Women owe society neither babies nor excuses

There was a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald the other week you should have a read of, Don’t be rattled by the baby guilt trip by Nina Funnell.

Funnell was recently in attendance when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave a speech ‘about the ”crisis” of Australia’s ageing population and the various economic challenges we will face as a result.’ For context, Australia’s birth rate has been below the replacement rate of 2.1 since the 1970s and Australia is strict on immigration. After the talk, Rudd came to speak to some under-30s who had grouped together, including Funnell:

At that point one of my friends introduced me, dropping in that I am completing a PhD. At this, Rudd rolled his eyes and in a terse voice lacking any sense of irony remarked that is the “excuse” that “all” young women are using nowadays to avoid starting families. Since then I’ve come up with numerous one-line retorts, but in the moment I just froze in shock.

You should read the whole piece as Funnell takes this down beautifully. (‘Why do we assume it is the obligation of all women to reproduce? And why do we label them as selfish when they don’t? We never label career-driven men as selfish.’) I’m reluctant to tear apart Mr Rudd’s statement myself as, well, while the sentiment is pretty clear, what’s not clear from the article is what he said in full.

In any case, we can turn to the general sentiment. There are various harms in treating women as a monolith. I resent the assertion that not having children and at the “right time” is a bad thing. It holds women to be essentially baby makers who aren’t doing their duty to their country if they don’t follow the script – and this is something that needs an excuse. It also holds women responsible for the difficulties involved in pursuing higher academic study and starting a family at the same time. If Mr Rudd’s government, and governments worldwide, would be more supportive of those in that position, fewer people would have to face a choice between them. Until then, that some are put in this position is hardly their fault, hardly something for which women ought to be treated condescendingly.

What this script also does is assume that “avoiding” starting families (avoiding the right and inevitable thing, those naughty girlies!) is a choice for all women. Not every woman is able to reproduce or adopt or some such, or is able to keep their children if they do. Some women are actively forced into reproducing. And some women, rather than having this obligation to reproduce weighed on them, are considered to have quite the opposite obligation, to not reproduce at all. Disabled and poor women, for instance, are often discouraged – if not actively prevented – from having children. You know, supposedly for the good of society. Placing the emphasis on “avoiding” reproducing means adopting a monolithic view of women’s experience, erasing many. They’re written out of the script.

And, moving back to the idea that women who don’t reproduce according to the script owe excuses, I think it’s important to determine precisely to whom these women are supposed to be offering their justifications and apologies. Really, who? We’re autonomous human beings, we don’t need to go around with bowed heads and guilty expressions for doing as we please, or as we must, with our own bodies and lives. Women certainly don’t owe babies to society, or to politicians, or to those judging them, or to anyone at all.

Women’s reproductive choices should be ours alone. We ought to be accountable to our own desires in these matters, not those of onlookers who think they know better.

Next time, I’m going to return to Mr Rudd’s remark and some of its particular significance in Australia’s federal political context.


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96 comments for “Women owe society neither babies nor excuses

  1. Cassandra
    March 9, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I have nothing but applause for this! I had a similar argument with my aunt about this when we saw there was a study stating that more married couples are choosing not to have children, although you put it more eloquently than I ever could. She got very angry about how “They’re not taking responsibility… they’re selfish…what awful people the women must be for not wanting children…”. It was a frustrating conversation.

    Also, I love that you pointed out those who CANNOT have children for whatever reason. I guess they’re just unfortunate and don’t count.

  2. March 9, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
    As the mother of one child, I find I’m either bombarded with questions about when I’m going to have another one, or told that the government hand-outs (‘baby bonus’ as it’s called here) are unfair on childfree people, or told I must go to work to contribute to society (as if the work of parenting is not a contribution!) or told that if I do go to work like those heartless working mothers I’ll ruin my child’s life.

    This comment from Rudd made me recall (with a shudder) our former treasurer’s statement that Australians should have ‘one for mum, one for dad and one for the country.’ A change of government was meant to herald a change of attitude but sadly that was a pipe dream.

  3. pololly
    March 9, 2010 at 5:32 am

    This is a great post but I’m not sure that it emphasises enough how racist and anti-immigrant and classist these discussions are. I know it’s given a line in the post but really – is it me or is the Prime Minister getting away with things that even a US President couldn’t survive? Australian leaders: plumbing the depths even American leaders can’t reach.

  4. PTS
    March 9, 2010 at 6:41 am

    I think this is a pretty great response. It is absolutely true that these kinds of discussions almost always devolve into shaming women, double standards, and a general refusal to take women as autonomous agents seriously and acknowledge the structural features of society that make child-bearing a disproportionate burden on women rather than men.

    That’s all true, and it needs to be said loudly and repeatedly.

    However, there is a ghost, an iota of a genuine issue here. Take a look at this map:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fertility_rate_world_map.PNG

    What the map shows, it seems to me (with China being the low fertility exception and the US being the higher fertility exception) is that the more gender egalitarian (and richer, they normally go hand in hand) a society is, the lower its fertility rates.

    Now, this is (stupidly) taken a lot of the time to indicate that women aren’t “pulling their weight” or, as Chally points out, that women somehow owe society children. What this ignores is that more egalitarian societies generally do better at a) informing women about the risks and opportunity costs of childbirth than b) actually providing equal opportunities for those who have and raise children when compared to those who don’t.

    That is, from a public policy standpoint, it is much easier for societies to provide formal equality and just let career minded women not have children (or fewer children) than it is to provide substantive equality so that child-bearing women (and their child-raising partners, if they have them) can participate equally in the political and economic life of the society. So, they don’t do it.

    But the trends are worrisome. Immigration can make good the difference for a while (if countries adopt rational and welcoming immigration policies, rather than something like the blatantly racist ‘White Australia’ policy) , but as developing countries become richer and more egalitarian, their birth rates will decline as well. And normally immigrant groups see their birth rates drop too once they assimilate.

    And it should be noted that most social welfare programs don’t work very well if the population is declining. Social Security, universal healthcare, pensions etc all depend on having at least as many contributors and benefactors, so a shrinking population is a real public policy challenge.

    And it seems like only a matter of time before this becomes a real issue. So, I think that feminists/liberals/progressives need to spend some time about how we can create policies that maintain replacement levels yet respect women’s rights over their own reproduction.

  5. March 9, 2010 at 8:00 am

    And it seems like only a matter of time before this becomes a real issue. So, I think that feminists/liberals/progressives need to spend some time about how we can create policies that maintain replacement levels yet respect women’s rights over their own reproduction.”

    You start off well with your comment and then rapidly devolve. Women are not obligated to reproduce EVER. We do not have to pop out babies to maintain the population. If the human race dies out because women refuse to reproduce, then the human race dies out. It’s really as simple as that. I’m pretty much of the mind that the planet Earth would be much better off without humans around anyway. The only species or entity that would lose out if humans perished is humans. The rest of the planet would thrive without our presence.

    I also knew it wouldn’t take long before someone showed up to try to point out that well, women have the right to not reproduce, but darn it, they really should at least somewhat. I even recently had a discussion in which a man posited that if there were only two people left alive – a man and a woman – that it would not be morally repugnant for the man to rape the woman if she would not consent to sex in order to maintain the human population. As if this wasn’t bad enough coming from a man, there was at least one woman in the discussion who -agreed- with him.

  6. preying mantis
    March 9, 2010 at 8:11 am

    “is it me or is the Prime Minister getting away with things that even a US President couldn’t survive?”

    The last US President made a big deal of meeting with the Snowflake Babies group and talked about gynos “practicing their love” with female patients. So probably not.

    “And it should be noted that most social welfare programs don’t work very well if the population is declining.”

    Sound planning, a slow shrink, and the longer working lifespan typically enjoyed by a healthier population tend to offset this, though. We’re mostly having problems now because of various degrees of acting like the SS bill would never come due and the absolute revolution the last 70-odd years of medical development have brought about wrt fertility control, childhood survival, and productive longevity.

  7. A Guy In Denver
    March 9, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Societies in which the average woman (including immigrants) has less than two children, die.

    This isn’t patriarchy. This is math.

  8. melancholia
    March 9, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I don’t think it’s crazy for nations to try to encourage certain people to have children. After all, most feminists push heavily for government entitlements (universal health care, welfare for the poor and differently-abled, subsidized housing for the poor, social security, etc). At the end of the day somebody has to pay for these things – a nation cannot expand its deficit indefinitely without creating an economic catastrophe. You simply cannot have it both ways: accepting a situation (like the one facing Australia and the one facing several European countries) where people are not reproducing enough to maintain the population, while at the same time arguing that people are entitled to all sorts of benefits from the government. One of your principles is going to have to bend a little. That said, there is a lot of wiggle room as to how you incentivize having babies while still respect women’s autonomy.

    Also, this is a public policy argument and has nothing to do with whether women “owe” society anything.

  9. March 9, 2010 at 8:25 am

    “This isn’t patriarchy. This is math.”

    It isn’t patriarchy to point out that societies die off if women don’t reproduce. That’s not just math, it’s common sense. It is patriarchy to insist that women -should- reproduce to ensure that societies don’t die off.

  10. March 9, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Faith: I also knew it wouldn’t take long before someone showed up to try to point out that well, women have the right to not reproduce, but darn it, they really should at least somewhat.

    Which is absurd as well as sexist. The human population of the world is 6,692,030,277. The country with the lowest fertility rate in the world is Macau: an average of 0.9 births per woman. Supposing that by some magic miracle, Macau’s standards became the world’s: people would live longer healthier lives, and in a couple of generations (say 50 or 60 years), the world’s human population would be just over 3 billion healthy and long-lived individuals, instead of – well, apparently the human population is due to hit 7 billion in 2011.

    We are not an endangered species. We are a species whose overuse of resources is endangering other species. That overuse is not down to sheer numbers, but to the power and greed of the most developed countries in the world. But it would certainly do our species no harm at all to be less numerous, especially if it could happen in such a gentle and natural fashion as women choosing to have far fewer children.

