Moonlight and Skyfall star Naomie Harris has been nominated for a bevy of awards, including Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Oscars. And yet, despite all of the exciting things going on in her career right now, all anyone wants to talk to her about is her reproductive choices.
In an interview with Woman magazine, she says that she finds it truly “bizarre” when even her close friends take it upon themselves to quiz her about why she hasn’t had kids yet.
The 40-year-old explains: “People ask, ‘So when are you going to have children?’ I think it's a really odd thing because it's such a personal decision.
“And you also don't know what is happening in someone's life.”
She added: “I find it bizarre, even with my friends, when they want me to have children. Why would you encourage anybody to have children unless it was their burning desire? You need to fully be committed to it.”
Thankfully, Harris has a wealth of support in her mother.
“My mum has always said, ‘You can achieve anything, you can do anything.’ She always says, ‘Have children when you're ready, if you're ready, but only then,’ and I'd never had any pressure.”
She adds: “I think that really helps, having that bedrock of support from my mum and having grown up in that environment means I don't really feel pressured by other people.”
Read more: “Why I chose to have an abortion aged 35”
It’s not the first time a woman in the public eye has spoken out about people’s relentless fascination and curiosity with child-free women.
Jennifer Aniston famously penned a blistering op-ed for The Huffington Post, in which she directly addressed tabloid speculation about her personal life – arguing powerfully that the way famous women are treated by the media reflects a wider culture of sexism.
“For the record, I am not pregnant,” she wrote. “What I am is fed up… yes, I may become a mother some day.
“But I’m not in pursuit of motherhood because I feel incomplete in some way, as our celebrity news culture would lead us all to believe. I resent being made to feel ‘less than’ because my body is changing and/or I had a burger for lunch and was photographed from a weird angle and therefore deemed one of two things: ‘pregnant’ or ‘fat.’”
Similarly, in a moving interview last year, Kylie Minogue – whose past chemotherapy treatments have caused fertility issues – told The Sunday Times magazine that she is sick and tired of people telling her she has “options”.
“Trust me, there's a point when the next person who says, 'Well, there are so many options', you want to scream,” she said.
“Of course, it's great there are options. It's marvellous! But when you're dealing with all the other stuff and things that you took for granted are taken away from you, it's like, yes there are options, but…”
The 48-year-old singer didn’t have to finish; her meaning was absolutely implicit – people need to stop with their outrageous, intrusive, and insensitive questions about what should be a deeply personal subject. There are so many reasons why women may not have children: either they don’t want them, or can’t have them, or haven’t found the right person to have them with, or they are putting their career first.
Each reason is a valid as the last, because a woman’s reproductive choices are absolutely her own. We need to stop with the incessant quizzing, comments about the biological clock, and thoughtless attempts to “help” them find a means of starting a family of their own.
More importantly, we need to put an end to this deeply misogynist narrative that suggests a woman’s primary goal in life is to breed. It’s the 21st century now, people. It’s time to change the record already.
Images: Rex Pictures