doesn't WANT kids. But she'll never say this out loud - it would alienate her mommy audience.

I agree with you that the odds of her having a show where childfree people get on there and say very directly that they have chosen not to have kids because they think a life without them is preferable, don't want them, think parenthood is overrated, etc. is about zero.

S Lopez said...

I would actually watch Oprah if she had an episode like that--unfortunately, the most I remember watching Oprah was when my mom would have it on when she took care of us. She's got a huge audience to cater to here... Still, I can hope.

pamelli said...

I wrote to the show's producers as you suggested. Maybe if many of us did that, they might consider airing such a show...

Mrs. Ogre said...

I've always wondered, why would Oprah push motherhood as the only way to go? Why can't she make a show about the greatness of childfreedom. Oprah herself is childfree. Having a child is a choice, but not the only valid one. Childfree people are tired of being considered as second class citizens. It would be nice to show mothers that they can be annoying by demanding we justify our life choices. We often feel that the unhappy mothers are threatened in their own life choices, because they followed the LifeScript(TM): marry, have kids. Oprah could talk about the pressures childfree people have in this childcentric pronatalist world.

flamencokitty said...

Here's the message I sent

To Whom It May Concern:

Recently, Oprah aired a show discussing the truths about motherhood, and provided a "sisterhood of motherhood" where mothers could admit the truth about motherhood's challenges without being judged. It showed that they were not alone in their struggle.

As someone who is childfree by choice, I wish that Oprah, an unselfish, powerful, accomplished woman who is also childfree by choice , would do a similar show about childfree women. Childfree women are also judged by others (particular by others who are parents) as selfish, immature, unfulfilled, etc and as a minority, often feel very alone. Yet Oprah is a shining example of a childfree woman who has done so much to help others, who has lived a very fulfilled life. Many childfree women are treated as "incomplete" women who are missing out on what is supposedly all women's ultimate goal: to be a mother. The underlying message of society is that motherhood and womanhood are connected and until a woman is a mother, she is not a full woman. Oprah is proof that this is not true.

I understand that much of Oprah's audience includes mothers, particularly stay-at-home mothers, but I think such a show would intrigue all viewers and show parents that it's fine if they chose to be mothers, but it's also fine if a woman chooses not to be (and she's NOT selfish if she doesn't regret her decision). I want to see a "sisterhood of singlehood" (or for couples, childfree-hood, I'm sure the writers could come up with a better catchphrase): A show where childfree women can celebrate their decision and not feel judged by others or labeled as incomplete.

Thank you for your time, and I eagerly wait such a show in the future.

Childfreeeee said...

To those of you who wrote to the Oprah show...thanks! Ms. Christine, your letter was awesome!

Stella said...

Good points.

But the mainstream media exists to make profits for its owners. Pronatalism is the best way to ensure the continuation of our American consumerist hypercapitalist lifestyle, and no mainstream TV show is going to be pro-childfree.

I like Oprah and I think she is a role model for the childfree, but her show is mostly pronatalism, expensive home renovations, product whoring, and woo.

I would also love to see Richard Dawkins on Oprah to discuss the "new atheists" - but that's just as unlikely, and for similar reasons.

Mel said...

I wrote to Oprah's producers years ago about this...and nada, let's try round two.