Author: has written 5252 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

162 Responses

  1. Gorbachev
    Gorbachev April 23, 2012 at 10:28 am |

    Demographics are, in social terms, quite literally everything. The decision to ave or not have children has a profound impact on all dimensions of life.

    Some argue not having kids is better for some individuals, some having more. In any case, choosing not to breed may be a sacred personal choice, and choosing to breed the same, but both socially and ethically, whether you have children, how you raise children, and how you interact with society in terms of raising your and other people’s children, is basically the foundation of all that society is.

    Societies that choose not to breed, disappear. They vote their own non-continuity. Their opinions and achievements come to mean nothing; rarely are they even historical anecdotes. Those that breed too much lend to their own society’s destruction. Those that don’t encourage healthy breeding of offspring lead to social decay and collapse. Those that tread the fine line in between continue.

    Alas, it turns out ethics plays a big part in all aspects of breeding, in the sense that ethics makes our choices relevant to other people.

  2. tmc
    tmc April 23, 2012 at 11:36 am |

    It’s genuinely difficult for me to take any conversation regarding the “ethics” of childbearing seriously when that conversation completely ignores the various intersections of oppressions (race, class, disability, sexism, etc), how those intersections relate to popular attitudes towards reproduction, and how those attitudes affect the lives of those who don’t fit the paradigm of being “proper and ethical” parents (or non-parents).

    That absence leaves such a gaping hole that it’s all I can see.

  3. igglanova
    igglanova April 23, 2012 at 11:49 am |

    I expect this to blow up shortly and ruin whatever intelligent conversation we could have mustered about the subject.

  4. EG
    EG April 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    I agree with tmc. Yet another entry in the long list of why women should consider the needs and desires of everybody else in the world before our own in deciding whether or not to have children.

    Either we’re the right kind of women (white, wealthy, Christian, straight) and we have a moral obligation to society to have a whole lot of children, or we’re the wrong kind of women (non-white, poor, non-Christian, queer/lesbian/trans) and it’s important to society that we not have any children. Either it’s our duty to God to have as many children as possible or it’s our duty to the planet to have as few, if not none. Either we’re selfish for putting our careers or fun ahead of other people’s desire for us to procreate, or we’re selfish for putting our desire for children ahead of other people’s desire not to be “burdened” by our children.

    It’s all the same damn rhetoric and it means this: women should use their bodies and their lives according to what’s best for others, instead of what we want. And fuck that.

  5. Matt
    Matt April 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm |

    Is mandating that women have a certain number of children ethically equal to refusing to let them have more than a given number?

    Thoughts?

    It is possible to mandate that a man not have more than a given number of children, however it seems unlikely that we could mandate that he have at least a given number.

    Can we count adoption as having a child?

    Would it be better, if we had to do one or the other, to mandate a maximum family size, or to mandate a maximum number of births?

    Certainly a couple which involves 2 persons without a uterus cannot produce their own children. Thus if we mandated a maximum family size they would be in trouble without adoption of some sort.

    It seems likely that in modern times we would not worry too much about not having enough births, so most of the discussion would center on limiting family size and/or number of births per person.

    I have no opinion on allowed family size because I will be dead prior to any sort of massive global famine, and because I have no desire to have children, but I wonder what other people think.

  6. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date April 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm |

    I got stuck on the argument that “because it will make me happy” is not a good reason to have a child because having children doesn’t make people happy because a convenience sample of 909 employed American women reported a less strong positive affect for the day before for “taking care of my children” than for “watching TV” or “preparing food”, in a study that actually specifically distinguishes between affective experience and life satisfaction.

    This is kind of a variation on EG’s point: it’s another entry in the long list of ways women are too stupid to make the right decision for themselves. Women who want children might think that having children will make them happy, but they’re wrong. Stupid women.

  7. EG
    EG April 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm |

    Women who want children might think that having children will make them happy, but they’re wrong. Stupid women.

    Right? Oh, the study says that, does it? I guess the immense feelings of comfort, bliss, fulfillment, and emotional/psychic renewal I have after I take care of children must be an illusion then.

  8. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date April 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm |

    I guess the immense feelings of comfort, bliss, fulfillment, and emotional/psychic renewal I have after I take care of children must be an illusion then.

    (I think I should have labeled my second paragraph with sarcasm tags. Sorry!)

  9. EG
    EG April 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

    no, no! I was agreeing with you and extending your sarcasm! I totally got that you were sarcastic.

  10. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    Whether to open or close my blinds is also an ethical question. Almost every decision we make has an ethical component. The decision to repeatedly question the ethics of women who choose to have, raise or refrain from having or raising children is also an (un)ethical decision.

  11. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date April 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm |

    Thanks, I feel better now. :-)

  12. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl April 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

    It’s genuinely difficult for me to take any conversation regarding the “ethics” of childbearing seriously when that conversation completely ignores the various intersections of oppressions (race, class, disability, sexism, etc), how those intersections relate to popular attitudes towards reproduction, and how those attitudes affect the lives of those who don’t fit the paradigm of being “proper and ethical” parents (or non-parents).

    That absence leaves such a gaping hole that it’s all I can see.

    Tmc, I think this is such an important point to make that I’m quoting yours in its entirety. No enlightened, intelligent conversation can be had regarding this topic if these points are ignored or left as an aside.

    It’s all the same damn rhetoric and it means this: women should use their bodies and their lives according to what’s best for others, instead of what we want. And fuck that.

    I agree this is also hugely important, because whenever I hear the bloviators who are most vocal regarding the issue of overpopulation (Bill Maher, anyone?) Too often there is a sort of underlying sexist attitude there that women are just too silly and ruled by their hormones to be able to think rationally or intelligently when it comes to their own reproduction and personal lives.

  13. Donna L
    Donna L April 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

    “The amount of suffering in the world could be radically reduced if there were no more” of us.

    And even more if there were no world at all. Global destruction is the answer to all our problems.

  14. librarygoose
    librarygoose April 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

    My thoughts on population have always tended towards trying to decrease poverty and increase availability of family planning around the world. I never got the “stop having babies” thing. Who is going to listen? People are going to have and want to have children, just as they are going to refrain from having or wanting to have them. I mean, you can decided to be a great savior of all humans by not having kids and you get rightly pissed when people call you selfish, then you side eye women who want and enjoy kids? You call them selfish? Whatever.

    Global destruction is the answer to all our problems.

    I knew it. Donna is secretly a mad scientist.

  15. seisy
    seisy April 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm |

    @Donna L

    That thought occurred to me as well. I’m always uncomfortable with overpopulation arguments for a couple of reasons- one of which is that the folks I encounter who are arguing for it are (at least in RL) fairly privileged and from Western, developed-countries with birthrates at or below the replacement rate, and the conversation always seems to turn around to Africa and India….and even ignoring that, there’s so little compassion in the conversation, usually. There’s a good argument to be made in trying to foster improvements in quality of life- to reduce suffering- and that many of the products of those improvements (e.g. the improvement of the place of women, their education, and control over their bodies, plus reductions in infant mortality, and higher standards of living in general) also reduce birth rates, which will increase sustainability…but that argument is *people-focused*. It’s actually concerned with the well-being of individuals. The usual arguments are often so dehumanizing, reducing people to just numbers, talking about them as we would over fish in a pond, with an ugly vibe of of “all those poor stupid people need to stop breeding and stinking up the planet” and I just…ugh. I associate it very strongly with arguments for enforced one-child policies and sterilization and all the rest.

    Which is not to say that all conversations go that way or that everyone talking about overpopulation means those things, just that they’re like ghosts that haunt the subject for me.

  16. EG
    EG April 23, 2012 at 3:49 pm |

    I also think that when it comes to overpopulation and destruction of natural resources, the “ethics” of deciding whether or not to have kids is such a convenient red herring.

    When women are able to decide whether or not to have children, and they can be reasonably sure that their children will survive to adulthood, the birthrate drops dramatically. This is true across the board. Want to deal with overpopulation? Improve health care, including birth control.

    But when it comes environmental destruction it’s so much easier and more satisfying to shame and admonish women for our life choices than it is to accept how powerless we are over the corporate interests that gut any halfway decent legislation limiting their power to ravage the natural world, isn’t it?

  17. Matt
    Matt April 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm |

    Its pretty interesting that the most likely strategy to reduce overpopulation is women’s rights. Generally the birthrate drops significantly in secondary and tertiary economies compared to primary ones. There are many reasons but quite a few revolve around the education and equality of women specifically and people in general. It seems to me that if these people REALLY cared about reducing overpopulation they would start supporting equal rights for all and the problem would likely solve itself. Also they would work harder for education reform.

  18. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie April 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

    —a choice about how many diapers you want to change in the short term versus how many Mother’s Day cards you hope to receive later on.

    Yes, yes – because that’s exactly how most people decide whether or not to be parents.

    And again: Mother’s Day. There are no fathers involved in the decision?

  19. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie April 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm |

    And even more if there were no world at all. Global destruction is the answer to all our problems.

    Ha-ha! Sad but true. The only thing truly “wrong” with the earth is that we are inhabiting it.

  20. Cartoon Coyote
    Cartoon Coyote April 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

    I can’t help but wonder if Overall and Benatar are allied with The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

    Many of their arguments and stances are carbon copies of what you’ll find there.

  21. Cartoon Coyote
    Cartoon Coyote April 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

    Not a huge deal, but the link to vhemt.org was supposed to appear on its own, not using my second sentence as a link. Apologies.

  22. igglanova
    igglanova April 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

    I don’t see why this is an attack on women’s choices any more than it is on men’s. Women aren’t the only people who want and choose to have children. Nobody is trying to advocate some sort of one-child policy or other forced population control, either. The article just asks us to consider the ethics of creating more humans. Is that a bridge too far?

    I notice a curious lack of actual counterpoints to the arguments posed. Lots of people talking about what they hate about it, but few people bothering to explain why the article is wrong.

  23. EG
    EG April 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

    The article just asks us to consider the ethics of creating more humans. Is that a bridge too far?

    It is for me, for all the reasons cited above.

    And the idea that it’s equally about men’s choices is disingenuous. When people are taken to task about whether or not to have children, those people almost always happen to be women.

  24. librarygoose
    librarygoose April 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    All of my problems with this article were already stated by tmc at comment 2. It all about the privilege to get all meta and ethical.

  25. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    Yup. Surprisingly, no one other than his parents ever criticize Mr. Kristen’s decision not to have children or tells him about how out child would”struggle” because of our selfish decision to be together. Nope, I’m the selfish bitch he’s just the dude who unfortunately hitched his wagon to my uterus.

  26. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

    @15,

    The usual arguments are often so dehumanizing, reducing people to just numbers, talking about them as we would over fish in a pond, with an ugly vibe of of “all those poor stupid people need to stop breeding and stinking up the planet”

    Mm, exactly. This is a particularly disingenuous argument if the person question isn’t talking about overpopulation as an intrinsically harmful act. Most often, what they’re ostensibly opposing is pollution (which primarily occurs in highly industrialised low-population societies), lack of food availability (a direct consequence in many cases of colonial resource exploitation) etc. All these resources aren’t actually being consumed in Africa and India to the extent they are in North America, a sad fact which reveals the underlying much of racism in the argument in the first place. I could have four kids with my partner in India and not consume as much as a single-parent single-child household in Canada. As such, fuck overpopulation in Asia, let’s talk austerity in North America first.

  27. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    …and since it randomly posted before I was done, I should add that if the basis for anyone’s argument is that increasing the human population is intrinsically wrong, I have no quarrel wtih them. Hell, I’m one of that camp myself. No urge to have kids except for the stepdaughter I already have, and if I do find my biological clock exploding in my 30s I’ll foster.

  28. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines April 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm |

    What tmc said in comment 2. Again and again. You cannot start such a conversation without discussing this.

    What most people here have said about it being another form of question what women do with their own bodies. Pro Choice is more then just the right to not have children.

    I could sit and pick it apart further but why should I engage with such a bollocks argument? It’s just Women and Their Selfish Irrational Wants Are The Doom of Us All.

  29. Bunny
    Bunny April 23, 2012 at 7:41 pm |

    Arguments like this always fuck it up horribly. I mean, I personally think the world would be better off if we could find a way to achieve a stable population, assuming we could rethink the economy to model it on something other than constant growth. I also think the world would be better off if chicken-sized dragons were real and tameable and if chocolate grew on trees.

    The fact is that there is no ethically sound way to control population levels. Any attempt unavoidably runs into serious issues of privilege, and risks separating people into “good” and “bad” breeding stock, as well as removes any aspect of choice from the matter, both for those who do and don’t want children.

    Increase access to safe, reliable contraception and healthcare, decent childcare, education for all and work to remove the social stigmas against adoption and for genetic descendants, and let people make their own choices without the sting of judgement and social stigma in either direction. Hell, the article itself answered it’s own question without knowing it. The predicted population of 8 billion for the planet came a century later than predicted. During a century-and-a-bit that has seen massive gains in reproductive rights, contraception, education for women, independence for women.

  30. saurus
    saurus April 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm |

    Wow, that article was messed up. Like, ableism (the implication that you shouldn’t have kids if your kids may have a “disease” that able-bodied people define as “terrible suffering”) and classism (“[Children] require lots of care just at the time their parents tend to be busiest establishing themselves in their careers”) and virtually ZERO race analysis despite the ridiculous extent to which discussions of overpopulation are racialized?

