February 16, 2008

HATING THE FUTURE (via Lisa Huang Fleischman)

Epater Le Bébé!: A French author has finally declared baby backlash—when will fertility-frantic New York feminists follow suit? (Lizzy Ratner, October 23, 2007, NY Observer)

[W]atching the parade of moms it was hard not to wonder, at what point did child-bearing become such an inescapable component of the New York woman’s dream? And at what point did New York City, historic refuge for the quirky, carefree and childless, turn into a Den of Procreation?

“It’s like a cult,” said a 34-year-old not-yet-parent named Alison who works in advertising and lives with her husband in Lower Manhattan. “It’s like a cult, complete with the required reading, the clubs, the gurus, the dues, the inclusion, the excommunication, the hierarchy.

“And the pressure,” she continued, “starts in the missionary position.”

Raised on the old baby-versus-career debates, women of Alison’s generation always anticipated that the big discussion would be about if they wanted kids, not whether they planned to have three or even four. Certainly when they chose to settle in New York, a town that regularly undershot the national birth rate and was proud of it, they had reason to expect that they were not on the soccer-mom track.

But sometime during the past few years, something strange happened to these historically reticent reproducers. They freaked out, got busy and turned themselves into mascots for the new maternity. In just five years, between 2000 and 2005, the number of children under five living in Manhattan ballooned more than 32 percent, according to Census figures.

It probably didn’t help that in 2006 the Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines recommending that all women of childbearing age be considered “pre-pregnant,” chomp folic acid and avoid smoking. In 2001, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine launched a “protect your fertility” campaign, complete with posters of baby bottles in the shape of quickly draining hourglasses. Meanwhile, the fashion industry has been churning out empire-waist dresses and billowy blouses that make even the skinniest ingenues look like expectant mothers.

Somewhere along the way, the powerful feminist idea that having children was a choice disappeared into the trousseau chest.

Over in France, a similar fertility push, which has helped give that country the highest birthrate in Europe, has sparked something of a backlash in the form of a best-selling book by a writer and psychoanalyst (naturalement!) named Corinne Maier. Titled No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children, the book is part angry manifesto, part modest proposal urging adults—and above all women—to remain “without descendants.”

“No children, no thank you,” writes Ms. Maier, 43, in the conclusion of No Kid, which is currently being shopped to American publishers. “Women, the future of our country depends on you. The last freedom is to say, ‘I prefer not to.’”

You can actually cut that down to just, "I," since it's nothing more than the obsession with the self.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2008 11:09 AM

Post-post-modern Shakers.
I shouldn't insult Shakers so.

Posted by: Mikey at February 16, 2008 3:14 PM

We may have as much regard for women who will not bear as we do for men who will not fight.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 16, 2008 6:30 PM

Think fads. It's how women make choices (rarely decisions): one woman gets pregnant, then all her friends get pregnant, and then their friends get pregnant. One woman decides the world would be better without her children (true, no doubt), but her friends follow her lead, etc...

At least Shakers built fantastic furniture, much of which still endures, unlike the garbage produced by feminists.

Posted by: Randall Voth at February 16, 2008 8:53 PM

Fad or reasoned, one thing's for sure: People who have no descendants have no future. Being bitter about that is just laughable.


Posted by: Ric Locke at February 16, 2008 9:01 PM

It's a sad situation when women are pressured to have children...or not have children. Then again, those that are adamantly against having kids are probably doing the right thing by not having them.

It takes a special person to be a true parent, not just a "baby factory".

As for people having no future...that's rubbish. Everyone has the future they so desire and create for themselves, based on their decisions and choices. Yes, the family tree won't go any further if there are no males to carry the surname...for that family, but chances are the name will live on in others.

Women should always have the choice of whether to have children. They should also be smart enough to know when they've had enough.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
bestselling author of Whale Song

Posted by: Cheryl Kaye Tardif at February 17, 2008 3:10 AM

The childless just have a crappy future/present because the selfishness that prevents their bearing children is a reflection of a disordered mind. Note that the folks in these stories are always miserable.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2008 9:19 AM