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Grill, H. (2019). What Women Want: A Discussion of “Childless”. Psychoanal. Dial., 29(1):59-68.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 29(1):59-68

What Women Want: A Discussion of “Childless”

Hillary Grill, LCSW

Rebecca Harrington’s “Childless” breaks the cultural and psychoanalytic silence about the idiosyncratic meanings of maternality—challenging our pronatalist assumptions. Following suit, this discussion questions our understanding of what women want. Freud was famously confounded by that question, and still, the psychological processes leading to decisions about motherhood are largely absent from psychoanalytic theory. Because of this, the heteronormative, socially agreed-upon dictum that women must be, and want to be, mothers remains locked in place. The conflation of feminine, woman, and motherhood serve to negate female subjectivity, limiting the possibilities for other creative pursuits. Contemporary psychoanalysis eschews the primary importance of instinctual drives yet has not challenged the notion of a maternal instinct that drives women to desire motherhood. The cultural and psychoanalytic silence about the complexities of reproduction and child-rearing has rendered individual women silent and their desires toward and away from motherhood unarticulated.

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