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Dec 06 2012

Feminism isn’t about being a more prolific baby maker — it’s about fulfilling your potential as a human being

Oh no! Ross Douthat is dismayed because we aren’t having enough babies!

The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

Have you ever noticed how conservatives always just look at population numbers and naively assume that bigger is better? Yet at the same time that they’re whining about needing more babies to keep ahead of the competition, they’re complaining about all those welfare queens pumping out babies (out of wedlock, no less!) while sucking at the public teat. You’d think that sometime they’d be able to bring those two misbegotten concepts together in their head and realize that maybe the problem isn’t how many babies your country has, but what you do with them. That maybe the Duggars aren’t the model for a progressive, rational, technological society that we’re looking for.

Maybe the best solution is to have fewer children but invest more in making their lives productive and happy — quality, rather than quantity.

I don’t call that decadence. People have fewer babies when they do all the things Douthat praises: they are thinking and planning for the future better, they are investing in a better life, and they are preferring a new world where women have other purposes than living as incubators and diaper-changing machines.

There’s also the economic argument, which I would have thought a Republican would love. Not having babies isn’t decadence, it’s sound and conservative fiscal planning.

I agree that this is a problem with decadence. But the decadent thing is having children, not remaining kid-free.

Last year, the Department of Agriculture estimated a middle-income couple spent $12,290 to $14,320 a year per child. More recently, the Times’ Nadia Taha published her calculations of how much it would cost her and her husband to have a child: A safer apartment. A better health-insurance plan. Lost wages. College. Total lifetime tab? $1.8 million.

How is it, again, that not having babies is the decadent choice?

But no. Instead, Douthat is playing the pious faux-feminist game.

Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow? Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals, and is female advancement really incompatible with the goal of a modestly above-replacement birthrate? Indeed, isn’t it just possible that a modern culture that celebrated the moral component of childrearing more fully would end up serving certain feminist ends, rather than undermining them — by making public policy more friendly to work-life balance, by putting more cultural pressure on men to be involved fathers rather than slackers and deadbeat dads, and so on?

Wait. So you’re a feminist. And according to Douthat, you’re living in something approaching the feminist utopia. So now, instead of living your ideals and maximizing the opportunities for your small set of beloved children, you should instead begin feeling your uterus quiver with desire to squirt out more babies? For some reason, I’m picturing the queen monster from Aliens with its gigantic egg-factory abdomen writhing in peristalsis as Douthat’s version of a feminist ideal. Yes, they shall spew out hordes of feminist minions who will take over the world!!!

By the way, as one of those liberals who does celebrate the moral component of childrearing, I would argue that an important component of that involves valuing individual children more, taking more time and care for each one, respecting their desires for autonomy more, and not rushing to just make more. There’s a responsibility involved in parenting, and it is not served by greater volume.

It also kind of makes me sick to see a religious conservative like Douthat trying to make an argument for something he desires, more babies, by claiming it will promote something his ilk generally oppose — liberal and progressive improvements in public policy. It’s just too dishonest.

94 comments

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  1. 1
    Emrysmyrddin

    It’s only the Western birthrate that’s in slow decline. There are plenty of Third World babies being popped out. Or might they not be the ‘right kind of baybee’ for this right-wing conservative…?

  2. 2
    michaeld

    Well actually if I’m not mistaken even most third world birth rates are in decline compared to say 50 years ago.

  3. 3
    tsig

    PZ why do u hatz the babbies??!!

    GOD HATZ thoz who hatz the babies arent u afraid of GOD???

  4. 4
    dianne

    There are 7 billion people in the world. If we (i.e. people in a given country or society) don’t have a large enough population, we can import more. Problem solved.

  5. 5
    Emrysmyrddin

    Looking at things, globally the rate is slowing down. According to this quickly Googled site here:

    While virtually all future population growth will be in developing countries, the poorest of these countries will see the greatest percentage increase. As defined by the United Nations, these 48 countries have especially low incomes, high economic vulnerability, and poor human development indicators such as low life expectancy at birth, very low per capita income, and low levels of education. Of these countries, 33 are in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zambia; 14 in Asia, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, and Yemen; and one in the Caribbean, Haiti. They are growing at 2.4 percent per year and are projected to reach at least 2 billion by 2050.

    Shouldn’t we be working out how to feed everyone in the future, rather than worrying about ‘nice Western baybees’, Mr. Douthat?

  6. 6
    bcmystery

    I’m shocked to learn, yet again, that Ross Douthat is a pearl-clutching dimwit in possession of a thesaurus.

  7. 7
    Blueaussi

    Yes! Yes! Then all us True and Dedicated Feminine Feministas can star in the new reality TV show: Baby Hoarders.

  8. 8
    steve oberski

    Mr. Douthat should consider undergoing a regime of female hormones, having an embryo implanted in his abdomen and undergoing a Cesarean section to remove the baby and the placenta.

    Time for him to eschew decadence and make some basic sacrifices for civilization.

  9. 9
    vaiyt

    More babies won’t put pressure on men to take care of children. It didn’t in the past, why would it today?

  10. 10
    Valde

    I came across a Roman Catholic Lifesiter who had the nerve to say that the South Korean birthrate was falling, and that SK women should be put to work having babies cuz ‘natural law ladies, deal with it hahaahah’

    This guy is a total asshole. He also believed that a 9 year old girl, pregnant with twins, should be forced to have the babies, because ‘if you can get pregnant you can give birth’

    This guy is a real piece of work, but all too typical!

  11. 11
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    More babies won’t put pressure on men to take care of children.

    Why would men take care of children? That’s what women are for.

