Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is Having Children Sexist?

Forgive the blog within a blog within a blog , but it is kind of funny how this blogger gets herself all worked up about the notion that the nuclear family is sexist.

We've all heard the eco-warriors talk about the extinction of mankind as a benefit to the planet. Who cares about humans, Gaia must reign supreme! The latest reason to stop with the babymakin', though, is because it is SEXIST!!!!!!!!!!

While of course we're used to the feminist argument that marriage is just legal slavery or rape, I have to admit this was a new one for me -- albeit, unsurprising, given how enthusiastic feminists are for meaningless sex and unfettered access to abortions.

Along with the emancipation of women, sexual liberation has become very much a part of politics around the world. To the conservatives, both these issues challenge 'family values'.
But what if there were no families? What if we say no to reproduction?

My understanding of reproduction is that it is the basis of the institutions of marriage and family, and those two provide the moorings to the structure of gender and sexual oppression. Family is the social institution that ensures unpaid reproductive and domestic labour, and is concerned with initiating a new generation into the gendered (as I analyzed here) and classed social set-up. Not only that, families prevent money the flow of money from the rich to the poor: wealth accumulates in a few hands to be squandered on and bequeathed to the next generation, and that makes families as economic units selfishly pursue their own interests and become especially prone to consumerism.

So it makes sense to say that if the world has to change, reproduction has to go. Of course there is an ecological responsibility to reduce the human population, or even end it , and a lot was said about that on the blogosphere recently (here, and here), but an ecological consciousness is not how I came to my decision to remain child-free.

... Thus as I realized how the cultural imperative on starting a family was unfair to women and the poor, I felt an instinctive aversion to it. That is the emotionally conditioned response that could override our responses to needs and instincts that make us want to reproduce. And if we rule out the biological 'instinct', which is strictly only to have sex and not to reproduce, my case for saying no to reproduction becomes much stronger.
Do we need to end all procreation? Intelligent minds can argue about that one.

But putting the extinction of the human race aside, the nuclear family does tend to reinforce gender roles. It can't help but do so - the father is in no position to take time off work to have the child, or deal with breast pumps. Biological mandates aside, hormonal compulsions and community norms mean that those that have children tend to shift even farther into the paradigm - although there are of course exceptions on either side. Of course, this blogger is way too into her sputtering state to think logically about any of this.

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Anonymous said...

Original blog posting (well, the "level two" posting) is here:

Nursedude said...

Has anybody heard of stay-at-home dads?

interesting posting, kind of supports the point that all the women's movement did for women was give them the right to do TWO jobs in which they could be underpaid and underappreciated.

Feh23 said...

ANY thinking that results in the idea "I won't have children" is fine logic in my book. I think this blogger might have just gotten into the patriarchy of family unit of Women's Studies, which would explain the frenzy. (In my experience, the more frenzied you can get in Women's studies, the happier it makes the professor.)

I know a couple of Stay At Home Dads, though they actually work opposite schedules from their wives so I don't know if that counts. They seem to be basically automatons who simply ensure the children are not dead, starving or wallowing in waste by the time the mother returns home, and do little else to "maintain" the household, i.e. laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. Watching those situations is just more fuel to me "I don't want kids" fire, because I really, really don't cotton to being in charge of all the housework, which seems to be how it sorts out even in "modern" families. In my experience, it's easier for chidfree families to maintain a more equal distribution of housework.

Anonymous said...

My reason for not having children is far less profound:

I just don't want them.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit too much of a radical Darwinist to get cranked up about "the extinction of humanity." Which nothing in the fossil record shows will happen anytime soon. (There were several serious human population bottlenecks in relatively recent--geologically--history, and someone humans burgeoned from a few thousand to a billion pretty quickly.)

So a few tens of millions of women having the sense not to get knocked up doesn't strike me as the worst problem the species can have.

On the other hand, we will be extinct at some point. For sure.

So what's the big deal? Evolution is about intelligence, not numbers. Who's to say that we aren't as Stephen Jay Gould notes, a tiny little twig way out all alone on one branch of the tree of life, notable mainly for our egos, in thinking we sit on its very top.

I agree with Feh23--the person who wrote sounded under the influence of some new perspective, or had just had an epiphanic moment. It's fun to watch people go thru that. They bounce so nicely.

Nobody has ever been able to argue me out of my sense that a) I can't stand kids, b) never wanted 'em, c) get them away from me now.

If someone had come to me and said "If you don't have a baby, humans will die out tomorrow," I'd probably say, "Amazon wildlife will be very happy with that news." I care more about the evolution of intelligence of those who are alive, than just pumping more protoplasm through wombs.

Then there's the fact that I just don't see humans as that much more special than other species. But then I always figured, if there is a god, it's probably an earthworm (humble, hermaphrodite, quiet, ubiquitous, and busily toiling to make all of life possible).