All the furor about Black Widow over Mother’s Day weekend made me think more about Chavali. She was on my mind anyway, of course, because of the impending release of Moon Shades.
If you haven’t seen Avengers 2 yet and somehow have managed to avoid reading all the explosions about it, it’s not a giant spoiler to say there’s a healthy dose of backstory for Black Widow, and some folks didn’t like it being brought up very much. It’s mentioned that she was sterilized, which is a highly pragmatic choice for an assassin. Black Widow spends a little bit of time lamenting the loss of her agency on this front, because even if she never would have had kids, she would’ve liked to retain the choice to at some point.
If you, for some reason, happen to think or have been led to believe she thinks she’s a monster because she can’t have children, you missed a sentence or something, because she’s referring to the fact she’s an assassin. Anyway, enough about that movie. I enjoyed it, ’nuff said.
Chavali has a different issue around the subject of motherhood. She likes children, they wouldn’t unduly interfere with her job, and she’s capable of having them. She, however, doesn’t want any of her own. In her case, it’s because she’s a contact telepath and is terrified of the complications this presents for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. In many ways, especially perception, it’s the same problem. Her choice was, in her opinion, taken away by something out of her control.
There are moments in the books when Chavali laments her lack of agency on the subject. Like the film MCU Black Widow, she’s lived with this for a long time and has come to terms with it, but sometimes the subject hurts to think about. This doesn’t mean she’s going to change her mind and be willing to confront her fear about the whole process (though she might at some point). It means she has the normal human drive to procreate and struggles with the need to thwart it for her own well-being.
In that point, the phrase ‘her own well-being’ is the critical one. This part is where her issues and Black Widow’s are strikingly different. Chavali’s choice, whether she believes it or not, is still a choice. It’s one she can change if she ever wants to. Yet she remains childless because that’s the best for her. On purpose. This is, I think, important. Sometimes, a “tragedy” in a character’s life needs to be not because there’s no other option, but because the other option doesn’t work specifically for them.