Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More on the Baby Dearth And Selfishness

That "Where Are All The Babies Gone" article made me think of this genre as a whole.  With very few exceptions, these pieces discuss the horrible consequences of not enough babies, focusing on "you-are-going-to-die-alone-in-your-own-filth" and "who's going to pay for you when you are old" as the two major be-very-afraid triggers.

But most of them also mention some version of the fear what might happen if liberal women don't start having a lot of children in the United States (conservatives will take over) or if non-Muslim women don't start having a lot of children in Europe (extreme Islamists will take over):  If you thought you have something to complain now about sexism and rigid gender roles, just you wait.

Which means that a voluntary return to traditional gender roles is required in order for us to avoid a compulsory return to those gender roles.

All of that is naturally aimed at the hidden (but very real) assumption that it is the selfishness of women which is causing all this.  Women must stop being so selfish because either liberalism or the white race or the Western Civilization will die if they don't.  That the solution sorta resembles the death of liberalism or the death of modernity for women is not a part of those articles.

I put it all in somewhat sharper terms than any of the articles I've read does, just so that you can see what I mean.  The basic setup means that we will NOT look at certain solutions.

For example, if the lower fertility rates are because people are too selfish, the only clear solution is for them to stop being so selfish!  An article which digs more deeply into that question might ask what other reasons people might have for not procreating than selfishness, and that digging would bring up all the stuff about the United States having no paid parental leave, about the high costs of college in this country, about the nonexistent or very expensive daycare, about women still being assumed to do all the hands-on childcare and so on.

But by positing selfishness as the explanation, very little of that needs to seep into the articles.

Japan is an interesting test case of many of those ideas.  Japan pretty much HAS traditional gender roles and that has not helped in raising fertility rates.  Indeed, it is those very gender roles which probably cause the low fertility rates, because the Japanese still view mothering as a full-time occupation and because women in the labor force suffer from fewer promotions etc. after they get married.

Likewise, the countries in Europe which experience the greatest birth dearth are Catholic countries in the south and Germany.  What those share are traditional assumptions about how mothering should be carried out.  One study noticed that a very large number of Italian men has never operated a washing machine.  And another pointed out that mothers who don't dedicate themselves sufficiently to their children are called Raven Mothers in Germany.

I find this all very interesting!  Women are selfish (all people, yes, but mostly women) and should stop being so selfish.  That's the solution, and the motivation is linked to a certain kind of far-future society or one's own hypothesized suffering in old age.  And there the conclusions pretty much end.

But if we asked WHY women don't have more children we could get solutions which actually work.  For instance, those guys writing books about this could start daycare facilities!  They could lobby for better parental leave!  They could lobby for lower college costs!  They could really change the world rather than complaining about it in a way which costs themselves nothing.