    This passes as an “excellent read”? For who?

  31. karak
    karak April 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm |

    The only people I see angsting about whether or not to have kids are the people who will probably be fine to amazing parents. The people who just have kids with utter confidence of their awesomeness (and this goes for people all over the economic spectrum) are usually the people that should probably never interact with children.

  32. gratuitous_violet
    gratuitous_violet April 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |

    Lump me in with the cynics, but that article just made me want to beat my head against the wall to the tune of the song I made up for reading magazine columns and newspapers: “Classist Tripe Blues.”

  33. damigiana
    damigiana April 24, 2012 at 2:46 am |

    @Kirsten #10:
    The decision to repeatedly question the ethics of women who choose to have, raise or refrain from having or raising children is also an (un)ethical decision.
    Amen to that.

    I proudly declare that my decision to have child #1 was based on the purely selfish reason of wanting to know “how it’s like”, coupled with the knowledge that “I can afford this” (yes, I’m VERY privileged); child #2 came from finding out I did like pregnancy and nursing, and found childbirth not too bad. So many people make all kinds of selfish decisions, and I don’t feel guilty about mine.

    As for child #3, twins happen.

  34. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines April 24, 2012 at 3:20 am |

    Bunny – I liked 99% of your comment, but the part about “removing the stigma around adoption and for genetic descendents” bothered me.

    Many women get pressured into having their babies adopted (there’s also international adoption which is a huge can of worms), the whole “bonding over biology” still means some adoptees being denied access to who their birth parents are, and finally you have the whole “women who want fertility treatment are selfish and should adopt instead”

    I’m not anti-adoption, but it happens at a huge cost.

  35. Bunny
    Bunny April 24, 2012 at 5:30 am |

    Safiya, you’re right and I’m sorry for the way I worded it. For what it’s worth, I tried to figure out the best way to say what I was trying to and failed utterly. What I meant was that the societal pressure to have your own child rather than adopt is a problem.

    A friend of mine with fertility issues went through years of ultimately futile fertility treatments, even delaying needed surgery for related health issues, because her husband wanted children and wouldn’t even consider adoption. Not even as far as finding out what steps were involved. Passing on “his seed” was the most important thing to him. So much so that when she finally refused to put herself through it any more, he promptly and intentionally got another woman pregnant behind her back so he could still have a son.

  36. Bunny
    Bunny April 24, 2012 at 5:36 am |

    Ack! Pressed post while still typing.

    I also wanted to add that my intent was to emphasise losing the stigma of one issue without heaping on judgement and stigma on another. So that a woman who wants to keep her own child can do so, regardless of her circumstances, and not be judged, or pressured against it, and a woman who may not ever want to have her own genetic children can pursue either a child-free life or see if fostering or adoption is a possibility, again without pressure, or judgement.

    But intent isn’t magic.

  37. WitchWolf
    WitchWolf April 24, 2012 at 9:27 am |

    What’s wrong with the title? Case against kids? I think it’s perfect.

    We have a society that is so rampant pro-have-a-child-at-all-costs that it’s a sin to be child-free in this country. It’s a sin to talk about not having children. I am sick of the people who cry, but BABY, and then do nothing, absolutely nothing for the children who are born into poverty, lack health insurance, have no opportunities for education, and are abused by supposed caretaker.

    I am sick and tired of the fake regard for children.

  38. Athenia
    Athenia April 24, 2012 at 9:36 am |

    I think this article grossly misrepresented the societal forces of child bearing. While personal choices do effect everyone, everyone affects your personal choices. What is the perfect family size (for what kind of people)? How our societies are structured determines that.

  39. Athenia
    Athenia April 24, 2012 at 9:41 am |

    The article just asks us to consider the ethics of creating more humans. Is that a bridge too far?

    The ethics of “creating more humans” is inherently the “ethics of treating child bearing humans.” So, why are they not posingTHAT question? It is an interesting one.

  40. EG
    EG April 24, 2012 at 9:47 am |

    We have a society that is so rampant pro-have-a-child-at-all-costs that it’s a sin to be child-free in this country.

    No. We have a society that pays a huge amount of lip-service to the idea of having a child, and a society that places a huge amount of social pressure on women to have children. That same society provides no material help at all to women with children; it turns around and tells women that having a child is a “personal” choice and therefore they have to suck it up and stay at home; I rarely see anybody who isn’t me even bother to stop and help women with strollers up and down subway stairs. It is hardly a sin not to have children in this country; it is precisely what you’re supposed to do if you want to get ahead in this “fuck you, Jack, I’ve got mine” society of ours.

    Women have been allowed to choose for a long time: be a good woman, have a family (sex and children) and nothing else, or be a career woman, deal with the snide remarks and social pressure, and give up sex and/or children, but be materially free. What would be revolutionary would be a society in which women could both be counted as full human beings with material support and privileges and have sex and/or children.

    As for “The case against kids”? Fine. Then I want to make a case against old people. They bother me.

  41. EG
    EG April 24, 2012 at 9:54 am |

    And by material support, I mean places for nursing mothers to feed their children, nationalized daycare, well-funded schools, greater recognition of children’s right to be free from violence, paid family leave, health care, all those things that would actually make children’s lives–as well as the lives of the people who bear them–better. I want very much to have children, and not one iota of the pressure heaped on women who don’t want to has helped make it possible for me.

  42. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 10:03 am |

    It all about the privilege to get all meta and ethical.

    So because getting meta and ethical is a privilege, we shouldn’t getting meta and ethical at all?

    Seriously, I get that there are huge problems with the way this conversation is often framed, and I get the article was problematic in some ways as well, but using those facts to conclude we simply shouldn’t have any discussion about the ethics of childbearing ever, at all, is really reductive and silly.

    The fact is that childbearing is an act with huge implications. It is an ethical choice (as Kristen J said, almost every choice is). The fact that some people are bad at discussing that choice doesn’t mean it should never be discussed. Similarly, the fact that some people use the fact that it is an ethical choice to argue for things like coercive intrusions into women’s abilities to chose whether to bear children is also not a reason not to discuss or consider the choices, at all- it’s just a reason to rebut those people when they pop up.

    People have used feminist theory to argue for some really shitty things. People have used anti-colonial theory to support genocide. Conversations about social justice often have really problematic racist/sexist/what-ever-ist undertones (consider the debate over headscarves among Muslim women). Almost any complex issue that people care about will, eventually, have people on both sides saying stupid things.

    These are not reasons to shut the entire conversation down.

  43. EG
    EG April 24, 2012 at 10:12 am |

    When I see any conversation about this topic that isn’t redolent of privilege, racism, and misogyny, I’ll be happy to engage it. However, it is, in my opinion, a pointless conversation to have unless and until contraception, abortion, and support for mothers and children are widely available and easily accessible. Once we have the infrastructure in place to see what happens when women are able to make the choices we want to make, it will be worth discussing the ethical implications of those choices. Until then, it’s pointless.

  44. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 10:13 am |

    It’s all the same damn rhetoric and it means this: women should use their bodies and their lives according to what’s best for others, instead of what we want. And fuck that.

    Yeah, by this logic we should never discuss the ethics of anything. Don’t tell people that you support fair-trade; why should I buy things according to what’s best for others, instead of what I want? Don’t you dare write an article on the benefits of driving a car which gets better than 9 mpg; fuck doing what’s best for other people instead of driving the Hummer I want. Discussing the ethics of a choice != forcing people to make a specific choice.

    I think choosing to eat meat/be a vegetarian is an ethical choice. I think it’s worth discussing, and even writing articles about in newspapers. That doesn’t mean I want to outlaw vegetarianism or meat-eating, shame vegetarians/meat-eaters, or do anything of the kind.

  45. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage April 24, 2012 at 10:16 am |

    So, I choked my way through the article and its massive amounts of philosophical myopia, poor logic, and questionable research claims, all creaking under a nearly impenetrable layer of socioeconomic privilege. Those criticisms of the article have merit.

    All that said, from my seat here in the peanut gallery, I think we do have an overpopulation problem tied to agricultural reliance upon fossil hydrocarbons for fertilizer and fuel, along with badly-strained fresh water sources, exacerbated by overcomplicated and unfair distribution of land and harvested food, which causes numerous forms of environmental damage that will make our species’ resource use even harder to sustain. Every time I start to type something further, I realize I’m about to start typing a dissertation, and I really should try to get some work done today, but we need to develop an ethic regarding reproductive control that takes into account the various intersections noted above, and we need to do it right fast before someone else uses a potential resource bottleneck as an excuse to completely subjugate women, or wipe out anyone with a body or mind judged – by them – to be expendable, or impose an authoritarian system of control and distribution that is conveniently relaxed for members higher in the social hierarchy, or some other dystopia I’m sure I could conceive of and explain the logic behind if I had the time. From my seat here, there is a disaster looming, of one form or another, unless we admit what is likely going to happen without intervention and make conscious choices to do otherwise. I can easily argue that global reproductive rights is an environmental issue, and that the Rick Santorums of the world are going to make life hell for our descendants, one way or another; perhaps I should fill that gap.

    The Voluntary Human Extinction folks are guilty of reductio ad absurdum. The guy in that article who argues that faster population growth increases the possibility of a technological adaptation being developed in a shorter period of time isn’t completely wrong (it’s a simple probability matter; more individuals increases the odds of new methods being developed by any given individual out of the set at a time) but he is displaying an unethical willingness to risk an unrecoverable social collapse, given what we know of our available nonrenewable resources, on the odds of massive technological and socioeconomic improvements to our recycling and waste control capabilities prior to exhausting those nonrenewables. I’m not sure why a more gradual, sustainable rate of population change isn’t preferable in this case…

    Enough. Blow holes in this post. I’ll be back later.

  46. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 10:19 am |

    However, it is, in my opinion, a pointless conversation to have unless and until contraception, abortion, and support for mothers and children are widely available and easily accessible.

    Not really, because the effects and ethics of childbearing are a pretty good reason to make contraception, abortion and support for mothers (and fathers) more widely available. If overpopulation is a concern, then the first move- the only move that seems to work, let alone respecting people’s rights- is to improve women’s social status, ability to support themselves, access to contraception/abortion, and childcare.

    Perhaps you don’t need another reason to do those things- I don’t either- but lots of people seem to, and I’ll use the persuasive tools available to me.

  47. librarygoose
    librarygoose April 24, 2012 at 10:37 am |

    So because getting meta and ethical is a privilege, we shouldn’t getting meta and ethical at all?

    No, this article is a meta wank about how privileged people should have babies, that generalizes itself to be about how ALL people should have babies. It does not acknowledge the very real fact that controlling fertility and the ability to choose when you have a child is not a privilege even all the women in the U.S have, let alone globally.You want people to have some real discussion, frame it in a real way.

  48. EG
    EG April 24, 2012 at 10:39 am |

    Yeah, by this logic we should never discuss the ethics of anything. Don’t tell people that you support fair-trade; why should I buy things according to what’s best for others, instead of what I want? Don’t you dare write an article on the benefits of driving a car which gets better than 9 mpg; fuck doing what’s best for other people instead of driving the Hummer I want.

    Are you seriously comparing buying commodities and choosing types of cars to women’s bodies? Do you not see how obnoxious and offensive these analogies are? My body is not a car. My body is not a cup of coffee. My body is me, and what I choose to do with it or not is not open to the same sorts of debates as those having to do with consumer capitalism.

    I think choosing to eat meat/be a vegetarian is an ethical choice. I think it’s worth discussing, and even writing articles about in newspapers. That doesn’t mean I want to outlaw vegetarianism or meat-eating, shame vegetarians/meat-eaters, or do anything of the kind.

    That’s nice. However, the most cursory glance through the history of any sort of discussion of whether and which women should or should not be having children tells me that the intentions and consequences of those discussions are radically different.

  49. EG
    EG April 24, 2012 at 10:45 am |

    the effects and ethics of childbearing are a pretty good reason to make contraception, abortion and support for mothers (and fathers) more widely available. If overpopulation is a concern, then the first move- the only move that seems to work, let alone respecting people’s rights- is to improve women’s social status, ability to support themselves, access to contraception/abortion, and childcare.

    Perhaps you don’t need another reason to do those things- I don’t either- but lots of people seem to, and I’ll use the persuasive tools available to me.

    The kind of people who will find that argument convincing are precisely the kind of people who will see no problem using it to abridge, rather than expand, women’s rights and choices. Otherwise, they would be convinced by the other arguments. So you can go ahead and use it if you like, but I will continue to consider it too noxious to touch.

  50. samanthab
    samanthab April 24, 2012 at 11:36 am |

    So, ambling along, you are comparing a child to a slice of pastrami or a cute dress, and you are doing so in the name of ethics? Do you not see some flaws there?

  51. tmc
    tmc April 24, 2012 at 11:45 am |

    We have a society that is so rampant pro-have-a-child-at-all-costs that it’s a sin to be child-free in this country.

    Yeah, unless you’re poor. Or black. Or disabled. Or trans. Or gay. Or non-monogamous. Or single. Or living on a reservation. Or mentally ill. Or unmarried. Or kinky. Or non-Christian. Or a sex worker. Or…

  52. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

    So, ambling along, you are comparing a child to a slice of pastrami or a cute dress, and you are doing so in the name of ethics? Do you not see some flaws there?

