April 8, 2006


The rise of the 'childfree' (BBC, March 31st, 2006)

Childless or childfree? Not so long ago, all women without children were known as childless, with its implication of a state of loss. Nowadays, a growing number of women are insisting on the term childfree - with its emphasis on liberation.

An increasing number of women in their 30s are rejecting the job description that they believe comes with parenting - loss of freedom, reduced career prospects and financial burdens.

Numbers are difficult to come by, but London School of Economics sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim has carried out some extensive research in this area.

She has no doubt rising numbers of people are actively choosing not to have children.

"In many European countries around 10% of women reach the age of 45 with no kids," she says.

"Of that figure, there are those who have chosen to remain childfree, those who have delayed having a child and are experiencing problems, and those who are infertile. A UN fertility study says 2-3% will fall into that category."

She believes the number without children will double in many countries to around 20% - except Germany, where the figure is already closer to 30%, partly because it is seen as having some of the most family unfriendly policies in Europe.

The BBC has been running an interesting series here, here, here, here, here, here and here on plummeting European birthrates and the efforts of various governments to reverse the trend. Most involve some lump sum payment that might just cover diapers for a year or extended maternity/paternity leave. (Although lost somewhere in the Brothersjudd archives is a cute story of how bureaucrats in one country–Japan, if memory serves–think publically sponsored porn on late night TV will result in a flush of patriotic fertility.)

So far, the results of all these incentives seem to be zero to negligible, which leads to an interesting question: Just what motivates a couple to have more than 1-2 children and what, if anything, could a modern Western government do to increase the birthrate without jumping foursquare into Orwellian social planning? Regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised that we strongly suspect the task is futile in a secularized society, but let’s try to keep the discussion in the realm of realistic public policy options and invite your “if I were king for a day” views on the legal or social measures needed to maintain the birthrate at replacement levels or increase it. To get the ball rolling, let me modestly suggest the “childfree” ethos spreading among modern Western women is a direct result of their perfectly understandable reluctance to be dependent on an increasingly feckless and self-regarding Western male population and that the focus must be on finding ways to encourage--nay force--men to understand that they aren’t in this world for fun and that nobody really gives a d---n about their precious freedom or personal fulfillment.

Posted by Peter Burnet at April 8, 2006 7:47 AM

Get rid of no fault divorce.

Posted by: Buttercup at April 8, 2006 8:51 AM

... and welfare.

Posted by: erp at April 8, 2006 9:04 AM

Well, France is seen as the most secular of nations, yet the French fertility rate is second-highest in Europe. And as far as I know, this is not just, or even mainly, because of the Muslim minority; France would have a higher birthrate than most of the rest of Europe even without the Muslim minority. So it seems that government policies that favor large families can make a difference.

I wonder if other factors than secularism could also explain low birthrates. Ethnicity/race, for example. I think the US has a fertility rate of 2.1 or more, but if we excluded non-whites from that figure, what would be the result? Do white Americans breed at a significantly higher rate than white Europeans?

In 20th century Europe there was one country which had a very high natural population growth rate as a direct result of pro-natal government policies. The country in question was Nazi Germany, and their big idea was to deny most women employment. Nazism was in oj's opinion a secularist ideology, so it seems that secularism doesn't necessarily make people stop having children. (But then again, Nazism wasn't really secularist.)

Posted by: Mrk at April 8, 2006 9:10 AM

I wonder where the Swiss fit in to all this. The reason I ask is because in Switzerland there is mandatory military service. Could this be the solution?

Posted by: Bartman at April 8, 2006 9:19 AM

Here's a chart with the basic data on fertility for the US, for the last century.

At the end of the post, I add this speculation:

"And there is another possible explanation for the decline in European fertility rates that I discussed last March. Some researchers believe that the increase in pension benefits caused the baby bust in both the United States and Europe."

That's been taking seriously enough so that a Japanese legislator has proposed linking pension benefits to having children. I have predicted that some experiments along that line will be made within the next two decades.

(I haven't looked at the original research yet, but still plan to.)

Posted by: Jim Miller at April 8, 2006 9:29 AM

Wasn't there a discussion here (I think) about the difficulty for women to return to work after having children because of restrictive government employment policies that reward longevity but punish people who leave the workforce for some length of time? It would probably help to loosen those strictures.

Posted by: sharon at April 8, 2006 9:42 AM

#1 -- Real financial incentives to increase family size in the tax code. Instead of a mortgage interest deduction, which rewards wealth-gathering, and deducations for state taxes, which reward big government, replace the personal exemption and standard exemption with a single, $5000 deduction for every family member. Then use that deduction not just to determine the 0% tax bracket, but every other tax bracket -- e.g. up to 1x your deduction the tax rate is 0%, up to 4x your deducation the tax rate is 10%, up to 7x your deduction the tax rate is 20%, then 30%. So a 6-person family earning $100k would pay $7k in taxes while a single person earning $100k would pay $24k. This would create a real incentive for young working people to marry and have kids.

#2 - Use the bully pulpit to promote love (as in love the Lord God with all your mind, heart, and soul, and your neighbor as yourself) as the primary purpose and source of meaning in every life, and marriage and child-rearing as the primary expression of love for most people. Strive to make child-bearing and nurturing respectable and admirable.

Posted by: pj at April 8, 2006 10:23 AM


Isn't France's fertility rate due in large part to it's Muslim population? Isn't it still below 2.1?


Jim is probalby on the right track. Huge pension/SS benefits cause two simultaneous factors.

1. Less need for children to support you.

2. higher taxes during your earning years.

Somewhere on this blog is a post that actually ties (or starts to) fertility to tax rates.

Also note that these decisions are not necessarily conscious, in that a couple deciding not have kids doesn't necessarily take out a calculator and do the math.

What ever isn't explained by economic factors (taxes & pensions) is going to be religious, and there is only one social engineering solution for that.

Public Schools are a de facto "established religion" in the US (tax supported even).

Public Schools actively attack regligious belief (other than theirs - which is a virulent and malignant form of "secular humanism").

They actively promote the idea that you are nothing but a lump meat (so be irresponsible, don't have kids, have orgasms, abortions, kill your clone to save your pancreas, etc etc).

Once again, there is nothing wrong with Western Civilization (cultural or economic) that getting rid of the public education system (and replacing it with 100% fully funded school choice) doesn't fix.

It isn't a question of new or better social engineering, but of removing the vile social engineering that we've already been subjected to.

Posted by: Bruno at April 8, 2006 10:32 AM

Morko - I think you're right about all that, although what we now call militant secularism is the closest counterpart in contemporary life to Nazi paganism and anti-Judeo-Christianity. White France is a little higher in birthrate than most of western Europe, at about 1.7; white America is a little higher still, at about 1.94 I believe. Clearly we're affected by the same cultural forces decreasing the European birth rate.

erp is right that welfare discourages marriage, and getting rid of welfare would help in that regard. Welfare also encourages out of wedlock births, which may further reduce the chance of marriage and make large numbers of children.

Sharon is on to something about making work less momentous and therefore more flexible. Just transitioning health care to an individual purchase, by extending payroll and income taxes to employer-paid health benefits while making personal purchases deductible, would make health care portable and remove an incentive for women to remain in the work force, and remove an expense that makes employers reluctant to hire. Similar changes to employment laws, making employment more flexible, would also promote the family.

