I've never been a fan of Amanda Marcotte's writing - she seems to specialize in second-wave-feminist-agitprop-by-rote and I've never seen her contribute anything to the gender debate that couldn't have been churned out by a well-programmed fem-bot - but this piece on the perception of childless women in society is particularly weak sauce. I'll happily concede that the word "selfish" is problematic, since it implies an overly simplistic value judgment about a social issue that is rather complex and can be looked at from many different perspectives, but there is no doubt in my mind that too many women (and men, for that matter) choosing to remain childless can create a problem for society, and that under certain social conditions the choice not to procreate can easily be described that way.
Marcotte, like any good progressive, is no doubt a fan of the comprehensive welfare state, but what she doesn't seem to realize is that bankrolling such an operation requires tax revenues - lots of them. A government can't raise enough money to pay out generous social welfare benefits just by taxing rich people, corporations, and other liberal bogeymen. You need lots of middle class workers to do that. Children (and more specifically the children had by the kind of yuppie women she cites in her piece) are, from a societal point of view, nothing more than the tax base of the future - if we neglect to have them now, there won't be enough of them around by the time we get old to pay for Social Security, Medicare, universal healthcare, and all the other wonderful goodies that our humane, liberal society has promised us. The reason one can call women (and men - again, I don't think this is purely a feminist issue) who decline to have children for lifestyle reasons selfish is that they are refusing to sacrifice any of their own happiness in the present to contribute to ensuring society's continued survival in the future. It's not because they are defying some sort of arbitrary patriarchal norm - there's a very real question of communitarian responsibility here. Just ask policy-makers in Japan. Or Germany. Or Italy. Or any other post-industrial country in which a graying population and catastrophically low birthrates threaten the long-term viability of society. Having children is a deeply personal choice, but it is not one without consequences for society-at-large by any means.
I do think it ought to be a woman's right to decide whether or not she wants to have children, and I don't go around telling my female friends that they need to get married and start having babies if they want to be complete human beings. But I don't think it's unreasonable to, say, make people who choose not to have kids pay taxes at a higher rate. They are, after all, consuming resources, without putting anything back into the system by doing their part to raise the next generation of providers.
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9 months ago