  11. March 9, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Societies in which the average woman (including immigrants) has less than two children, die.

    Got any actual evidence for this? You know, like looking at the actual countries of the world in which the average woman (including immigrants) are having less than two children? These countries include (there are about a hundred of them) Metropolitan France, Chile, Burma, Iceland, Lebanon, Vietnam, Ireland, Australia, Norway, Monaco, Denmark, Finland, Iran, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, Cuba, Canada, Portugal – hell, the European Union, considered as a whole, is apparently “dying”, Switzerland, Japan, China – both China proper and the Taiwanese “Republic” – and Hong Kong. And Macau. So all these societies are dying, you ignorant provincial from Denver, and yet somehow no one’s noticed?

    Sheesh, Americans. So ignorant, so provincial, so sure the bounds of their ignorance is all that can be known.

  12. Sheelzebub
    March 9, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Indeed, with the world population as large as it is, we are totes in danger of dying out! And it’s always the fault of women for not having babies, not men. Then again, I’m a horrible, selfish woman because since I was a teenager, I’ve been clear that I have zero interest in having children–and contrary to what I’ve been told for the past 25 years, I have not changed my mind.

  13. A Guy In Denver
    March 9, 2010 at 8:58 am

    The countries with less than replacement fertility have not had less than replacement fertility for long enough to die. It’s a shrinking process, not a one-generation-and-you’re-out process.

    Ask a Shaker how well a sub-replacement fertility rate worked out for their society. Oh right, you can’t. They let it run long enough to go to extinction.

    The problem with “we can all be Macau” is that we won’t all be Macau. We’ve built a very nice civilization here, one that treats women relatively well by historical standards, though it has a long way yet to go. If that civilization underbreeds itself into extinction, it will not be replaced by bunny rabbits; it will be replaced by some woman-enslaving civilization with a coerced fertility rate far above replacement.

    Not everyone is going to decide to halve their populations. The people who do decide to halve their populations will accordingly be less influential, smaller, and weaker – and will be overwhelmed by those who don’t make that choice. You want “actual evidence” for this? How about “all of human history”?

  14. March 9, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Logically, under the principles of globalised free market economics so often espoused by leaders in the Western capitalist world, given that there is an excess of babies in some parts of the world, and apparently a shortage of babies in other parts of the world, the natural thing to occur is for countries like Australia to buy babies from those other parts of the world (who also tend to be poorer, and could use the cash!) in order to maintain population levels.

    Oh, but wait – those other babies would be (*gasp* *clutch pearls*) brown rather than pink! And we can’t have that, now, can we?

    (Just to be clear, I am pointing out the absurdity here of “population dying out”, free market economics as proclaimed by the Western capitalists, and the racist attitudes involved)

  15. Robin
    March 9, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Even ignoring, for the moment, the incredible racism behind the idea that there’s a shortage of the right kind of babies in the world, I just love how the “solution” to this is always women changing to suit the world rather than the other way around. Yes, there are a lot of women who simply don’t want marriage and children – heck, I’m one of them. But there are also a lot of women who would love to be starting families right now if they didn’t know it would mean a loss of quality in their own lives.

    How about better labour laws to protect women’s careers if they choose to have a child. How about universal daycare. How about better maternity and paternity leave. How about encouraging men to be stay-at-home fathers. How about making sure that being a single-income household is actually feasible for families. How about encouraging businesses to embrace telecommuting. How about, you know, treating women like people.

  16. A Guy In Denver
    March 9, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Just to make it clear – I’m a libertarian and a strong believer in freedom. Women should be free to live exactly as they want to live, whether that’s zero children or twelve.

    As with other areas of life, though, it is usually smart to know the real consequences of our choices.

  17. Tracey
    March 9, 2010 at 10:19 am

    “How about better labour laws to protect women’s careers if they choose to have a child. How about universal daycare. How about better maternity and paternity leave. How about encouraging men to be stay-at-home fathers. How about making sure that being a single-income household is actually feasible for families. How about encouraging businesses to embrace telecommuting. How about, you know, treating women like people.”

    Seriously, even ignoring the racism and sense of entitlement, I love how the answer is always for the “right” (white) women to have babies and more of them. Never do I see these alarmist addressing the fact that some women don’t want kids, some women only want one child, and some women may want multiple children but it isn’t really feasible because of all the reasons you just laid out. What these people want is for certain women to feel obligated to stay home and have multiple kids (despite the fact that raising a family with multiple kids on one income is usually not feasible). Of course, they are also the same ones to decry the birthrate of “certain” (non-white and western) babies.
    The solutions you outline might make it possible for women to be single mothers or be mothers, wives, and make no more sacrifices in their career than men who want families are required to. That would be absolutely horrible and detract from the world they envision:
    white women staying at home and having multiple kids
    women of color in Western countries and abroad having only enough kids to keep a steady supply of labor, and those kids having to enter the workforce as early as possible.
    Of course they won’t come right out and say it, so they result to shaming women and using codified language. Some women are shamed for having kids, some are shamed for not having them. Either way it is quite clear that in no way should the decision to have children be in the hands of indiviual women themselves. And when legislation has gone as far as it can (restricting access to reproductive control, including restricting abortions and medical professionals encouraging WOC to have hysterachtimies more so than young white women), they’ll result to shaming and labeling women as selfish.

  18. bleh
    March 9, 2010 at 10:40 am

    What Faith said. A hundred times yes. Humans are not necessary. Let us die.

  19. Bakka
    March 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Another interesting take on the issue from a recent Globe and Mail suggests that we should perhaps make teen motherhood easier and less stigmatized. “Maybe teen mums are on to something. I’m just saying.” I had a student suggest teen parenting as potentially better for both men and women as parents in a feminist theory class I was teaching. He suggested high school could be set up so it was integrated with daycare and both parents and infants could be taught together with loads of social supports. I was surprised at the vehement negative reaction he received from several others in the class.

  20. The Flash
    March 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

    This isn’t entirely fair. Cultures are permitted to hope that their traditions, beliefs and practices are carried forward into the future, and societal fertility is necessary for that to happen; if Orthodox Jews didn’t have so many children, the Nazis would have basically succeeded in wiping out the Jewish people, or at least the European (Ashkenazi) Jewish people.

    That said, turning women into breeding objects isn’t the answer. I don’t see much discussion of feminist support for research into artificial womb development, but why isn’t this pursued more thoroughly? (for that matter, why don’t gay activists pursue this more thoroughly?) I know there are pitfalls, but they can be worked out, and those pitfalls aren’t a reason to avoid pursuing the science of this.

  21. Alara Rogers
    March 9, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Humanity is not going to die out.

    Let us say that the population declines across the entire planet. Every human society has decreed total female equality and access to birth control for all, and as a result, women are reproducing below replacement rate everywhere. What’s going to happen is that the social value of having children will improve, women will be genuinely respected for having kids, and many women who feel like babymaking is a mug’s game, full of hard work for little reward or respect, will instead feel like being a mom is a way to have social status and societal respect, and they will choose to have babies.

    Women respond to the culture. When you say out one side of your mouth, “But mothers are so important, and the children are our future!” and out the other side of your mouth you do everything possible to stand in the way of mothers providing their kids basic care, let alone fulfilling their dreams as a human, while treating the kids like crap, women are not stupid. We notice these things. A society that *genuinely* respects mothers and the work they do, that *genuinely* prioritizes children and pushes social resources toward them, will not suffer demographic implosion when women are given control of their own wombs. So far, I haven’t seen one, but I believe that if we actually started to see planetary population decline, it would happen.

    Besides, you know what’s really going to cause population implosion? Male birth control. The moment men have the power to *not* father children if they don’t want to, they will not be able to hide behind “Well, I didn’t want kids but the little woman did and what can you do, condoms are icky, heh heh.” Men will have to openly own up to their desire for children, or they won’t have any (because men who didn’t use birth control will be presumed to have consented to fatherhood). And patriarchy, which was built on “power by fathers” but has extended itself into “everything to do with women is yucky, and women are in charge of children”, will implode, because no man who can’t accept the notion of him changing diapers and feeding babies at 4 am will be a father. And for a while the world’s population will plummet, and when it stabilizes, everyone born will have a mother and a father who wanted them to exist and wanted to be their parents, at least when they were born, and this will be a *vastly* better place to live.

    I do agree that this needs to be talked about. If it’s left up to the hysterical racist antis to present the word pictures, sure, we’ll get the spectre of “women should be forced to reproduce for humanity’s sake!” What feminists need to be talking about (and what many of us are, I’m not saying we’re not) is that women self-regulate, that when they’re given the choice and the control women have as many kids as they are comfortable having, and that if you want women to have more kids than they are having, the solution is not to force women to have more kids than they are comfortable with but to make motherhood more comfortable. Which means more participation by men (just because men are biologically almost irrelevant to the speed of reproduction doesn’t make them socially irrelevant in a society where reproduction is governed by women’s choices), more acceptance by society, more understanding that corporations exist to make human life better and not the other way around. You want women to have more kids? Pony up and offer to do more of the work, and more women will choose to have kids.

  22. Mary
    March 9, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Societies in which the average woman (including immigrants) has less than two children, die.

    This isn’t patriarchy. This is math.

    For any man who is concerned about the “death” of his society: what are you doing to make childbearing a better option for women? Are you challenging the pay gap? Are you campaigning for universal daycare? Are you fighting for lower healthcare costs? Are you fighting to achieve greater work/life balance? Are you planning to become a stay-at-home dad, and to support your fellow men who do the same? Are you willing to do an equal or greater amount of housework as your partner? Are you challenging your fellow men who mock and shame single mothers? Are you rejecting negative jokes about women’s appearances (since pregnancy can affect a woman’s body image)?*

    Or are you content to just excoriate women for their “selfishness” even though rational self-interest is generally praised in men? Because THAT is patriarchy. Not math.