    Are you seriously comparing buying commodities and choosing types of cars to women’s bodies? Do you not see how obnoxious and offensive these analogies are?

    Oh, please. It’s exactly that- an analogy. The principle being: no, the two things are not exactly alike, but that there is a particular similarity which is relevant to the discussion at hand. In this case, the similarity is that private decisions aren’t off-limits for public discussion. Attacking an analogy as offensive because the two things aren’t identical in every way is a strategy for avoiding addressing the actual, relevant question, which is whether the analogy has any truth to it. To wit: you argued that discussing the ethics of procreation was wrong because anyone claiming procreation is, in some circumstances, unethical was telling women to do things with their bodies based on what was good for society, instead of based on what they wanted. The vegetarian analogy applies perfectly here. There is nothing inherently wrong with discussing the moral implications of personal choices, and doing so does not represent coercion. Arguing that something is ethically wrong is not an infringement on anyone’s right to do it anyways.

    That’s nice. However, the most cursory glance through the history of any sort of discussion of whether and which women should or should not be having children tells me that the intentions and consequences of those discussions are radically different.

    You’re back to “some people have made bad arguments about this topic in the past, so any arguments there are to make are clearly bad ones.” You cannot possibly remove entire fields of choices from the realm of debate just because some people have said stupid things about them.

  53. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm |

    @45,
    To add to your points, which were really relevant…

    Agriculture in more developed countries is far more dependent on fossil fuels and hydrocarbons, to an almost ridiculous extent. Around 70% of the grain grown in North America right now is feeding livestock. Which can and have, for millennia, been feeding quite contentedly on grass, which requires infinitesimal amounts of fossil fuels to maintain in comparison. Which has been cleared from most of the prairies to grow grain which feeds livestock so that we can get cheap grain-fed meat instead of expensive grass-fed meat. What the flying fuck, you know? It seems ridiculous put that way. The amount of grain needed to feed, say, Canada, is less than 20% of what’s being grown today. What a waste.

    This kind of vicious cycle of waste is endemic to North American society (I can’t speak for Europe, I only have experience of South Asia and Canada) and reducing the population will do fuck-all to alter these issues. In fact, reduced population density directly causes a greater spatial distance in services, poor public transit, higher costs to bring education and healthcare to the same population. All of which add up to a far, far greater use of fossil fuels, which poorer countries like India have managed to avoid by having a fairly well-run public transit system among other things.

    As I pointed out earlier in the thread, linking overpopulation with excess exploitation of resources is disingenuous at best – at BEST – when employed by industrialised countries, which consume far more and for far smaller populations than most poor ones. Overpopulation is an easy scapegoat. Does it have its dangers? Gods, yes. It’s a horrible thing and frankly I think that anyone, at any level of wealth, needs to consider questions of population before reproducing. The fact remains, though, that half the population of India and China choosing voluntarily to commit suicide tomorrow would not make as much of a dent in global consumption of fossil fuels and hydrocarbons as, say, the same action from the eastern seaboard of the United States.

    The Voluntary Human Extinction peeps…I don’t care what they do, honestly, as long as they’re not actually trying to enforce their policies. People not reproducing, considering that’s never going to be a generally accepted idea, is at worst harmless. I’m more concerned about Quiverfull, the Catholic Church, assorted Hindu mutts and Muslim groups etc who advocate forced limitless reproduction. On a global scale, women are being forced TO reproduce far, far more than they’re being forced NOT to reproduce, and the right to limited/no reproduction is far more threatened than the right to reproduction without limit or reasoning, which frankly not that many people – certainly not that many parents! – would consider appealing in the first place.

  54. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

    The kind of people who will find that argument convincing are precisely the kind of people who will see no problem using it to abridge, rather than expand, women’s rights and choices. Otherwise, they would be convinced by the other arguments. So you can go ahead and use it if you like, but I will continue to consider it too noxious to touch.

    I find the argument that

    a) Overpopulation is a problem in some parts of the world;
    b) The best way to address that problem is to increase women’s control over reproduction, status in society, and ability to support themselves materially;
    c) Therefore, we should work to secure women’s rights in those areas

    pretty damn airtight. There are plenty of good, social-justice oriented feminist people who believe overpopulation is a real concern; all this argument is saying is that the resources and time devoted to finding a way to deal with overpopulation should optimally go to improving women’s lives. Find something noxious in that.

    PS. As much as I look forward to the inevitable outrage that “the only reason you think women’s rights are important is to control overpopulation!,” please remember that the word ‘therefore’ does not exclude other sets of premises leading to point ‘c’.

  55. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

    Like people upthread asking about the validity of comparing kids to slices of pastrami, I’m forced to point out that if among people who loooove pastrami, pretty much anyone who can afford it is likely going to eat pastrami once a week for the rest of their life. On the other hand, among people who loooove kids I’m not sure there’s that many who would use that as reasoning to have 15. I’m just sayin’. And buying pastrami once a week for the rest of one’s life is not nearly as much of an economic – much less an emotional – commitment as having even one kid. And I think, amblingalong, that women are smart enough to get that. Don’t you?

  56. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm |

    @54,

    Secure women’s rights and overpopulation will cease to be a problem by itself (there have been countless studies that prove that education and reproductive choice for women = immediate drop to only a replacement-level fertility, if that). I think it’s that you’re making women’s rights a necessary factor to overcome overpopulation, rather than stating that women’s rights will overcome overpopulation, that’s twigging the skeevedar for people upthread, because it implies that women’s rights are necessary to SOLVE problems, rather than that they’re necessary, AND they solve problems. Sort of like arguing for oxygen by saying that oxygen is necessary because it maintains fires to keep us warm, rather than by saying that we’re alive because we breathe it, AND it maintains fires to keep us warm.

  57. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

    Like people upthread asking about the validity of comparing kids to slices of pastrami, I’m forced to point out that if among people who loooove pastrami, pretty much anyone who can afford it is likely going to eat pastrami once a week for the rest of their life. On the other hand, among people who loooove kids I’m not sure there’s that many who would use that as reasoning to have 15. I’m just sayin’. And buying pastrami once a week for the rest of one’s life is not nearly as much of an economic – much less an emotional – commitment as having even one kid. And I think, amblingalong, that women are smart enough to get that. Don’t you?

    Congratulations! You have successfully identified a way in which two things between which I drew an analogy are not identical. Of course, this difference is totally unrelated to the thing which makes the analogy relevant but, hey, details.

    Sort of like arguing for oxygen by saying that oxygen is necessary because it maintains fires to keep us warm, rather than by saying that we’re alive because we breathe it, AND it maintains fires to keep us warm.

    While oxygen can be breathed and also used to keep fires going, people don’t have unlimited time and energy to devote to every cause they support. I support ensuring reproductive access for women in developing nations, and I have never worked a day in my life to make it happen, because I have a full time job working on other social justice issues I care about. I am arguing that the people who consider overpopulation a problem- which is a decent number of people- should put their efforts towards developing women’s rights. Nothing about that suggests women’s rights are otherwise unimportant.

    If anyone here honestly thinks that saying “if you want to make progress on issue X you should work on improving women’s rights” is tantamount to saying “women’s rights are important only because of issue X,” in the words of Toby Ziegler, “please, go to bed.

  58. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm |

    Sorry, that should be “Go to bed, would you please.”

    Nothing like getting your snarky West Wing quote wrong.

  59. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm |

    Finally, please note that I anticipated and rebutted your argument before you actually posted it:

    PS. As much as I look forward to the inevitable outrage that “the only reason you think women’s rights are important is to control overpopulation!,” please remember that the word ‘therefore’ does not exclude other sets of premises leading to point ‘c’.

  60. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2012 at 1:11 pm |

    If anyone here honestly thinks that saying “if you want to make progress on issue X you should work on improving women’s rights” is tantamount to saying “women’s rights are important only because of issue X,” in the words of Toby Ziegler, “please, go to bed.“

    Um, amblingalong, I was pointing out that your phrasing was what was leading people to THINK you were saying that, in the obvious absence of such an argument from you on a good-faith reading of your comments.

    Snark appreciated, though. It’s lovely when people demonstrate their reading skillz when calling people who are supporting their original arguments out on their reading skillz.

  61. EG
    EG April 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm |

    Attacking an analogy as offensive because the two things aren’t identical in every way is a strategy for avoiding addressing the actual, relevant question, which is whether the analogy has any truth to it.

    Bullshit. The analogy is offensive because women’s bodies are, in real life, still being treated as property. People are not commodities. There is no valid comparison to be made. Women’s bodies have nothing in common with cars or coffee or t-shirts. There is nothing instructive about this analogy because it effaces the very essence of what makes it offensive and disgusting to discuss women’s bodies in this way.

    You’re back to “some people have made bad arguments about this topic in the past, so any arguments there are to make are clearly bad ones.” You cannot possibly remove entire fields of choices from the realm of debate just because some people have said stupid things about them.

    No. I’m saying that all people who have seriously advanced these arguments have done so in order to promote racist, misogynist, authoritarian ideas. Not “some.” Not “said stupid things.” All. To promote and justify actual harmful policies that actually hurt actual people. The responsibility for distinguishing oneself from anyone wanting to invoke those policies is on the person making argument; zie could acknowledge, for instance, the extraordinarily horrific history these arguments encode and make explicit how zir version should not be used. But zie does not defer the benefit of the doubt. I play the odds.

    I find the argument that

    a) Overpopulation is a problem in some parts of the world;
    b) The best way to address that problem is to increase women’s control over reproduction, status in society, and ability to support themselves materially;
    c) Therefore, we should work to secure women’s rights in those areas

    pretty damn airtight. There are plenty of good, social-justice oriented feminist people who believe overpopulation is a real concern; all this argument is saying is that the resources and time devoted to finding a way to deal with overpopulation should optimally go to improving women’s lives. Find something noxious in that.

    These social justice feminists, is overpopulation the only reason they support women’s access to birth control, abortion, and material support in child-raising? No? Then the argument is unnecessary. You posited a group of people who don’t think that women’s autonomy and bodily integrity is a sufficient reason for promoting access to birth control, abortion, and material support in child-raising, but would be convinced by an overpopulation argument. So now we’ve got a bunch of people who don’t much value women’s autonomy and bodily integrity, but fear overpopulation. And you don’t see how that could go wrong?

  62. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

    Um, amblingalong, I was pointing out that your phrasing was what was leading people to THINK you were saying that, in the obvious absence of such an argument from you on a good-faith reading of your comments.

    I apologize- based on your comment 55, it sounded like you were in agreement with those people. Was that comment intended sarcastically?

    Snark appreciated, though.

    What can I say- any chance to drop a WW quote I can take.

  63. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm |

    @55,

    Well, the analogy was a bit weird, tbh, from an economic perspective, in terms of investment, and I figured that needed pointing out. OTOH the knee-jerk “you can’t criticise population because WOMEN” tendency I saw above, which you were pointing out was flawed, needs addressing desperately, and you really were kind of going it alone there as a result of your phrasing rather than your ideas.

    If we’re going to talk about procreation as a concept, rather than procreation-the-American-reality (which the article does a sublime job of ignoring, btw), then yes, to reproduce or not to reproduce is a conversation people absolutely need to have. Women more than men, because we’re the ones first being goose-stepped into the Breeding Line whether we want to be there or not (as WitchWolf pointed out), and then torn to shreds because we then fulfilled our Breeding Duties while being Inappropriate (as tmc pointed out). These are not separate conversations, but they’re necessary ones.

  64. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm |

    @54,

    all this argument is saying is that the resources and time devoted to finding a way to deal with overpopulation should optimally go to improving women’s lives.

    Which is pretty much what I argued in my comment at 53, which I was writing while you were posting that comment.

    Although the question of WHY “overpopulation” is being kept so carefully separate from “women’s rights” in current social narrative (especially when it’s not separate at all from an academic viewpoint) is a fascinating one. Could it have something to do with the fact that everyone’s all lined up to talk about how Those People are having Too Many Babbies, but nobody wants to talk about giving said people the rights they need desperately, from which the TMB problem will naturally disappear?

  65. WitchWolf
    WitchWolf April 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm |

    EG @ 40

    I think you are missing the point that I was making – That we as a society are wrapped in the notion that WOMEN role in this society is to pop out kids, without regard for the children once they are born. We lack education on how to raise children, how to nurture them into better humans, and we certainly don’t help provide for them. We slut shame women for having children, while we demonize women who don’t want to have children or can’t. We are a nation who is obsessed with having a biological child instead of raising the thousands of unwanted children that are in this world already.

    I don’t believe that a women has a right to a child once that child is born. Period… End of Story… A child isn’t a piece of property to be displayed like a trophy or a position, or to be used in a status game.

    All Children should be wanted by parents who are in the position to be able to care and nurture them. If this seems classiest — It is. When Children are the underclass, are more likely to live below the poverty line, are abused by selfish and inconsiderate caretakers.

    The Gods and Goddesses are not going to provide, Santa isn’t going to provide, the government has limited resources and cannot provide for everyone in this economic disaster.

    No I am not calling for population control.

    I am urging education, education, and education. I am talking about access to any and all birth control, family planning, emergency services to family who are in danger of harm, I am talking about a radical shift in how society sees children.

  66. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe April 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

    Either it’s our duty to God to have as many children as possible or it’s our duty to the planet to have as few, if not none. Either we’re selfish for putting our careers or fun ahead of other people’s desire for us to procreate, or we’re selfish for putting our desire for children ahead of other people’s desire not to be “burdened” by our children.

