Mum's not the word

Childless Childfree
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A photobook about women without children
Sharing stories of birth control, choice, freedom, regret and pain, Mum's not the word challenges the negative attitudes within society towards people without children.
Why is it that women are expected to provide reasons for not having children, and yet deciding to have them does not require justification? With up to 20% of the female population being childless, this book aims to celebrate these often ignored 'sheroes' as a recognised breed of women.

Mum's not the word debates the social stigmatisation of women, who, by choice, circumstance, or whatever reason, go against the instinct for childbirth and maternal productivity.

The subjects, photographed by award-winning photographer Denise Felkin, come from all walks of life: professionals, artists, some with mental health issues, some have fragile relationships with their birth mothers, and some who identify as other than heterosexual.
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Sharing stories of birth control, choice, freedom, regret and pain, Mum's not the word challenges the negative attitudes within society towards people without children.
  • This important and poignant book of photo essays by Denise Felkin brings some much-needed humanity to bear on the harsh judgements that our pronatalist society holds about women who don’t have children. Each naked portrait is tender, vulnerable and raw, and the accompanying participant commentary is by turns shocking, illuminating, refreshing and heartbreaking. These women are literally laid bare, and this somehow gives them a greater right for their truths to be heard. Whether the women are childless due to infant loss, through motherhood ambivalence leading to a happy (or regretful) life without children, failed infertility treatments, clear-sighted self-awareness, unchosen singleness or other complex factors, they lie here and challenge us to appreciate for a moment what life might be like in their skin. Often those who’ve chosen non-motherhood – the childfree – are placed in one box, and those for whom this wasn’t what they’d hoped (the childless) in another; yet this courageous and sympathetic book lays them side-by-side, and in doing so, reveals the lived complexity and ambiguity of being a non-mother in our motherhood-obsessed world.

    Jody Day
    Author, Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children, and founder of Gateway Women Productions
  • Denise Felkin's "Mum's Not The Word" is an engaging and thought-provoking body of work. The artist clearly demonstrates how photography can be used to create debate and the World Photography Organisation is proud to have recognised Felkin at the 2016 Sony World Photography Awards.

    Scott Gray
  • Denise Felkin is a wonderful photographer and documentary artist.

    It’s not easy to utilise conceptual photography effectively for any subject, let alone to try and communicate the thoughts and feelings of women without children, and the negativity they face in today’s society. But Denise Felkin has done this beautifully with this remarkable series of photographs and words.

    I am truly moved by this work, and thankful to Denise and the women in this book. I learned a lot.

    Tony Bell
    The Observer
  • As a filmmaker on the same subject, what I enjoy most about Denise’s book is the vulnerability of the images. The raw honesty of women owning up at times to their struggles as well as their dreams, and the opportunities afforded to them by not having kids, is powerful. I have found in my work, and now in Denise’s, that people are incredibly moved by the visual. Bravo, Denise: you have produced a body of work that will support many women.

    Maxine Trump
    Director, To Kid Or Not To Kid the movie
  • Denise confronts our possible preconceptions and elegantly reveals the complexities of procreation, dispelling the notion that bearing children is an absolute. The accompanying quotes, by the women pictured, inform us of the infinite expanse of conditions that we might not have considered.

    Mum's Not The Word is a deep, thought-provoking. meaningful and concerned documentary.

Events, Exhibitions and Media
Why childless women are stigmatised
In a special edition to kick off a brand new series, France24 looked at a growing demographic trend; women who are not having children. In the UK, an estimated one in five women entering their 40s are childless while in Germany, 22 percent of women are also reaching their early 40s without children and in France, a growing number of women are also choosing not to be mothers.
Karin Enfield, who is childless by circumstance and the European facilitator for Gateway Women, a global support network for childless women, and UK photographer, Denise Felkin, who is childless by choice, talk about the discrimination that childless women face and how having it all, does not mean having children.
Athens Photo Festival 2019
International Festival of Photography and Visual Culture
This year, Mum's not the word is being displayed at the Athens Photo Festival. Founded in 1987, the Festival is the leading international festival of photography and visual culture in Southeastern Europe, and in recognition of the increasing importance of the role of the photobook in contemporary visual culture, it will be featuring a dedicated exhibition of this form of book.

The event takes place at the Benaki Museum / Pireos 138, Until Sunday 28 July, 2019.

Click here for a list of artists on display in the photobooks exhibition, and here for further details.

International Childfree Day

Celebrating childfree people
around the world

International Childfree Day 2019 Brighton Book Launch
Mark International Childfree Day at the Mum's not the word Brighton book launch
Thursday 1 August is International Childfree Day. Come celebrate the day and the Brighton book launch of Mum's not the word, childless childfree. Meet the Author & Photographer Denise Felkin, buy a book, get your copy signed, mingle and share stories.

Click here for more details
BBC Radio Solent interview
Photographer and author, Denise, and publisher, Jude, chat about Mum's not the word with BBC Radio Solent DJ Steve Harris. With exclusive shots from this brand new photobook.
Press coverage

Denise with The Guardian Weekend supplement.

Denise's book, featured in The Guardian supplement.

Rachel Tompkins interviews subjects for The Guardian. Click the image to read the article.

Denise's book, featured in The Guardian supplement.

Mum's not the word was i Paper's Coffee Table Choice.

i Paper featured Mum's not the word in it's printed and digital editions.
Statistic from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study, 2018, showing the rate of childlessness in women in the UK aged 40-44 rose from 14% in 1995 to 20% in 2010.

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