    Obviously these reasons aren’t going to apply to every woman who does or doesn’t want a child, nor is satisfying all these conditions going to magically make all women want to have a baby – and that’s fine. But these factors sure as hell don’t act as an incentive. And yeah, this isn’t even going into the racist implications of “there’s not enough of OUR KIND” that permeates this discussion.

  23. PrettyAmiable
    March 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I was on board with you Jesurgislac until this: “Sheesh, Americans. So ignorant, so provincial, so sure the bounds of their ignorance is all that can be known.”

    We had that thread already and it devolved rapidly. I’m scared to put this forth at all, but please keep in mind that it is not a USian notion that procreating under the 2.1 rate is somehow going to end the human race. In fact, this post isn’t even about the US, so let’s not make it US-centric. It’s a stupid idea that has no support, and we don’t know what will happen. Maybe all us women-folk who don’t want babies will die out and the only women who remain have some kind of genetic baby-wanting trait and the population will zoom back up again. No one knows.

  24. Tracey
    March 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

    You know, it is funny, but the first time I heard that two child argument was on the right-wing Christian answer to youtube in a video someone uploaded about how the Muslims (and by this they meant only the non-white ones) were outbreeding Wsterners (white people) in western countries. Come to think of it, that’s the only place I’ve heard the argument. This only gets brought up as a scare tactic that certain persons are being “outbreed.” Because in “civilized” societies women have fewer kids, the “uncivilized” will outbreed. For goodness sakes.

  25. Zes
    March 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    This is all pretty sensible.

    The main reason many more women wanted kids back when was probably not some wishy washy breeding urge. It was because not having them left you open to destitution, abandonment, universal societal scorn and even murder by an annoyed husband or frightened society that thought you were unnatural. And because they had no b/c or safe abortion. The baby urge is weak compared to the overpowering urge to SURVIVE. If having a baby makes surviving more likely, women will do it, often whether they like babies or not. In other words having babies has always been done for the same reason men have had careers or fought wars, it has been selfish first, generous second. Nowadays women are somehow expected to be the opposite. This is ludicrous. Women are rational beings, not charities.

    Simplistically, if your whole society sets the lot of women at, say, 3, and being a mother elevates you to 5, it is rational to be a mother. This was the old game. If you have a shot at 8, but mothers are still set at 5, as we have now, it is not rational to have babies, and anyone who wants you to breed for whatever reason has to hope the breeding urge is stronger than your rational thinking.

    However the just and sensible thing is raise the lot of mothers so that motherhood does not represent a drop in quality of life for those women who want it, and even represents an increase, from say, 8 to 10. Of course many people who say women should breed more really want to just relegate women back to 3 no matter how talented they are or how hard they work, and then the ungrateful bitches will breed to reach 5 again. Sadly, changing the rules of society to make level 10 available to mothers is much more daunting a task than simply bullying and guilting women, hence they don’t bother.

  26. March 9, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Cultures are permitted to hope that their traditions, beliefs and practices are carried forward into the future, and societal fertility is necessary for that to happen

    That’s why Catholicism died out: priests and nuns didn’t have children.

  27. prosaica
    March 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    @Guy in Denver: “Societies in which the average woman (including immigrants) has less than two children, die. This isn’t patriarchy. This is math.”
    Female professional mathematician here (full professor at research university). It’s not math, it’s patriarchy.
    If we allowed every woman to have as many children as she wants, it might well be that the average (i.e., more than 50%) would have at most one child.
    However, a significant minority of women, of which I am a part, enjoys having children, even many children. How many we cannot tell. In my case lack of childcare, housing options, and family-friendly workplace made me stop at three; as far as my body and soul go, I could easily have had more.
    I can imagine a society in which women who enjoy pregnancy, childbirth and nursing (sorry if I’m upsetting someone – we exist) could have these experiences repeatedly, and those people (not necessarily women) who like to devote their time to childcare could do so in the best possible conditions – they could take care of many children, leaving parents free to pursue other goals while still enjoying their kids a reasonable number of hours per day.

  28. Zes
    March 9, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Jesurgislac – LOL.

    Funnily enough Catholic strongholds Italy and Spain, where of course nobody uses any birth control or has had any abortions, have the lowest birthrates in Europe.

  29. March 9, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Zes: However the just and sensible thing is raise the lot of mothers so that motherhood does not represent a drop in quality of life for those women who want it, and even represents an increase, from say, 8 to 10.

    I was right with you until you started suggesting, here, that women who don’t have children should be penalized for not doing so by a drop in quality of life compared to women who do.

    No.

    Just… no.

    We will as a species be awesomely better off if the only women who have children are those who actually really definitely want to – and who get to do so without any drop in quality of life.

  30. Zes
    March 9, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Jesurgislac – sorry I did not mean women who do not want to breed SHOULD be worse off than those who do. I meant that IF particular people want us to breed, those people should make it worth our while, a benefit not a deficit. I was not clear that I am not one of those particular people and feel they should basically bog off. Certainly though it is a tough one, how to stop penalising parents for parenting, without penalising non-parents.

    The point being, we should say to those people if you want women to breed, make it rationally worth our time and effort, and if you haven’t, don’t complain when we act rationally. More women would have more kids younger (eg, me and about half my friends) if the economics of the situation were different.

  31. The Flash
    March 9, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    “That’s why Catholicism died out: priests and nuns didn’t have children.”

    :-P

    I think the fertility of other Catholics more than made up for it. How many brothers and sisters do your Irish friends tend to have?

  32. Zes
    March 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Wow I just reviewedmy comment and the “the just and sensible thing IF WE NEED BABIES OR PEOPLE THINK WE DO” edit really did fuck it up. Sorry!

  33. Alara Rogers
    March 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    We will as a species be awesomely better off if the only women who have children are those who actually really definitely want to – and who get to do so without any drop in quality of life.

    This is absolutely true.

    The thing is, if you want to have children, then children improve your quality of life… mainly because your life felt empty without the children. If you don’t want to have children, no amount of raising the quality of life of mothers could compensate for the emotional and physical cost of children. So all you need to do is make the options equal. The people who love kids will have plenty of kids, the people who don’t want kids won’t, both sides will be happy, and the kids will be a lot better off.

    One thing we need is a rock-solid acknowledgement that children are human. When I hear people feeling perfectly free to declare themselves “allergic” to children or lambasting parents for bringing their children to perfectly reasonable places for children to go, such as eating establishments (I’m not talking about Le French Fancie with fixed price menus of $50 a plate and dress codes, I’m talking about Applebee’s), it suggests to me that we really don’t think kids are humans. I hear bitching about tax credits for parents from some (not most) childfree as if it’s a special present parents get for reproducing rather than an offset to the cost of caring for dependent humans. On the other side, failing to recognize that children are dependent humans and that every benefit they receive should extend from that concept prevents us from having benefits for caring for our dependent elderly parents or our mentally ill brother, because even if those people are not legally controlled by us (which, often, they should not be — generally speaking people need care long before they need to give up their legal authority for themselves), we should get tax and other benefits for the work we put into helping them. And, in fact, volunteer work in general should produce benefits of some kind.

    Eliminate some of the caretaking burden in general, and you will benefit parents (especially mothers), *and* all people in general. You’ll be improving the quality of life of mothers, and also of any childfree person who cares for a dependent of any kind, whether a spouse, a parent, a sibling (or, hey, radical concept — how about, if a friend takes care of you, they get some credit for that?), and by doing so improve the quality of life of anyone who needs care, as well.

  34. March 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    “So far, I haven’t seen one, but I believe that if we actually started to see planetary population decline, it would happen.”

    I don’t believe that would be the case, at least not as it currently stands. As it currently stands, if the population started to drop dramatically, then the misogynists would have an even stronger argument for denying women access to reproductive services. Laws would likely go into place quite quickly in most countries banning contraception and abortion. Even condoms. If it got bad enough, I could easily see mass rape in order to try to forcefully impregnate women taking place.

  35. March 9, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    “This isn’t entirely fair. Cultures are permitted to hope that their traditions, beliefs and practices are carried forward into the future.”

    Sure, cultures are permitted that hope. What they shouldn’t be permitted to do is to try to coerce, shame, or force women into reproducing.

    “I don’t see much discussion of feminist support for research into artificial womb development, but why isn’t this pursued more thoroughly?”

    Maybe because we’re still too busy fighting for the right for women to be seen as human? It’s kinda hard to worry about “artificial womb development” when our own wombs are constantly under attack.

  36. March 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    One more thing: Who do you think is going to be expected to raise all these “artificial womb babies”? Do you think men are going to suddenly step up in mass and volunteer to shoulder the responsibility of raising all of these “artificial womb babies”? And that isn’t even getting into the possible psychological effects on the child from being born by completely artificial means. Or the possibility for abuse of such a system.

  37. silly_guy
    March 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    “I don’t see much discussion of feminist support for research into artificial womb development, but why isn’t this pursued more thoroughly?”

    That’s like saying, why don’t alternative energy proponents support for research into solar satelites development?

    It’s currently just way too complex to be technologically viable soon, even though both would be very interesting options.

    As for the topic as a guy I can only say, if a women wants to have children or not, their choice. As long as we have problems with overpopulation there is no lack of humans. Even with only one billion people (which we wouldn’t reach if suddenly all women get western standards and care) in 100 years I foresee no insolvable problems for humanity, although I can see much more difficult problems with 10 billion people living on this tiny marble

  38. silly_guy
    March 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    <>

    Meh, if a child born by artificial means still got a stable and loving upbringing (by whoever, if we want to get all sci-fi, some good AI or golems could work too) I don’t see any problems there.

    I mean, most problems kids can get with their upbringing (if the kids parent(s) is ok) is social stigma from people around them (be it from being adopted, glbt parents or any other variation from the “norm”). And sure, you’d have that with artificial birth, but that’s imho a problem of society and not of the procedure itself. :)

    (Sorry for going even more offtopic. I’ll try to stop my inner geek.)

  39. March 9, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    “Meh, if a child born by artificial means still got a stable and loving upbringing (by whoever, if we want to get all sci-fi, some good AI or golems could work too) I don’t see any problems there.”