    Spot on.

    Is mandating that women have a certain number of children ethically equal to refusing to let them have more than a given number?

    @Matt,

    Err.., Yeah.

    It seems likely that in modern times we would not worry too much about not having enough births, so most of the discussion would center on limiting family size and/or number of births per person.

    This is the slippery slope.

    But when it comes environmental destruction it’s so much easier and more satisfying to shame and admonish women for our life choices than it is to accept how powerless we are over the corporate interests that gut any halfway decent legislation limiting their power to ravage the natural world, isn’t it?

    I’m going to get spanked for this, but what have companies sold us that we didn’t want? The minerals necessary to make laptops, smart-phones, and iPads only come from a couple of places on earth now being mined. Yet people identifying as “green” probably have more of these devices than the average person. And while each individual device uses only so much power, most home have many plugged in. It’s too easy to go out and buy another laptop, add a new addition to your house, buy a new car, take a trip to Europe or Asia (talk about green house gasses) and then turn around and blame the companies that sold us this stuff. I’m not ascribing this to anyone here, but I’m not a big believer in that corporate marketing strategy is brain washes us and causes us to buy products we don’t really need. I’m not sure what the answer is. I just read of a 38 year old woman who has been so successful at business that she’s building a 25,000+ sqft home for her family of 5. Did corporate greed cause her to build that energy sucking monstrosity? Even her rich neighbors are aghast.

  67. maggiemay
    maggiemay April 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

    @EG—amen, amen and amen

  68. librarygoose
    librarygoose April 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |

    When Children are the underclass, are more likely to live below the poverty line, are abused by selfish and inconsiderate caretakers.

    What are you trying to say in this sentence? I’m really just not getting it.

  69. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm |

    Overpopulation is a problem in some parts of the world.

    True. Overpopulation is a problem in a few parts of the world. Off the top of my head, I’d say overpopulation is mainly a problem in The Hamptons; Greenwich, Connecticut; Beverly Hills; and Chicago’s Gold Coast along Lakeshore Drive.

    Otherwise not really. Now I didn’t always feel this way. I used to be a fervent vegan, deep ecology environmentalist, and borderline anti-technology primitivst (I think birth control, the bicycle, and marijuana pipes were about the only technolgies I approved of). It was about three years ago, during this period, when I made up my own mind I’d never have children. Because overpopulation. I was never super judgmental about others who wanted kids. But it was a concern of mine, and I wrote a brief essay on the problem of overpopulation for an Environmental Sustainability class I was taking.

    I’m still not planning to have kids. Now it’s mainly just because I don’t want kids. My thoughts on overpopulation and the ethics of procreation have changed a lot though. I still think the large and growing number of people in the world, especially in rich countries, is a factor contributing to our impending global environmental collapse. But I now see this collapse as being more fundamentally caused by capitalism, neo-colonialism, authoritarian governments, patriarchy, and racism.

    And women/trans men/genderqueer folks should have COMPLETE control over their individual uteri–legally, ethically, practically, whatever. That’s really important and not something I fully appreciated earlier in my life. What a person does with her uterus is no one else’s business, whether she chooses to have 15 kids or get 15 abortions (or do both). I hope all women can make their reproductive decisions based off consideration of their own individual well-being first and foremost. And if a person feels like she shouldn’t have kids because of ethical considerations that are important to her; that’s wonderful, too! But no one should shame anyone else for her reproductive choices for any reason or for that matter debate/”educate” her on what she should do with her uterus. And people without uteri, in particular, should shut up about what reproductive choices they think people with uteri should make.

    In the spirit of that last sentence, I’ll shut up now.

  70. Donna L
    Donna L April 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm |

    I don’t believe that a women has a right to a child once that child is born. Period… End of Story

    To give you the benefit of the doubt, I’ll ask if you could please clarify what you mean, and what point you’re trying to make, by saying this, Because I don’t get it.

  71. EG
    EG April 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm |

    You’re not going to educate a woman out of wanting to keep and raise her baby. Poor people know they’re poor, and unless they see a plausible future in which they have more money, why would they wait to have children. You may be child-free, and that’s great for you. But take my word for it: for many of us, having children is non-negotiable. I would rather give up sex than give up having a child. I am highly educated. I’m also $40K in debt and 36 years old. I cannot wait until I am in a better financial position to have children, and I’m a working professional. Educate me all you want, but that reality won’t change.

  72. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 25, 2012 at 12:24 am |

    Also, seriously, where DOES this 15-children-having strawwoman coming from? ’cause I grew up in South India, as rural as rural could be, and I don’t see it. Sure, most of the kids I grew up with had three, maybe four aunts/uncles on each side, but almost all of them were part of one- or two-child households. Not many women who aren’t extremely economically privileged religiously indoctrinated dipfucks – and that, btw, is a fairly tiny number for how loud the community is – want to have nearly that many kids, and I do have to wonder how many of them feel coerced into it.

    This whole “oh the horror, the unbridled BREEEEEEEEDING” spectre just seems a bit too conveniently solely uterus-having-person-shaming to suit me.

  73. WitchWolf
    WitchWolf April 25, 2012 at 3:00 am |

    EG @ 71

    Good for you — Woo Hoo– Have a blast with that… I hope you make an excellent parent –

    My point is if a person wants to have kids than have them, for the right reasons, not because society tells you that you are a bad women if you don’t use your women bits. I see many people have children so they can “have” them – to own them — only to toss them away when they aren’t cute anymore. I see too many children begging for love while people cry and whine about not having a biological child because they want Jr to have their eyes – Is it about having and loving a child or is it simply to satisify yourself. Children are not property……

  74. Norma
    Norma April 25, 2012 at 6:04 am |

    When Children are the underclass, are more likely to live below the poverty line, are abused by selfish and inconsiderate caretakers.

    Are you arguing that poor people abuse their children?

    My point is if a person wants to have kids than have them, for the right reasons, not because society tells you that you are a bad women if you don’t use your women bits. … I see too many children begging for love while people cry and whine about not having a biological child because they want Jr to have their eyes – Is it about having and loving a child or is it simply to satisify yourself.

    Oh, please. And people who don’t have fertility problems automatically want children for your “right” reasons?

  75. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines April 25, 2012 at 7:01 am |

    I thought it wouldn’t be too long before we got to the Having Fertility Treatment = Being a Selfish Bitch.

    Look, wanting to have a baby, is like wanting to have a baby. I do not know where people get this idea that it’s somehow fighting the patriarchy to pretend that the desire to become a parent is some sort of girly consumerist frippery.

    The Bingo card worthy, control trolling nonsense about women/ wanting having children for the wrong reasons is exactly the same sort of guff as claiming women who have a abortion only care about wearing bikinis.

    This trope does not benefit mothers/ women who are the primary carers of children, not even slightly and it dismays me to see it trotted out in a feminist space.

  76. Odin
    Odin April 25, 2012 at 8:02 am |

    @ macavitykitsune
    – In feminist circles, I think some of the people-having-15-children stories come from people reading about (a) the Quiverfull movement or (b) part of the world where infant mortality is high, women have little control over their own fertility. I’ve read plenty of articles about families in each situation and have seen families with double-digit (usually 10 or 11) numbers of children cited. (The writers and journalists could certainly be picking the most extreme examples to give the most weight to the point they want to make, about both of these things being Bad). So from there it’s not hard to misremember or exaggerate a little to 15.

    Also, the Duggars have 19 children and Nadya Suleman (discussed extensively in mainstream media as “Octomom”) has 14, I think. Add to that that both of these cases are seen as acceptable targets for various reasons (Ms. Suleman was on public assistance when the octuplets were born, and may be guilty of Reproducing While Not White, and the Duggars have a TV show on cable), and you get your “oh the horrors unbridled breeding” examples that mainstream society can point to and say “see! It’s real! Welfare moms and crazy people and overpopulation!”

  77. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated April 25, 2012 at 8:47 am |

    Increasing women’s rights definitely drops birthrates: google “percent of childless women under 45″ and results of choice and contraception are obvious. Joel Kotkin’s article on childlessness and Democratic Party affiliation will make you smile. Spoiler: I’m the great-granddaughter of a country midwife and current employee of a Philippine ex-midwife and family planning counselor. Firsthand testimony of one and stories passed down from the other are that women of their experience are solidly in favor of limiting family size, and that men may not be. These women believe that they have an overpopulation issue in their own families, on their own bodies and health. This makes childlessness an ethical issue, since demographics indicate that an increasing number of women make a personal choice to be childless.
    Obviously the GOP and Fundamentalists want to force-breed their own constituencies. I can sympathize with the disabled who feel that their right to have children is stigmatized or infringed upon. My personal choice was not to take the chance of having a child with full-blown Sturges-Webber with associated social and physical problems.

  78. bleh
    bleh April 25, 2012 at 9:12 am |

    The initial article may be bunk. Talking about overpopulation, however, is important. It is an ethical matter both in environmental terms and human rights terms. Women in many cultures are encouraged (ahem forced) to reproduce with no checks on that process, which is wrong for the women and wrong for the planet.

    Women in this (US) culture are also encouraged to reproduce, albeit within certain strict ideological guidelines (white, straight, middle-class, etc). This strategy is also wrong.

    Arguing that any discussion of overpopulation and the ethics of reproduction is untenable because women’s bodies are treated as property is exactly backwards and that position itself reeks of privilege. In this context (US and other western countries) many women and men (but certainly not all) have the choice to create children, as many as they are willing to create. Especially women who have economic privilege get that choice. The children created in this context will use far more resources than the ones created in Africa or other developing contexts. It seems that all the chatter about women’s lack of choice in more oppressive cultures (not to say US culture is not at all oppressive) merely redirects the conversation about women (and men) who *do* have choices and choose to ignore the larger ethical dimensions of their choice to reproduce.

  79. EG
    EG April 25, 2012 at 9:27 am |

    Everything Safiya said. Who are you to decide what reasons for having children are acceptable? Who are you to make a sharp division between “loving a child” and “satisfying oneself,” as if those two things are mutually exclusive?

    It seems that all the chatter about women’s lack of choice in more oppressive cultures

    Chatter my ass. We’re talking about women’s lack of choice here.

    women (and men) who *do* have choices and choose to ignore the larger ethical dimensions of their choice to reproduce.

    Tell me how your conviction that not having children for the sake of the planet should trump my desires is any different from some zealot telling me that his conviction that having children for God should trump my desires.

  80. EG
    EG April 25, 2012 at 9:31 am |

    And of course, the dismissal of a woman’s desire for a biological child, as if adoption is easy and without any moral concerns, as if the only reason for wanting a biological child is physical resemblance, as if nothing else is inherited, and of course, as physical resemblance is meaningless. Not one of these “as if”s is accurate, but if we assume they are, we can be mean to more women, so why not.

    WhiteWitch, you still haven’t addressed precisely what kind of education you’re talking about.

  81. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |

    Are you arguing that poor people abuse their children?

    I don’t think that was what zhe was saying, but incidentally, familial income and the likelihood of being abused as a child as inversely correlated. Every major study on the issue has found that there are major links between income and abuse rates; families making under $15,000 a year are around twenty times more likely to abuse their children than families making over $40,000 a year.

    For sources, I would suggest checking out the National Incidence of Child Abuse and Neglect Studies, which are run annually by HHS; there are also literally dozens of university studies with the same findings, and the NSPCC has released research with the same result. I can dredge up a couple dozen links if you want them.

    For all the people out there who love getting outraged when their ideology is challenged by the facts: this does not mean all wealthy families are not abusive. It does not mean poor families are all abusive. It does not mean poor people are morally inferior. It does not mean poor people shouldn’t have children.

    It does mean that your odds of being physically or sexually abused by your parents are higher- potentially much higher- if your parents are particularly poor.

  82. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 25, 2012 at 10:15 am |

    @81,

    That’s been my experience as well, while my family was crawling up the class scale to where we are today. There’s a number of issues that can contribute to poorer kids being more likely to be abused; off the top of my head, I can think of:
    No support network for addictions for the parents.
    No support network for psychological issues which might be easily controlled with medication, if said parents could afford to have it, which might cause uncontrollable anger/apathy. (Alternatively, as was my experience, people in my family are too proud of their BOOTSTRAPS attitude to seek psych help for their blazingly obvious issues.)
    Nowhere for the kids to go after they “tell” except into foster care, since wealthier people are more likely to have family that can afford to take kids in.
    Far less choice in where they live, how they live, where they work etc, meaning the parents don’t have nearly as much ability to move away from known predators/abusers of their children.
    More financial dependence between the parents; if one parent is abusive the other may stay simply because s/he cannot afford to leave with the kids.

    Seriously, just off the top of my head.

    Obviously, none of these factors have any real impact on the ethics of whether any particular woman ought to have children or not, and obviously the solution is not to declare large sections of society unbreedable, so to speak, but better healthcare, education, child support system etc. My point here is simply that the brokenness of the system (just like the brokenness of the “overpopulation” narrative) goes far, far beyond what we can perceive when looking only at the core statement “poor kids are more likely to be abused”.

