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As is typical for conservative men regarding women and status, the blogger “Free Northerner” hazily realizes that having children is low status for women, but then doesn’t understand that the solution is not television shows promoting wealthy SAHMs. I love me some Melania Trump as a role model, but her symbolic power as a First Lady would not be natalism, just nice to have.
From the ridiculous blog post, an example of his cluelessness:
“It’s obvious that women want to work rather than procreate, but this is not because (most*) women particularly like working or because they prefer work to marriage and family. It’s not because housework is drudgery, most women who work do something similar to housework in their jobs.”
This is not true. Most women who work do not do something similar to housework. Since he’s just blindly asserting with no sources, I feel quite free to do the same, since it’s much more obvious that most work women do outside the home is not “housework-like”.
(section with feminism red herrings redacted)
Another example of his cluelessness is here:
“You’ve no doubt heard the blatant lie that motherhood is the toughest job in the world? Nobody could honestly believe taking care of a child is tougher than working in a coal mine or as an infantryman in Afghanistan, but everybody spreads that lie because it bolsters the low and declining status of women with children.”
This is not what he thinks it is. It’s a way of asserting support without having to give support. Nobody ever follows up this statement with offers to help the stay at home mother. The statement is supposed to make her feel a sense of accomplishment for getting through the day at all and distract her from realizing that it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it is (which no, isn’t MOST DIFFICULT EVAR) and keep her from noticing she’s being prevented from defining stay at home motherhood as something serious enough to require society-wide support. It also makes stay at home mothers come across as whining if they have any difficulties at all, since by definition it will never be the hardest job, they are told it must be the EASIEST JOB IN THE WORLD.
He continues to miss the point:
“Having children is low status, but even beyond that status games pervade all of motherhood. The mommy wars aren’t about whether children are better off being raised by their parents or by daycare workers, it’s about who gets good mother status points: stay-at homes or working mothers.”
No, it’s about who gets society-wide support at all. Short answer: neither. Longer answer: women who earn money can get some grudging public support since in America earning money is what humans do, and women who have private support but no public status can comfort themselves by downplaying their private support.
(more feminism red herrings redacted)
Anyway once he stops ranting about Jezebel columnists as if they’re average American woman, we come to the point where my blogging and his almost but not quite intersect.
“Having children is lower status than eduction, working, travel, or having status-giving interests. Being a stay-at-home mother is low status compared to being a working mother. Having many children is lower status than having one or two children. Having children young is lower status than having them once infertility hits.
This, more than anything, is why he have such low birth rates.”
This is more or less true. Doing It All is higher status, relatively speaking, as well. Travelling with kids, working at home with kids (and no childcare), homeschooling, etc.
Alas, we come to his idea of the solution to low birth rates.
“So, the answer to the fertility crisis is not tax changes, natalism benefits, or motherhood welfare. The way to get women to want to reproduce is to make children the ultimate status symbol.
Read the story of Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29 and 30. Having children was high status, so they did everything they could possibly to produce more children so they could win the status competition against each other.
We need to make it so that instead of the culture lauding whorish celebrities and woman CEO’s, mothers are celebrated. We need news reports to make glowing reports on women having their 6th child, rather than shows idolizing women who adopt foreign children or
slutty daring dresses. When Mrs. Duggar has more status than Hillary Clinton, that’s when we will turn this ship around.
Sadly, we don’t control the levers of the culture-industry, so there’s not much we can do for society as a whole, but there are things you can do in your own little circles.
Make a point of praising women who have kids and their mothering skills. If a family is thinking of having another kid, make a positive comment. Praise young men and women you know who are thinking of young marriage, and otherwise encourage young people aroudn you to marry early. Let some disappointment slip out if people say ‘two’s enough for us’. Register some thinly concealed disapproval or contempt if someone says, ‘we don’t want children’. If you can smoothly do backhanded compliments or negs for the self-sterilizing, that would work too. And so on.
You’re working against the combined forces of the media, academy, bureaucracy, and culture, but you might be able to have some influence. Status is mainly an abstraction of a multitude of positive and negative social interactions. If you add to the interactions around you, elevating motherhood and deriding self-sterilization, you might indirectly change a few minds in your local communities. If enough people do it, maybe the trend could be reversed.
One warning, try to keep it subtle enough. Push too hard or too blatantly and you it might backfire if they get defensive or if you look like a jerk. You want to subtly influence their general perception of status, not come off as someone pushing a low status opinion.”
This is stupid because conservatives already do this and their birth rates are not very high at all. Flapping your lips isn’t going to make the hard work go away. You can admit that it’s hard to bring up children these days without resorting to false dichotomies about how it’s either ultrahard or supereasy.
It’s also stupid because one of the reasons mothering doesn’t have support is that conservatives, like everyone else WATCH TOO MUCH (@$(@)@)@* TV already. It’s another way people have retreated from the public sphere as it’s gotten more polarized and combative.
So many people are in sick systems, commuting long distances to have somewhere slightly quiet to bring up a couple of kids, and they come home tired and tv seems like a relaxing thing. And mom was home all day in the subdivision and blasting Veggie Tales was how she got dinner made at all and the upstairs cleaned.