    Silly guy,

    I’m not going to give a detailed answer to that because it is off-topic. But while you could be right in general, I think that human psychology is too complex to simply assume that would be the case. Who knows. I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t really care at the moment. It isn’t even an option that is on the table or an option that I really care to consider, to be perfectly blunt.

  40. Sheelzebub
    March 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t see much discussion of feminist support for research into artificial womb development, but why isn’t this pursued more thoroughly? (for that matter, why don’t gay activists pursue this more thoroughly?)

    I’d say that’s something for biologists and doctors to develop. Or perhaps for natalist men to push for (why is it up to feminists and/or women to champion this sort of thing)? When it comes to the list of top priorities for the feminist and gay rights movements, artificial wombs don’t even make the top 100. Poverty, violence, health care, human and civil rights make the list, but artificial wombs? Oh, puleeze.

  41. March 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    The Flash: How many brothers and sisters do your Irish friends tend to have?

    Ireland is one of many EU countries where the average birth rate is less than 2 children per women. All of my Irish friends are either only children or have just one brother or sister. Italy, an even more strongly-Catholic country, has an even lower birth rate than Ireland.

    My point, which I’m sure you understood really, was that the most effective way of passing along your culture to juvenile humans isn’t to give birth to them… it’s to teach them.

    (Also, what Alara said.)

  42. Kyra
    March 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Jesurgislac – sorry I did not mean women who do not want to breed SHOULD be worse off than those who do. I meant that IF particular people want us to breed, those people should make it worth our while, a benefit not a deficit.

    Given people’s different preferences and priorities, it can be possible to make BOTH childbearing take women from 8 to ten AND childfree-ness to take women to ten.

    A mother-personalitied woman’s life would be improved by having children in it. A childfree woman’s life would be improved by being entirely freed of the social judgment/harassment/non-acceptance that tends to be directed at women who don’t have children. A woman who likes children but doesn’t want the full-time burden of raising them herself could either be a part-time assistant parent/caretaker, or give birth in the certainty that she will have lots of help so they won’t interfere with the other important aspects of her life.

    Thus, Woman A (of any color and any economic status) can have ten children without facing disdain for being a breeder or a welfare queen and without impoverishing her family or having to work 60-80 hours a week to feed them or being dependent on a potentially-abusive man to keep a roof over their heads.

    Thus, Woman B can give birth even though she is disabled, and love and raise her kids, and have access to whatever help she might need raising them.

    Thus, Woman C can go to family reunions without facing a barrage of “when are you going to have kidsd?” and avoid being thought of as a perpetual child who has never really grown up, or dubiously regarded as a failure of some kind, or having to deal with complete strangers assuming she cannot possibly be fulfilled all by herself, or being told that it is her duty to waste her body, her time, and her life having children she doesn’t want.

    Thus, Woman D can “adopt” a few kids had by Woman E and her husband (or wife, Woman F), and form relationships and take care of them part-time, so Woman E can have plenty of time to pursue her hobby of glassblowing or motorcycle racing, and Woman F can work on her dissertation in peace, and the pair of them can take off and go whitewater kayaking for the weekend every so often, and Woman D can enjoy the kids for awhile and then hand them back to Woman E and Woman F and go back to her childfree life that perhaps involves BDSM in the living room with four different people, and/or police work, and/or flying to three cities a week for business purposes.

    Repeat, for every type of woman there IS.

  43. Meredith
    March 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Isn’t the social pressure for women to have children actually fueled by racism? Because it isn’t that in Australia only a certain number of women are giving birth, but rather that the white women are not giving birth. It is a fear of people of color and xenophobia.

    You can’t stop people from procreating. Worldwide the birthrates of our species are very high. So if your local birthrate is low, please open your borders and stop being afraid of the unknown, yes?

  44. The Flash
    March 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    It’s not true that this is only pie-in-the-sky stuff. Double X did an article about this last year that suggested there had been some decent developments for artificial wombs for goats (although the article also said that research had backed off because it had revealed that gestation is more complex than we realized). Feminists have advocated for this in the past, and with momentum dying down, it’s entirely reasonable to say that you don’t want the next generation to be largely composed of people raised by religious fundamentalists who have seven children. For all that we may pride ourselves on the soundness of the arguments underlying feminism or progressive politics in general, political swings always match to demographic trends, and right now, liberals don’t have enough children, and conservatives have tons (and adopt more). That’s a problem, and it’s a problem that artificial wombs could help solve (no more talking about the “biological clock”, a less ageist model for motherhood, safer gestation for women for whom pregnancy is life-threatening).

    I don’t think this is off topic… it gets to these demographic issues posed by the intersection between personal autonomy and reproduction. Ideology only goes so far, before unrelated consequences like demographic trends interrupt it. Whether something is just is unrelated to whether it will win.

  45. PTS
    March 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Faith

    “You start off well with your comment and then rapidly devolve. Women are not obligated to reproduce EVER. We do not have to pop out babies to maintain the population. ”

    Please point to my post where I suggest that women are obligated to reproduce. You won’t find it.

    Look, I understand that, in many of these discussions, someone is going to make that claim, but it is a claim I EXPLICITLY DISAVOW. So, I am willing to forgive your staggering lack of charity.

    And I am not making the argument that the human species is an endangered species or that we will die out or anything ridiculous like that. What I am ACTUALLY saying is that many social welfare programs require, for sustainability, at least a rough equality between those who contribute and those who benefit.

    And I EXPLICITLY said that we need to adopt policies that are consistent with women autonomously deciding whether they want to reproduce or not.

    And I even provided a diagnosis: societies DON’T provide substantive equality for women who have children. I am suggesting that IF THEY DID, there wouldn’t be a problem. That is, I think plenty of women would choose–of their own free will–to have children having children didn’t require that one take a large hit in their other projects. At no point did I suggest that women are obligated to reproduce, still less did I imply that that women should be forced to have children.

    Please don’t project views that I find reprehensible on me when I go out of my way to say I don’t hold them.

  46. The Flash
    March 9, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    “Ireland is one of many EU countries where the average birth rate is less than 2 children per women. All of my Irish friends are either only children or have just one brother or sister.”

    Ireland actually has the highest birth rate in the EU, at the replacement rate of 2.1 children born per woman. And all of my Irish friends are one of five or seven or something like that.

    Anyway, while, yes, I got your point, I think it’s wrong. the celibacy of priests and nuns was a counterweight to the fact that families were too big to provide inheritance for everyone– it prevented populations from growing beyond a level they could support (and unfortunately, in the process, led to the smartest people not passing along their genes). The situation for cultures that don’t already have a birth rate to support population growth is very different. Look at the Shakers: they survived for a while through adoption and teaching and outreach, but ultimately, they couldn’t survive without the kind of direct cultural transmission embodied in directly giving birth to a next generation.

  47. March 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Meredith: That’s correct and this non-white woman would open up Australian borders if she could.

  48. March 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    “Please point to my post where I suggest that women are obligated to reproduce. You won’t find it.”

    Did you state it directly? Nope. Did you imply it? Yep. You’re still implying it with your insistence about reproduction being necessary in order for social welfare programs to work. I’m not even going to touch the racism that can be found in the idea that certain people with the means to do so need to reproduce to keep fueling social welfare programs…

    In essence: You keep talking out of both sides of your mouth. Pick one side or the other and stick with it.

  49. The Flash
    March 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    “I’m not even going to touch the racism that can be found in the idea that certain people with the means to do so need to reproduce to keep fueling social welfare programs”

    I don’t follow. How is that racist? That’s economics. If you rely on the social welfare state, you’re a taker. If you don’t, then you’re being taxed to support it, and you’re a giver. (And you’re a taker from the institutions that entrench certain groups in the taker category. But that said, if, tomorrow, we eliminated the social welfare state and we killed all the racists, there would still be poor people without jobs or healthcare who would need the social welfare state. Not everyone taking advantage of the social welfare state is doing it because they’re been forced to by a bigoted society, and not everyone who has succeeded in the capitalist system did so by climbing over the bodies of the innocent. You do need people who are equipped to succeed within our existing structures to bankroll the social welfare state. Revolution isn’t the answer to everything, you know.)

  50. preying mantis
    March 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    “Look at the Shakers: they survived for a while through adoption and teaching and outreach, but ultimately, they couldn’t survive without the kind of direct cultural transmission embodied in directly giving birth to a next generation.”

    The Shakers died out because they practiced a particularly ascetic breed of religion that caused the vast majority of their adoptees to run screaming in the opposite direction the second they could. It had nothing to do with their lack of breeding and everything to do with their meme’s failure to be something more than a handful of people actually wanted.

  51. Sheelzebub
    March 9, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Feminists have advocated for this in the past, and with momentum dying down, it’s entirely reasonable to say that you don’t want the next generation to be largely composed of people raised by religious fundamentalists who have seven children.

    One feminist–Shulamith Firestone–advocated for artificial wombs, not “feminists.” And not for nothing, but I find the obligation to breed creepy no matter who pushes it–be it a natalist racist or a natalist progressive. If, in order to “win,” we must mimic fundamentalists, then the “victory” is Pyrrhic indeed.

    What these discussions overlook is that there are plenty of people in the world. Plenty. And many are willing to relocate to nations with lower populations if they are treated well, have job opportunities, and can build decent lives for themselves there. Many of those immigrants also come from conservative backgrounds but lean liberal/progressive. In fact, being raised a certain way doesn’t mean you will adhere to it. I come from a fairly conservative family; I’m about as left-wing as they come. I have friends from other nations who come from very conservative and traditional families; they are not only socially liberal, they’re just plain generally lefty. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone. People are complex–and some folks, after a long history in one way of thinking, have a change of heart. Others chafe from the get-go. But a philosophy is not genetic.

  52. March 9, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    The Flash: Anyway, while, yes, I got your point, I think it’s wrong.