Posted by: pj at April 8, 2006 10:34 AM

Jim has great points about Social Security and Medicare being a likely cause of low fertility. Personal accounts would help -- because people could leave leftover money to children, they would incentivize closer families as opposed to the distant relationship with children that Social Security permits and promotes.

Bruno is also right I think that giving parents more power to control their children's education through vouchers would increase the rewards of having children, as well as improving the culture.

Posted by: pj at April 8, 2006 11:00 AM

Jim's chart shows the fertility rate plummeting after ~ 1964, just in time for the Great Society legislation (warning, possible post-hoc fallacy in play here)to be a plausible influence.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at April 8, 2006 11:12 AM

Bruce, by 1964, the pill, cheap convenient guilt-free abortions, lots of welfare and SS pensions for drunks and other neerdowells changed the landscape.

Posted by: erp at April 8, 2006 11:28 AM

Mr. Burnet, I think that the solution is coming, and magic is not needed. Grandmothers have always been a large social force for more children. This has been negated by the world's huge social mobility. The internet seems to be acting as a brake on this, and I think we will see local communities start to rebuild as people have less and less reason to leap from city to city.
A response to your solution. Why do you blame men for the current problem. The lowered birth rate seems to track nicely to women's increased 'rights'. No fault divorce did not exist when men were in charge. Men never marched to kill babies.
There was never a men's movement to destroy marriage in the name of equality. As it stands, women have rights and men have responsibilities. I find it odd that you would blame men when they have only lost. In America today a man can't get married and can't get divorced. If it looks like all the men dating are feckless, why would any responsible man get close to a woman without as many chaparones as possible?
A last point. This whole thing looks to me to be a struggle between Mothers and Daughters. While men continue to treat women as equals(wink, wink) there is not much we(the people who post here) can do.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 8, 2006 12:02 PM

Here are the nations ranked by fertility rate.

Although usually presented as a constant, the replacement rate changes over time. The fertility rate is the average number of children women who survive to 15 will have during her lifetime, so the replacement rate is 2 (to replace the parents) plus whatever portion of a child is necessary to make up for woman who die before 15. So, the replacement rate has been reducing itself over time and now, in wealthy western societies, is probably just a skosh over 2.

If you draw a line from the California/Nevada/Mexican border to the most northern point in Maine, fertility rates decrease as you go North and East. The explanation is partly immigration, partly religious (correlating very strongly with LDS populations), and also teenage pregnancy, which, by itself, explains the difference between the US and Europe. New England reproduces at European rates.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 8, 2006 12:10 PM

"a Japanese legislator has proposed linking pension benefits to having children."

Do you know his name, by any chance? I'd like to look into him, and see whether his policies are being considered seriously by the taskforce on the low birthrate. That sounds like a sure loser electorally, but Japan is a de facto one party state at the national level, so "electoral loser" isn't quite the problem there it is here.

Posted by: Taeyoung at April 8, 2006 12:26 PM


Because men got there first. An interesting thing about the modern feminist movement with its emphasis on individual freedom and dispensible men ( as opposed to traditional feminist concerns with checking male misbehaviours)is how quickly it succeeded in garnering the general support of men and how little resistance it met from all us evil, oppressive king-of-the-hill patriarchs. The reason for this, I believe, is that men, having swallowed old Hughie Hefner's creed about radical personal freedom, casual and self-contained sex, no-fault divorce, etc, etc. really couldn't see much to object to---it all made perfect sense once you got past the rhetorical, theatrical male-bashing. That's why it all happened so fast so soon after. Plus you don't have to be a genius to see the self-interest for men in feminism's promise of sexual openness, birth control, abortion and self-supporting women. Kind of takes the pressure off, doesn't it? Go, gal, go!

Now, I agree I am banking on the theory that women are no more able unaided to be clear-eyed about what kind of life is most fulfilling and worth struggling for than are men, so I plead guilty to equal-opportunity paternalism and even some of the amateur psychoanalysis I usually get touchy about when others apply it to me. But "men don't commit" isn't a common female lament seared into their cultural psyches for nothing. Women generally seem to have become fatalistic about it and therefore focus on their own defiant independence. What else could they do? I'm hoping they would change their worldview if more men did stay and suffered more social consequences if they didn't.

Posted by: Peter B at April 8, 2006 12:28 PM

I tend to agree with Robert but throughout human history I don't think men have been the responsible party. It was women that "domesticated" men. Today's problem can probably be seen as women now neglecting their own duties of holding men in check to take care of the family.
Even the strongest family man has strong temptations for younger women, etc....

Posted by: Scott at April 8, 2006 12:30 PM

When we escape from Griswold and the heinous "right to privacy," we will be halfway there. Alito and Roberts are great first steps.

Birthrates drop when contraception is encouraged. If we can "regress" to a point where each state can choose to allow/disallow contraception, the states that are puritanical will increase their electoral footprint every generation. Game over.

To hasten a higher growth rate, federal tax incentives for producing kids, as suggested above, would amplify the fecundity of those backward wahoo states that refuse to view children as a disease.

In addition, child-killing sophisticated states might incentivize their child-hating culture: providing tax benefits for gay coupling, underwriting studio apartments, euthenizing misbehaving "high cost" children, ignoring elementary schools, maybe shipping their foster kids to child-friendly states the way Florida used to put their AIDS patients on buses bound for San Francisco. In any event, their populations would decline and their electoral strength would continue to be reduced. Obviously, this is already happening if you think of most urban centers as the acme of liberal invention and if you regard abortion as either contraception or euthenasia.

But to shorten the window for the victory of the child-friendly culture, the potemkin world of Griswold must be overturned.

Posted by: Palmcroft at April 8, 2006 12:31 PM


Good points. I'm wondering what you think about the idea that there is a conservative argument for biting the bullet on public healthcare or public healthcare insurance for children. One of the things that nags me about Health Savings Accounts in an era when we are all expecting to need to provide for years of chronic care is the potential for intra-family competition for health dollars. This puts the parents of large families at quite the disadvantage, both in terms of disposible income to invest in them, but also form competing demands on where to spend the money. The first is true about everything--kids cost money--but, for better or worse, medical care is now seen as something that simply has to be provided somehow, especially for children. It's unacceptable to do without. But it is really the second that bothers me. Any parent of a sick kid would be expected to spend his/her HSA for them, and most would, but might the whole psychology of it have a negative influence on the decision whether to have the child in the first place?

Also, as Orrin notes often, the cost of medical care for kids is generally very low cost, but nothing is more poignant than the few who really are in need.

