Dawn Llewellyn is Senior Lecturer in Christian Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester. She is the author of Reading, Feminism and Spirituality: Troubling the Waves (Palgrave 2015), and with Sonya Sharma has co-edited Religion, Equalities, and Inequalities (Ashgate 2016), and with Deborah Sawyer Reading Spiritualities: Constructing and Reconstructing the Sacred (Ashgate 2008). These publications signal her research interests in gender and religious reading practices, third wave feminism and religion, feminist generations, and feminist research methodologies. She is currently researching Christian women’s experiences of motherhood and voluntary childlessness.
In Christianity, there is an ideology of motherhood that pervades scripture, ritual, and doctrine, yet there is an academic silence that means relatively little space has been given to motherhood and mothering, and even less to voluntary childlessness, from a faith perspective. By drawing on qualitative in-depth interviews with Christian women living in Britain, narrating their experiences of motherhood and voluntary childlessness, I suggest there are also lived maternal silences encountered by women in contemporary Christianity. There is a maternal expectation produced through church teaching, liturgy and culture that constructs women as ‘maternal bodies’ (Gatrell 2008); this silences and marginalises women from articulating their complex relationship with religion, motherhood, and childlessness in ways that challenge their spiritual development. However, this article also introduces the everyday and intentional tactics women employ to disrupt the maternal expectation, and hereby interrupt the maternal silence.