  12. 12
    Rey Fox

    It also kind of makes me sick to see a religious conservative like Douthat trying to make an argument for something he desires, more babies, by claiming it will promote something his ilk generally oppose — liberal and progressive improvements in public policy. It’s just too dishonest.

    No kidding. It’s creepy and insulting. Like the anti-abortion sign I saw a while back that said something about how I was so eager to save the whales or the trees, but not teh babbies.

    It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be.

    Oh, so we’re traditionalists now?

    Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals, and is female advancement really incompatible with the goal of a modestly above-replacement birthrate?

    I realize this is a rhetorical question, but yes, reproductive freedom is more important than a modestly above-replacement birthrate. Feel free to ask again when we’re living in “Children of Men”.

  13. 13
    anteprepro

    Indeed, isn’t it just possible that a modern culture that celebrated the moral component of childrearing more fully would end up serving certain feminist ends, rather than undermining them — by making public policy more friendly to work-life balance, by putting more cultural pressure on men to be involved fathers rather than slackers and deadbeat dads, and so on?

    Yeah, I’m sure MORE childbearing would lead to less deadbeat dads. I’m sure MORE childbearing would dispel the notion that a woman’s primary role is incubator. I’m sure MORE childbearing wouldn’t lead to LESS work in this work-life balance, and I’m sure a feminist’s ultimate goal is women working LESS.

    I hate right-wingers. They are as stupid about birth-rates and population as they are on any other issue. We have over 315 million fucking people in this country, you idiots, and our birth-rate is such that, all else staying the same and with immigration absolutely stopping, that population would only decrease slightly from that when previous generations die off (with 1.8 children per couple, that should mean a 10% drop, or a total population of roughly 283 million). They seem to think that a birth rate of less than 2 children per couple means that we will not have a next generation. They seem to think that our population must be constantly growing in order to have a future. They are complete fucking morons, and I don’t know if it is because they are innumerate in such a way that they understand what the numbers mean, or because they have such a birthing fetish that they buy into all sorts of nonsensical premises as long as they favor the idea that more babies is more better. (It’s probably both)

  14. 14
    Valde

    That reminds me, apparently forced birthers are really concerned about Japan and Russia

    Did you know that in 1000 years, Russians will go extinct because the birth rate isn’t high enough! Yep, so we gotta force Russian women to give up their jobs and start popping out babies RIGHT NOW!!!!

  15. 15
    Bill Openthalt

    Given that we need fewer humans now to ensure there still will be humans in the future, I fail to see how a lower birthrate could be a bad thing.

  16. 16
    anteprepro

    Why would men take care of children? That’s what women are for.

    And look at that! Look at all those extra women alive now that you’ve increased the birth-rate for feminism! I’m sure they can help, so that the men can go off and do manly things, like cheaping out on child support.

  17. 17
    thecynicalromantic

    Having babies is “innovative”? Haven’t we been doing that for, like, forever?

  18. 18
    anteprepro

    Given that we need fewer humans now to ensure there still will be humans in the future, I fail to see how a lower birthrate could be a bad thing.

    Well, try viewing the issue through a right-wing lens: Stare at a cute wittle baby and if you look elsewhere at facts, data, statistics, etc., poke yourself in the eye with a branding iron. Eventually, you will see it as a right-winger sees it. Hopefully the blindness will only be temporary.

  19. 19
    rq

    Ech. I hope this guy never gets heard of over here. Feminism is already the root of the low birthrate here (pesky women wanting to work). I don’t need feminism to be subverted into some strange version of potential-realizing baby-making for the greater political good. Or something.
    Ick.
    Given that housing is already an issue, as well as caring for the children that are already being born (which really isn’t a lot, but somehow the system manages to not-keep-up…).

  20. 20
    frog

    What a colossal fucking shithead.

    Wow, I can’t believe the visceral reaction I’m having to this. I know Douthat is a conservative, but he writes for the NYTimes, for fuck’s sake. I don’t recall him being a radical Christofacist before.

    Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow?

    Absofuckinglutely.

    Dear Mr. Douthat: Please be quiet. The grownups are trying to have a conversation. When you have your own uterus, I will support you in whatever choices you make about what to do with it.

    Asshole.

  21. 21
    beccamauch

    What breathtaking inanity. You can’t get much more delusional than to believe that having infinite population increase on a finite environment is to our benefit. No sensible person should take the ‘be fruitful and multiply theory’ on faith. If there was ever an article that was unfit to be printed by the NYT or any paper this is it.

  22. 22
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The most disingenuous writing I’ve read in some time.

    Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow?

    WTF.

  23. 23
    iknklast

    More babies is not better. We are quickly decimating the world’s resources, and we want to do that more? Of course, for conservatives, that’s a non-argument, since resources are there for us to deplete, and resources left for tomorrow, or left for the other species, are “wasted”. We’re wasting too many resources, so we need more people. We get enough people, we’ll pave the planet, then no more of that ugly, nasty grass or those hideous trees that provide nothing at all to the world. (snark alert)

  24. 24
    frog

    I am rather pleased, though, that the comments on the piece are so universally excoriating that they NYT shut them down after fewer than 400 replies.

  25. 25
    anteprepro

    Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow?

    Douthat:
    It is moral to birth as many children as possible into an environment beneficial to them.
    (Please ignore that increasing population will decrease how beneficial environment will be)
    (Please also ignore that the birthing process itself makes life less ideal for the person doing the birthing)
    (Please also also ignore that this would imply that it is immoral to give birth to children that would be born into bad circumstances, which not only is an argument for abortion, but would also undermine this argument’s attempt to get the birth rate up)

  26. 26
    consciousness razor

    I am rather pleased, though, that the comments on the piece are so universally excoriating that they NYT shut them down after fewer than 400 replies.

