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.