Why Are Conservatives Obsessed With Making Women Breed?
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And there are other questions to consider. What about the fact that we’re not taking care of the babies we’ve already given birth to, like the 104,000 children in the U.S. foster care systemalone. And what about the fact that Americans are only 5 percent of the world’s population, but we consume almost a quarter of the world’s energy?
“No Babies Of Your Own?”
I am a woman of childbearing age without children, and that gives me a curious vantage point from which to examine the rhetoric around baby-making. Douthat, after all, isn’t the only person encouraging me to get pregnant. His argument is extreme—and its racism and misogyny are in high relief—but it’s not that far off from the kinds of things my liberal-minded acquaintances say. When they discover my husband and I have been considering adopting a child instead of giving birth to one, they ask, “But don’t you want babies of your own?”
Others take a different approach. “You two are exactly the kind of people who should be having children,” they say, conspiratorially, and I wonder who they think should notreproduce. Their words, with their echo of eugenics, make me uncomfortable.
I went to see a doctor about pain I was having in my lower back. “You’re getting older,” he said. “Do you plan to have kids?”
“I’m not sure,” I said.
“Do you want to be lonely when you’re old? Do you want to die alone?” he asked, and when I didn’t answer, he continued:
“When you get pregnant make sure you do Pilates. It will help your back get strong and keep your stomach flat after you have the baby. Then you should move to a different neighborhood with fewer migrant workers so your kids can go to better schools.”
And there it was, that strange and strangling knot of social pressure and racism and entitlement and fear all laid out on the table in the doctor’s office for me to examine—the pressure that will never stop no matter what I do, even if I follow the commandments shouted in advertisements and during family gatherings and in doctors’ offices when I’m sitting in a paper gown that opens in the back.
Because, really, that’s what having children is -- a commandment. There is a biblical mandate supporting Douthat’s argument to have more babies no matter what the consequences. And it is exactly this mandate -- this demand by the biblical God -- that needs to be unpacked, critically analyzed, rethought, even thrown out. Have you read Genesis 9:1-2 recently? The verses are chilling:
God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered.”
I have chosen not to have a biological child because I don’t want to live in a world where every animal of the earth and bird of the air experiences fear and dread at my approach. Douthat frames that decision as selfish and decadent:
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.