  83. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 25, 2012 at 10:24 am |

    @76,

    I’m aware of the Quiverfull movement, and its equally squicktastic rural Indian Hindu equivalents, and I think I mentioned them in a comment way upthread. However, those cases really are a raging minority, and it always puzzles/annoys me that the general body of women, most of whom are not in fact religiously brainwashed to robotically reproduce beyond thought or sanity or even health, are where the conversation drifts. Particularly when the Quiverfull movement is a thinly disguised wildly racist/xenophobic one where people pretty much say outright that the goal is to outbreed those brown people Muslims unbelievers. (Witness how it got a hold in the US and Australia, both of which, ahem, have some small issues, rather than say the UK and Canada, which are in general much less likely to give credence to their batshit racist people.)

  84. samanthab
    samanthab April 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    Amblingalong, your self-congratulation on your putatively superior argumentation skills is getting a little tiresome. I could pick apart the flaws in your argumentation, but that would tend to bore me. What’s really wrong with your argumentation is that you’re valuing it over the lives at stake in these issues.

  85. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |

    Obviously, none of these factors have any real impact on the ethics of whether any particular woman ought to have children or not, and obviously the solution is not to declare large sections of society unbreedable, so to speak, but better healthcare, education, child support system etc. My point here is simply that the brokenness of the system (just like the brokenness of the “overpopulation” narrative) goes far, far beyond what we can perceive when looking only at the core statement “poor kids are more likely to be abused”.

    No argument from me. Adding to your list, its also worth noting there is a pretty large body of evidence correlating lower income to higher levels of stress, which are in turn correlated to higher levels of domestic violence and child abuse.

    For a long time, the common wisdom was that child abuse and domestic violence only happened in poor families; that was obviously untrue, and a lot of important work was done to educate the public that both issues cut across class lines. At some point, though, that got turned into a new, equally false dogma- that there wasn’t any connection at all. The truth, as ever, lies somewhere in between.

  86. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 11:01 am |

    Amblingalong, your self-congratulation on your putatively superior argumentation skills is getting a little tiresome. I could pick apart the flaws in your argumentation, but that would tend to bore me.

    This seems like an awfully elaborate way of saying that you think I’m wrong but can’t articulate why. “If I wanted to I could totally disprove your argument, but I’m too busy…” Did that seem less transparent when you typed it out?

    What’s really wrong with your argumentation is that you’re valuing it over the lives at stake in these issues.

    You’re taking your premise- my arguments are wrong and hurt people- as your conclusion. The only way what you just wrote works is if you’ve already demonstrated that my arguments don’t improve peoples lives. Come on- this is logic 101.

    Let me guess- I posted an argument against some deeply held belief of yours (you very adroitly managed not to mention what that is, I presume because you are better at ad hominem than actually defending your ideas) so you decided that there was no way I might actually be sincere. You then wrote such a nebulous comment that there’s no way I can get any idea what specific thing it is that you think I’m wrong about, in the hopes that I wouldn’t even be able to respond.

    Well done.

  87. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |

    It does mean that your odds of being physically or sexually abused by your parents are higher- potentially much higher- if your parents are particularly poor.

    It does mean that your odds of SOMEONE REPORTING THAT YOU ARE being physically or sexually abused by your parents are higher- potentially much higher- if your parents are particularly poor.

    Fixed it for ya.

  88. Donna L
    Donna L April 25, 2012 at 11:53 am |

    Witch Wolf (not White Witch, EG, although the first part wouldn’t surprise me), you never did answer my question, but your subsequent comments have certainly confirmed my interpretation that what you meant was that women should have children only if they can afford them, because otherwise the underclass will just perpetuate itself, and women who can’t afford their children should have them taken away for the good of society, because, after all, children aren’t the property of their parents. Just of the State, I guess. Which can put such children in benevolent State-run orphanages until they’re placed with deserving couples who can’t, or have the good sense not to want to, propagate their own genes. Sort of like the little girl adopted by Nikolai Yezhov once upon a time, as portrayed in Vasily Grossman’s memorable story.

    people cry and whine about not having a biological child because they want Jr to have their eyes

    Oh please. This is garbage; you’re clearly someone who has no earthly notion what motivates people, but have managed to convince yourself that your own imaginings are actually true. I’ve been a parent for quite some time now, and have known many other parents and prospective parents. Physical resemblance never even crossed my mind as a *reason* to have a child, and I never heard anyone else bring it up either. Even though it can certainly be a fascinating thing to notice after the fact; my son doesn’t really look like me at all, but our feet are completely identical!

    I had a child because I think children are wonderful, and because if I knew anything at all about myself, I knew that I would love and be in love with my child, above all else. And because I’m only one generation removed from a massive genocide that directly and tragically affected not just my people but my own family. I was my mother’s answer to Hitler, as she put it to me once, and I feel the same way about my son. And those reasons were good enough for me to want a biologically-related child; if they’re not good enough for anyone else, then TFB.

    I wish sometimes that I had had more children, but I was not in a happy marriage, and bringing another child into it would not have been good for anyone. I even wish sometimes that before I began my medical transition in 2000 I had banked something for the future, just in case, but I was already in my early 40′s and it didn’t cross my mind; in those days it wasn’t something that it was standard practice for doctors to bring up to people as a possible option. And by the time my then-partner and I briefly discussed having a child a few years later, it was already too late, and we decided we were too old anyway. (And I certainly can’t imagine anyone else ever having been interested in using it; it wasn’t exactly high quality — I was way too short, not to mention the slim possibility that any child of mine would turn out to be straight! — and I could never have made a living selling it!)

    All of which is a roundabout way of saying f**k you to Witch Wolf, who has no idea what she’s talking about.

  89. Norma
    Norma April 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

    Amblingalong, Kristin J has a good point. The NIS gets its data from CPS and from NIS “sentinels,” professionals who are alert to child abuse. I suspect CPS is less active in wealthy, “safe” communities. I also suspect that professionals are more reluctant to suspect and report privileged parents. Privileged perpetrators of child abuse (like those who commit gender-based violence) have a lot more cover.

  90. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

    It does mean that your odds of SOMEONE REPORTING THAT YOU ARE being physically or sexually abused by your parents are higher- potentially much higher- if your parents are particularly poor.

    Fixed it for ya.

    Which specific studies are you discussing? Because obviously you are not the first person to think of this potential methodological flaw, or control for it. When it comes to the NIS, for example, the surveys purposefully don’t use all the data CPS receives; they take a sample of the relevant reports adjusted for demographics like single-parent households, race, geographic locations, and yes, income.

    Methodological problems are rarely insurmountable. Even if they were, the fact that so many studies, from so many sources (and countries), with their own methodologies (some of which control for the problems you raised better than others), find the same result, points to a pretty singular conclusion.

  91. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

    Nope it points to the same methodological flaw. But hey, this shit is only my life’s work and experience…why should that get in the way of statistics?

  92. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm |

    @KristinJ,

    Fair point, though I would add that the odds of something being done about reports of child abuse also increase with the economic status of the family. I’ve seen people shrug off reports of child abuse in poorer families with “eh, what can you do?” too often.

  93. Angel H.
    Angel H. April 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |

    Seconding what Kristen J. said.

    Signed,

    A Dept. of Children’s Services employee

  94. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

    I think that is a region specific response and is often bound up in the concept of disposable children versus disposable people. But at the point at which you can afford an attorney, or if you hold some other position of authority the likelihood that anyone will even believe you when you report is somewhere around zero.

    Fair point, though I would add that the odds of something being doneabout reports of child abuse also increase with the economic status of the family. I’ve seen people shrug off reports of child abuse in poorer families with “eh, what can you do?” too often.

  95. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

    Nope it points to the same methodological flaw. But hey, this shit is only my life’s work and experience…why should that get in the way of statistics?

    Except that, as I said right before that, there are ways to control for that problem.

    I don’t doubt this is a topic you know a lot about, but I will always trust actual data over any given person’s anecdotal evidence. That doesn’t mean blindly accepting anything which purports to be scientific- studies can be run badly, scientists overlook things all the time- but it does mean I’m going to give priority to data sources I can interrogate.

  96. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm |

    Nope it points to the same methodological flaw

    This is a pretty classic example of arguing from a conclusion. If you have already made your mind up that there is no correlation between poverty and child abuse, then there must be a methodological flaw with any study which says there is (never mind that I just explained how many of them control for the problem you brought up, and never mind that half the studies aren’t even based on the reporters you have a problem with). You haven’t read all the studies to which I referred- I know this because you didn’t ask me which ones I was talking about, so you couldn’t possibly know what I’m reading- but you’ve made your mind up about what they say.

    I prefer the evidence -> analysis -> conclusion method than the inverse.

  97. Norma
    Norma April 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    When it comes to the NIS, for example, the surveys purposefully don’t use all the data CPS receives; they take a sample of the relevant reports adjusted for demographics like single-parent households, race, geographic locations, and yes, income.

    No, they don’t adjust for these variables. Read the methodology section.

  98. Norma
    Norma April 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm |

    When it comes to the NIS, for example, the surveys purposefully don’t use all the data CPS receives; they take a sample of the relevant reports adjusted for demographics like single-parent households, race, geographic locations, and yes, income

    No, they don’t adjust for these variables. Read the methodology section.

  99. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

    @94,

    Definitely, and since my experience has been largely of extremely (often horrifically literally) incestuous rural communities and at the other end of the spectrum, highly privileged society (in my capacity as fundraiser), I may have a skewed sample of experience.

    Personally I’ve found that the incidence of reporting is something (from lower->lower-middle->middle->upper-middle->high class) like low, high, high, low, low. Tragic, and fucking annoying that economic privilege is another way in which child abuse is masked.

    Hmm, I wonder if that was what WitchWolf was on about further upthread in saying that children are an underclass? I know that some children of my extended family are being very cleverly covertly abused by being denied food/accidentally “poisoned” (this is a branch of the family I haven’t seen in years, the situation might have changed), but nobody would think to check in with the family as they appear to be extremely well-off. In that sense, one can argue that a child from a poor family is most definitely poor, but a child from a rich family cannot necessarily be assumed not to be neglected and de facto poor in terms of how many of their necessities they are allowed to fulfill.

  100. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    Ha…just because I don’t have time to give you a lecture in science studies or statistics (both of which I taught in grad school) doesn’t mean I haven’t done the analysis. Anyone who trusts studies over reason and experience hasn’t spent enough time designing studies, seeking grants, or thinking about bias. I don’t have the time or energy to rehash the same ideas over and over for every person too caught in their classist narratives to actually think about what they are saying.

  101. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm |

    Anyone who trusts studies over reason and experience hasn’t spent enough time designing studies, seeking grants, or thinking about bias.

    You mean your reason and experience. I have no interest in substituting the views of a random, anonymous internet stranger for actual data.

    I don’t have the time or energy to rehash the same ideas over and over for every person too caught in their classist narratives to actually think about what they are saying.

    Right. Developing my beliefs based on scientific studies is the exact same thing as elitism (I grew up as blue collar as it gets, if you care) and disagreeing with you implies I haven’t thought about my position.

    If you really have a PhD, shouldn’t you be able to do better than “You disagree, therefore you’re stupid?”

  102. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    Oh please, pull that shit with someone else. Stating that poor people are more likely to abuse their children is classist. Saying it out loud in social justice circles is what makes me think you have not given it much thought. You can try to wrap it in science if you like, but that still doesn’t make it true. Any more than all those studies about girls and math prove scientifically that girls aren’t as good asst math. Also probably not wise to throw down about being blue collar with someone who spent a chunk of her childhood homeless.

  103. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm |

    too caught in their classist narratives

    And by the way: truth is truth, regardless of how it conforms to your ideology. You don’t get to take a mulligan on reality when it doesn’t work out the way you want. If a study presents faulty conclusions then you can discuss the biases which potentially led to the inaccurate result- not declare the entire thing off-limits because the conclusion upsets you. Reality does not have a moral value, and scientific theories should not be tested by their ideological consequences. The facts that understanding nuclear physics lead to the creation of atomic weapons doesn’t suggest that physics is false, as much as the po-mo folks wish it did.

    And please, in the name of all that’s merciful, spare me the science studies- I have heard as much as I can take about how french surrealist literature proves microbiology is founded on faulty premises. Po-mo is an excuse for grad students to get PhDs without actually having to create anything; it is a virus which infects otherwise productive fields and leads students who could have accomplished real-world change to instead spend their academic careers navel gazing and publishing meaningless papers which nobody reads.

  104. Angel H.
    Angel H. April 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm |

    I have no interest in substituting the views of a random, anonymous internet stranger for actual data.

    Provided by anonymous survey-takers.

    Developing my beliefs based on scientific studies is the exact same thing as elitism (I grew up as blue collar as it gets, if you care) and disagreeing with you implies I haven’t thought about my position.

    Developing beliefs based on scientific studies without giving any thought to the real people behind the statistics is elitist. And I can’t speak for Kristen J., but no, I don’t care.

  105. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm |

    Stating that poor people are more likely to abuse their children is classist.

    Yeah, just like saying that in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to commit a felony is racist, right?

    Facts do not have moral character. Fuck that. Reality is reality is reality. We can talk about the sociological reasons for those facts, and we can recognize that the reasons behind them are more complex than ‘poor people are violent’ or ‘blacks are lawless,’ and we can acknowledge that these facts can be used to support racist/classist arguments, but we can not use ideology to overrule facts.

    Maybe you’re right about the studies- maybe the methodological flaws are so overpowering the entire conclusion is wrong. Even if that were true, citing the results of a scientific survey is not classist.

    That’s the most profoundly anti-intellectual thing I think I’ve hear seen posted here.

