Here’s the problem: While “childless” means the condition of being without children, it implies that everyone who does not have children would like to have them. However, being “childfree,” like Mirren—and like me—means that one does not want to have children at all.
The implications of using these two terms interchangeably reach beyond celebrities, of course. People (not just women) can be childless for a lot of reasons—reproductive and financial challenges among them—but, like being childfree and not wanting kids, it’s a deeply stigmatized experience, accompanied by shame. Both groups of people are in search of a community, and finding that can be incredibly difficult, particularly when you might be looking in the wrong place.