Australian & American Leaders: Whose Got the Tougher Perception to Overcome?
Editor’s Note: I’m pleased to share with you a guest post from Gillian Guthrie, author of Childless: Reflections on Life’s Longing for Itself. You might recall I included a link to an interview with Gillian in a previous post. (Thanks again, Carmel, for pointing us to the story.) Curiosity led me to seek Gillian out. A few emails later the world got a little smaller once again…
I thought you might be interested in a story from across the Pacific, which, in a way, brings us all closer together.
The story goes that the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the US President, Barack Obama, are good mates.
According to Ms. Gillard they’ve been known to exchange good-humoured banter about what might be perceived as their personal handicaps.
“I tell him: ‘You think it’s tough being African-American? Try being me … try being an atheist, childless, single woman as Prime Minister’.” She was quoted thus, speaking at a private fundraising function in Sydney last week. She rarely, if ever, raises that subject unprompted by the press. It was surprising to hear and it came only weeks after a public revelation that her arch foe on the same side of politics had recently sought to discredit her as a ‘childless, atheist, ex-communist’.
Julia Gillard has weathered those attacks from both sides of politics long enough. I thought the most recent slur against her childlessness was so uncalled for it warranted a call to end such personal mud-slinging in the name of political debate. So I wrote an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald which attracted the lovely, ironic headline: ‘Put a stop now to mother of all insults’. It also attracted 414 online comments – the most blogged about story that day!
When I was writing my book ‘Childless: Reflections on Life’s Longing for Itself’ I found a quote from Laurie Lisle’s book ‘Without Child’ that said:
We have no support from collective knowledge and thus little confidence in our childlessness.
I think that’s very true because it’s such a hard thing to talk about when all your friends are having children – or grandchildren. It can be a conversation-stopper to boldly state that you never want to have children and you’re very happy without them. In some circles that can unforgiveable. In other circles it’s difficult to explain the often-complicated reasons why children didn’t become a natural part of your life, as they did for most of your friends and colleagues. And if you’ve suffered grief and guilt over not having children, talking about it becomes even harder.
Midway through writing ‘Childless’ I decided to invite some childless friends around for what I jokingly called The Childfree Lunch. I thought that would give us what Laurie Lisle suggested we lacked – ‘support from collective knowledge’. There were eight of us and I knew them all but had never really spoken seriously to any of them about the taboo topic – until I realised I might have to interview them.
Now that the book’s published and out there, I’ve re-invented the childfree lunch and invited interested readers – women – to come along and compare notes, listen to each other and hopefully have a good time out with fellow-travellers. And none of us will have to ask of the other ‘… do you have children?’
It’s a question I used to dread – but not at the childfree lunch!
-Gillian Guthrie, author of Childless: Reflections on Life’s Longing for Itself
Since we have readers scattered around the globe from Canada to New Zealand, Slovenia, France, Ireland, England, Australia, South Africa, Finland, India, Germany and points in between (in the U.S. — Michigan, Rhode Island, Utah, Oregon, New York, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia, California) finding a convenient place for lunch will be a challenge. Instead, I’m happy to host a virtual lunch. Grab a seat and join us. What would you like to discuss? (and please tell us where you call home).