Welcome to Unclassified Woman. Today’s episode is with another wonderful lady, Therese Shechter, whom I could have spoken to all day!

How many people have children because it seems “the thing to do”? Most of us grow up with the pressure to follow what society deems “normal.” My guest today, Therese Shechter, was 40 years old when she realised she could make her own decisions and follow her own path. For her, it was feminism that helped her figure out what she wanted in life.



Therese Shechter is a filmmaker, writer, and multimedia storyteller from Brooklyn, New York.

Her work fuses humour and personal storytelling to disrupt what’s considered most sacred about womanhood. She’s currently writing and directing My So-Called Selfish Life, an in-progress documentary about women who choose not to have children in a culture where motherhood feels mandatory.

Her previous documentaries include How to Lose Your Virginity, about the myth and misogyny around our most precious gift. She also curates the interactive crowd-sourced story collection, The VCard Diaries, which was recently exhibited at the Kinsey Institute. Her films, including the award-winning documentaries, I Was a Teenage Feminist and How I Learned to Speak Turkish, have screened in festivals, college classrooms, and on television from Rio to Seoul to Istanbul.

Therese’s work has been covered in the Atlantic, Salon, Elle, Jezebel, The Guardian, and the Jakarta Globe, amongst others. In her spare time, she co-hosts Downton Gabby, a podcast that discusses media by and about women.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Why it was a personal choice for Therese to not have children, to the point of her being vocal about it in high school.
  • How Therese explored beliefs and desires that were very different than her sister’s about marriage, career, and family.
  • How every woman feels the pressure to follow what the outside world thinks should be a woman’s identity.
  • The liberating clarity and realisations at age 40 that she could create her own path.
  • How Therese felt no pressure from friends and family as such, but felt pressure more from society and media about how she ‘should’ live her life.
  • How feminism helped her figure out what she wanted.
  • How a 70’s TV show defied all conventional wisdom and blew her mind with possibilities.
  • The push to make My So-Called Selfish Life.
  • The backlash and conversations that occur when people feel free to open up about their stories around motherhood.
  • Why we should question society’s norms about womanhood. Womanhood and motherhood are NOT equivalent.
  • How our economy, history, and the media perpetuate beliefs about what is “normal and accepted”.
  • Some sensitive topics covered in the film are sterilisation, regret about motherhood, and fertility treatments.
  • The messages sent to young women by cultural and religious groups and how limiting and damaging these can be.
  • Why there is more than one path in life, but society presents only one that’s deemed “normal”.
  • How talking about our beliefs provides a sense of community-”Telling the truth about our lives keeps us from feeling lonely.” wrote Sheila Heti.
  • The film’s projected release date: August 1, 2019–and why that date is significant.
  • How Therese shows her creative expression (and gains MUCH satisfaction) through singing show tunes, baking, paper engineering, graphic design, writing, and her podcast.
  • Why not everything in life should be attributed to a “thwarted maternal drive”.
  • Why it’s OK to be ambivalent about motherhood and to have a conversation with yourself about what you truly need and want
  • Even skin colour affects the pressure we feel, because not everyone has the same privileges and some women don’t have the same level of control over their lives.
  • The myth of “the urge of the biological clock”–”The desire for children is NOT innate within every woman.”
  • The bottom line: We won’t all agree, but we need open and meaningful conversations about these topics.

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I would love to hear in the comments below what you found most helpful about this interview? Thank you.

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