  106. igglanova
    igglanova April 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm |

    Good grief, have we really reached the point where people are arguing that data is inferior to anecdotes, because of bias? Are you the same kinds of people who will jump on a study (rightly) for having a too-small sample size? How do you think a sample size of ONE measures up, then?

    Also, if you think the disparity in abuse rates between rich and poor kids is due entirely to the notion that abuse in poor families is more likely to be reported (which is plausible, but I’m not sure that is even true), you had better be able to back that up with more than a hunch if you want to dismiss the trend entirely. Do we completely dismiss the gendered trend in DV because, oh, the male victims are less likely to report? Or are those studies A-OK by us because they happen to agree with our ideology?

  107. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    Also probably not wise to throw down about being blue collar with someone who spent a chunk of her childhood homeless.

    Oh, sorry, didn’t realize it was a competition. Go ahead, then, keep telling me the only reason I believe what I believe is my elitist silver-spoon ways.

  108. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 25, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

    Yeah, just like saying that in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to commit a felony is racist

    Yes, that is really fucking racist. At this point I’m done. I can’t imagine anyone invested in anti oppression work would ever make a statement like that. Those statistics have a contact and a bias which is well documented and I have no desire to spend another 600 comment thread explaining to you how privilege intersects with perception and the collective creation of truth. Go check the archives been there, done that, found it pointless.

  109. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

    Yeah, just like saying that in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to commit a felony is racist

    Uh, amblingalong, wtf? Feministe dealt with that whole train of thought as it chugged down the failroad not a week ago.

  110. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    Yes, that is really fucking racist.

    …I’m speechless. Actually speechless.

    If you seriously think the way to fight oppression is to categorically deny facts which make that fight more nuanced- instead of grappling with the reasons they’re true, like a legacy of oppression, lack of access to education, and economic inequality- from a POC, go to hell.

    The idea that we should evaluate truth-claims based on their ethical implications is the most dangerously anti-intellectual crap imaginable. It is the thinking which leads to pseudoscience and quack medicine and creationism and Deepak Chopra.

    I think most of the po-mo professors I’ve met half-expect nuclear reactors to suddenly stop working, in light of all the people who died at Hiroshima.

  111. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

    Uh, amblingalong, wtf? Feministe dealt with that whole train of thought as it chugged down the failroad not a week ago.

    It’s not a line of thinking, it’s a truth-claim. It’s potential values are not ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘racist’ or ‘not-racist,’ they are ‘true’ or ‘false.’ A disproportionate number of crimes in this country are committed by black people. Neither the fact that this is due to racism against black people, not the fact this statistic has been used to support racist arguments, affect the truth-value of that statement.

  112. Angel H.
    Angel H. April 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm |

    Yeah, just like saying that in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to commit a felony is racist, right?

    Not only is it racist, it’s wrong:

    …just like saying that in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to be convicted of a felony…

    Fixed it for you.

    Reality is reality is reality.

    Exactly! And I am talking about *real* people whose lives aren’t so simplistic as to be dumbed down by a set of numbers.

    That’s the most profoundly anti-intellectual thing I think I’ve hear seen posted here.

    Sorry. Out of fucks to give. I’m not an academic, never claimed to be. I do, however, work for an underfunded program for kids who have been in the system for most, if not all, of their lives. And I think it’s ridiculous for someone who has no experience with the actual people behind the numbers to claim any expertise.

  113. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm |

    Incidentally, denying that statistic is incredibly problematic in terms of anti-oppression work, because most crimes are intraracial. The victims of crime are disproportionately black, too. Denying that is a great way to shut down any attempts at progress.

    I’m going to work. Have a good night, all.

  114. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 25, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

    Amblingalong: There are an infinite number of facts floating out there in the ether; there are an infinite number of ways to frame these facts as well. The reason it’s racist to say “blacks are more likely than whites to commit a felony” is because of how you are framing the phenomenom. You are accepting a frame that legitimizes a racist legal system. I would look at the same types of evidence and say “the police are more likely to harass black people than white people. They are more likely to kidnap black people than white people and then throw them in a cage. They are more likely to assault black people, to murder black people. Racist juries are more likely to convict black people of crimes. Racist judges are more likely to condemn black people to enslavement in prisons. Etc.”

  115. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl April 25, 2012 at 7:32 pm |

    Yeah, just like saying that in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to commit a felony is racist, right?

    Blacks are more likely to be convicted of felonies than whites, and they are certainly more likely to be arrested and charged of felony crimes than white folks. However, there is also heaps of data out there that reveals the reality that cops are way more inclined to give a flyer to white people (especially men) and never arrest or charge them with a crime in the first place.

    If you can’t see how that is going to skew the conviction rates for blacks in the first place than it’s pretty pointless to continue the debate. Furthermore, there are recent and quite compelling studies that indicate black men are far more likely to be convicted of and receive heavier sentences than their white counterparts. Refusing the acknowledge the nuance and institutionalized racism behind all of this does not make it any less real or any less insidious.

  116. Donna L
    Donna L April 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm |

    grad students to get PhDs without actually having to create anything; it is a virus which infects otherwise productive fields and leads students who could have accomplished real-world change to instead spend their academic careers navel gazing and publishing meaningless papers which nobody reads.

    I think this is the most profoundly anti-intellectual thing I’ve seen here.

  117. tmc
    tmc April 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm |

    Jesus fuck. This shit again?

  118. Caperton
    Caperton April 25, 2012 at 8:21 pm | *

    truth is truth

    Hardly.

  119. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm |

    I think this is the most profoundly anti-intellectual thing I’ve seen here.

    I know, right? It appears that amblingalong is recycling crap that Allan Bloom wrote back in the 1980s. What’s next: a serenade to the virtues of classical Greek philosophy and bemoaning that all the kids these days listen to rock music?

    The only thing that confuses me is why amblingalong thinks any of these anti-intellectual rants against supposed anti-intellectualism advances progressive causes. But whatever.

  120. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm |

    Not only is it racist, it’s wrong:

    …just like saying that in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to be convicted of a felony…

    Fixed it for you.

    Absolutely. I am a 40 year old white man and I have committed felonies on countless occasions (mostly centering around the purchase and posssesion of controlled substances,) yet I have never been arrested. Why? Because I get to commit my felonies in the comfort of a nice apartment.

    Please don’t think I’m bragging about this, I’m merely using my privilege as an example of the sickening inequality in this country.

  121. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm |

    Po-mo is an excuse for grad students to get PhDs without actually having to create anything; it is a virus which infects otherwise productive fields and leads students who could have accomplished real-world change to instead spend their academic careers navel gazing and publishing meaningless papers which nobody reads.

    You have a problem with jumping to conclusions. It pervades this little rant which you directed to me even though I’m not an academic, didn’t study (or teach) post modern anything, don’t have a phd AND spend my life in the trenches. Perhaps you might examine where you went wrong here to see where you missed the logical disconnect on poverty and abuse statistics or race and criminality.

  122. Norma
    Norma April 26, 2012 at 5:02 am |

    And by the way: truth is truth, regardless of how it conforms to your ideology.

    Your ideology is showing too. You won’t address criticisms about the methodology of the statistics you rely on. You assert that statisticians “must” have figured out how to avoid the problem of over-reporting in poor communities and under-reporting in wealthy communities, when statisticians here are telling you otherwise.

    Your flippant comment about blacks committing more felonies reveals the same naivete about statistical narratives. Black Americans, and poor Americans, are more likely to be accused of and charged with felonies. The crimes poor Americans commit–certain types of drug crimes, for example– are *much* more likely to be prosecuted than the crimes that wealthy white Americans commit, and they carry more serious penalties. This is true for many reasons. First, poor and black communities are over-policed. Second, as a policy matter, the US spends more money fighting crimes that the poor are more likely to commit. Third, there are no out-of-the-system options for these types of crimes like there are for wealthier Americans. As just one example, if a non-student in a college town rapes a college student, that rape is much more likely to be reported to the police than student-on-student rape. In the latter case, the university often deals with the complaint internally, and that rape is never reported to the federal government.

    And then there’s the justice system. Black Americans are more likely to be unrepresented when they’re questioned by police. They’re more likely to have public defenders who make mistakes that screw up trials and chances for appeal. They’re less likely to be explained all their options during plea bargaining. They’re more likely to be found guilty in trials than white Americans tried for the same crimes. They’re more likely to be imprisoned, and for longer, than whites tried for the same crimes. And on and on.

    All of these are facts. “Blacks commit more felonies than whites” is not a fact.

  123. bleh
    bleh April 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm |

    “Tell me how your conviction that not having children for the sake of the planet should trump my desires is any different from some zealot telling me that his conviction that having children for God should trump my desires.”

    Not saying my conviction should trump your desire. I’m saying that people should understand the ethical dimensions, which are about real people and real resources. The difference from a sky fairy argument, is both data and choice. Sky fairy arguments are about taking away choices based on fiction, while my point was about contextualizing choices. I never suggested that my convictions be the basis of anything, just that people should think about their desires in a larger context.

    I’m also concerned when everyone’s individual “desires” trump social justice or planetary health, but that is a personal concern, not my attempt to enforce my own desires that people care about more than their desires.

  124. EG
    EG April 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

    Except then your concern isn’t overpopulation–as has already been noted several times, birth rates in developed nations where women have access to birth control and can be reasonably well-assured that their children will live to see adulthood are very, very low. Then your concern is pollution and the destruction of the natural environment–and that is a systemic problem that cannot be solved by individual women making good personal choices. That is a problem that has nothing to do with women making bad choices; it has to do with corporate control of natural resources with no oversight or consequences. This is again part of the fantasy that if we all just individually do the right thing, our systemic problems will be solved. But they won’t. The problem can’t be solved by individual actions because the problem isn’t about individuals.

  125. EG
    EG April 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

    As for desires, yes, women have been told since time immemorial that anything else in the world can and should trump our desires. You’ll excuse me if I don’t have patience for yet another iteration of that argument.

  126. Sandy
    Sandy April 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

    I was not impressed by the article.

    Ensure all women everywhere have full rights and access to controlling their own fertility (and as EG said, ensure their children have reasonably strong chances of surviving to adulthood, very fucking important also in this conversation) and then we’ll talk overpopulation.

    I’m leery of “overpopulation” hand-wringing because I am close to someone who’s a hardcore environmentalist and who believes the world is massively overpopulated. But not so much by people in developed economies. By black and brown people in undeveloped countries having too many babies… nevermind the huge size of the average USian’s ecological footprint and the tiny ecological footprint size of the people ze’s concerned about. Once in the early ’90′s this person said to me the worst thing that could happen for the environment would be “if the Chinese all get refrigerators.” A lot of it was racist, or at best, framed in a racist way. And just awful for multiple reasons. People in China don’t need or deserve the convenience of refrigerators, but we do?

    I don’t think there’s this sort of racism threading through all the overpopulation worriers; it’s just what I’ve personally been exposed to, so I’m wary of it. And between that and the fact that “overpopulation” gets used to lobb the “ethical considerations” bit at any woman anywhere who wants whatever number of children you personally don’t think she ought to have, I give it some major dubious side-eye.

    I was going to say a few things earlier but around comment 73 when we were reminded that infertile women are selfish whiners who ought to be gratefully raising the unwanted children of the world (because adoption is 100% unproblematic, doncha know), I got too annoyed and had to walk away for a while.

    I don’t believe that a women has a right to a child once that child is born.

    Unless the government establishes that you are an unfit parent, you sure as fuck do have the right to raise your children. Unless we’re going all The Giver and Margaret Atwood here. What on earth did you mean by that?

    It’s been said, but I think it bears repeating: you are not going to successfully ‘educate’ people out of wanting the number of kids they want, any more than you’re going to ‘educate’ the happily childfree into having a couple of bebes For The Greater Good should the replacement rate fall too low. All you can do is guilt trip them. It’s none of your business. Nor should it fall under the dominion of the state. To reproduce or not should be a personal choice, period, not about what The Greater Good might be. And if it’s climate change and the environment you’re concerned about, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Don’t get all “ethical considerations” about other people wanting to exercise one of their basic human rights. Go after the systemic problems, fight the corporations damaging the environment wholesale, pressure individuals to take steps to shrink the size of their environmental footprints, whatever the size of their families,and work for reproductive justice, and it’s strongly likely the “overpopulation problem” will take care of itself.

    I can’t believe the racism in this thread, either, considering Feministe just covered the “black people commit more crimes!” crap, what, six weeks ago?

  127. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm |

    @125

    No shit. This whole “women need to be controlled because OVERPOPULATION” is just another straw person constructed to chastise reproduction in some places, and force it in others (see: Quiverfull women being told it is their duty to outbreed the heathens).

  128. Henry
    Henry April 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm |

    yeah umm last time, the same folks who argued for controlling population size were carting my relatives off to death camps for the greater good of world society. So forgive me for not taking them at their word on the whole overpopulation thing and choosing to let my family line die out by not wanting kids.

  129. shfree
    shfree April 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm |

    Again, people seem to forget that reproductive rights is a movement of individuals, and women choose or not choose to have children, the number of children they do for very different reasons. And each choice is none of anyone’s business. And this whole thing with “overpopulation” falls under the reproductive rights movement of individuals, full stop. If women in wealthy countries with tremendous amounts of resources at hand are allowed to make their own reproductive decisions, then women in poorer countries, without the same resources, should be allowed the same damn rights. Clearly, we aren’t there yet, in most of the world, fancy schmancy countries or not. So, until ALL women ARE free to actually decide how many children, when they have children, or even IF they have children, getting all in our grill about overpopulation is fucked up, and flat out not fair.

