Oh (No) Baby

Winter -- with the holidays' out-of-control commercialism -- is all about children. It's a fact that makes a growing contingent of the population roll their eyes or shudder with disgust. They're the "childfree," meaning they've chosen never to have kids. They prefer that term to "childless," which they feel implies some sort of loss, or incompleteness.

Deciding not to bear the fruit of your loins is nothing new, but within the last five years the childfree community has begun to band together, largely through online support groups. The more vocal members of the community have drawn headlines with their sometimes scathing diatribes against "ankle biters," yet the range of childfree people is as varied as the range of those who choose to parent, running the gamut from caring, intelligent individuals to petty assholes.

Who are these people? What do they want? And what's a "crotch dropping?"

Kidcentric culture

It's unclear when the term "childfree" came into being, but it gained popularity in the '90s via the Childfree Network, one of the first organizations devoted to this growing segment of the population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control's 2002 survey "Fertility, Family Planning and Reproductive Health of U.S.," just saying no to kids is becoming a more popular option. Among the 61.6 million women aged 15 to 44 in 2002, 6.2 percent were voluntarily childless, up from 4.9 percent in 1982. Furthermore, the percentage of childless women who expect to have one child in their lifetimes (13 percent) was down by almost half what it was in 1995 (25 percent).

Reasons for choosing this lifestyle can range from personal to pecuniary. In a recent study conducted by economist Amalia Miller of the University of Virginia, a woman in her 20s can expect to increase her lifetime wages by 10 percent for each year she delays giving birth.

Who are the voluntarily childless? Numerous research studies have revealed that most couples who choose not to reproduce are well-educated, are employed in a professional field, have high incomes, are generally white, live in urban areas and are less religious than their child-bearing counterparts.

Childfree couples, or DINKs (Double Income No Kids), say they endure severe pressure from friends, family and co-workers, and the wrath of "breeders" who often paint the childfree as selfish, irresponsible people; hedonistic party animals; or simply "going through a phase."

From the website Childfree.net:

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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