My So-called selfish life: A childfree documentary-in-progress by Therese Shechter

Hey! Watch our 3-minute trailer!

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We’re told that our value is tied to being mothers but what if it doesn’t happen? What if we don’t want it to happen?

“Do you have kids?” seems like an innocent question, but the answer may be the most taboo topic of a woman’s life. In this third film of my irreverent trilogy on female identity, I ask: What does it mean for a woman to say no to motherhood–and why is our society so deeply threatened by that choice?

My So-Called Selfish Life chronicles the rise of a growing community of childfree women who don’t want children and who reject the message that a woman’s most important–and most natural–role is to be a mother. Through this lens, the film looks at how enforcing strict gender roles puts the bodily autonomy of all women under constant threat.

Almost half of American women between 15 and 44 have never had children according to 2016 statistics, an all-time high. Yet choosing not to have children is still seen by many as a deviant decision made by the immoral, the unfeminine...the selfish. 

The name-calling is disconcerting, but the real struggle at the heart of the choice to be childfree is bodily autonomy through reproductive rights. My So-Called Selfish Life exposes the powerful cultural, economic, and historical forces behind the message that a woman’s true identity and value is as a mother. As director and storyteller, I take on a world where femininity is tied to childbearing, reproductive rights are under renewed attack, and the contents of our uteruses seem to be everyone’s business. As a woman who chooses to be childfree, my personal journey guides this narrative.

Traveling through pop culture, science, and history, the film layers verité, interviews, vintage films, candid self-reflection and wry observation to deliver an eye-opening anthropological study of motherhood in the 21st century. This is not a film about how terrible motherhood is, but rather how social structures present women with only one possible path for their lives.

The film gives voice to a community challenging our most fundamental ideas about female identity, including a 19-year-old student determined to get her tubes tied, a woman “coming out” about her regret at becoming a mother, the founders of a childfree LGBT seniors’ community, and a repro rights activist whose unsuccessful fertility treatments lead to a life transformation.

Through a vivid pop culture tour that spans vintage postcards of storks chasing young women, to pregnant Barbies with removable bellies, the Jennifer Aniston baby watch, and the rise of "Instagram moms" Ivanka and Beyoncé, the film connects the dots between the cultural forces that push a message of maternal inevitability so ingrained, we no longer notice it.

We have the power to define women’s roles in society whether they include motherhood or not, and to embrace our choices without judgement, stigma, or threats to our reproductive health. Join us on the front lines of a seismic societal shift. My So-Called Selfish Life is destined to stoke a cultural conversation that will provoke discussion, outrage, and understanding–and possibly shatter a few taboos.

This is the third documentary in my trilogy about women create their own identities, which includes I Was a Teenage Feminist and How To Lose Your Virginity

–Therese Shechter

some faqs:

How can I help get this film done?

  • Support the film with a tax-deductible contribution today. Filmmaking is ridiculously expensive, and early money is the hardest to raise. We'll use your donation to help fund traveling and shooting interviews, editing our rough cut, and creating an online interactive site where you can share your own stories.

  • Join us on Facebook and share posts with your friends. It's a lively and opinionated community.

  • Get on our mailing list and we'll keep you posted on our progress, how to submit to our upcoming story sharing site, and other ways to stay involved.

Is this just for childfree women?

The focus is on women who are childfree by choice, but this is a big tent. Women who don't have kids by choice or by circumstance both get scorn or pity from our society. For example, did you know that having kids is the only way to reach our full feminine potential? No? Me neither. The film raises important issues for childfree men, and for parents as well; society's narrow (and often racist) definitions of what good and bad mothers look like can be equally oppressive and dangerous.

When will it be finished?

My crew and I are shooting and editing right now, and our ongoing fundraising will dictate how long it will take. Think of it as writing a book that we also have to film and edit. I'll keep you all posted on the progress through occasional emails.

That's a great title!

Thanks! All credit goes to poet Molly Peacock who is part of this film. It's taken from her 1998 book Paradise, Piece by Piece which is a beautiful and fierce memoir of a childfree life.

Where can I see your other work?

You can learn a more about my filmswriting and interactive projects at the Trixie Films website.