    Seriously? It’s depressing enough that the NYT publishes any of Douthat’s bullshit at all. Shutting down his critics in the comments is not making it better in any way.

  27. 27
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    That post of mine was sarcasm
    (just in case)

  28. 28
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    After all, if children are not the only good in human life, they do seem like a fairly important one, no?

    To some people. Not to others.

    Maybe even, dare one say, an essential one, at least in some quantity, if the pursuit of the wider array of human goods is to continue beyond our own life cycle?

    One might dare say it, but it won’t make sense.

    Or to put it another way, if we have moral obligations to future, as-yet-unborn generations, as almost everyone seems to agree, surely those duties have to include some obligation for somebody to bring those generations into existence in the first place — to imitate the sacrifices that our parents made, and give another generation the chances that we’ve had?

    This is such a dumb fucking argument. It’s dumb when Peter Singer makes it, and it’s dumb when anyone else makes it. I do enjoy how he acknowledges he’s talking about sacrifices, though.

    If conspicuous consumption is morally dubious when it substitutes for sacrifices on behalf of strangers, as most good progressives seem to think, why isn’t it morally dubious when it substitutes for the more intimate form of sacrifice that made all of our lives possible in the first place?

    I love how he grudgingly acknowledges earlier that for some people “deciding that children (or more than one child, or more than two) don’t fit with their ambitions or desires or preferred consumption patterns,” and then the first two just drop away and it becomes all about consumption. In an argument about how we should sacrifice to bring more people in the world so they’ll have access to all of these wonderful and fulfilling “entertainments and diversions beyond the dreams of any previous generation.”

  29. 29
    juicyheart

    ‘It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.’
    Sounds more like an argument against trickle down economics, than family size. Do conservatives ever stop to think about what their spewing?

  30. 30
    raven

    Douthat is a Catholic defender and an idiot.

    He always has something worthless and cuckoo to say.

  31. 31
    raven

    douthat:

    ‘It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.’

    Sure.

    Dying young. Being poor. Cowering in the demon haunted darkness. No internet. Being serfs to the political, economic, and religious elites.

    The good old days never existed.

  32. 32
    Sastra

    The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

    Oh for crying out loud, this is merely spin! I’m not surprised this is coming from a Catholic.

    Here’s an idea: let’s spin in the other way! In the past, large families involved less child-raising, in that there was less emotional investment and sacrifice for each individual child. The focus was not on flourishing, but the pure selfishness involved in day to day materiaselfish survival

  33. 33
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    His bizarre “feminists should be populating the world with female babies” thing is . . . . weird. . .

    Does he think children are merely carbon copies of the parent(s), with no minds, desires or preferences of their own?

    or does that just think that about incubators women, so that girl babies would just be carbon copies of mom?

  34. 34
    Sastra

    Whoops, posted that too soon.

    … The focus was not on flourishing, but the pure selfishness involved in day to day material survival. By reigning in the passion to procreate and acting responsibly, modern parents can thus grant more freedom and attention to each child, thus escaping the decadent mindlessness of the past.

    There ya go.

    And we can even try to encourage Douthat to think that fewer children means they are more likely to have time and inclination to read theology, contemplate Big Questions, and become Catholics. He’d believe us, right?

  35. 35
    Emrysmyrddin

    The good old days never existed.

    QFT.

    It’s that strange nostalgia for the idea of a bygone Golden Age. I took my mum out for a wander around the shops today, and we were looking through a nostalgia-themed shop (mostly WWII coasters, WI jam and the like) and they had a whole display of re-issued ‘Robinsons Marmalade’ branded goods; lunchboxes, keyrings, etc., all showing the ‘Robinsons Golly’.

    I cringed, and Mum looked at me with a sideways grin, knowing I would cringe, and she teased me with an “Ah, I used to have a gollywog when I was a girl.”

    “Gawd, Mum, if you’ve got to talk about it out loud, at least call it a golly, for my sake, eh?”

    The white manager of the shop (she was about my mum’s age) jumped in. “Yeah, back in the old days, we had ‘em round all the time, an’ they weren’t racist like what they call ‘em now, it’s ridiculous.”

    My cringing deepened. “Er, yeah, they were still racist then, actually. It’s a racist depiction of a caricature of a black person.”

    Manager, insistent: “Nah, not to my generation, they weren’t!”

    “Well, I’d much rather be of my generation than yours, thank you very much.” (While I’m frowning, Mum’s got that look in her eye that means that she’s giggling hysterically inside and I’m the cause. Going out with me is always a palaver).

    I paid for a mug for my Dad and we left. The manager was very cold-shoulderish, and tried to overcharge me until the assistant checked prices. I’d apparently mortally offended her with my assertions(ah, well).

    My (long-winded) point is that there always seems to be a subset of person that refuses to see the past as it was: chock-full of openly racist, sexist, homophobic bullshit, packed around the sides with high infant mortality rates, no reproductive freedom, kids with rickets… that they would seek to handwave away the tiny incremental improvements that we have made over the years, in favour of retreating to a non-existent Good Olde Olden Days when Men were Men, Women were Incubators, and Gollywogs (sorry, cringe) Were Definitely Not Racist Oh No – astonishes me every time I come across them.

  36. 36
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow?

    Jesus Christ. He’s tap dancing right on the edge of the “feminists shouldn’t support abortion because it kills girl babies!!” argument, isn’t he?

  37. 37
    LykeX

    Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals

    Apparently, the idea of leaving each individual woman to chose for herself is completely alien to him.

    It’s almost as if he can’t even imagine a world in which women’s actions aren’t dictated by some ideology. It’s as if he’s totally committed to the idea that women have to be told what to do by somebody; either him or his opponents.