  130. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm |

    I don’t believe that a women has a right to a child once that child is born.

    Unless the government establishes that you are an unfit parent, you sure as fuck do have the right to raise your children. Unless we’re going all The Giver and Margaret Atwood here. What on earth did you mean by that?

    I do believe that children have rights which sometime conflict with parents right to raise their children the way they want to. But I don’t think that’s what WitchWolf meant.

  131. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 27, 2012 at 6:48 am |

    Unless the government establishes that you are an unfit parent, you sure as fuck do have the right to raise your children

    This has nothing to do with the procreation angle, but I want to second Fat Steve’s point and point out quickly that the government has a bias against WOC, and people cannot know if parents are unfit if they terrify their children into not telling anyone. I think it’s more accurate to say a child has a right to be raised in a safe home.

  132. Sandy
    Sandy April 27, 2012 at 7:46 am |

    I do believe that children have rights which sometime conflict with parents right to raise their children the way they want to. But I don’t think that’s what WitchWolf meant.

    So do I (spanking and RIC pop to mind), and I don’t either.

    This has nothing to do with the procreation angle, but I want to second Fat Steve’s point and point out quickly that the government has a bias against WOC, and people cannot know if parents are unfit if they terrify their children into not telling anyone. I think it’s more accurate to say a child has a right to be raised in a safe home.

    I absolutely agree. When I wrote that part of my comment, I was thinking of that article about how Native American children in South Dakota are being removed from their families on a huge scale. I think it was on NPR? It focused on a woman on a reservation whose twin babies were taken from her for alleged drug use when there was not a shred of evidence of any drug use. At all. It was a horrifying read and I can’t imagine living it.

    What Witch Wolf said is she believes a woman does not have a right to her child after it is born. Taken at face value, and assuming no abuse, I think that’s an incredibly fucked up thing to say.

  133. matlun
    matlun April 27, 2012 at 11:08 am |

    Again, people seem to forget that reproductive rights is a movement of individuals, and women choose or not choose to have children, the number of children they do for very different reasons. And each choice is none of anyone’s business.

    If you extrapolate this type of position: Does this mean that we can never discuss moral aspects of any free choice made by anyone?

    I think that there can be very valid reasons for society at large to be interested in demographic aspects such as overpopulation or sex or age imbalances.

    I do not think the real problem is in having these types of political goals – the problem lies in the actions taken to reach them. For example, China’s political goal to control over population is not necessarily immoral. The draconian policies and laws that have been instituted to meet this goal have been.

  134. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

    If you extrapolate this type of position: Does this mean that we can never discuss moral aspects of any free choice made by anyone?I think that there can be very valid reasons for society at large to be interested in demographic aspects such as overpopulation or sex or age imbalances.

    Why do you think we rarely, as a society, discuss the ethics of vasectomies or reducing over population by introducing sperm inhibitors into the water supply? Some questions are not neutral because the are aimed at a particular group of people who have historically paid the price for “social” progress. There is a context here, and we can’t simply wish away that context.

  135. Sandy
    Sandy April 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm |

    Does this mean that we can never discuss moral aspects of any free choice made by anyone?

    Pfft, no, you can’t extrapolate like that. Not in the least. Let’s say I:

    1. birth 5 kids.
    2. drive a Hummer.

    Both of these choices are freely and purposefully made by me, but only one of these choices is a fundamental human right–the right to do with my uterus as I see fit. Criticize my lousy choice of vehicle all you want. But discussing “the moral aspects” of uterus-having persons’ choice to do one thing or another with said uteri seems generally to lack nuance and lead to offensive badness. See above re: pressure on the childfree to have baaaabies because they are ladies with ladyparts and amg, their lives will be wasted if they don’t!! And classist, racist conservative fearmongering about the “wrong sort” of people having too many babies. And handwringing about the selfish immoral breeders not being ethical in the face of overpopulation when the real issue is ecological footprint and concern about damage to the environment. Obviously you’re going to get different commentary depending on who you’re talking to, but all of the above is utter crap.

    I say generally, though, because I agree it’s true societies and governments sometimes have a vested interest in populations and demographic issues – the replacement rate dropping like a stone, great disparities in age groups or what have you. How to handle specific situations in different countries and circumstances is a whole other can of worms. Aside from coercive, abusive, human rights-violating policies being enacted, my complaint is primarily about how this issue ends up being framed when it’s brought up for discussion. I now refer you back to tmc @ comment 2:

    It’s genuinely difficult for me to take any conversation regarding the “ethics” of childbearing seriously when that conversation completely ignores the various intersections of oppressions (race, class, disability, sexism, etc), how those intersections relate to popular attitudes towards reproduction, and how those attitudes affect the lives of those who don’t fit the paradigm of being “proper and ethical” parents (or non-parents).

  136. Azalea
    Azalea April 27, 2012 at 10:43 pm |

    Stating that poor people are more likely to abuse their children is classist. Saying it out loud in social justice circles is what makes me think you have not given it much thought. You can try to wrap it in science if you like, but that still doesn’t make it true.

    Where was THIS when that thread on spanking (even a light tap on the hand) being synonmous with beating your children with bullwhips and bowling balls and that “lazy, uneducated, previously abused as children” parents were the most likely to abuse was around?

    Any more than all those studies about girls and math prove scientifically that girls aren’t as good asst math. Also probably not wise to throw down about being blue collar with someone who spent a chunk of her childhood homeless.

    This is where things get murky, for a long time women were not allowed to learn so there has been quite some catching up to do and we’re doing it. However, the longstanding idea that women aren’t good at math has tainted or deflated the desire for many mathematical/logical thinkers to take their talents elsewhere.Its a “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” argument and completely yucky.

  137. Cara
    Cara April 28, 2012 at 10:18 am |

    [Being poor] does mean that your odds of SOMEONE REPORTING THAT YOU ARE being physically or sexually abused by your parents are higher- potentially much higher- if your parents are particularly poor.

    Fixed it for ya.

    Exactly. Problems in not-poor families are serious, with deep psychological roots, and require understanding and attention, and it’s not abuse, the parents are just under stress. Poor families? That’s just what those people are like and they should have their kids taken away.

    /snark.

  138. Amblingalong
    Amblingalong April 28, 2012 at 10:27 am |

    Your argument that the criminal justice system’s documented bias against blacks is the only reason those statistics exist would only be relevant if we didn’t have the NCVS, which avoids every one of those issues.

    Furthermore, even if those statistics are false, the idea that a study- even a flawed study- can be ‘racist’ due to its findings is absurd. The way those findings are interpreted can be racist, and the methodology that leads to those findings can be tainted by racial bias, but truth-claims are true or false, not racist or not-racist.

    For goodness sake, if someone released a study arguing people of my racial group are inherently less intelligent than whites, I would look at the methodology and definitions, and criticize or not criticize the study based on those. I’m speaking as a POC living in the United States.

    The only thing that confuses me is why amblingalong thinks any of these anti-intellectual rants against supposed anti-intellectualism advances progressive causes.

    The idea that sitting in dimly lit rooms theorizing about the meaning of reality contributes to anti-oppression work is not only stupid but dangerous. Sociology majors who think they’re making a difference by writing thesis on what string theory tells us about race relations are lying to themselves. I have been working, hands on, with social justice issues for a very long time, and not once has my work been made easier as a result of them.

    The entire contribution of post-modernist academics to the actual fight towards social justice has been entirely negligible.

  139. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm |

    Amblingalong. . .it’s frustrating because you keep arguing against things that no one here is saying. No one here is saying that facts can be racist or non-racist or that facts can be classist or non-classist. We have been criticizing methodologies. We have been criticizing the way that findings of studies are being interpreted (by you). We are criticizing specific things you individually are saying right here and giving specific reasons for our criticisms. And you are responding by caricaturing our arguments as being some sort of postmodernist crusade against objective facts–themes that no one here cares about or has even brought up, except you, repeatedly, for no apparent reason except this is what comes to mind for you and you have an axe to grind.

    The idea that sitting in dimly lit rooms theorizing about the meaning of reality contributes to anti-oppression work is not only stupid but dangerous. Sociology majors who think they’re making a difference by writing thesis on what string theory tells us about race relations are lying to themselves. I have been working, hands on, with social justice issues for a very long time, and not once has my work been made easier as a result of them. The entire contribution of post-modernist academics to the actual fight towards social justice has been entirely negligible.

    I’m going to respond to this anyway though, even though it’s irrelevant to what we were intially saying to you. A lot about this bothers me. First, you are being vague and caricaturing again. As you are someone who apparently values precision, I’d appreciate it if you stop using the word “postmodern,” which has to be one of the most sloppily imprecise and meaningless weasel words in the entire English language. Be specific as to what you are talking about and don’t just recycle tired tropes.

    Second, the implicit dichotomy you are making between ivory tower “postmodern” academics and social justice activists is just incorrect. For example, queer theorist Judith Butler (often labelled postmodern) has been very active in the movement to boycott and divest aid from Israel, as well as in Occupy Wall Street (among other things). As is facilitating teach-ins. As in going to protests. As in writing topical, factual articles about current events. In other words, “hands on.”

    Jacques Derrida, the late French deconstructionist philosopher (also labelled postmodern) was active in the 1980s campaign against apartheid in South Africa, the campaign to free Mumia Abu Jabal, the opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, and Socialist Party politics in France. I could go on but hopefully you get my point.

    Now perhaps you will acknowledge that many “postmodern” academics do plenty of activist work while you’ll still maintain their theoretical contributions are nonproductive and meaningless. Whatever. There is good and bad in every discipline and in every school of thought. And people in departments like English and philosophy have plenty to contribute to our understanding of the world even though it falls outside the rigorous methodologies of science. Most famous “postmodernists” come from the humanities, not from the social sciences BTW. And plenty of them are not at all against science either, despite what you’ve been implying.

    OK, this is a total derail so I’m going to stop now. So yeah.

  140. matlun
    matlun April 29, 2012 at 2:15 am |

    No one here is saying that facts can be racist or non-racist or that facts can be classist or non-classist.

    Quite a few posters do come pretty close to this or even the post modern attitude of denying the existence of objective reality. Some examples:

    KristenJ@102: “Stating that poor people are more likely to abuse their children is classist.”

    AngelH@104: “Developing beliefs based on scientific studies without giving any thought to the real people behind the statistics is elitist.”

    LotusBecca@114: There are an infinite number of facts floating out there in the ether; there are an infinite number of ways to frame these facts as well.

    Caperton@118: Denies the tautology “truth is truth”

    I do disagree with Amblingalong that I do not think that the main problem on these threads has been a postmodern analysis. Instead I see an almost religious conviction of what the facts must be. Not based on actual studies but just on ideological wishes of what the facts should be. Many critiques of methodological problems above appear to be after thoughts designed to confirm a preconceived conclusion. Any attempt to convince by argument gets poisoned by heavy confirmation bias.

  141. DonnaL
    DonnaL April 29, 2012 at 10:43 am |

    Jacques Derrida, the late French deconstructionist philosopher (also labelled postmodern) was active in the 1980s campaign against apartheid in South Africa,

    Let’s not make any blanket assertions about the positive effects of deconstructionism. You can “deconstruct” almost anything, to any end. For example, a lot of people, including me, believe that deconstructionist rhetoric was used to excuse, dismiss, and argue away the wartime anti-Semitic and collaborationist writings of the noted deconstructionist scholar Paul de Man, discovered after his death.

  142. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 29, 2012 at 10:55 am |

    Quite a few posters do come pretty close to this or even the post modern attitude of denying the existence of objective reality. Some examples:

    LMAO. Your “objective reality” is based in a foundation rooted in classism and racism, and you really think OTHER people are denying the existence of “objective reality”?

    You’re hilarious.

  143. EG
    EG April 29, 2012 at 11:01 am |

    Noting that there are an uncountable number of ways to frame and interpret facts/truth is not the same thing as denying that facts exist. I see most of your examples, matlun, doing the former.

  144. matlun
    matlun April 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

    @EG: There are different ways to interpret what you see, but not all of them are true. What is the truth is often a difficult question to answer, but there is one answer that is actually correct.

    This whole discussion boils down to a question of epistemology: How do we acquire our beliefs about the world? How do we ascertain what the truth actually is? Do we look at the available evidence in a rational and objective manner or are we letting our wishes for what we want to be true color our perception of reality?

    When people are disputing that the crime levels are on average higher in black communities in the US, I honestly find it difficult to believe that this is not just a willful denial of reality.

    The original claim in this thread was that poor people are more likely to abuse their children. I have not looked into the evidence for this so I will not voice an opinion myself, but I am curious to know: On what basis do you dispute this? What studies or evidence do you have for this being false? Or is this just unfounded belief in what you want to be true?

  145. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm |

    A lot of people, including me, believe that deconstructionist rhetoric was used to excuse, dismiss, and argue away the wartime anti-Semitic and collaborationist writings of the noted deconstructionist scholar Paul de Man, discovered after his death.

