August 8, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
If petulance were a virtue, Sadhbh Walshe would have been canonized long ago. Writing here in that bastion of feminist tantrum throwing, The Guardian, she breathlessly takes on London School of Economics researcher Satoshi Kanazawa, all of whose statements are at least defensible and one of which is entirely uncontroversial. She then distorts them in the vain hope that they’ll assist her in claiming victim status for women who don’t have children. This is all in the service of confronting “outrage” about the matter that, if it exists at all, is easy to miss. All in all her piece is the type of lightweight whining you’d expect to find in freshman’s term paper, but alas it appears in The Guardian. Why am I not surprised?
Women choosing to not have children is the topic, so naturally we can expect a feminist like Walshe to feel aggrieved at anyone who criticizes that choice. As seems to be invariably the case for feminists, disagreement constitutes oppression and throws Walshe into fits of questionable logic and bad grammar. Here’s what Kanazawa said:
If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success. If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness. All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce. Reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence.
I doubt there’s ever been a less controversial statement, but for Walshe it’s a battle cry. In the first place, she calls Kanazawa’s statement “his feelings.” It’s not. Those aren’t his feelings, Ms. Walshe, they’re statements of fact — unquestionable, unassailable fact. For untold millennia, humans, like all other species, have been reproducing. Doing so is as basic a motivation as we have. It is deeply ingrained in our biological being.
What Kanazawa wonders at are data showing that, at least in the West, it’s the intelligent women, the highly educated ones, who tend to forego childbearing. He doesn’t grasp why educated women who presumably would be the ones to understand this biological motivation are the ones to say ‘no’ to having kids. He thinks it’s bad for them personally and bad for society because it tends to reduce the population of intelligent kids.
I think Kanazawa should have more important things to worry about, but more on that later.
Somehow Walshe leaps from Kanazawa’s relatively modest and entirely fact-based statements to those of commentators like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and serial opiner Tucker Carlson who find a woman’s decision to forego motherhood as, in Carlson’s words, “selfish, decadent and stupid.” How she got from one to the other, I’m still trying to figure out, but it’s her conclusion that really set my head spinning.
Anyone who is genuinely concerned with falling birthrates should be supporting policies such as paid maternity leave, subsidized day care, flexible work schedules, affordable health care and so on that would make it feasible for more women who want babies to have them.
Uh, Ms. Walshe, I know it would be an unpleasant task, but you might want to go back and read the article you wrote. If you did, you’d find the fact that the ones not having babies are precisely the ones least likely to utilize the various policies you urge. Highly intelligent and educated people tend to be higher earning and thus less in need of paid maternity leave, subsidized daycare and the like. The ones further down the income scale are having plenty of kids are the ones who’d benefit most from those policies. But they don’t need the policies to convince them to have children, because they already are. See how that works?
Besides, a little research would show you that countries like Sweden with the most generous benefits for mothers have the lowest birthrates. So, you might want to think those facts over, if you can set aside your dudgeon for a minute.
Meanwhile, Walshe claims there’s “outrage” about the issue of women not having babies, but if there is, it’s certainly muted. Two commentators who think it’s every woman’s duty to bear offspring don’t add up to the type of outrage I’d be very concerned about. The fact is that feminists like Walshe get intimidated by the slightest things — things like blog comments — so it’s no surprise that a few silly words from Huckabee and Carlson should get her knickers in a knot.
Walshe aside, here’s why Kanazawa’s concerns aren’t very important. First, the birthrate (i.e. the number of live births per 1,000 population) has been trending downward steadily, with some mild fluctuations, since the early 50s. To say the least, that’s doesn’t reflect anything about highly educated women. Yes, more than women in other demographics, those with college degrees or more tend to forego motherhood, but statistically, they don’t have much effect on the birthrate. Face it, there just aren’t enough women in the “highly educated” category who don’t have children to make much of an impact.
As to Kanazawa’s concern that women who don’t have children are in some way selling short their own happiness and biological fulfillment, the obvious question arises, “so what?” If a woman makes that decision and later in life regrets it, isn’t that just part of living? We all make choices and they’re not all gems, but we live with them and make do. The fact is that almost everyone rolls with the punches life hits them with. We’re a flexible and durable lot and we’re fully capable of finding consolation in what we have rather than a permanent sense of loss in what we don’t.
Kanazawa’s fear that intelligent women not reproducing will lower the number of intelligent offspring seems likewise misplaced. Again, the numbers are so small as to barely register and certainly not large enough to make a noticeable impact on our overall societal IQ. Besides, it’s a small number of elites who make up the bulk of our intelligentsia, i.e. those who truly push the technological/scientific/ political/academic/medical/etc. ball down the field. My guess is that the loss of one will do little but open up a place for someone else who otherwise wouldn’t gain membership to that club.
Most importantly, all this handwringing about the declining birthrate ignores one very large elephant in one very small living room. I refer of course to the fact that there are now well over seven billion human beings attempting to live off the resources of our beautiful blue planet. That number is estimated to rise to about 16 billion by 2060. If anything, we should be discouraging childbearing.
Dr. Kanazawa should realize that we have come to a point in our evolution that our most powerful instincts are now working against us. Our greatest success as a species, — our amazing ability to expand our numbers despite our tendency to single birth and the many years required for an individual to reach sexual maturity — now looks very much like the greatest threat to our survival. How a species with such powerful motivation to survive by reproducing and with such a track record of success at doing so, will respond to the real possibility that those very things hold the seed of our destruction is now our most important question. The future of humanity may depend on how we answer it.
All that is to say that those non-childbearing women — the ones with the brains and the education — might just be smarter than some people think.
Sadhbh Walshe of course missed all of that, but hey, it’s The Guardian, so what do you expect?
Thanks to Paul for the heads-up.
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