  38. 38
    Valde

    Natalists are creepy.

    I assume that’s what he is, given his views!

  39. 39
    Abdul Alhazred

    Natural selection operating against being progressive?

    Or is that a little too “evolutionary psychological”? ;)

  40. 40
    raven

    Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals

    Apparently, the idea of leaving each individual woman to chose for herself is completely alien to him.

    It is a lot worse than that.

    Douthat is assuming that men all want herds of kids and women don’t want any.

    The real facts are that small family sizes are equally desired by men and women.

    Blaming women for small family sizes is just plain, flat out completely wrong. Douthat is an idiot just Making Things Up.

  41. 41
    Valde

    #40 Its not that men may or may not want plenty of kids, its that feminism has, oh noes, given women control over *when* and *how many* kids they have. It’s just not right that women have so much control over their own fertility!

  42. 42
    raven

    Global Study of Family Values
    www. hi-ho.ne. jp/taku77/refer/valupoll.htm

    The United States fits squarely in the middle, expressing a mixture of traditional and …

    There is minimal disagreement between men and women in each country over the …

    The U.N. cites desired family size as one of the key factors in world …

    In just about any society, the desired family size by men and women are about the same. Those are the facts by social surveys.

    Douthat 0 Reality 1

  43. 43
    Gregory Greenwood

    Audley Z. Darkheart (liar, scoundrel, college dropout) @ 36;

    Jesus Christ. He’s tap dancing right on the edge of the ““feminists shouldn’t support abortion because it kills girl babies!!”” argument, isn’t he?

    That screaming sound you hear is logic being tortured as Douthat attempts to contort it into the correct configuration to support the contention that denying women their bodily autonomy is totes a feminist position.

    For some reason, creatures like Doubhat who pretend to be sympathetic to feminism while working to reduce women to the status of living incubators a la the ‘good ole days’ (as he views the misogyny, homophobia and racism riddled cultural wilderness of the majority of last century) offend me more than the outright, shrieking woman-haters who at least don’t hide their prejudice behind a mask of false concern.

  44. 44
    Valde

    Well, once you force all those women to have babies they can’t feed, it’s always nice to do something like this:

    “The Church’s charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another form of organized social assistance,” Pope Benedict wrote.

  45. 45
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I love it when people go on about population decline and “demographic winter,” conveniently ignoring that the world population is going up at a precipitous rate.

    But then, those new babies are disproportionately brown and black, disproportionately have funny-shaped faces, and disproportionately are born to parents who have funny names.

    Also, they are unlikely to grow up and look at a d00d who looks like Douthat and say, “That looks like someone who is rightfully in charge and someone I should listen to.”

    Incidentally: how many children does Douthat have?

  46. 46
    Jadehawk

    It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

    that doesn’t sound like a complaint about too little baby-making, it sounds like a complaint about a lack of technological ingenuity and creative drive.

    I don’t understand how “innovation” and “baby-making” even go together (unless you’re thinking innovative ways of making babies, which can be kinda sexy; sometimes)

  47. 47
    Inaji

    Jadehawk:

    (unless you’re thinking innovative ways of making babies, which can be kinda sexy; sometimes)

    Not to me. :D Every day, I’m thankful I live in an age of effective contraception.

  48. 48
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I have a theory that while some of the sub-replacement level birth patterns are because of the people who deliberately decide to have no children, or just one child, a substantially larger proportion of the people who have “too few” children are doing so because they lack a solid social-support system that would enable them to have (more) children.

    Seriously, what do you think the proportion is of people who say “I don’t want a(nother) child because I cannot afford it,” those that say “I don’t want a(nother) child because I’d be shoved onto the mommy-track at work, and I want to advance,” and those that say, “I don’t want a(nother) child because my partner and I don’t have a workable plan for the work/home balance for the group of us.” I’d argue that those people outnumber those who espouse deliberately lowering the world’s population for [reason] and those who don’t want a(nother) child because of health issues.

    And, y’know, due to science and technology, the equation is no longer “have 10 children and hope that 2 survive to adulthood” (which was the status quo for most of human history before about 80 years ago). Instead, a couple can have two children and reasonably expect both of them to survive to adulthood.

  49. 49
    Jadehawk

    today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow?

    wut.

    isn’t it just possible that a modern culture that celebrated the moral component of childrearing more fully would end up serving certain feminist ends, rather than undermining them

    sure it would; by getting dudes more involved in childrearing, and by providing more childcare support for parents: paid parental leave, free chilodcare/kindergarden, etc. free healthcare for children, etc.

    oh, that’s not what you meant, is it. you meant women should “celebrate” childrearing by getting back into the kitchen? yeah no. not gonna happen.

  50. 50
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    For some reason, creatures like Doubhat who pretend to be sympathetic to feminism while working to reduce women to the status of living incubators a la the ‘good ole days’ (as he views the misogyny, homophobia and racism riddled cultural wilderness of the majority of last century) offend me more than the outright, shrieking woman-haters who at least don’t hide their prejudice behind a mask of false concern.

    The whole thing is just so appalling, right down to the implicit reduction of women’s nonreproductive goals and work to selfish, decadent, fruitless desires and activities. Leaving aside the assumption that we’re supposed to be all about sacrifice and obligation (the opposite is true: our systems should serve us rather than the reverse), he implies that the only way women can contribute to anything – even feminism – is by reproducing.

  51. 51
    Jadehawk

    I don’t recall him being a radical Christofacist before.

    seriously? this is the guy who admitted that he can’t get it up for women on birth control (and therefore women need to stop being on birth control); who said that it’s a shame that there aren’t more unwanted pregnancies that can then be used to give children to christian women who can’t have their own.