    You’re free to think whatever you like, of course, without regard to the facts, but the facts say I’m right: transmission of culture to children does not go by biological birth but by education. If you think that’s wrong, it’s only because you’ve never bothered to look around and think about the real-world examples for yourself.

    preying mantis: It had nothing to do with their lack of breeding and everything to do with their meme’s failure to be something more than a handful of people actually wanted.

    Additional factor: once adoption was licenced and controlled by the state governments, Shakers largely stopped being able to adopt children.

    But Shaker culture did not disappear: it was passed on to the children they educated, and went out with them into the world.

  53. Sailorman
    March 9, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Christ. Is some fool actually talking extinction?

    The human race was not in danger of dying out in 1900. Really, it wasn’t. We “only” had 1.8 billion people back then, give or take a few. But we weren’t in any danger of becoming extinct.

    We now have 7 billion. We can sustain a rate under 2.1 for a long, long, LONG time before we will become close to 1.8 billion again. And 1.8 billion is still plenty of extras. We’re only got 300 million here in the U.S.–does anyone seriously doubt that the U.S. citizens could spread and repopulate the world, if they wanted to do so?

    And it’s not as if the damn thing has “momentum.” At any point, society can change direction. I don’t think there’s that much to worry about.

  54. PTS
    March 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Faith:

    “You’re still implying it with your insistence about reproduction being necessary in order for social welfare programs to work.”

    You are not a charitable interlocutor. Look, there is a difference between “it is good for society if replacement is maintained” and “individuals have an obligation to maintain replacement.” These are just obviously distinct claims. Consider, “It is good for society that there be artists” versus “Individuals have an obligation to be artists.” The former claim is probably true and the latter claim is almost certainly false, in both cases. The reason they are distinct is because actions taken for the good of society need to be constrained by the freedom and equality of its members and that includes maintaining the social bases of self-respect. Shaming women or saying they have an obligation to reproduce or forcing them to reproduce violates their status as free and equal. So that CAN’T be how society maintains replacement, as the good of society is restricted by the rights of the individual. If you can’t see this distinction, then I can’t help you.

    It is quite clear that you want to impose a particular frame on the conversation on the basis of a set of preconceptions about what I must be arguing. But I am simply not saying what you think I am saying.

    “I’m not even going to touch the racism that can be found in the idea that certain people with the means to do so need to reproduce to keep fueling social welfare programs…”

    I am sorry, but you are just not making a very significant effort to understand what I wrote. I am not referring to unemployment insurance or Aid to Dependant families or anything where there is often a racist coding when they are discussed or criticized. This is simply wrong. I am not talking about anything of the kind, and what’s more you would see that if you spent more than five seconds reading what I actually wrote before you started calling me a racist.

    Rather, AS I EXPLICITLY SAID, I am talking about Social Security, universal healthcare, and pensions. For social welfare programs like Social Security, CURRENT workers sustain those who no longer work. For universal health insurance, costs are kept low by having more healthy people (that’s why we have insurance, the payments of the healthy people subsidize the care of those who are sick). That is, I am talking about support of the elderly and the sick by the young and the healthy. How you can put a racist coding on that, I just don’t know.

    For Social Security and universal health insurance, a shrinking population leads to a) fewer workers are available to support the growing population of retirees and b) fewer healthy people are around to support those who sick (health costs are overwhelmingly tilted towards the elderly).

    There is nothing racist about the idea that there are real problems with pensions, Social Security, and health insurance when the population is aging and shrinking. You are supporting more people on a smaller tax base. What’s more, the wealth of the younger workers entering the work force is less relevant than the fact that their income will grow and they will continue to contribute, so this isn’t an issue of “people with means” supporting those “without means” at all. For the purposes of SS and UHC, having young and healthy workers is more important than those workers being wealthy, at least initially. So, there is no class or racial component. Elderly and sick people need to be taken care of, and only the younger and the healthier can do it.

    (This, by the way, is why protesting immigration on economic grounds is stupid. Immigration is a huge economic boon to the United States.)

    Look, I realize that the Pick-On-the-Sexist-and-Racist game is fun and I wish you luck in your future endeavors, but I am just not saying what you think I am saying.

  55. Kyra
    March 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Other minor detail: these people who are saying women need to have more children? They are saying it in a world where there are children starving. Children dying of disease. Children living in the streets, children orphaned, children neglected and abused, and also children funneled by poverty into the lowest status of unskilled and unemployed and poorly-paid class of people there is.

    They discard these children, completely, in order to say there are not enough children, and honestly? They’re like Dudley Dursley or Veruca Salt or some other ridiculous caricature of selfishness—it’s like we’re dealing with a child who carelessly and deliberately spills candy in the street and then screams for more.

  56. Jennifer
    March 9, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Didn’t Octavia Butler have a story online somewhere about where this topic came up (the MC got to make some kind of godlike decision and she was pondering limiting breeding) and the godbeing said something like, “Well, if you limit the number of children people can have, they go crazy?”

    I’m fairly sure this short story was up on a website that’s now gone from the Internet, but this thread so far is proving that theory. Sigh.

  57. Jennifer
    March 9, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Oh, and for the record: the population is increasing so much now that if we don’t get cracking on the space program real soon, the earth is going to have a hard time housing us all. Speaking of science fiction and all…

  58. March 9, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    “Look, I realize that the Pick-On-the-Sexist-and-Racist game is fun and I wish you luck in your future endeavors, but I am just not saying what you think I am saying.”

    Actually, you are. You have done it in each and every one of your comments. But you are too invested in not believing that you are to believe otherwise, so I’m not going to waste any more of my time. Unraveling all of the classism and racism in your three comments would take way more time than I’m willing to invest in some random person on the internet.

  59. PTS
    March 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Jennifer, I hope you weren’t ascribing to me the view that the human population is declining. It isn’t. But in the richer developed world it is, and in the growing, successful developing nations, population growth is declining. I believe the general expectation is for human population increases to level off in the next few decades.

    The problem I was discussing is the for the very long term, but I absolutely agree that countries today need to do more for the world’s poor. I was just saying that the richer people get, the less children they have, and the richest countries in the world have historically and unprecedentedly low birth rates. And I think that richer countries can help by having more open immigration policies, which they should do.

    Now, for developing countries, this is a very good thing. Fewer children generally means that wealth and capitalization increase and the fuels more growth and less poverty.

    The issue isn’t that there are too many or too few people. The issue is that many of our social insurance programs have–as an assumption–a growing population. And that looks like it won’t be true forever.

  60. The Flash
    March 9, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    “I’m not even going to touch the racism that can be found in the idea that certain people with the means to do so need to reproduce to keep fueling social welfare programs.”

    Oh, wait. I got it. You’re saying that PTS is suggesting that only the children of people not supported by the social welfare state will grow up to have jobs and pay taxes to support the social welfare state. Which, yes, would be some combination of racist/eugenicist.

  61. Mo
    March 9, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Whenever someone starts complaining about young women not starting families “soon” enough, I ask them what are they doing about making sure that young men can support these families? Does their company pay entry-level workers enough to afford children? If not, do they bring this up as an issue? Do they support the building of affordable housing in their communities? Have they pushed their state legislature to make sure that there is maternity leave for female college students – undergrad and grad students? Do their state universities include child care for student parents in their grant packages?

    I know I’m throwing the patriarchy a bone, but I find framing women’s non-child bearing in terms of young men’s lack of earning power to at least get them thinking about the “problem” as structural, rather than moral.

  62. The Flash
    March 9, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    But here’s the thing: decreasing birth rates among the educated/wealthy/funders of the social welfare state doesn’t mean that there won’t be people paying into the social welfare state. It is, in fact, lowering birth rates at the upper end of the economic strata and maintaining high birth rates at the lower economic strata that make meritocracy and social mobility possible; if the rich keep having more children, wealth stays concentrated. By contrast, people who die childless gift their accumulated assets away, and a vaccuum of young adults from upper-income households will leave room for upwardly mobile people to move into positions associated with higher socioeconomic status, including admissions spots at schools and employment positions. So ideally, there would be some kind of equilibrium between birth rates declining in high-income social spheres, and birth rates maintaining in low-income social spheres, with the best and the brightest having access to institutions formerly entirely filled with children of privilege… which is basically the American dream, yah? This only becomes a problem when you see the poor as being qualitatively different, which is basically what’s implied when you restrict immigration and have a low birthrate and whine about your greying population.

    What’s interesting is that you can see the exchange of birth rates and economic status already, within discrete communities. In the Jewish community, increasing religiosity generally correlates to decreasing income (47th street notwithstanding), and the highest birth rates are among the ultra-orthodox, who mostly live like paupers. Less religious Jews may have higher incomes, but they have fewer children, frequently marry out of the faith, and possibly disassociate. Meanwhile, the ranks of liberal Jewish movements are increasingly populated by people who grew up religious and have left it behind, to become higher earners but have generally smaller families, and the churn continues. With some tweaks, this process can, and maybe already does, occur, writ large, on a national scale, in the U.S. How many people really identify with the Daughters of the American Revolution anymore? How many middle/upper-middle/upper class people can trace their ancestry back to Ireland?

  63. Ricky
    March 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I love this article. The title is absolutely perfect.

    In the USA, there is a similar push for white women to have more children. This push comes mostly from the Christian right.

    I’ve been told that “the white race is a dying breed.” The same man who told me this (btw, he identifies as a white seperatist) also insists I have at least 3 children when I am older, despite that I already told him I am NOT having children and instead fostering and then adopting. I feel there is a huge need for foster (and adoptive) parents, and I am also not a big fan of things like sex, pregnancy, and childbirth. I do, however, love children.

  64. Athenia
    March 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Having a higher fertility rate doesn’t necessarily translate into more people–for most of human history women didn’t have a choice about whether or not they wanted to have kids and it took eons for the human population to get where it is today.

    Today, a woman having one or two kids—and seeing those kids live into adulthood means hundreds of more people than if that woman and the first baby had died in childbirth.

  65. PTS
    March 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    “Actually, you are. You have done it in each and every one of your comments.”

