Courtney Adams Wooten, "Childfree and Happy: Transforming the Rhetoric of Women's Reproductive Choices" (Utah State UP, 2023)


Childfree and Happy: Transforming the Rhetoric of Womens' Reproductive Choices (Utah State University Press, 2023) examines how millennia of reproductive beliefs (or doxa) have positioned women who choose not to have children as deviant or outside the norm. Considering affect and emotion alongside the lived experiences of women who have chosen not to have children, Courtney Adams Wooten offers a new theoretical lens to feminist rhetorical scholars’ examinations of reproductive rhetorics and how they circulate through women’s lives by paying attention not just to spoken or written beliefs but also to affectual circulations of reproductive doxa.

Through interviews with thirty-four childfree women and analysis of childfree rhetorics circulating in historical and contemporary texts and events, this book demonstrates how childfree women individually and collectively try to speak back to common beliefs about their reproductive experiences, even as they struggle to make their identities legible in a sociocultural context that centers motherhood. Childfree and Happy theorizes how affect and rhetoric work together to circulate reproductive doxa by using Sara Ahmed’s theories of gendered happiness scripts to analyze what reproductive doxa is embedded in those scripts and how they influence rhetoric by, about, and around childfree women.

Delving into how childfree women position their decision not to have children and the different types of interactions they have with others about this choice, including family members, friends, colleagues, and medical professionals, Childfree and Happy also explores how communities that make space for alternative happiness scripts form between childfree women and those who support them. It will be of interest to scholars in the fields of the rhetoric of motherhood/mothering, as well as feminist rhetorical studies.

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Jana Byars is an independent scholar located in Amsterdam.

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