    Douchehat is a Catholic superconservative of the most douchetastic variety.

  52. 52
    Valde

    #48 Esteleth:

    As I mentioned earlier, forced birthers are going nutso over Russia, and how the replacement birthrate is so low, that Russians will be extinct! Extinct I tell you! Within the next 1000 years.

    So, I looked up ‘russian birth rate’ on google and came across this article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/28/world/for-all-russia-biological-clock-is-running-out.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    “The country’s health care has collapsed in the last decade, along with the people’s health. Public hospitals and clinics are short of money and medicine; doctors earn near-poverty wages; infectious diseases like tuberculosis are epidemic.

    No one doubts the decay has fed a rise in mortality unparalleled in recent peacetime history. And no one believes this is merely a medical issue. Rather, it is a signal that poverty and stress are eroding the government’s ability to care for its own.”

    ————–

    Babies are not being born b/c women are selfish feminists.
    Babies are not being born b/c people can’t fucking afford to!

  53. 53
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals, and is female advancement really incompatible with the goal of a modestly above-replacement birthrate?

    I haz news: When Mr and I decided how many children to have, population politics were exactly on place nonexistent or our list.
    But if we want to talk about it, I would consider birthrates slightly under replacement level to be much better at the current moment.
    Also currently birth-rates are high in places where women have exactly zero choice about their reproductive system, meaning that no, usually women don’t choose to be walking incubators if they can help it.

    Or to put it another way, if we have moral obligations to future, as-yet-unborn generations, as almost everyone seems to agree, surely those duties have to include some obligation for somebody to bring those generations into existence in the first place —

    Does not compute. A generation that doesn’t happen doesn’t need anything.

    Esteleth

    I have a theory that while some of the sub-replacement level birth patterns are because of the people who deliberately decide to have no children, or just one child, a substantially larger proportion of the people who have “too few” children are doing so because they lack a solid social-support system that would enable them to have (more) children.

    That, too.
    Actually, Mr. and I while still discussing those matters noticed how much this world is geared towards having 2 kids at max. Most cars wouldn’t fit three kiddy-seats, flats, everything.
    Not that I would take a third one now if they came free…

  54. 54
    Jadehawk

    Or to put it another way, if we have moral obligations to future, as-yet-unborn generations, as almost everyone seems to agree, surely those duties have to include some obligation for somebody to bring those generations into existence in the first place

    wut? no. the reason we have an obligation to future generations is because it’s pretty certain that there will be future generations, and therefore it’s sensible to take that near certainty into account. but if no future generations were to exist, we’d not have any obligations towards them. because they won’t exist. and you can’t have obligations to something that will never exist. which also means that it’s entirely nonsensical to say that you have an obligation to prevent such nonexistence, since nonexistence is not harm

  55. 55
    raven

    I don’t recall him being a radical Christofacist before.

    Douthat is about the worst the Catholic church has to offer.

    Guy thinks the Dark Ages were too liberal.

  56. 56
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Just for reference, I wonder how many children Ross and his wife, Abigail, have had since they got married in 2007.

  57. 57
    Valde

    #48 “And, y’know, due to science and technology, the equation is no longer “have 10 children and hope that 2 survive to adulthood” (which was the status quo for most of human history before about 80 years ago). Instead, a couple can have two children and reasonably expect both of them to survive to adulthood.”

    ————-

    Yeah, and children weren’t valued as much back then, were they? They died often, and early, so unfortunately, they were treated as objects, more often than not, no?

  58. 58
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Incidentally: how many children does Douthat have?

    According to WP, in 2007 he married “a reporter for The Baltimore Sun and a writer for Smithsonian.” (Selfish, decadent asshole!) It doesn’t say anything about children, but does say “He and his family live…” One of the comments at the Times speculates that the piece might be rooted in something in his personal life, but there’s no need for that sort of speculation – it’s pretty standard conservative claptrap.

  59. 59
    Valde

    I am checking out the comments on that Douthat article.

    One guy named Bryan put it best:

    “Why does this column and Mr. Douthat’s pro-life, anti-contraceptive musings leave me with the impression that women are essentially incubators for the state with the resulting offspring serving as a commodity for an economic system that views human labor as if it is due little more consideration than livestock?”

  60. 60
    Gregory Greenwood

    SC (Salty Current), OM @ 50;

    The whole thing is just so appalling, right down to the implicit reduction of women’s nonreproductive goals and work to selfish, decadent, fruitless desires and activities. Leaving aside the assumption that we’re supposed to be all about sacrifice and obligation (the opposite is true: our systems should serve us rather than the reverse), he implies that the only way women can contribute to anything – even feminism – is by reproducing.

    To Douthat, work and activity of any kind in the social, political and cultural spheres is the purview of men, while spitting out kiddies and looking decorative are the ‘proper roles’ of women.

    But he is totes supportive of feminism. So long as that ‘feminism’ is expressed by frog marching women between the kitchen and the bedroom.

    —————————————————————-

    Jadehawk @ 51;

    this is the guy who admitted that he can’t get it up for women on birth control (and therefore women need to stop being on birth control)

    Why am I unsurprised that this all comes down to Douthat’s pene (and its preferences) in the end?

  61. 61
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    wut? no. the reason we have an obligation to future generations is because it’s pretty certain that there will be future generations, and therefore it’s sensible to take that near certainty into account. but if no future generations were to exist, we’d not have any obligations towards them. because they won’t exist. and you can’t have obligations to something that will never exist. which also means that it’s entirely nonsensical to say that you have an obligation to prevent such nonexistence, since nonexistence is not harm

    Remeber that discussion about this at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog a while back, when Jean Kazez was talking this misogynistic nonsense and telling us that we were just ignorant of the sophisticated philosophical arguments?