    Except, at no point, have you made any argument that I am. Your simple assertion that I have made sexist and racist claims (and you haven’t bothered to even attempt to justify the second claim, just cowardly made an oblique reference). At each step, I have explained my position and each step, you have made utterly unjustified claims about what I must be meaning that completely fly in the face what I have wrote.

    Thus, I can conclude from your lack of any argument that you have none. Which means you are making accusations when you are either incapable or unwilling of backing them up.

    You are either a villain or a buffoon. You’ve embarassed yourself.

    Go away.

  66. Sheelzebub
    March 10, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    So, I think that feminists/liberals/progressives need to spend some time about how we can create policies that maintain replacement levels yet respect women’s rights over their own reproduction.

    Or perhaps develop alternative ways of funding these things (or making these the priority as opposed to say, the military and tax cuts, etc.) without relying on maintaining replacement levels. It’s like depending on an economy to grow indefinitely–there are only so many resources to sustain that. There are only so many resources to sustain an ever-growing population (or even the one we have now, which is over 6 billion).

  67. Sheelzebub
    March 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    You are either a villain or a buffoon. You’ve embarassed yourself.

    Go away.

    a) You sound like you’re trying to slap Faith with a glove and challenge her to a duel. Sheesh.

    b) It’s kinda toothless to tell a commenter on a blog that is not yours to moderate to go away. Just sayin’.

  68. March 10, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    ‘You are either a villain or a buffoon. You’ve embarassed yourself.

    Go away.’

    Out of line, PTS. You need to both consult the comments policy and, as Sheelzebub said, not tell commenters to go away on this blog as it’s not yours to moderate.

  69. S.L
    March 10, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    One thing we need is a rock-solid acknowledgement that children are human.

    Totally agree. I would also love to see more mother friendly policies in the U.S.

  70. Politicalguineapig
    March 10, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Mo: Isn’t framing it as ‘young men can’t earn enough money rather fantastical? It’s not like a lot of young men (I assume we’re talking -25 here) are willing to stick around and form a family.
    S.L. and the ‘children as humans person: Good idea, but it brings us bang up against the ‘market theory of rights’ as I call it. Any mother and child friendly policies will erode the rights of single women. As a single woman myself, I’m not too keen on this.

  71. Alara Rogers
    March 10, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Any mother and child friendly policies will erode the rights of single women.

    I don’t see how.

    Let’s say we adopt a policy that if you are taking care of another human being, your employer gets a tax break for giving you extra vacation days. My single female boss has a mother with Alzheimer’s and could certainly make use of such a policy. Sure, it might suck to be a single childless person who is not taking care of anyone, but what sucks a lot more is being a person who *is* taking care of another human being and not getting adequate time to do it. And if volunteering time in charitable organizations also got you the break, then any single person who wants to give up their time for the benefit of other human beings would get the right to do so without penalty.

    Or let’s say there’s a policy that employers get a tax break for having a child care on premises. So employers hire child carers, who are mostly women, many of whom are themselves childless. Meanwhile the proportion of women in that workplace and the ability of women to get ahead goes up, so more women are available to mentor women, be role models to women, and generally make a working environment that is friendlier to women… which single childfree women benefit from as much as mothers do.

  72. The Flash
    March 11, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Tax breaks that advantage mothers end up disadvantaging non-mothers, because the revenue needs to be made up somewhere else, and ultimately, whether the single people are directly taxed more, or the tax is applied uniformly, the single people aren’t getting anything in return for the resultant increase, while the mothers… are.

  73. March 11, 2010 at 5:38 am

    Politicalguineapig: Any mother and child friendly policies will erode the rights of single women.

    No.

    Other countries in the world have mother and child friendly policies, without eroding the rights of women who don’t have children.

    The Flash: Tax breaks that advantage mothers end up disadvantaging non-mothers, because the revenue needs to be made up somewhere else

    But failing to support parents and children costs everyone more, both in the long run and the short run. As indeed other countries have proved out.

    Why do Americans have this extraordinary resistance to looking outside the US at countries more successful than they are?

  74. piny
    March 11, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Why do Americans have this extraordinary resistance to looking outside the US at countries more successful than they are?

    Jes, the US isn’t Victorian Manchester. We have instituted some family- and parent-friendly policies ourselves, and benefited from them. We can look to our own economy, now that maternity leave is a legal right. Our inability to do so doesn’t have that much to do with a hatred of all things foreign.

    I know that American insularity is a theme with you of late, but would it kill you to stop blaming people for their own disenfranchisement? It’s not as easy as simply refusing to be fucked over by greedy plutocrats. Especially when you’re, say, on workfare.

  75. March 11, 2010 at 9:27 am

    We can look to our own economy, now that maternity leave is a legal right.

    I don’t normally tell people to go look at Wikipedia, but seriously: take a quick look at this table of countries in the Americas. Four columns, for paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave, unpaid maternity leave, unpaid paternity leave.

    Guess which is the only country, from Antigua to Venezuela, with zero in the first two columns? Go on, guess, you have three guesses and the first two don’t count.

    Going to claim that the United States is, of all the countries in the Americas, the one with the worst economy that can least afford paid maternity leave? Go on, cry poormouth, that’s always good for a laugh.

    We have instituted some family- and parent-friendly policies ourselves, and benefited from them.

    Yeah. Apart from, you know, basics like guaranteed healthcare for pregnant women, mothers, and children: paid maternity leave: that kind of thing.

    Our inability to do so doesn’t have that much to do with a hatred of all things foreign.

    No, but the pretence that the US is the only onliest country in the world and it’s just not possible to take a look at what other countries do and say the US should strive to do at least as well, does have a hell of a lot to do with that.

    but would it kill you to stop blaming people for their own disenfranchisement? It’s not as easy as simply refusing to be fucked over by greedy plutocrats.

    Please point to me where I am blaming Americans for being disenfranchised? I’m blaming people who are online, access to the Internet, as able to look stuff up as I am, who somehow don’t do that and instead come out with stuff like “Tax breaks that advantage mothers end up disadvantaging non-mothers, because the revenue needs to be made up somewhere else” as if the idea of supporting people actively raising children was something outre and strange that you can’t possibly just go find out how it’s done, as a commonplace, elsewhere.

    Jes, the US isn’t Victorian Manchester.

    No: you have iPhones. Well done.

  76. Politicalguineapig
    March 11, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Alara- You make a lot of good points, but I just can’t see it shaking out like that. And I worry that child-free women might end up being passed over for promotions or end up being forced to work in childcare until they have a child.

  77. Tracey
    March 11, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Jesurgilsac,
    It isn’t about us secluded ignorant Americans being unwilling to look to other countries. It is that as a whole, we do not have the same mentality as other countires. We pull together in times of national emergency (to an extent, at we like to think we do as a whole), but for the most part our culture is very indivilualistic when it comes to certain things, our economy is based on that and it shows up a lot in our history.
    America as a nation isn’t going to be thinking about how such policies eventually benefit society as a whole. More like people make decisions and need to live by those decisions and make sacrifices accordingly and any aid should come from friends, family members and religious institutions, not the state. SO in that since, many Americans would not necessarily see those countries as more successful (which can be seen in the comments surfacing about house sizes in other countries, etc. We would rather have a freer market, supposedly, and the oppurtunity for bigger houses than universal healthcare and union controlled workplaces with daycare and 1yr maternity leave).
    Your comment shows a lot of ignorance and actually is an example of America-bashing. It would be one thing if we wanted to be like them and refused to look to them, but even knowing how it works in other countries doesn’t change the fact that for a lot of Americans that just isn’t our mentality and cultrue as a nation.

  78. Alara Rogers
    March 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

    And I worry that child-free women might end up being passed over for promotions or end up being forced to work in childcare until they have a child.

    I can’t figure out why you even think this would happen.

    We are so, so far from a world where mothers are respected and considered to actually have any worthwhile real-world skills, that doing anything to benefit mothers and help them get ahead in careers would, at this point, do no harm whatsoever to women without children, because all it could *possibly* do is ease a stigma that keeps women in general down. No matter how fiercely you say you will never have kids, a stigma against mothers applies to you as long as you appear to have a working uterus, because your employer may assume that you’re not telling the truth, and if someday you plan to have kids you are not worth investing as much in as a man, who whether he has kids or not will continue his career, because mothers are worth less than everyone else. A stigma against mothers keeps older women out of power and authority, because the childfree are much rarer than women who have kids once you get into ages 40+, 50+, and every pipeline we have leaks women due to the stigma against mothers. If your boss is not a woman, he is probably less likely to mentor you, take your ideas seriously, give you a raise when you ask, or promote you than if she is a woman, so pipeline slippage hurts all women.

    You see the game as zero-sum, with women with kids pitted against women without kids. Where were the men in this picture? You know, the guys who have most of the pie already? The ones who probably are in a position to make you work overtime to cover for Jenny’s taking off for a sick kid? Benefiting mothers benefits *women*, because there have been ample studies that (notwithstanding anecdotes about so-and-so’s boss Emily who was a total bitch and hated other women) women in authority are more likely than men in authority to hire, promote and mentor other women. Mother-friendly policies are much, much more likely to carve part of the pie away from *men*, not other women, because the whole reason women in general have less power than men is the perception that childbearing makes you useless for anything else. (Besides, you work enough overtime to cover for Jenny and you’re likely to get promoted over Jenny’s head. The only way family-friendly policies could *possibly* actually work is if no one works overtime, because the only way mothers and fathers who have responsibilities to their kids *can* get ahead in the workplace is if they do as much work as everyone else, which means the level of work that’s expected would have to be ratcheted down to what a person with kids can be expected to do.)

    Childfree and childless women make 94 cents to the male dollar. Mothers make something like 56 cents. Averaged, it’s 77, but the problem is not that women in general are paid three-quarters of what men are, it’s that mothers in general are paid half of what men are, and women without kids are paid slightly less. Equality with *men* can’t be achieved unless active steps are taken to remove the stigma against mothers.