Natalism is a society-wide project. You can’t put up natalism rap videos and sit back and watch a hundred thousand five child families bloom. That doesn’t work, conservatives have their own alternative tv and movies promoting motherhood and housewiving and yet, mysteriously, the birth rate keeps dropping. Of course, Free Northerner doesn’t appear to know much about the reality on the ground of having three or more children.
Tax changes and motherhood welfare are actually LESS STUPID than his plan of sticking with what already doesn’t work.
As ever, totes open for mashed potato tossing in the comments. And also discussion.
This is an article about an analysis of births in Oregon, where homebirthing (and to a lesser extent use of birth centers) is extremely popular at rates above the national average, and where the women are mostly of more “slim” BMI and other conventional health markers. The takeaway is that infant mortality is rare homebirthing or birthing at a center, but occurs at a greater relative frequency than in hospitals. There was also a higher risk of neonatal seizures, needs for infant ventilators and blood transfusion need for mothers in out of hospital births. Minor complications like tears were lower, however.
This analysis excluded all the actual high-risk to OBs women (breech, twins, etc.), and that’s a big flaw, because women with “weird” (breech) or genuinely high-risk conditions are a big chunk of the homebirthing pool (not the birth center pool, since they are excluded from nearly all American birth centers) and that is one of the reasons there is so much antipathy towards homebirthing (even though those women doing so is itself a response to obstetric mismanagement with hospital birthing).
The basic takeaway is that if you’re a low risk, healthy woman, homebirthing or using a birth center is not unreasonable and probably will be easier overall in terms of recovery, but yes, your baby is more likely to die if you birth away from high-tech emergency equipment. By excluding the high-risk women who choose to homebirth, though, the discussion of how to improve obstetric management for those women remains left off the table.
Natalism in the common parlance usually refers to government policies designed to make people want to have children. Practically speaking, that puts the cart before the horse. I favor natalism that starts with social norms and then is reflected in government policies.
Sustainable natalism is arranging society so that children are acceptable parts of the public sphere at all child ages. It’s making sure women aren’t broken and worn down by the stresses and strains of bearing and caring for little ones so that they have energy to pop out more than a couple and raise them to adulthood afterwards. It’s also about granting higher social status to married mothers and fathers, so that marriage is once again considered the correct place to bear and raise children in.
Sustainable natalism is people setting things up so that women feel that they can handle 3-6 kids, so that men can marry before age 30 because they have a good shot of being able to support three or four kids and a wife, and helping parents by being the real village, full of loving friendships and support. It’s discouraging atomic living and moving every couple of years for a job, it’s encouraging social norms that have extended family nearby. It’s remembering the value of cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles. It’s restoring healthy relations between single childless adults and children. It’s creating a social milieu that leads to grandkids and great-grandkids as a norm.
Tax credits are neat and stuff, but they won’t do the job. Society has to be oriented strongly towards children as a good in themselves, living the idea that they are a blessing, because modernity shows us that once any ethnicity or culture gets rich and bloated with cheap consumption, they get very uninterested in having children. Children are hard, even easy ones are hard. Without lots and lots of explicit support and status accorded to motherhood and fatherhood, people simply don’t bother.
About a third of all deliveries in America are c-sections, and a majority of those are primary c-sections. The anti-natalism isn’t in women having c-sections so much as the pressure for women to accept a primary c-section. This wouldn’t be possible without the subtext that women shouldn’t have more than two children, three at most, a view that is standard American these days. It also wouldn’t be possible without the medical community downplaying the risks of c-sections. The reality is that c-sections limit how many children a woman can reasonably risk conceiving and carrying to term. While there are risks to naturally delivering seven or eight or ten children, those risks are significantly lower than the ones c-sections introduce through repeated surgical trauma and scarring. However, those risks don’t come into play for the average woman having c-sections until she’s looking at more than three of them. After three c-sections, the risk of losing the baby shoots up (the scarring makes it hard for the placenta to seat itself, increasing likelihood of fetal demise) along with the risk of premature delivery or catastrophic delivery complications like placental abruption.
This is not communicated to women when they are “encouraged” to have a primary c-section after say ten or twelve hours of labor. Thus, many women who would like to keep open the possibility of having a larger family are limited by a choice they were given misleading information about by medical professionals advocating approved choices rather than patients’ choices. It is possible to have 4-6 c-sections and deliver the children safely, but it’s also a range where health and life risks for both mother and baby come into play at rates exceeding 20%. For perspective, women are not allowed to attempt natural delivery after a c-section in most American hospitals (VBAC) due to a 1% risk of rupture (which baby and mother typically survive without complications). Yet women are not presented with the data that way. And they certainly aren’t told that a primary c-section means probably not having more than three or four children liveborn and term. A primary c-section is not terribly risky, and neither is a second one, compared to natural delivery. But they are slightly higher risk and on average harder to recover from than natural deliveries.
Combined with the delaying of childbearing, telling women in their late 20s and early 30s that a primary c-section is no big deal is to consign those women to fewer children than they might otherwise be able to have even starting in their early 30s and further, to leave them struggling with (on average) more difficult recovery while struggling with a newborn. That also leads to fewer children born at the margins. It’s just anti-natalist. This isn’t to say that c-sections, including primary ones, aren’t sometimes medically necessary. But many primary c-sections are a judgment call rather than “have to cut the baby out NOW”, and the judgment goes in one direction due to the general distaste culture-wide for having enough little taxpayers to fund society.