Posted by: Peter B at April 8, 2006 12:41 PM

Mr. Burnet, thanks for your response. I disagree with the motivation you give to men. It's why I spoke of men treating women like equals(wink, wink).
I think that men have are are motivated by chivalry, and got sharked once the women decided to abuse that to get their way. I think that the women(more correctly the daughters) are much more into free love and radical personal freedom then the
men. It's just that the 5%(the Bill Clintons) of men can burn through a Lot of women. But they are not the majority of men, and they are not respected by the majority. The daughters on the other side are not spoken of in those terms, because what father wants to think of his daughter as a slut?
I do think it odd that you speak of irresponsible men, when the men are serving in the military in numbers do not balance with the male female divide, and the women are ending marriages in a 70/30 ratio to the men.
I think that you are still thinking of women as better then they are, as so you look for ways to blame men. You are still following chivalry. But the Feminists have put you in a corner. Chivalry vs. Society. As long as you follow chivalry, how do you fight back?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 8, 2006 12:53 PM

first off, people who don't really want children won't have them regardless of the incentives offered. that leaves the people who do want children (or more children) but are holding back do to uncertainty or outright anxiety, about their ability to provide a good life for their offspring.

i sense that the first group is growing larger as a function of affluence. as such they are beyond simple incentives.

the second group would reach their natural (i.e. maximal) reproductive rate if there were an actual and formal social compact, with the local and federal governments. the american economy is reliable in the aggregate but quite scary (at times) for particular individuals. i am not advocating socialism, but raw capitalism isn't desireable either. oj refers to this as the third way, and i think he is half-way there.

in previous centuries, people in the cities still had relatives working the land, and could retreat there in times of scarcity. that is no longer the case; once your income stream is disrupted you are immediately in a precarious position (depending on your stored reserves).

i know it sounds absurb, but i genuinely believe that agrarian communites would/could serve as a
kind of "social battery". if a family found itself in a financially precarious situation they could temporarily relocate to a nearby community where they could sustain themselves by their own physical labor. this would also allow people to learn skills and trades so that they can transition between jobs. this scheme would also serve to preserve much of our arable land, as there would not be any commercial pressure for maximal yields.

Posted by: toe at April 8, 2006 1:00 PM


Ouch! Fair enough, even if marked by a smidgeon of bitterness. I guess I should amend the closing sentence of my comment to the post to include women.

Thoughts abound by way of reply, but I think I am going to sit back a while and defer to some of the women around here.

Posted by: Peter B at April 8, 2006 1:02 PM

Do what South Dakota has done and ban abortions in every case except when it clearly threatens the mother's life.

Posted by: Vince at April 8, 2006 1:10 PM

Peter - HSAs are not a substitute for insurance. I would favor tax credits/deductions for both high-deductible insurance and HSAs, along with what I'd call public charities -- let taxpayers donate some of the taxes to charities, registered with the government, who use the money to pay healthy care costs for the indigent of all ages. Hospitals could run their own charities, for instance. Then there would be money available for the deserving needy, but it wouldn't be an automatic entitlement, with the all the disincentives that creates.

Posted by: pj at April 8, 2006 1:14 PM

Mr. Burnet, thanks for your time. No bitterness, honest. I just watched my sisters and listened to the various women customers who forget I have ears.
The average woman seems bloodthirsty and cutthroat when they aren't posing. I will never forget the level of bile thrown when the lesbian couple broke up. Especially when compared to the Navy guys getting mugged by papers when they came back from sea. Quite a difference....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 8, 2006 1:14 PM

Bruno more or less beat me to it.

Before we can do anything to restore the ethics of reproduction, we must crush the infamous thing--the public school system. Children must be taught, by prayer and Bible reading, that they are part of a community going backward and forward in time, from forebears to progeny, and that their bodies are not their own. 1 Cor 3:16.

It is doubtful that this may succeed. The atheists, homosexuals and religious minorities have done their work too well. Too many people are convinced that freedom of religion means freedom from religion, and sexual license is too strong a sell without a supernatural sanction.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 8, 2006 1:39 PM

Taeyoung - I looked but didn't find it on my site. So I guess I noted the story, but never blogged about it. (So many mistakes in the "mainstream" media, so little time.) I am pretty sure that he was a member of the Liberal Democrats, but not in the Cabinet.

You might want to do some searches on the names of the researchers, which you cna find by following my links.

Posted by: Jim Miller at April 8, 2006 2:12 PM

This is the confluence of a baby boom, The resultant me generation, the pill, the ease of abortion, feminism and the collapse of traditional mores.

Make it socially acceptable and financially feasible for mothers to stay at home with the kids in a traditional family setting and the birth rate will increase.

Posted by: Genecis at April 8, 2006 2:46 PM

Until recently, people were forced to rely on their own resources. Children are a resource. Psalms 127: 3-5 3. Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

The Judeo/Christian religion recognized this fact and taught accordingly. The welfare state, schools, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other welfare programs, allow us to escape our personal responsibilities thus weakening the role of the Church and the family. The pill and abortion have provided escape from responsibility for sexual activity.

The government can and will do nothing to remedy this problem other than utterly fail. By that I mean to become unable for some reason to serve as a surrogate family. The existing and new welfare programs required to prop up the current programs may be the source of that failure. In that event, there will be a Christian revival that will again honor Motherhood because children will be seen as an essential resource.

Posted by: TGN at April 8, 2006 2:51 PM

The most obvious solution would appear to be encouraging cheap ownership of homes with a yard since that seems to be the biggest barrier in limiting family sizes.

I'm not sure Hitler's policies to boost German birth-rates were entirely successful. They did go up but so did divorce, prostitution and VD.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at April 8, 2006 3:34 PM

I agree with Peter that men's irresponsibility is a large part of the problem, though it is als linked to the de-masculinization of men that our popular culture has indlulged in for the last 30 years.

I disagree with Lou's "blame the athiests" mantra. How is it that 5% of the population is able to dictate the social terms for the other 95%? The ironic thing is that in America sexual liberation has become more mainstream even as religiosity has held steady or increased. Hard core pornography is a respectable business nowadays. I've seen a report that pornographic movie rentals at hotels actually increase when they are hosting Christian conventions.

I have a radical idea. Lets lower the age of adulthood to 14. Let 14 year olds start households and families. We're not keeping them from having sex by keeping them in adolescence forever. The coddling of children in our society has increased the cost of having children for the parents, and decreased the incentives to have them. If a parent could kick an unruly 14 year old out of the house, or could start demanding rent, then it wouldn't seem like a life sentence at the outset when deciding to have a child. During most of human history adolescents have been treated like adults. Today we continue to infantilize even those in their twenties.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 8, 2006 5:15 PM

Robert, to you and the other guys who think things went bad when women had something to say about being barefoot and pregnant, I hope you are, a. not married, or b. do your blogging in the closet out of sight of feminine eyes.

Things went bad because men were so oppressive that the minute we women saw an opening we ran for the doors. Watch Moslem women do the same thing as soon as they see the camel's nose under the tent.

We may have smaller brains, but we use every bit of the brain we have. Too bad there are probably less than a half dozen female commenters here because you all deserve an avalanche misery heaped upon your heads. I hope the women who read this blog, but don't usually comment, will make an exception this time.

There are lots of reasons for the drop in the birthrate. Most of them have already been listed and they all apply. When large families were the only way to insure that enough kids would survive the scourges of childhood and live to help with the chores and take care of the old folks, we had large families . . . and following the rule that, when the student is ready, the teacher arrives, the pill became available so we were able to have fewer children.

Monetary incentives will have no effect on the reproductive practices of the middle or upper classes and those in the lower economic levels are already getting paid to have more kids and have all their needs taken care of by We, the People's taxes.

