Mr. Douchehat Thinks I’m Decadent

Today, I learned of the existence of a recent op-ed in the New York Times called “More Babies Please”, by one Ross Douthat. His basic premise is that people who choose not to have children are destroying America. (Please note that I’ll be referring to him as Mr. Douchehat, because I’m a modern woman who doesn’t care about anyone but myself. More on that later.)

It so happens that, while listening to the radio today, I heard that children now make up a smaller portion of the population in California than at any other time since the baby boom. As someone who lives in California, my reaction was, “Fantastic. Less screaming now, more parking spaces in 15 years.” But apparently this is a bad thing when one looks at children as “resources” whose primary purpose is to pay for the retirement of everyone born before them. How foolish I’ve been not to see them as such.

Back to Mr. Douchehat. Up to you if you want to read the article, I’m just here to tell you what’s insane about it.

– He uses the words “fertility” and “birth rate” interchangeably. “It’s a near-universal law that modernity reduces fertility.” Really? I’m pretty sure modern medicine has done a lot for fertility. Ask the bazillion women I know who had kids after 35. Aside from being annoying, this mistake is a linguistic clue that he’s unaware that what distinguishes fertility from birth rate is CHOICE.

– He blames increasing support for gay marriage on “a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage.” Not compassion, or ethical progress, or advances in the ongoing battle against bigotry. It’s that we forgot that the point of marriage is babymaking. Except that it isn’t. As I learned in Stephanie Koontz’s excellent book, ‘Marriage: A History’, marriage was invented to facilitate the transfer of wealth between rich families. Have all the trysts you want, rich guys… Only your rich wife’s kids will inherit your money! Take that, bastard kids! Marriage sprung up to prevent redistribution of wealth due to babymaking, not to encourage it. (I swear the ‘Downton Abbey’ parallels are unintentional.)

– And finally, toward the end of the piece, Mr. Douchehat writes:

“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.”

You hear that ladies? You thought you weren’t having kids because there are already so many kids in need of loving homes, or you don’t like the world they’d grow up in, or you don’t think you could give them the life you’d want to, or you have other life goals. Nope. It’s because you’re a rich, ungrateful, lazy hedonist. 

Now, I’ve made a leap. Mr. Douchehat doesn’t overtly blame women; it is the New York Times, after all. But who exactly is neglecting their child rearing responsibilities when women spend twice as much time on child care than men do? And what could it be about “modernity” that causes a lower birth rate, if not the availability of contraception and legal abortion? 

Make no mistake, the crisis of fewer babies is the fault of the privileged modern woman, and Mr. Douchehat won’t have it.

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2 thoughts on “Mr. Douchehat Thinks I’m Decadent

  1. Ahh, Mr Douthat. He means well, he really does. I’m going to leave aside the gay marriage thing, and I’m not even gonna touch the women as decadent theme because, well, he’s gonna get enough crap from everyone with a pair of X chromosomes. I’m going to address what I, as a father, see as a problem with having children in America: money. Specifically, the amount of money it takes to insure them and educate them. To his credit, he does touch, ever so briefly, on the costs of college education, but he doesn’t even give that massive expense its own sentence! How about we talk about the fact that with a college education a prerequisite, outside of show business and sports, for a monetarily successful life, most families are looking at paying between $50 and maybe $100k a year to send each of their future taxpayers to college? Or that, lacking a universal government-backed health system, the costs of insuring a family can now cost well over $1000 a month (in a field with rapid yearly cost hikes)? In an educated society, adults make educated decisions. You’re educated Ross- how many kids do you have running around your NYC apartment?

    I have three kids. I would love to have more. My wife would, too. Except we know we cannot afford any more children. And barring scholarships, (thank God they’re half-Puerto Rican and might all be power-forwards!), I have no idea how I will pay for their college educations. But I know that Mr. Douthat is happy because we two parents have made 3 children. Demographic mission accomplished! Bring on the college debts!

    Ross, we are not Italy, Japan, or even China. Those countries are truly facing demographic time bombs. Within 30 years the wonderfully long-lived Japanese will secretly wish their diets were not so life-sustaining when there are fewer Japanese workers than retirees, and the Chinese government is going to seriously regret some of its decisions when all of those grown-up only-child princes and princesses are struggling to maintain an 8% GDP growth rate while caring for mom and dad. But these countries (and others, like Germany and France) are notoriously hostile to immigrants and lack the natural resources and space that we have. We’re rich. We still attract the world’s refugees and innovators. We’ll handle it. As long as we can out baby-make the competition, we’re good.

    Finally, portraying childless women as Roman royals lazing on couches while the senatorial class tries to round up enough good men to defend against the Huns sounds great if you’re a man who doesn’t want to hear what women think. Or a man who wants to avoid truly discussing the factors that prevent many women (including my wife) from achieving maximum fecundity.

    (Guess I did touch that decadent thing. Couldn’t resist.)

    • First comment ever! Yippee!

      You said it. And while he does touch on the financial factor in deciding whether or not to have kids, he fails to address questions like ‘where will these kids work, so that we can take money out of their paychecks to fund our retirement?’ We already know Americans lack the skills needed to fill the kinds of high-quality jobs we’d want our kids to have. Is he ready to commit to an overhaul of public education?

      My husband also pointed out the giant pile of racism in his article. I’ll leave that commentary to someone else.

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