The Presence Of Their Absence
Society's Bias Against Women Without Children
By Miriam Schaer Brooklyn, New York: Ariadne's Thread, 2014. Open edition.
8.25 x 10.75"; 90 pages. Digital printing. Case bound with glossy colored hardcovers Signed by the artist on the title page.
The Presence of Their Absence is based on a portfolio of photographic work of the same name. The portfolio of 19 prints, an edition of 3, was created around "Baby (Not) On Board: The Final Prejudice?", an installation of hyper-realistic dolls and mannequins dressed in baby dresses and rompers embroidered with critical quotes said to women without children.
This hardcover edition of The Presence of Their Absence takes the form of a photographic essay accompanied by an autobiographical text describing Schaer's experience as a woman without children, and a survey of hostile attitudes toward this status.
Miriam Schaer: "The Presence of Their Absence is an account of my journey through childlessness both as I've experienced it and as I've seen it expressed in places where comments like 'Childless women lack an essential humanity' represent a widespread belief. Many cultures resent, disparage, and discriminate against childless women, and in extreme cases drive them to suicide. The Presence of Their Absence is a window into that point of view."
Miriam Schaer, statement announcing a panel "From Sentiment to Sexuality: Revisiting the Maternal Body as Threat" presented at the College Art Association Annual Conference 2014: "The Presence of Their Absence explores the disparagement of childlessness and childless women by the maternal establishment, a reigning cultural norm in virtually every country and historical era. Non maternity, whether chosen or imposed by circumstance, falls outside the biological ideal, usually to its disadvantage. Childless, or child-free, women throughout the world face a spectrum of cultural disdain that ranges from simple disrespect to explicit hostility.
"Non-maternity as a normative standard represents an idea as controversial today as when it was suggested by Shulamith Firestone in 1970’s The Dialectic of Sex. 'Women will not be fully emancipated,' she wrote, 'until they are free from the demands of biology.' Then, she took emancipation’s tools to be concepts like artificial insemination and surrogacy, options that at the time were little better than science fiction.
"Today, these and other alternative maternities are widespread. Yet, rather than release women from maternity’s grip, they have added new pressures to women in pursuit of biological childbearing, often at great cost in terms of health and finances...."