I think it bodes well for the human race that reproducing ourselves may no longer be necessary because it probably means we won't be losing people to plague and pestilence and famine and we probably won't need fodder for cannons because political leaders are learning that trade, not military victory brings wealth and prosperity to their people.

So get a grip and stop worrying. This "problem" will resolve itself one way or another.

Posted by: erp at April 8, 2006 5:36 PM

But what if it doesn't, erp?

Things went bad because men were so oppressive that the minute we women saw an opening we ran for the doors.

Would that have been in the jurassic or cretaceous period when things started to go wrong? Granted men have always been women's cross to bear, but you may want to scan your Shakespeare or Himmelfarb before concluding the history of the war between the sexes was so uni-directional.

Posted by: Peter B at April 8, 2006 6:06 PM

Thank you for your shotgun response Ms. Erp. I will attempt to answer all your points.
One: Of course I am not married, this is America. The only feminine eyes watching are those of my mother, who doesn't belive women should be allowed to own property or vote(probably an over reaction to the election of Bill Clinton).
I don't think things 'went bad' when women had something to say about being barefoot and pregnant.
I think things 'went bad' because of what women had
to said about being barefoot and pregnant. If the women choose to say that they must be allowed to kill babies and cannot be held to any level of responsiblity, because they are the equals of men, I will treat them with the same contempt I would a man who denied and idea of duty or honor.
Two: One of the complaints is that women did not run for the doors when they had the chance. If they had, I would have a lot more respect for them. Instead they proclaimed they were equal to the head of the household and expected to be treated as such. But they did not expect to loose any of the perks they had aqquired up to that point. This is not the act of an Adult, it is the act of a teenager. You can do this, but you will get no respect.
Three: I made no comment or implication that women were physically or mentally inferior. I disagreed with the choices they made. You responded with a very chauvinistic reply. This is not the first time I have been told that women are superior. Do you really think that most or all women are living up to 100% of their potential? Is this the best women can do? In short, less arguement by fiat, more thought.
Forth: We are talking about the survival of the Human Race. You seem to have written off the Human Race and are looking forward to a happy utopian Post-Human future. I, and I believe most of the posters here, are not so optimistic. If I am reading your reply correctly, your answer is give up. thank you, but no.
Mr. Burnet, you have had a female poster reply.
So, what were your ideas? Thank you for your time.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 8, 2006 6:35 PM

My answer begs the question, but it's still a necessary condition: hope for the future. Nihilists do not reproduce.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 8, 2006 6:39 PM


Yes, I have had a female reply, from one I respect mightily and am closer to than you. Sadly, I am not sure this debate can profitably be held on even a site as civilized as this. Too much bitterness.

Here is the short version of my take. Women have lived with ideological and often personally self-indulgent men for almost three generations now. Understandably, they object and re-act, which, in our times, has meant aping them. This is certainly an advance for men's freedom, and arguably for that of women, but it has clearly been a disaster for children. Choose your priority.

Your basic point that the mess won't be resolved by men assuming all blame and women hiding behind eternal victinhood is incontrovertible, and I call upon erp to be a little more forthright about the "oppressed sisters" here. But, Robert, reflect a bit and try to transcend the personal. Your choice of angry lesbians vs. stalwart Marines as symbols of genders is perhaps a little open to criticism. Just a little.

Posted by: Peter B at April 8, 2006 7:28 PM

There is/was no war between the sexes. There have been occasional women through the ages who have risen above their station, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule. I could go on with examples from my own life starting in the 40's and 50's, but that story has been told countless times by writers with far greater skill at narrative than I.

That some women made very bad choices says nothing about the fact they men held the purse strings and once a woman had a baby, she was truly stuck in place. There was literally no place she could go. The law was on the side of the husband.

This is for you Catholics. Do you remember the counsel priests gave to women married to drunkards who beat them and their children? They were told if they were better wives, the old man wouldn't drink and beat them.

I'm not writing anything off. I'm saying that the world is changing and reproducing our numbers may not be as important as it once was. I'm very optimistic that our progeny will make good choices for themselves even if they're not the same choices as we would have made.

I'm not so chauvinistic as to think that today is the only viable model for tomorrow.

Posted by: erp at April 8, 2006 8:11 PM

Mr. Burnet, thanks for your reply. A few thoughts. Why would responding to self-indulgent men mean aping them? You completely lost me. Why has this been an advance for men's freedom? License and Freedom are not the same, not even close. What have men stopped being responsible for, that has hurt children? Men must provide for their children or go to jail. If anything, men have been given more responsiblity. If you could give me an example of men losing accountablity(in a legal sense) for their children I would be grateful. You agree that men aren't completely to
blame, and that's good. But what I am trying to see is how men are to blame for any of it. What responsiblities have men put down? One of my failings is that I have completely transended the personal. I have never dated, and the fires of creation burned out years ago. I have no ugly break-up in my past. I just watch and read. I'm a
kabitzer in a game I don't play. If there is any bitterness, it's because I am very dull, which many people take to be mature and trustworthy. I have been approached a couple of times for help with 'a problem'. I've had to help a guy who believed that 'a problem' had been solved without his knowing. Each time, what could they do? It's the woman's right to choose. You want men to be more responsible. The responsible thing to do is to avoid women, unless you don't care if your child lives or dies. I don't know any men that shallow. So the birth rate drops like a rock, which is the point of the post we are discussing.
One thing, it was not angry lesbians vs. stalwart marines. It was women vs. men. I have never seen a women blame herself for a failed marriage, and I have always seen the man blame himself. I don't claim it's universal, but it is the pattern I've had to live with. Much like your first post. The men take responsiblity, sometimes more than they should. They hold each other to account. I have seen individual women take responsiblity, but holding other women to account seems to be the break point. I have seen many excuses made for abortions. If Women want the respect of Men, that has to change.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 8, 2006 8:14 PM

Robert -

It has been my experience ... some 63 year's worth ... that women almost always blame themselves, in whole or in major part, for a failed marriage.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 8, 2006 8:27 PM

Ms. Erp, thanks for you response. But you have correctly stated that women are equal to men. You don't get to play the victim. Women had and have more money and property then men. Families were and
are there for when things go south. If a woman had No place to go, she must have burnt every bridge she had. Not the sort of person you want to look to when changing one's society.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 8, 2006 8:47 PM

Thank you for your thoughts Ghostcat. The older women I know seem to have a handle on responsiblity.
Perhaps that's part of the sea-change that came with Roe vs. Wade?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 8, 2006 8:51 PM

"Child-free"? We might as well say "Love-free", "future-free" or "legacy-free".

Posted by: Noel at April 8, 2006 9:11 PM

Robert -

My wife of nearly 42 years would argue that women have become as self-indulgent as men, and that this change should not be confused with progress.

Lots of reasons for the change. The pill. Roe. The wussification of boys. And a sense of entitlement which can be traced directly to the extension of affirmative action to women.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 8, 2006 9:12 PM

Hilarity ensues. Peter, you're never more adorable than when you are lying on your back, drumming your heels on the floor like any two-year-old. Of course women are having fewer children, that's what happens the instant they are no longer their husbands' property. Give someone the chance to make their own living and live their own life and they will, mirabile dictu, earn their own living and live their own life.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 8, 2006 9:52 PM

Joe -

Peter can always be counted on to leave something behind in the punch bowl. Agitation typically ensues, along with the hilarity.