    As for being forced to work in childcare… do we see hordes of women being forced to work in childcare *now*? If childcare became a growth opportunity where lots of providers were needed, the pay scale for the service would increase, and there would be women going into childcare where they might otherwise have gone into retail because the pay is better, but if you’re talking about “Oh, Shannon can cover for the day care area today because she’s just answering phones, she can do that and watch kids…” no one would do that to the women *without* kids if there were women *with* kids they could do it to instead. Not sure why you think it’s even a possibility that “child-free women might be forced to work in childcare”; I’m a science fiction writer and still I can’t figure out where you got that from. Are you imagining some far future where all women are expected to have kids and society stigmatizes those that don’t, to the point of not giving any power to women without kids, but giving women with children power and authority equal to men? A society where women with children have all the power is called a matriarchy, and I don’t think we’re even on the same planet where that could happen.

  79. Alara Rogers
    March 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Tax breaks that advantage mothers end up disadvantaging non-mothers, because the revenue needs to be made up somewhere else, and ultimately, whether the single people are directly taxed more, or the tax is applied uniformly, the single people aren’t getting anything in return for the resultant increase, while the mothers… are.

    Yes, but why shouldn’t people who are responsible for the care of dependent humans, who cannot pay into the system, get a break for doing so?

    If you are paying for a dependent human you are paying far, far more than you would ever get back in a tax break. What the single person gets back in return for paying extra taxes is a world where people with dependents are helped. It’s the *exact* same principle as “tax the rich more because they can afford it”; if you are not burdened by having to pay for extra people, you can afford to shoulder more of the burden of taking care of society in general through your taxes. Also, the breaks given to parents keep them and their kids out of poverty, which saves you money on your taxes because then they don’t consume welfare.

    My problem with the system as it exists is that it isn’t thought of as a way of helping people care for dependent humans but a way of helping people take care of *kids*. Any of us could become dependent on other people, and if we knew that friends, family and lovers could get tax breaks for taking care of us if we got hit by a car and ended up being unable to work and needing extensive help, I think single people would be more comfortable with the tax breaks. They’re not a benefit for breeding — I got tax benefits for supporting my stepkids and I had nothing to do with creating them, while their bio-mother gets nothing for them. They’re a benefit for being responsible for people.

  80. March 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

    The Flash at #72: what you postulated is emphatically not what happens in the real life workaday world, particularly here in the U.S. Here, men get raises and promotions when they become fathers, while mothers are damn lucky to get or keep a job—and are paid significantly less.

    And it burns my ass to no end when feminists—or shall I say, people who are otherwise feminists, tacitly agree with this status quo. Don’t want workplace discrimination? Don’t have a kid–it’s that simple, babe. Only men should be able to have children without suffering workplace discrimination.

    Jesurgislac is right with this: But failing to support parents and children costs everyone more, both in the long run and the short run. I’m at home with my sick daughter today. If I lose my job, I’ll cost society a hell of a lot more than if I have workplace protection that keeps me from being fired for not being able to be two places at the same time.

    But…let me fix the other statement: instead of, Why do Americans have this extraordinary resistance to looking outside the US at countries more successful than they are?, it should read Why do politically and economically powerful Americans have this extraordinary resistance to looking outside the US at countries more successful than they are policies that assist the average working person?

  81. KellyK
    March 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Saying that family-friendly policies will harm those who don’t have children is like saying that bereavement leave is unfair to people who *haven’t* had a death in the family. Yes, you might get paid some less because any paid time off has to come from somewhere, but not only is it silly to complain about not getting something you’re not using, the thing you’re not using is available for you if you *do* ever need it. (In some ways it’s a lousy metaphor because having a kid is at least mostly voluntary and frequently a good thing, while a death in the family is neither, but both are examples of the work environment allowing people to deal with family issues.)

    If our society is structured in such a way that people get the support they need when caring for family members (whether those are kids, elderly parents, a disabled sibling, an ill partner, etc. etc. etc.), the people who it doesn’t directly benefit will be the people who don’t need it because they aren’t caring for a dependent family member.

    Yes, the expense will come from everybody, but it’s also likely to benefit everybody, if indirectly. If my coworker who has a kid gets to telecommute or work flexible hours to care for her child, I can either gripe that she’s getting privileges that I’m not, or I can be happy that I’m not stuck doing her job while she’s on unpaid maternity leave or using vacation time. Or happy that the quality of her work is up to its usual standard, rather than crappy because she has no help and gets four hours of sleep on a good night–resulting in more frustration for me as my currently childless and mostly well-rested self picks up her slack. Or happy that I’m not training her replacement because she left a job she liked and was good at because it didn’t mesh with child-raising.
    (Not to say that my reasons for being happy *won’t* include just liking my coworker and wanting her life to not suck–I’m just giving examples of how it can benefit me in a purely self-interested kind of way.)

  82. March 11, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Tracey: SO in that since, many Americans would not necessarily see those countries as more successful

    And then they complain about “America bashing”. Sweet!

  83. March 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

    It would be one thing if we wanted to be like them and refused to look to them, but even knowing how it works in other countries doesn’t change the fact that for a lot of Americans that just isn’t our mentality and cultrue as a nation.

    Speak for yourself, Tracey. A lot of folks in the U.S. do want social supports like family and medical leave, universal healthcare, universal daycare and such. In fact, it’s a well-known trope that Medicare and Social Security are the “political third rail”—untouchable. A whole hell of a lot of us are more than willing to trade the “bigger house” we’ll never earn the money to afford or maintain for the smaller pieces of pie that will allow us to meet the conflicting, contradictory obligations inherent in our postindustrial slice of the world.

    And in fact…we’d be there politically right now if it wasn’t for the deregulation of the media that occurred during the Reagan administration.

  84. Tracey
    March 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I didn’t say those were my opinions or the opinions of all Americans. A lot of people in the U.S. may want such policies to an extent, but even then America is overwhelmingly conservative compared to a lot of other countires (few places would consider the Healthcare bill socialist and few would use socialist as an insult). And yes Medicare and Social Security may be considered third rails, but only after decades and because they supposedly help the deserving (the elderly). But railing about how America refuses to look to other nations when America as a whole doesn’t have the mentality of those nations seems out of place without addressing that whatever changes we bring here need to address the Horatio Alger, individualist mentality the nation as a whole continues to have. Do you honestly believe that compared to a lot of countries, even the “liberals” in America aren’t conservative?
    As a matter of fact, conservative pundits keep bringing up that we don’t want to end up like European nations. Add to that many still believe in the Protestant Work Ethic mentality and while would consider themselves charitable do not believe it is the role of the national state to provide certain services but rather they should be provided by social networks and religious institutions. Longer maternity leave and childcare in the workplace might be easier to support, until it starts costing all taxpayers money, even if it is less than what it would cost not to help caregivers.

  85. March 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Do you honestly believe that compared to a lot of countries, even the “liberals” in America aren’t conservative?

    Let me put it to you this way: I’m not at all convinced that people in the U.S. are any more conservative now than they were in the 1930s, when FDR’s New Deal was being implemented—concurrently with the development and implementation of similar social programs in other countries (whose population wasn’t necessarily any more “liberal” than the U.S.).

    But, in the interest of not taking this derail any further….women get it from both sides. We’re literally damned if we do and damned if we don’t. In this case, we are blamed for the destruction of social programs because we aren’t giving birth to enough (or any) kids; at the same time if we do have children, we’re either a drain on society for having them (necessitating government spending on public schools, etc.) or we’re at the forefront of “socialism” for demanding policies that recognize that we no longer live in a preindustrial agrarian society.

    Last bit of derail: Medicare and Social Security remain popular for the most practical of reasons: people in the U.S. don’t earn enough money to support themselves and/or their families, plus their parents. Not. enough. money. It isn’t about viewing the elderly as “deserving*”. If there was a political party courageous enough to make say, universal childcare a section of the party platform and frame it as a practical matter (the increase in taxes would be significantly less than the current cost to families after taxes….y’know, like Medicare and S.S.) the job could get done.

    * I went to a union conference in the early 90s, and one of the speakers challenged us to “know our enemy” by listening to right-wing talk radio. I started driving home from Wisconsin listening to Rush Limbaugh, but by the time I was almost to Aurora I was screaming obscenities back at the radio after hearing Rush and his listeners refer to Social Security recipients—i.e., my grandmothers—as a bunch of deadbeats who needed to get up off their asses and get a job; that it was “unfair” to put an additional payroll tax on the “producers”. Considering that my grandmothers—and most everyone else’s, definitely did their part to contribute to the population explosion, I can only imagine the kind of cognitive dissonance conservatives have to have to simultaneously hold the opinions that they do. In any case, for my own mental health, I switched the station. Other drivers on that section of highway appeared to be relieved, too. ;-)

  86. Sheelzebub
    March 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    If there was a political party courageous enough to make say, universal childcare a section of the party platform and frame it as a practical matter (the increase in taxes would be significantly less than the current cost to families after taxes….y’know, like Medicare and S.S.) the job could get done.

    This is exactly why I favor a strong social and economic safety net and policies like universal childcare, social security, welfare, family leave. It’s a more practical solution than “fuck ’em if they can’t work and do everything perfectly, I got mine.” That kind of thinking bites you in the ass in the end–you end up paying somewhere down the line. I’d rather do it proactively and ensure that everyone has the tools they need to be happy, engaged, and productive citizens.

    And seriously? Who says childless women–(NOT single, BTW, you can be single and be a parent)–get the shaft if mothers (and fathers) benefit from family friendly policies? That’s ridiculous–and to those who went on and on about this, I don’t see this as a zero sum game, FFS!! Family friendly policies can and should encompass all aspects of family life, and I REFUSE to play the zero-sum game where I slag off people for “getting” something.

  87. March 11, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I am so very sick of waking up to find my threads that specifically centre countries other than the US have turned to being about the US. This post was also not about taxes and such; please get back on topic.

  88. March 11, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Other countries are boring, Chally. IF they even exist.