  62. 62
    Sastra

    Gregory Greenwood #60 wrote:

    To Douthat, work and activity of any kind in the social, political and cultural spheres is the purview of men, while spitting out kiddies and looking decorative are the ‘proper roles’ of women.

    My own personal choice on this matter would probably make the misogynists’ heads explode: As a feminist, I deliberately chose to have fewer children so that I could continue to stay home as a housewife. Kids are expensive.

    NOW where the hell are they going to go?

  63. 63
    Jadehawk

    Remeber that discussion about this at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog a while back, when Jean Kazez was talking this misogynistic nonsense and telling us that we were just ignorant of the sophisticated philosophical arguments?

    vaguely. something about how appalled Jean was because students thought having kids is a personal choice rather than a moral obligation…? something about how increasing happiness in people who already exist being moral somehow means we it’s also moral to make more people so there would be more total happiness…?

  64. 64
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    In fact, I would put money on this proposition:

    If countries’ scores on the gender-equality index are plotted against the birth rate, the resulting curve would be bimodal: countries with very low gender equality would have high birth rates, reflecting by women lacking at all the ability to plan their families and the trend for countries with low gender equality to be economically disadavantaged due to systematic exclusion of 50% of the population from contributing meaningfully, countries with high ender equality would have high (but not as high as the very-low countries), reflecting women’s childbearing choices not being constrained by poor social systems, and countries with intermediate gender equality would be lower than either, reflecting women having access to the means to restrict their fertility but not having access to quality social systems.

    Hey, check this out:
    Top ten countries by birth rate (children born per 1,000 population; 2010 numbers):
    1. Niger (49)
    2. Mali (46)
    3. Zambia (46)
    4. Uganda (45)
    5. Chad (45)
    6. Malawi (44)
    7. Afghanistan (44)
    8. Somalia (44)
    9. Democratic Republic of the Congo (43)
    10. Burkina Faso (43)

    Bottom ten countries by birth rate (2010 numbers):
    1. Germany (8)
    2. Japan (9)
    3. Bosnia and Herzegovina (9)
    4. Latvia (9)
    5. Hungary (9)
    6. Liechtenstein (9)
    7. Italy (9)
    8. Singapore (9)
    9. Serbia (9)
    10. South Korea (9)

    Here are those 20 countries gender-equality index scores (2010 numbers; 1 = total equality, 0 = total inequality):
    Niger: (no data)
    Mali: 0.5680
    Zambia: 0.6293
    Uganda: 0.7169
    Chad: 0.5330
    Malawi: 0.6824
    Afghanistan: (no data)
    Somalia: (no data)
    Democratic Republic of the Congo: (no data)
    Burkina Faso: 0.6162
    Germany: 0.7530
    Japan: 0.6524
    Bosnia and Herzegovina: (no data)
    Latvia: 0.7429
    Hungary: 0.6720
    Liechtenstein: (no data)
    Italy: 0.6765
    Singapore: 0.6914
    Serbia: (no data)
    South Korea: 0.6342

    Hey, check that out! It is almost like there’s a pattern there.

  65. 65
    Freodin

    There is one point, one fact, one little truth in their position: women ARE incubators. They are, as yet, the only means known to humanity to produce the next generation.

    But instead to recognize that this is but one fact in a whole world of facts, the nice gentlemen like this Mr. Douthat seem to build their whole worldview on that.

    I guess it is just too easy to come to simplistic conclusions when you start from overly simplistic assumptions.

  66. 66
    Sastra

    Jadehawk #63 wrote:

    …something about how appalled Jean was because students thought having kids is a personal choice rather than a moral obligation…?

    That’s weird. So it’s better if your parents chose to have you because they felt it was their moral obligation to society to continue the species — instead of having you because they wanted a child?

    Maybe … if the major reason parents personally choose to have a child is to eat it.

  67. 67
    truthspeaker

    goal of a modestly above-replacement birthrate

    Why would anyone share such a stupid goal?

  68. 68
    Valde

    to conservatives like Douthat…

    paying taxes to help the poor, the disadvantaged, is immoral
    yeah sure, universal health care and welfare are for the greater good but eh…can’t force people to help others

    BUT

    it is perfectly moral to force women to carry children and children to be born b/c hey, objectifying women and children is for the greater good!!

    conservatives don’t have a problem restricting personal freedom, as long as its done THEIR WAY

  69. 69
    consciousness razor

    something about how increasing happiness in people who already exist being moral somehow means we it’s also moral to make more people so there would be more total happiness…?

    Yeah I remember reading that; but at the time, I wasn’t wearing my rose-colored glasses, in this, the best of all possible worlds.

    Since not everyone alive is happy, maybe the argument could be saved if all zombies are happy, which would mean making more undead increases happiness. But I doubt it.

  70. 70
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    vaguely. something about how appalled Jean was because students thought having kids is a personal choice rather than a moral obligation…? something about how increasing happiness in people who already exist being moral somehow means we it’s also moral to make more people so there would be more total happiness…?

    Yes, and she’s right that philosophers have written long treatises about this. Singer makes that same ridiculous argument about total happiness, and manages to be thoroughly misogynistic throughout. The seemingly obvious issue raised by us and Rosenhouse – that even if we were to accept the premises of this silly argument about free-floating happiness, it’s evident that women giving birth when they don’t want to or for whom having children interferes with other sources of happiness would decrease the amount of happiness – never enters into his thinking. Women’s happiness in this scenario just isn’t part of the equation. This despite decades of coercive fertility or sterilization policies around the world with their associated suffering.