There is a distinction to be made, by the way, between "fewer children" and "sub-replacement rate". Were oj present, he would perhaps note that believers of various stripes are replacing themselves quite nicely, thank you. Nihilists, on the other hand, are extinquishing themselves.

And I believe it's been some time since wives were considered their husbands' property.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 8, 2006 10:23 PM

ghost: the loss Peter's mourning is just this: women can now choose to work and not have children, as do both of my sisters, and no one will call them spinsters or old maids. That's a change which is at most a couple of generations old, so yes it is pretty recent.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 8, 2006 10:32 PM

As do both of my daughters, Joe, but I don't think you're being fair to Peter. Demography is destiny in the long run.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 8, 2006 11:34 PM

He has it coming to him:
finding ways to encourage--nay force--men to understand that they arent in this world for fun

So speaketh the wrath of God. Except for the fact that Peter isn't God, and knows no more than any of us do why we are here. It's podunk pastor's disease: foaming at the mouth over changes he can neither understand not control. Brava, Peter.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 8, 2006 11:41 PM

We aren't, you know.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 8, 2006 11:45 PM

I know -- for all any of us know, the great change in womens' lives over the last two generations or so is looked on with favor. Certainly in human terms it was a reasonable and decent thing, which is the best we can hope to do. There's no reason to see red over it. If Peter wants to that's his problem, replacement rate or no.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 8, 2006 11:50 PM


Your sisters are in fact spinsters and old maids.

There, someone said it.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 9, 2006 1:54 AM

It has nothing to do with "men's problems" or "women's decisions". You have to have a solid partner to want to have kids. A belief that there is more to life than your own self-interest helps alot. This is scarce so families are small.

Posted by: andy at April 9, 2006 3:01 AM

Noel nails it.

Also, although low birth rates may doom certain ethnicities and cultures, the human race itself is in no danger whatsoever.

The anxiety of various governments over the trend has to do with an unfortunate demographic coincidence: The worldwide slowdown in fertility came right on the heels of the birth of the largest generation in human history.

That's leading many to (rightly) despair over how to pay promised pensions and social benefits, but that aside, there's not much reason to be worried about sub-replacement fertility rates.

It's a temporary phenomenon that thirty years' hence we'll see as having been only slightly more worrisome than the overpopulation scare of the '70s.

Until the Industrial Revolution, populations grew very slowly, with many major setbacks, such as the Black Plague.

To echo Paul, erp, ghostcat, and Lou Gots (from other threads): Take heart. All is well.

Let those individuals and cultures that don't value children over lucre reap the wages of such foolishness; humanity will be the better for the self-selected pogrom.

As for the unavoidable difficulties that almost all societies will have with supporting retirees until mid-century...
We'll muddle through. There are solutions, we're just not going to apply them until we've exhausted the possibilities of easier ways.
There are going to be a lot of bitter older people, Europeans in particular.


That's pretty much how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does it, leading to the fertility patterns that David Cohen mentions.

The Mormon Church has farms and canneries, mostly staffed by volunteers, that provide for those members who need a helping hand.
Also, all Mormon families are supposed to have a year's worth of food staples, such as raw wheat and beans, and to pay off their homes as quickly as possible, so that when families fall on hard times they have some breathing room in which to find a solution.

Mormons don't tend to do much of the financial calculation that Bruno touches on.
We just have kids, trusting that God, family, or the Church will provide. And whaddya know, so far it's been a very successful strategy.
Also a quintessentially American strategy - a pioneer spirit.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 9, 2006 4:15 AM

Women have kids if their friends have kids, so culture is to blame.

When I was younger (early 70's) I noticed something rather amazing: as soon as women started working, house prices doubled and inflation went through the roof. Amazing. Things cost whatever we can afford to pay.

Buying that shiny new garbage disposal and second car instead of having another child didn't work out so well.

But I agree with Michael. In fifty years, the current crop of home-schooled Evangelicals and Catholic immigrants (and Mormons) will have changed the landscape considerably.

Posted by: Randall Voth at April 9, 2006 5:30 AM

Oh, joe, believe me. I'm not just drumming my heels or foaming. I have big plans and you're on the list.

But, seriously, I'm willing to try. Let's see if I've got it. For thousands of years men enslaved women as their "property", forced them into marriage reluctantly and demanded they have those third, fourth, etc. children completely against their wishes, thus depriving them of the chance to take college extension courses in middle age or open craft boutiques. "I am your Lord and Master, so procreate, woman! I need that sixth child to take care of me in my old age." Then your sisters came along and said "marriage, smarriage, we're going to be dental technicians instead." and everybody lived happily ever after. The end.

How am I doing?

Posted by: Peter B at April 9, 2006 6:00 AM


Also, although low birth rates may doom certain ethnicities and cultures, the human race itself is in no danger whatsoever.

Boy, there is a cheery thought. Is that supposed to be reassuring?

Posted by: Peter B at April 9, 2006 6:34 AM

I find it to be reassuring, since I'm human.

The cultures and societies which will go away are mostly ones that are anti-American, and some are deeply repulsive and misogynist, so as far as I'm concerned it's good riddance to very bad rubbish.

Also, I'm on the winning team - my culture is here to stay, my subculture will dominate that larger culture, and American society is clearly moving towards my preferred position on all but one issue that I care about.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 9, 2006 7:36 AM

As much as certain posters disparage the invention of The Pill, it was the first time in human history that women had REAL control of their reproduction rates. It's always amusing to me when someone talks as though women determining they didn't want to have a child every 18 months, watch their teeth fall out, have very high rates of osteoperosis, and die young were being "selfish." What a concept! Women wanted to be able to do something with their own lives besides spawn and die.

As for the arguments about men mistreating women, the law was largely on the side of men and married women were considered, at best, to be on the same level with children and "imbeciles," according to Texas law until 1967. Blackstone said it well when he said a married woman's property rights were "suspended" during marriage and all her property became her husband's. Don't lecture that women were sitting around eating bonbons and living the life of Riley before the women's movement. Women had relatively few employment opportunities and even, in fact, educational ones, and those schools which would admit women to higher education only admitted a few, as they reserved most spaces for men because they would have to be "breadwinners."

As for the sexual revolution and how men were not selfish but it is the women who are sluts, what planet do you live on? I know many, many young women (in their 20's) who would love to get married and have children, but most of the men surrounding them are too busy mooching off their parents and playing XBox 360. This is when they aren't whining that "if you loved me you would..." Puh-lease! I haven't been married THAT long that I don't remember those days.

BTW, I have been divorced and I will tell you that I (and most women I know) took ALL the blame for the divorce. My attorney, in fact, told me that most women do not even attempt to get everything available to them in the divorce because they feel guilty for wanting one. I have since remarried and have 3 children (managing to replace me and both my husbands), but, sorry, until men get to go through childbirth, any arguments about how women are "selfish" because they don't want to go through 4 days of labor every couple of years for 10 years will fall on deaf ears.