    To get this back on track, I think Meredith’s comment at 43 said it all:

    “Because it isn’t that in Australia only a certain number of women are giving birth, but rather that the white women are not giving birth. It is a fear of people of color and xenophobia.”

    To put this in context, I’m not sure that Americans realise how whitey white Australia is – over 90% of the population is white. Kevin Rudd’s comments come from a tradition of racial paranoia about white Australians being overrun, mostly from our neighbours in south-east Asia. The same anxiety about Aboriginal women not having children is largely absent from mainstream political discourse, indeed there’s anxieties about Aboriginal girls’ sexuality in ways that would be fairly familiar to people in the US.

    So yeah, basically. The racist subtext is basically text.

  89. The Flash
    March 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Chally, there are, like, 15 times as many Americans as Australians. If you’re on a general-interest website and there’s an issue that could remotely become about U.S. politics, it’s gonna become about U.S. politics… Hell, John Howard practically turned Australia into the 51st state, he had his tongue so far up Geroge W. Bush’s assho… uh, where were we?

    Arguments about taking care of each other can be very easily repurposed into arguments why women have an obligation to have babies to support their particular cultural group. Responsibility cuts both ways, but individualism liberates. If childless women have a “responsibility” to participate in supporting women with children, then do they also have a responsibility to “participate” in producing the next generation? No, because it’s every woman’s choice whether she’s going to have children. And every woman’s choice whether she’s going to participate in raising the next generation.

    @ Alara: “Yes, but why shouldn’t people who are responsible for the care of dependent humans, who cannot pay into the system, get a break for doing so?” Because they chose to have those children. Why should they get a break for choosing something so expensive? [strawmanstrawmanstrawmanstrawman]

    @KellyK: “Saying that family-friendly policies will harm those who don’t have children is like saying that bereavement leave is unfair to people who *haven’t* had a death in the family. ” Everyone’s parents die. Not everyone has kids. Having a family member die isn’t a choice, but it does thrust responsibility onto you. Having children is a choice.

    @ LaLubu: “Here, men get raises and promotions when they become fathers, while mothers are damn lucky to get or keep a job—and are paid significantly less.” That’s true, but this is collateral damage from different forces.

    Think about it this way: Two women begin their careers. One foregoes having children and works like hell (she doesn’t like children, she loves her job, whatever). The other one has kids, takes maternity leave, has stuff come up all the time that takes her out of the office. Doesn’t the workaholic deserve to advance faster? She’s done more for her employer and she works harder at her job. Why should she pay for daycare for her colleague who doesn’t work as much? (Because everyone is responsible for making their own choices to be happy, and she chose not to have kids, and her colleague chose to have children, and neither decision is superior, so there’s no reason she should be more economically secure.)

    Look, this is tough, in part because there’s a perception, and I’m not gonna be for or against it, because frankly I’m ambivalent, that parents dependent on government support are gonna be bad parents no matter what, and their kids are just gonna end up on the dole too, so you don’t want to make it easy for people to have kids they can’t pay for. And while that’s mostly a fiction perpetrated by racists, there’s something to be said for the idea that people with their shit together will probably make better parents, and to the extent that there’s any difference whose children are running the country/world, you want people who hold down jobs and aren’t in prison and generally don’t think Britney Spears is a role model to be the ones raising the people who will be diapering you when you’re 90. And there’s no question that, in the U.S. at least, and I’d venture to bet elsewhere as well, economic achievement is used as a proxy for general competence.

    So is there a way to say that we’ll provide government services only to the working class? So that it’s only easy to have kids if you’re the “kind” of woman who will make a “good” mother?

    And I guess, last thought… I’ve worked with a woman who has deep ties to low-income communities around New York, who is an extremely compassionate, progressive woman, and who told me that when Bill Clinton started pushing people off welfare rolls in the 90s, she knew families where three generations of single mothers had never held down jobs, and had subsisted only on welfare, and these women were finally being forced to, like, uh, work. And that’s a good thing.

  90. March 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    The Flash: funny that. There are many more people in China and India than in the United States. Yet blogs posts on the United States don’t get derailed into talking about those countries on “general interest” websites. It’s not too much to expect people to lay aside constantly centred US experience and concerns for a moment where another country is specifically centred.

    ‘So is there a way to say that we’ll provide government services only to the working class? So that it’s only easy to have kids if you’re the “kind” of woman who will make a “good” mother?’

    Mate no… I just, there’s a long and nasty history around the idea of the ‘right kind of woman’ and the ‘good mother’. This stuff gets pulled on disabled women all the time. No.

  91. Alara Rogers
    March 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Chally: threads drift. And if people from China and India were posting on this blog in the numbers that people from America are, there would probably be drift toward topics specifically about China or India. I don’t know exactly what Australia offers or doesn’t offer to women to encourage or discourage having kids, but anyone who has that knowledge is still free to post; I talk about America specifically because it’s what I know, but I’m sure there are many places in the world that could benefit from more family friendliness. America’s just *particularly* egregious in how anti-family its policies are while its rhetoric is the opposite.

    TheFlash:
    Because they chose to have those children. Why should they get a break for choosing something so expensive? [strawmanstrawmanstrawmanstrawman]

    This is why I keep saying “dependent humans.” You don’t, in the US, get any benefit whatsoever for breeding. All of your benefits come from *raising* the kids. I have taken tax credits for children I never bore, while their mother had to pony up child support and get no tax benefit for it, because I was supporting the kids and their father. So this is an ignorant argument. (WHich I think you know, hence calling it strawman.) It’s not about the choices of the parents, it’s about what’s good for the kids once they exist. And if it were extended to all dependent people, folks might actually recognize that, which is why I keep arguing that it *should* move away from a model of “help mothers” or “help parents” to “help people who are caring for a person who cannot support themselves.”

    Why should the mom be promoted over the head of the woman who works massive overtime? Well, obviously she shouldn’t, but why was the employer requiring massive overtime to begin with? If corporate culture was strongly encouraged (I don’t know how, tax breaks, laws, whatever) to get its business done within the 8 hour work day and hire extra people instead of asking the people they’ve got to work longer, then the mom who *has* to go home and the childfree woman who *wants* to go home both work the same hours and contribute equally. In a corporate culture where overtime is demanded, the mother who has to go home can’t work it and is penalized by not getting ahead, and the woman who can’t use “I have kids” as an excuse, who gets stuck with the overtime, has to work it and is penalized by not enjoying the free time she could otherwise have experienced. (The mother doens’t get the free time either way, but *that* was her choice when she decided to be a mother; the choice not to be a mother should come with plenty of free time.) And, you know, men would like to go home from work sometimes too. Particularly if they have kids, but studies show that fathers often feel like they *have* to work harder in order to provide for their kids… so the very people who will most be hurt by having to work overtime feel the most compelled to do it. Men feel disconnected from their kids, kids feel disconnected from their dads… it’s so common there are songs about it. How about making it stop, so *no* one has to work the mandatory overtime and everyone gets ahead on the strength of their nine to five, and both parents get reasonable time to spend with their kids, and both men and women who don’t have kids get to enjoy the free time they signed on for by not having kids?

    People keep not challenging assumptions like “business has to get ahead by making people work overtime”, and assuming that if your boss makes you work to cover Jenny the mom’s job, this is Jenny’s fault and not your boss’s fault. Jenny should be able to put in her nine to five, take an amount of sick days that covers for her having kids, and not work overtime, and *so should you*. You should be able to take that sick time you’re not using, because you don’t have kids, as vacation time.

    • March 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm

      Hey everyone, thanks for the explanations, but I’m pretty sure that all of the moderators at this here blog know exactly how comment threads work. How about instead, we just listen to what Chally has to say when she’s moderating comments on her own damn post, instead of attempting to justify and defend what she has rightly labeled a derail?

  92. piny
    March 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    The “dying nation” argument is always that way, isn’t it? It’s not that the country will empty out. Many countries have their dying zones, and nobody seems to care about them. It’s the fear that the country will be overrun. So we talk about overpopulation on one hand and stale ovaries on the other.

    Going to claim that the United States is, of all the countries in the Americas, the one with the worst economy that can least afford paid maternity leave? Go on, cry poormouth, that’s always good for a laugh.

    “Yeah, go on, make this stupid argument! That’s a stupid argument! I can’t believe you’re stupid enough to make this argument, but I bet you will anyway!”

    Jes, this is why I didn’t read you as referring to “privileged Americans, what can look stuff up on the internet:”

    But…let me fix the other statement: instead of, Why do Americans have this extraordinary resistance to looking outside the US at countries more successful than they are?, it should read Why do politically and economically powerful Americans have this extraordinary resistance to looking outside the US at countries more successful than they are policies that assist the average working person?

    Does anyone in this thread think that Rush Limbaugh has never heard of Sweden? Why do you think they like things the way they are?

    I didn’t argue that our policies are family-friendly. I argued that we have plenty of domestic evidence that social-welfare-centered policies help people, because they have been doing that over the past century or so. Most people know that–especially people in a position to need fellowship from bureaucrats.

    The problem is not insularity–not any more than Australia’s spoiler-class “WHITE BABEEEEEEEEEEZ” histrionics stem from an inability to notice that some countries manage without surplus white people. Or to understand that women want the number of children they’re having.

  93. piny
    March 11, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Sorry. I’ll stop.

  94. March 11, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Yes, Alara, threads drift. Threads don’t have to drift towards centring the dominant perspective, though, and they can stop doing so when moderators point this out.

    All right, here is my new policy for my threads! When the post centres non-US issues and perspectives, and the thread relentlessly centres the US, and commenters refuse to adhere to keep on topic, the thread is getting closed!

    It is not too much to ask that people on a social justice website try to concern themselves with perspectives other than their own, surely.

  95. piny
    March 11, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Chally: threads drift. And if people from China and India were posting on this blog in the numbers that people from America are, there would probably be drift toward topics specifically about China or India.

    I think the horse is supposed to go on the other end of the cart. People from China and India gather around blogs that discuss topics of interest to them, not the other way around.

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