    There’s even more stupidity, but that’s the aspect that makes me angriest.

  71. 71
    frog

    consciousness razor @26:

    That is an excellent point.

    But note that the NYT has active moderation. I can forgive them if at some point they say, “Well, the public has spoken” and allow their moderators to move on and track some other comment thread. They do that for threads when 99% of the commenters agree with the article as well.

    The alternative would be comments that look like what you find on Philly.com (the Philadelphia Inquirer), or to have no comments at all.

  72. 72
    chigau (違う)

    So it’s:
    If women would cast off the shackles of feminism and go back to their natural role of having lots of babies, they would realize that the feeling they experience is happiness.
    (Even though it feels like pain, frustration, anger, helplessness, etc.)

  73. 73
    raven

    Yes, and she’s right that philosophers have written long treatises about this. Singer makes that same ridiculous argument about total happiness, and manages to be thoroughly misogynistic throughout.

    How does making the majority of the world’s population (women), and their kids and partners unhappy, increase the world’s total happiness?

    It doesn’t.

    This is just gibberish.

  74. 74
    raven

    The important metric shouldn’t be the world’s total happiness anyway. The world is nonliving and doesn’t care one way or another.

    The important metric should be each individual’s maximum happiness. Real live people matter a lot more than a nonliving planet or silly intangibles.

  75. 75
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    How does making the majority of the world’s population (women), and their kids and partners unhappy, increase the world’s total happiness?

    It doesn’t.

    This is just gibberish.

    It’s only gibberish if you factor the happiness of the women having these children into the equation. It doesn’t occur to them to do that. As I recall, Singer explicitly holds it constant, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be an argument about increasing or decreasing overall happiness. Nor does he consider in this context the ways women can contribute to others’ happiness by means other than giving birth to them. I mean, it’s not like women’s work as doctors, scientists, teachers, or poets, with which childbearing might well interfere, could increase general happiness or anything.

  76. 76
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The important metric shouldn’t be the world’s total happiness anyway. The world is nonliving and doesn’t care one way or another.

    That’s what Jadehawk and I were arguing on that thread. It’s a goofy premise to begin with.

  77. 77
    Valde

    I was told, at the age of 14, that ‘having babies’ was my ‘job as a woman’. This was after I had said that no way did I ever want to have babies!

    I wanted to punch the man who said this, and I still want to punch him. He reduced me to nothing more than the biological function of my body. grrr.

  78. 78
    JohnnieCanuck

    There was a time when maximising the birth rate of a tribe of nomad herders was vitally important. It justified the leadership taking an active interest in the bedrooms of their people. Unfortunately someone wrote down the religious laws they were using and thousands of years later we have this.

    Catholics need to get the maximum number of souls into Heaven and the only way to do that is to birth as many Catholics as possible, since conversion is far less effective. Not co-incidentally, more births means more Catholic butts in pews and a larger revenue stream.

    It’s interesting that he appears to have widened his ‘In Group’ status beyond Catholics to include more people. It seems to be all white people or all western nations or something for him now.

    We won’t know for some decades whether we have already crossed one of those multiple tipping points that await and will damage or destroy our species and a good many others on this planet as well, but population control is essential to delay their onset.

  79. 79
    marthabie

    Come on, many conservatives deny evolution outright.

    Denying that humans are K-selected is fairly tame in comparison.

  80. 80
    Lofty

    The asshat knows that all babies are potential converts to his one true delusion. Adult women, well it’s probably too late, they aren’t as brainwashable. Gotta increase the membership to outcompete the heathens!

  81. 81
    gussnarp

    This may be the worst thing Douche Hat has ever written. It is demonstrably wrong on so many counts. Basically the exact opposite of everything he says is true, and we have plenty of evidence to back that up. Western women having fewer children isn’t new, and it’s been good for Western standards of living. It’s certainly better for environmental sustainability.

    He is, in fact, so terribly backwards and wrong that I feel the only way to make sense of his screed is to read between the lines, at which point it becomes a thinly veiled racist diatribe. A call for white women to keep making white babies. Otherwise it will only be those dirty Africans and Muslims making babies and they’ll drive the world into death and destruction. What a disgusting asshole.

    It doesn’t work that way, Douche Hat. There’s nothing inherent biologically in any group’s economic or social conditions. We don’t improve the standard of living of women by having the “good” women reproduce more, we do it by educating and empowering women across the globe to make their own choices.

  82. 82
    Bjarni

    It’s just too dishonest.

    Well there’s your problem right there – thinking anything would be ‘too dishonest’ for this guy.

  83. 83
    unclefrogy

    I find it amazing and just a little appalling that conservative religionists like this really can think like that. They seem to be unaware that everyone does not see the world like they do. They can not imagine that there is any other point to living. How could anyone find true happiness without submitting to “gods will”? Their world is so small and self-centered. They are interested in “the rules” the moral view as long as they identify with those who do the enforcement.
    The crocodile tears of “deep concern” do not hide the deeply offensive judgmental ass hole within.

    uncle frogy

  84. 84
    DLC

    Somewhere there is a corner of Douhat’s mind in which a small voice is asking: “How is babby formed?”

  85. 85
    crowepps

    While I could certainly agree that there might be all sorts of moral components to childREARING, I can’t see any sort of moral component to childGESTATING. There isn’t anything immoral about women who don’t want to have children producing something else creative and interesting instead.

    In fact, I would argue that it is deeply immoral to have children unless you personally *want* to have them and are eager to welcome them warmly into your family. Having children because some priest thinks that’s the punishment women are obligated to endure for having sex? To me it seems incredibly damaging to the children, even insulting, to reduce them to a consequence.

  86. 86
    nms

    Hey, check that out! It is almost like there’s a pattern there.