Posted by: sharon at April 9, 2006 9:12 AM

You go girl! The resident cranks and neophobes need to be reminded very often that the Fall didn't occur in 1964 with the British Rock & Roll Invasion. All was Godly bliss in Christendom before the sly serpent wiggled his hips on national TV and women decided that they wanted sex and careers.

I'll not totally defend current cultural practices, but I will defend the advancement of women in educational, economic and marital realms (minus abortion, of course). There is no reason that our society can't have replacement level fertility rates and female autonomy. What I haer from my nieces confirms your view of the marriage-able male marketplace. We've raised the most commitment phobic, risk averse (except when it comes to taking drugs and riding skateboards) crop of males in history, no doubt. To their defense, the society has been trying mighttily to wussify them, and now women are finding that wussy men aren't the sensitive but strong caregivers that they imagined they might be.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 9, 2006 10:42 AM

Mr Burnet. Heavens you people get up early. Well, we've gotten some comments, and they seem to fall in the 'men are pigs' catagory, and 'women are victims'. So... what is it men should be doing in a legal sense that they are not doing now? You want men to be more responsible. Good. Everyone should be more responsible. The question is how. your thoughts sir?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 9, 2006 12:09 PM

Michaels team and mine wear different jerseys but we are in the same league. Our culture will prevail but I grieve for the consequences of our current foolishness; childlessness.

Each month my 76 year-old wife escorts a group of young women (15- 17 years old) to hold a tea at the local old womens nursing home. This is the high point of these old womens existence. Recently she began to include their younger sisters (5-6 years old). The resulting joy of the old women is beyond description. Motherless is unnatural and a personal tragedy. We reap what we sow.

Posted by: TGN at April 9, 2006 12:33 PM

Both men and women are guilty of being selfish so please lets quit this whole its your sex, not mine, that is to blame.

Going back to my original suggestion of getting rid of no-fault divorce, I know parents of both sexes that see the attractiveness of divorce. You get every other weekend off from taking care of the kids. You can pursue other romantic relations. You don't have to answer to a wife or husband any longer. Basically you can be a selfish and hedonistic teenager again. And there is a whole support system out there for single again parents and a great deal of tea and sympathy, too.

The whole world has moved to a very selfish place. Look at the quotes from the article about how choosing not to have a child should not be viewed as selfish. Childless couples get their noses out of joint at the mildest suggestion that having children is the natural progression of marriage and life.

I've got 3 kids and many of my friends think it is just crazy to have that 3rd child. Not just crazy but selfish, too. And these are just the women!

From childhood, my mother derided any woman's desire to have children as "staying home to play with the babies." As if. People of both sexes complain about the "for the children" argument, but they'll want my children's talents, social security taxes, expertise, efforts, etc. in their old age.

Asking who is to blame between the sexes and assigning selfish motives to either sex is just assinine. Both sides are willfully blinding themselves to the beams in their own eyes.

Mr. Burnet: I do appreciate the chilvary towards women in your last paragraph of your opening comments. I do think, however, that both men and women have the burden of blame.

Men, like all humans, live up or down to expectations. I was in Las Vegas with my husband. We saw two couples walking about where the girls were very attractively dressed and had obviously put effort into their appearance. The boys (even though they were in their late 20's, I'd hardly say they were men) were wearing flip flops, wrinkled shorts, baseball caps and t-shirts. One had emblazoned across his shirt the eloquent quote "Will work for sex."

My husband commented how sorry he felt for the girls that their dates did not care enough about them to dress decently (I think this is the same impulse of chivalry that you exhibit in your comments). I told him that was nonesense because if it bothered the girls they'd simply refuse to go out with the boys until they dressed appropriately and most likely the boys would do it. And if the boys didn't, then nothing lost, right? Sadly, women live down to low expectations, too.

Posted by: Buttercup at April 9, 2006 12:49 PM

My wife has taught 4 year-olds for nearly 3 decades. She observes that little girls have become increasingly self-confident, to the point of dominance, while little boys have become increasingly whiny and resentful. Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 9, 2006 2:37 PM


Thanks. I'm a little taken aback by all these suggestions I'm motivated by chivlary or that I'm seeing women as blameless. All I was referring to was that women bear most of the childcare burden whether separated or not and that, while many can juggle frantically and self-support with 1-2 children, doing so with 3-4 is pretty much impossible. I am assuming women wanting larger families need the certainty of a very secure marriage to one with a sense of vocation who puts family obligations before personal-satisfaction-of-the-moment. That's why I thought the whole thing had to start with male attitudes. But I never thought such a paragon would make much difference to a woman disinclined in the first place.

One of the fascinating things is how dark even modern conservative women see the lives of their grandmothers and before. As with everything in the past, here was a lot we would find unacceptable or burdensome today, but all this bit about "women as property" condemned to endless pregnancies is more than a little overwrought. There certainly were different legal and social roles, but women were never seen as property in the West (ever hear of anyone selling his wife?) and, anyway, we are talking about raising birthrates above two, not inciting every women to star in "Cheaper by the Dozen."

Posted by: Peter B at April 9, 2006 3:47 PM


Yes, you can see it in my wife's small primary school too. It's not easy to get a grip on, but our best guess is excessively fussy and protective (at times near neurotic) mothers, remote or overly deferential fathers and a whole disciplinary system run by Oprah-inspired "experts" trained in psycho-babble. You should see what happens to these little guys when a male yells and tears a strip off them and then follows up quickly with roughhousing, jokes and teasing. They are stunned, but, boy, do they like it! Bond like epoxy.

Posted by: Peter B at April 9, 2006 4:02 PM

You can argue all you want that women were not property because they could not be sold but neither could they buy property in their own names. They could not get credit. Whatever property they brought to the marriage became their husband's, and the husband did not have to ask the wife's permission nor get her signature to dispose of it.

I am not blaming men entirely for the childless state we live in. I think the wider range of opportunities for women outside the home, and the pressure put on women to "get through school, have a career, THEN get married & raise children" has a lot to do with the state of things. Let's face it: by the time one goes through school and establishes a career, a woman will be at least 30 and most of the good men are taken by then. What is left are either committed bachelors or mama's boys.

I'm not sure how you raise the number of children each family produces in a society where people think each child needs his own room complete with TV, games, etc. and that to make kids share is to stifle their individuality. Couple that with other modern parenting mistakes such as the overscheduled child, overindulgence, lack of discipline, lack of extended family, and you will discover many of the reasons people have fewer and fewer children. It's much harder to raise kids when you have no extended family or when the family you have is doing their own thing. But how do you fix this problem? I'm not sure rescinding no-fault divorce would solve it.

Posted by: sharon at April 9, 2006 4:20 PM


Not wrong, but not as severe as all that. Firstly, unmarried women (including widows)have been on a completely equal footing with men since the year dot, which suggests this had more to do with notions of family legal unity than gender bias. A married women had a one-third incohate interest in her husband's property (dower) and he needed her signature to sell it. Married women could own property--but, yes, she needed his permission to sell it and it was the income from it that went to the husband.

Legal equality came about in the late 19th century, but trusts had been used for hundreds of years before to give a de facto equality. Before a woman was married, she or her family would "settle" property on a trustee who would act according to the terms of the trust. If those terms were to do what she told him, she effectively controlled the wealth and kept it out of her husband's hands.