    Thanks for bringing this up Donna. I’m actually not very familiar with Paul de Man, and I hadn’t been aware of Derrida’s fucked up attempt to explain away his anti-Semitic journalism. So I did some research, and you’re right. For some reason, it reminds me of an also reprehensible position “postmodernist” Michel Foucault took when he defended Ayatollah Khomeini and the theocracy in Iran. So yeah, deconstructionism definitely can be very problematic and shitty, just as other types of “postmodern” thought can be. Basically, I was just trying to say that amblingalong’s blanket condemnations of “postmodernism” were far too vague and obscure instances of worthwile activism and theory.

    Now, matlun, I feel that PrettyAmiable and EG basically already successfully countered the main thrust of what you were saying, but I will respond to a secondary point you made:

    Instead I see an almost religious conviction of what the facts must be. Not based on actual studies but just on ideological wishes of what the facts should be. Many critiques of methodological problems above appear to be after thoughts designed to confirm a preconceived conclusion. Any attempt to convince by argument gets poisoned by heavy confirmation bias.

    This website is not a scientific laboratory. It’s not the debate team. It’s not a philosophy club. I’m not attempting, at all, to speak for the wonderful people who run this site, but in the Feministe comment policy it says: “we value diversity of opinions and we welcome dissent, but our primary goal is to foster a dynamic, robust feminist community.” (emphasis mine).

    In other words: HELL YES we’ve already come to some conclusions. We are feminists, and the point of this website is to organize people who want to oppose sexism and misogyny. I’m not ashamed to admit, either, that I personally have political convictions “almost religious” in intensity, which lead me to despise and resist not only patriarchy, but also white supremacy, capitalism, heteronormativity and all other forms of kyriarchy–wherever they exist. I assume several of the other commenters here feel similarly. And yes, I filter new facts through my confirmation bias. I also believe (naturally) that the bulk of the evidence I’ve seen thus far is consistent with my political analysis. You apparently disagree. Whatevs!!

  146. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm |

    matlun your post @144 was in moderation when I wrote my post @145, but I want to briefly respond to it.

    There are different ways to interpret what you see, but not all of them are true. What is the truth is often a difficult question to answer, but there is one answer that is actually correct.

    I completely disagree with this. Interpretations may be more or less useful; they may be more or less realistic; but they are not true and they are not false. They’re just interpretations. They’re just thoughts in your head. They’re not what’s actually happening on the outside. And you’ll never be able to get outside of your own personal experience and be objective. You can merely remain open to new experiences and new evidence.

    This whole discussion boils down to a question of epistemology: How do we acquire our beliefs about the world? How do we ascertain what the truth actually is? Do we look at the available evidence in a rational and objective manner or are we letting our wishes for what we want to be true color our perception of reality?

    It’s not a question of epistemology. It’s a question of psychology. All humans’ brains process reality in similiar ways. And all of us let our wishes for what we want to be true color our perception of reality. If you think you’re not like this, then you’re just in denial and lacking in self-awareness, you’re not somehow magically escaping the limitations of the human condition and being objective.

    When people are disputing that the crime levels are on average higher in black communities in the US, I honestly find it difficult to believe that this is not just a willful denial of reality.

    Well, personally, I never disputed that crime levels were higher among blacks. I resented a person pointing this out without including the necessary political analysis. All crime is created by the government–first by creating laws legislatively, then by brutalizing the people who are determined to have broken those laws through the criminal injustice system. So the fact that crime levels are “higher” among blacks is evidence that the government is implementing a campaign to oppress, subjugate, kidnap, and enslave as much of the black population in America as possible. Laws are passed that can be used to oppress black people, and then those laws are unequally enforced against black people by racist police and racist courts. So yeah, in brief, crime is higher among black people, and this indicates how many white people are gigantic racist assholes.

    I don’t really know enough about the poor people/abuse argument to offer an opinion one way or another, which is why I’ve been silent on it thus far and won’t address your last paragraph.

  147. EG
    EG April 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

    There are different ways to interpret what you see, but not all of them are true. What is the truth is often a difficult question to answer, but there is one answer that is actually correct.

    One correct answer? That’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at the world.

    Regardless, I don’t see anybody disagreeing with the assertion that “not all of them are true.” What I see is people disagreeing with you about which ones are true.

    The person who makes the assertion is responsible for providing the evidence for it. Kristen J noted a number of problems with the methodology behind that evidence.

  148. matlun
    matlun April 30, 2012 at 1:08 am |

    In other words: HELL YES we’ve already come to some conclusions. We are feminists, and the point of this website is to organize people who want to oppose sexism and misogyny.

    Sure, but surely this does not mean we should not try to have a correct view of reality? I think there is more than enough sexism and misogyny to go around in the world (not to speak of other types of structural injustices and bigotries if we are taking the intersectional view). There is no need to fight windmills when there are so many real opponents out there.

    And all of us let our wishes for what we want to be true color our perception of reality. If you think you’re not like this, then you’re just in denial and lacking in self-awareness, you’re not somehow magically escaping the limitations of the human condition and being objective.

    Nobody is perfect, but I think being objective is a worthy ideal to strive for. As with anything else it is a matter of degree – we may not be able to be perfect, but it is possible to come close.

    I completely disagree with this. Interpretations may be more or less useful; they may be more or less realistic; but they are not true and they are not false.

    This then is where we disagree, since this seems to perfectly encapsulate the attitude I attacked above. Unless we mean something different with the word “interpretation” the above would seem to deny the existence of objective truth.

    Well, personally, I never disputed that crime levels were higher among blacks.

    Right. That was not really directed to you as much as being a follow up from the other train wreck of a thread where I was labeled a racist for that belief.

  149. matlun
    matlun April 30, 2012 at 1:09 am |

    And @EG: In real life we seldom have 100% proof but have to form our reality view given only limited information. What is the most rational way to do that is exactly the epistemology question.

    For me it seems fairly reasonable that poverty and child abuse could correlate. For example heavy addiction problems can cause both poverty and abuse. But as stated above – I am not well informed about the statistics on this issue.

  150. Norma
    Norma April 30, 2012 at 8:49 am |

    Your argument that the criminal justice system’s documented bias against blacks is the only reason those statistics exist would only be relevant if we didn’t have the NCVS, which avoids every one of those issues.

    Avoids every one of these issues? Come on now. The NCVS analyzes perceived race of offenders as reported by victims. It’s a great and useful study. I cite it all the time. But there’s nothing objective, scientific, or particularly reliable about victims’ reported perceptions of their perpetrators’ race.

    There are all sorts of little methodological quirks with NCVS (you can find good commentary on its strengths and weaknesses if you Google Scholar “NCVS 2010 redesign”). It doesn’t make the survey nonsense, obviously, but it means you have to be cautious when you assert that black people commit x% of aggravated assaults.

    amblingalong, you seem to think that anyone who questions the absolutely reliability of a survey is living in a number-free wonderland. I think that’s such an odd way to view the healthy questioning of crime statistics.

  151. Norma
    Norma April 30, 2012 at 8:50 am |

    This website is not a scientific laboratory. It’s not the debate team. It’s not a philosophy club. I’m not attempting, at all, to speak for the wonderful people who run this site, but in the Feministe comment policy it says: “we value diversity of opinions and we welcome dissent, but our primary goal is to foster a dynamic, robust feminist community.” (emphasis mine).

    In other words: HELL YES we’ve already come to some conclusions.

    This!

  152. tmc
    tmc April 30, 2012 at 10:10 am |

    Instead I see an almost religious conviction of what the facts must be. Not based on actual studies but just on ideological wishes of what the facts should be.

    Really? Is that why you spent an entire thread insisting that black children misbehave more frequently than whites even there are no studies that have shown that to be true? Because you have such a healthy appreciation for facts and objectivity?

    From the National Education Policy Center:

    Research on student behavior, race, and discipline has found no evidence that African American over-representation in school suspension is due to higher rates of misbehavior. A 2010 study by Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Katherine Bradshaw, based on 21 schools, found that even when controlling for teacher ratings of student misbehavior, Black students were more likely to be sent to the office for disciplinary reasons.

    You have zero problems believing racist assertions of black behavior even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Forgive me if I don’t think very highly of your preciously “objective” white male viewpoint when it comes to the behavior of women and black people.

    When people are disputing that the crime levels are on average higher in black communities in the US, I honestly find it difficult to believe that this is not just a willful denial of reality.

    Gosh, us silly black folks. I forgot to defer my lived reality to the whims and biases of white men. Shameful!

  153. tmc
    tmc April 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |

    For goodness sake, if someone released a study arguing people of my racial group are inherently less intelligent than whites, I would look at the methodology and definitions, and criticize or not criticize the study based on those. I’m speaking as a POC living in the United States.

    And I’m speaking as a black woman living in the United States. I’m used to hearing assholes insist that my people are stupid, sex-crazed, angry beasts. You can go ahead and think highly of yourself because you give those people credence time and again, but I don’t and won’t. I’m a human being, goddammit, and my humanity is never ever up for question.

  154. Angel H.
    Angel H. April 30, 2012 at 10:48 am |

    tmc, I’m so sorry.

    I forgot to tell you today how awesome you are. ^_^

  155. Jadey
    Jadey April 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |

    When I think about the ethics of procreation from my own perspective, it has nothing to do with over-population. It has to do with my concern that having children will motivate me to shift my priorities into preserving my white, wealthy, colonialist privilege to pass onto my children (and their children). It’s much easier to think about sacrificing my own comfort and security than doing the same to my direct dependants. I don’t think that personal concern of mine necessarily justifies a moratorium on procreation among the privileged, but it’s what I think about.

  156. Caperton
    Caperton April 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm | *

    The original claim in this thread was that poor people are more likely to abuse their children. I have not looked into the evidence for this so I will not voice an opinion myself, but I am curious to know: On what basis do you dispute this?

    I’m not going to say that it’s unequivocally not true, because I don’t have data that indicates it’s unequivocally not true. But before I’m going to accept that statement–poor people are more likely to abuse their children–I’m going to want to know how you got your data and how you interpreted it.

    1. What was your method of data collection?
    2. What were your sources?
    3. How are you defining “poor”?
    4. How are you defining “abusing their children”?
    5. Does your data follow parents who are actually abusing their children, or just parents who have been caught abusing their children?
    6. Does your data follow parents who are actually abusing their children, or just parents who have been accused of abusing their children?
    7. Does your data follow parents who are actually abusing their children, or just parents who have been arrested for abusing their children?
    8. Does your data include parents who have abused their children but haven’t, for whatever reason, entered the justice system?
    9. What degree of correlation have you found between socioeconomic status and incidents of abuse?
    10. Have you established a causative relationship between socioeconomic status and abuse, beyond a merely correlative one?

    If you’re going to make a sweeping claim like poor people are more likely to abuse their children–or black people are more likely to be criminals–you have to be able to defend it. You can’t just say, “You think I’m wrong? Prove it.”

    And that, by the way, is why “truth is truth” is bullshit. “Truth” is a nebulous concept that is highly susceptible to subjective judgment and is a popular Hail Mary for people who doesn’t have actual facts on their side.

  157. Mztress
    Mztress April 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm |

    I read the article, so now I have something to throw at people who nag me about when I’ll finally make use of my uterus (the ol’ biological clock is really ticking now that I’m a quarter of a century old).

  158. Mztress
    Mztress April 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm |

    Here’s a question for everyone in this uproar over potential children: why the hell aren’t we (as a society) doing a better job of caring for the children who already exist?

    Because as far as I can tell, we’ve fucked up royally on that front, being a society that generally tolerates bullying, lack of healthcare, abuse, & sexual abuse/exploitation for its offspring.

  159. sarahbee
    sarahbee April 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm |

    I guess I am an outlier because I have always thought about the ethics of procreation. I worry about the future of our biosphere, and it turns out that the single most important contribution a person like me can make to reducing waste and emissions is to make one less North American. So, while I am dearly in love with my only child, I will not be having any more.

    Also: As someone who almost decided to be childfree, I can attest to the immense pressure our society places on women to procreate (and the much smaller pressure to have “a brother or sister” after the first child). If anyone wants to use these arguments to bolster her own personal choices, I think that’s a good thing. In the meantime, I think any argument that asks us to examine our choices is a good one, even if we end up disagreeing with it, as it will lead us to understand ourselves better.

  160. EG
    EG April 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

    why the hell aren’t we (as a society) doing a better job of caring for the children who already exist?

    Because our society is run for the benefit of the wealthy and their corporations.

    Jadey,

    I think that knife can cut both ways–I’ve read and met people who felt their political convictions and commitments reinvigorated by having children, because they felt the need to model good values and an activist approach to problems for their kids.

  161. Jadey
    Jadey April 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm |

    @ EG

    Yes, I can see that being the case as well. It’s a complicated issue that I haven’t entirely wrapped my head around. I really love kids and used to always assume I would have them, but lately I’ve been questioning that, and partly because I think with my personality I’d be more tempted to become more conservative, sadly. (At the very least, I think it’s worth considering as part of this whole messy issue.) What I’m trying to do is find a more constructive way to contribute to a community and everyone in it. I love kids – biologically mine or not.

  162. OhTheHumanities
    OhTheHumanities May 11, 2012 at 11:15 pm |

    I am so glad I came to this thread. Epidemic strange coverage of motherhood and parenthood in the “progressive” media lately; the Kolbert article sent me over the edge and looking around the net for sane voices. Mostly I ended up at weird right wing sites but thank goodness for this one. EG, you are genius! You have brightened my day!

Comments are closed.