    I’m no statistician but here’s an attempt at a plot (WEF’s Gender Gap Index 2010 vs World Bank’s crude birth rate 2010. Countries without a GGI are omitted.)

    The WEF’s methodology seems a bit odd though. The only variables included in a country’s Health and Survival score are sex ratio and life expectancy.

  87. 87
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Gregory:

    For some reason, creatures like Doubhat who pretend to be sympathetic to feminism while working to reduce women to the status of living incubators a la the ‘good ole days’ (as he views themisogyny, homophobia and racism riddled cultural wilderness of the majority of last century) offend me more than the outright, shrieking woman-haters who at least don’t hide their prejudice behind a mask of false concern.

    Exactly. I’d rather have someone tell oh ho ho! So funny! sandwich jokes in my presence than insult my intelligence by outright lying about their motivations to me.

    Sastra:

    My own personal choice on this matter would probably make the misogynists’ heads explode: As a feminist, I deliberately chose to have fewer children so that I could continue to stay home as a housewife. Kids are expensive.

    Heh, me too. I quit my job a month and a half ago and I turned down a pretty decent job offer just yesterday so I could stay home with DarkInfant. And I’m not going to be popping any more out because 1) we can’t afford any more children on one paycheck and 2) I don’t want to put my body through that again.

  88. 88
    sadunlap

    Hey Ross, the 19th century called. It misses you.

  89. 89
    hypatiasdaughter

    Well, Sastra & Audley Z. Darkheart, THERE is your mistake.
    You rich, snobby feministy types actually think you have to give EACH child their own pair of shoes, better food than macaroni (no cheese – too expensive) and regular doctor and dental visits.
    How could you be so damn selfish??!!

  90. 90
    Nick Gotts

    Natural selection operating against being progressive?

    Or is that a little too “evolutionary psychological”? – Abdul Alhazred

    Well, it’s certainly a closely related form of stupidity: taking some feature of modern society and inventing a connection to evolutionary theory, for ideological purposes.

  91. 91
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Hypatiasdaughter:
    Please excuse me while I have my butler… what is it that butlers do, exactly? Butle around the house?

    But, yes. I need to excuse myself so I can order my household staff to polish DarkInfant’s solid gold changing table and press her handmade silk onesies (imported from Italy, natch) while I check on our car elevator and dressage horse.

    Or something like that. ;)

  92. 92
    Useless

    There you go, casting dispersions [sic] on the Duggars for their Christian beliefs. I’ll bet you think Jim Bob Duggar is some backward Arkansas yokel. Well I have news for you. Michelle used to practice birth control until she miscarried for displeasing our Lord. At that point, Jim Bob realized their odious behavior was wrong and they joined the “Quiverfull” movement based on well-founded Christian doctrine. (You couldn’t find it in the Bible either? Be assured that Jim Bob wouldn’t be practicing it if it weren’t there.) I think it states that Jim Bob has to keep Michelle’s quiver filled with his arrow.

    Since that time, Michelle has also miscarried, but it was either Satan’s doing or the sins of one of the children being visited on her. It happened most recently almost exactly a year ago, and Michelle named the fetus Caleb (although the sex of the fetus was never determined), breaking with the tradition of giving all the kids a name beginning with the Holy letter ‘J’. I assume the fetus had a good Christian burial and has a pretty little white cross.

    The next thing you know, you’ll be accusing Jim Bob of misogyny for making sure his wimmminfolk have explicit written instruction on how to behave, dress, wear their hair, and most aspects of their lives as to what is becoming and pleasing to the Lord. I’ll bet you were too lazy and unconcerned to do that minimal bit of laying out written requirements for your wimmin, PZ.

    They can’t watch movies or TV unless it’s a pre-approved DVD. The Internet is restricted to only Christian educational material. The wimmin must wear specially designed swimwear that doesn’t expose their ankles to the view of lustful ogling menfolk. This cuts down staring at them to almost nothing. I understand that swimming in a burka is a very liberating experience.

    Jim Bob has many other rules, too. No male may touch, speak to, or date one of his daughters before clearing with Jim Bob in person, and that especially includes his adult daughters — somewhat like Maria von Trapp. I’m curious whether any male has measured up to his standards of modesty, wholesomeness, Godliness, and chastity. If a date should occur by some accident, he requires “chaperoned courtship” without any physical contact. His girls cannot leave the house unless they pair up using the buddy system so that one buddy can tattle on the other. Jim Bob also enforces an Honor Code in which the girls must tattle on themselves since “sin will always find them out.” Of particular importance is the sin of concupiscence and all of its juicy details. No Bieber-grovelling with the Duggars.

    Thank God there are such caring parents who want to give their children such a loving sense of security. Fortunately for Arkansas, Jim Bob served in the House of Representatives. Fortunately, for my home state of Tennessee, we have the Bales family, which is getting its own TV show. We’re so lucky. I’ll bet PZ never watches TLC or other networks with such wholesome entertainment.

    I just found contradictory information on Michelle’s last miscarriage. They did find out the sex of the fetus and named it Jubilee Shalom, in keeping with their holy naming system, and they also gave it a memorial service. I hope I’m not too far off with the other information.

  93. 93
    vaiyt

    @92: I’d give you a B for effort, but the ableist nickname was unfortunate.

  94. 94
    eleutheria

    Quoth the PZ:

    Have you ever noticed how conservatives always just look at population numbers and naively assume that bigger is better?

    It’s the same thing with recycling, conservation, protecting endangered species, and raising car gas mileage.

    Conservatives have this bizarre, paranoid, selfish outlook. To reprise Gordon Gecko: Waste, for lack of a better word, is good.

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