Today, only a fool would buy property without the spouse's signature, so that hasn't changed much. And what person today can (or should)obtain substantial credit without the spouse's co-signature? The propertied classes were relatively small and none of this really mattered to the masses. And all of this is much further in the past than birthrates below replacement levels.

The rest of what you say just shows both men and women are having fewer children because they are giving a higher priority to themselves, no?

Posted by: Peter B at April 9, 2006 5:22 PM

Mr. Burnet, thanks for you continued interest. I really would like to here your thoughts on what men should be doing differently. I understand the need for duality, but I am still unsure what legal responsibilities men should have, that they don't. I understand your frustration with Sharon. This seems to be the story being told today, and is often used as a weapon in the women's movement for more "rights". I speak of chivalry because it seems the best explaination for the pattern we have seen these many years. The women ask for a "right" and the men give it to them. No civil war, no running gun battles, there has been no fight in the women's fight for equal rights. Chivalry says men don't fight women. We don't see any men playing women's pro golf, for example. So long as this dynamic is the rule, women will have to solve the current issues between men and women, as I see it.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 9, 2006 5:43 PM

The rest of what you say just shows both men and women are having fewer children because they are giving a higher priority to themselves, no?

A ray of light dawns: hey, women's motivations matter! Baby steps, Peter, baby steps.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 9, 2006 6:37 PM

Boy, this is a dangerous place. What makes you think I'm frustrated with Sharon?

Look, Robert, old pal, men and women have been carping at each other for a long time and they aren't about to stop. Ideology is great, but whining about goose/gander is a lousy basis to build a successful marriage on. Who cares who is playing in what golf tournament or what rights NOW is agitating for today? And I suspect men acquiesced in all those righte we "gave" them because it suits us just fine. Feeling a big loss, are you?

How about we just try and find ways to get men and women to stick together by teaching our kids that an outward-looking vocation beats the self-indulgent life and also give them honour and a helping hand with the kids. The rest they will have to work out themselves.

Posted by: Peter B at April 9, 2006 6:38 PM

Mr. Burnet, again, thank you. Your response to Sharon seemed practiced. The women as chattel story
is common, and I tire of hearing it, and it seemed so did you. If I projected, I am sorry.
I am not whining about goose/gander. Honest. I am quite comfortable as a single man who has never dated. I guess I don't know what I am missing. But I have been reading this blog for some time now and have a great deal of respect for you and the others who post here. You are not the only one I've heard talk about men being more responsible in society. I still can't see where men have failed in their responsibility in a social sense. What failing in the system should be changed to hold men more accountable? What am I missing? Thanks.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 9, 2006 7:05 PM

oj. Ya had me fooled, but now it's clear that it's you commenting as Robert Mitchell, Jr. It was the sentence, "The women ask for a "right" and the men give it to them." that gave you away.

Posted by: erp at April 9, 2006 7:32 PM

Ms. Erp. I'm flattered, but no.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 9, 2006 7:46 PM

I fail to see how anything Peter writes changes what I said. Indeed, a woman's property was still subject to her husband's whims and desires. As for who would get credit without their spouse's approval or buy property without that signature, there are probably thousands of women who can tell you about the husbands who bought cars without their signatures and I personally have gotten credit cards without my spouse's consent (not that he minded). I feel sorry for Robert. He sounds extremely bitter and I guess not dating would do that to one. But it is childish to compare women's advances in society with playing on the men's golf circuit. BTW, the reason it is a big deal for women to play on the men's circuit is biology, dear. Men are bigger and have more upper body strength. So, a woman who competes equally with a man has achieved something to be admired. The idea of a man playing on the women's circuit makes him a wimp on multiple levels. In short, men have traditionally created the system, then fight women joining the system, then when they acquiesce (either willingly or through court cases), they shrug and say it is no big deal.

You can't see where men have failed in the system? Well, we can start with the double standard men had for generations about sex before marriage and as an extracurricular activity. As my preacher once said, men don't want used furniture but they don't mind antiquing a bit. The high illegitimacy rate isn't merely due to decisions by women not to marry men. It is men refusing to marry the women they found interesting enough to sleep with. There's the whole slacker culture that says it's fine to mooch off the parents until they are well past the age of collecting Social Security. As I said, there is much frustration among 20-something women who are professionals and are looking for eligible men to marry but only find mama's boys. You still seem unwilling to admit that part of the procreational problem is that there are fewer young men willing to take on the responsibility of a wife & children. And why should he? He can father children that he sees twice a month without having to deal with them or the mother 24/7.

Posted by: sharon at April 10, 2006 12:06 AM


I'm not going to defend legal inequality; I just think it is overstated as an animating historical injustice and can't be understood outside of many surrounding social and cultural factors. To be enraged because married women couldn't get credit in their own names makes sense to us because we see credit as an everyday near-necessity, but until recently it was considered a dangerous, desperate and immoral risk of last resort for both men and women and was very hard to get without risking the family wealth. When that changed, woman's equality came very quickly. Property issues were all tied up in legal and moral obligations respecting inheritances. It's a little like foaming at the mouth because 15th century peasants couldn't vote. Some things dear to us just weren't generally on their radar screens, which is perhaps why there were so few Mary Wollstencrafts and why women were divided when they arose.

However, I do suggest the modern fixation with formal equality is sowing much confusion when transposed onto the intimate emotional relationships between men and women. As my favourite example, talk shows and modern self-help gurus go on endlessly about how men need to get in touch with their feelings and talk about them. When I see whole audiences of women applaud this nonsense, I think: "What is the matter with you? You know full well you find emotionally-needy men to be a tiresome turn-off. What you really mean is that you want them to talk to you about their painful feelings when they first meet you, be healed by your love a la Beauty and the Beast and then get on with it and earn the money for the ski lessons." By contrast, a modern man who rotely talks about how wonderful modern gender equality is often finds he has a very hard time spending a lifetime with a woman who reminds him daily how self-sufficient she is and how she doesn't need him for emotional or any other kind of ballast. But there is our modern ideal--the guy is in the kitchen making muffins and emoting with the kids while the woman is out bargaining tough for another 0.5% off the car price. And how about that wonderful modern guy who not only does a lot more around the house, he insists you and he actually "co-birthed" and that you must "share" childcare decision-making on a strict 50/50 basis? Sorry, but the Bill of Rights is a lousy foundation for the family dynamic.

My final quibble with you is your stark overstatement about the famous double standard. It certainly seems to be true that men attach less emotional import to casual sex. It is true that many men are prone to tell themselves fairy stories about their "needs" and convince themselves they can engage in a dalliance without really betraying anybody. It is true that many men take a "there but for the grace of God go I" attitude to wayward friend caught out(much like most women are loathe to condemn an early, quiet abortion). But it is not true that men think it is "ok" or that they boast about it to their friends or that it is the subject of male-bonding jokes or that their friends won't condemn them and try to get them out of it somehow. Most men think any colleague in that situation is an absolute fool and will so tell him. Modern young women are playing a horribly dangerous game by insisting on their right to equality on this score.

Posted by: Peter B at April 10, 2006 6:52 AM

Mrs. Sharon, thanks for your thoughts(still waiting to hear from Mr. Burnet).
First, I'm not bitter at all. I'm quite happy in my lifestyle and have good dealings with women when they come to me. I have been considered enough of a friend(to women) to hear some of the bitterness you speak of, when it comes to dating vs. marriage.
One of the terms I see when I read some of the women's writing on the subject is 'steak vs. oatmeal'. You seem very angry about the steak guys.
I am writing from the perspective of an oatmeal guy. The steak guys are maybe 10% of the guys out there, but they go through a Lot of women. Look at Bill Clinton(I'm sure you have your examples as well!). The problem with your antiquing example is that it is not a double standard, it is two standards for two kinds of men. The steak guys will be antiquing until the day they die, and the oatmeal guys don't want furniture that has been used by the steak guys and is now hurt, bitter and willing to settle for him(comes back to your comment about eligible men and my comment about Mothers and Daughters. I know many good men, men who keep getting set up on dates by mothers trying to get their daughters a nice man. I know one guy who has been invited to twelve marriages by old girlfriends. Great guy, but oatmeal.)
But none of this is a legal failing in the system. They women we are talking about all made their choices freely. And if a child is produced by 'antiquing' the man must care for the child by law. Palimony and child support do not require a ring. Men have gone to jail because the judge belived they could be earning more money for their
children, and were failing to do so as an act of spite. Thus my question to Mr. Burnet. What addition legal responsibilities are we going give to men? Live up to your responsibilities vs. your child or go to jail. Seems pretty inclusive to me.
I'm glad you agree that men playing women's golf would be very sad. I could care less about the golf, I used it to mock the idea of equality between men and women(wait, I have a free base!).
As you have stated, men and women are equal. So every little set-aside is a cause for mirth. Men set up the system? Women can set up systems too, and they claim to be better at it. Don't brag, Do
It. Men playing golf againest women makes them wimps? agreed, but then the women crossing that line, when they can, and only when they can, is tactless is it not? One might even call it Poaching.
To sum up. You say that the women you know are tired of mom's boys. Understood. But given the current legal setup(The Woman's Right To Choose!) what responsible man whould date a woman before he
was Certain she would not kill his child? I think the oatmeal men have decided that they are not 'eligible', and have left the game. Just a thought. Thanks for reading.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 10, 2006 11:42 AM

[A] modern man who rotely talks about how wonderful modern gender equality is often finds he has a very hard time spending a lifetime with a woman who reminds him daily how self-sufficient she is and how she doesn't need him for emotional or any other kind of ballast. But there is our modern ideal--the guy is in the kitchen making muffins and emoting with the kids while the woman is out bargaining tough for another 0.5% off the car price.

"Equal" is not the same as "independent".
There are many advantages to teaming up with other, co-equal, people, as we see in sports and business on a daily basis.

I personally find it more rewarding to be wanted, rather than needed.

Equality is a legal standing, it doesn't eliminate the desire to be loved, so if your woman is reminding you daily that she doesn't need you emotionally, it has nothing to do with "gender equality": She's just telling you that she doen't like you anymore.

As for muffins, childcare, and cars, what's the big deal ?
Everyone should do what they do best, without regard for traditional gender roles. Some men are great cooks, and some women are great at haggling. Why eat bad muffins and pay too much for your car ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2006 12:26 PM

I think Sharon's view is a little lacking in, er, nuance. My 76-year old mother grew up in China -- her mother (a self-made real estate tycoon who ran for office in the Hunan provincial assembly on a separatist party ticket) had bound feet. A far more restrictive legal environment for women than Western women have really EVER suffered, going back to Roman days. And yet the legal structure worked both ways, as in the West, to restrict but also to protect women. A man was the king of his castle, but he had the absolute responsibility to support, protect and care for his wife, children and elderly parents, as in the West. A man who couldn't or didn't feed his family or lay down his life to protect their lives was simply not a man, as in the West for most of history, and other men viewed him with contempt or worse. Even with respect to money, the reality didn't accord with what was supposed to be happening. Chinese men supposedly owned all the assets (although even in China that wasn't completely true) but Chinese women controlled all the household money -- it was (and is) customary for the man to simply hand over all the income/salary to his wife, who would then run the house, save for the education of the children, etc, dispensing a small allowance to her husband so he could go to the wine shop with his friends from time to time. A man who took household money to spend on himself was considered a degenerate and unfit for society. Women wanted children, and tried mightily to get pregnant, in part because the birth of children solidified their own positions within a household and within society. A barren wife might be discarded in a non-Christian society, but a mother -- even a mother of girls only -- just couldn't be because of societal opprobrium. I guess what I'm saying is that just citing chapter and verse of the law (and I'm a lawyer) doesn't usually reflect how men and women actually live together. Men often grew attached to their wives and tried to please them, or were henpecked by domineering women, or simply weren't mean enough to take total control -- all in spite of their societal advantages. I'm afraid women still have problems grasping the nettle -- in the past, women had certain protections and certain restrictions, which went hand-in-hand. We dispensed with the restrictions (which I'm happy about) but we can't then complain that the protections are now gone as well. No-fault divorce was something that feminism pushed very hard for. So feminists can't be in a position to complain that it's somehow turned out to benefit men too.

And incidentally, if the current generation of men are commitment-phobic, can anyone really blame them? They've been raised in an atmosphere that denigrated male responsibility and legitimate male authority. When you exalt female irresponsibility, which is what large sectors of Western feminism did at the expense of far more important issues of female economic and educational emancipation (I suspect because Western women weren't really very badly treated at all, and so in order to find "oppression" they had to go the free love/bra burning route) then you exalt male irresponsibility as well.

Posted by: Lisa at April 10, 2006 12:59 PM

Wow. Thank-you very much, Lisa, and thanks as well to Buttercup, Sharon and Erp. This isn't the easiest site for women to post freely on about the eternal grand game, what with Shropshire and Herdegen, et. al., and I really do hope you will all continue to express yourself aggressively--you know, like real men!.

BTW, not to feather my own cap, but Lisa's post seems to vindicate my theory that, in a successful marriage, women with children should make 80-90% percent of the decisions. Anything less tends to the oppressive and eventually abusive. Anything more and we are into male weenie-land. The trick for men is to find the balance. There is absolutely nothing going on in the modern culture to guide them on this.

Also, Lisa, your remark about Chinese men handing over the paycheque is mirrored by Gertrude Himmelfarb, who makes a very persuasive case that, in the English and American working classes between about 1850 and the First World War (when they were more middle class in values than the actual middle classes, and therefore all social indices were rising fast), the standard ideal in the community was that the man turned his paycheeque over to his wife in exchange for an allowance. This at time when the man was completely dominant legally. Go figure.

Posted by: Peter B at April 10, 2006 7:16 PM


I personally find it more rewarding to be wanted, rather than needed.

Well, there is your problem right there, old man. No sane Las Vegas bookie would give you more than a few years on that basis. But if you were to temper the want and focus on the need, you might get more promising odds.

Posted by: Peter B at April 10, 2006 9:05 PM

Yes, Peter, getting more than a few years on that basis requires emotional maturity.

If a Vegas bookie were to have given me long odds, then I'd be a rich man today.

You're probably better off focusing on "need".

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2006 4:23 AM