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January 12, 2009

Feministing "Community:" Just Say No to... Reproduction

Sounds like a plan.

Along with the emancipation of women, sexual liberation has become very much a part of politics around the world. To the conservatives, both these issues challenge ‘family values’.

But what if there were no families? What if we say no to reproduction?

My understanding of reproduction is that it is the basis of the institutions of marriage and family, and those two provide the moorings to the structure of gender and sexual oppression. Family is the social institution that ensures unpaid reproductive and domestic labour, and is concerned with initiating a new generation into the gendered (as I analyzed here) and classed social set-up. Not only that, families prevent money the flow of money from the rich to the poor: wealth accumulates in a few hands to be squandered on and bequeathed to the next generation, and that makes families as economic units selfishly pursue their own interests and become especially prone to consumerism.

So it makes sense to say that if the world has to change, reproduction has to go. Of course there is an ecological responsibility to reduce the human population, or even end it , and a lot was said about that on the blogosphere recently (here, and here), but an ecological consciousness is not how I came to my decision to remain child-free.

Because reproduction is seen as a psychological need, even a biological impulse, that would supposedly override any rational concerns arising out of a sense of responsibility, ecological or otherwise, I would like to propose emotional conditioning to counter such a need or impulse to reproduce. Using my own life as a case study, I conclude that I came to a resolve not to reproduce through largely unconscious emotional reactions . I like children, but every time I fantasized of having one, I felt pangs of guilt over how for this 'impulse' of mine, someone else would have to put their body on the line.

David Thompson terms this as another proposal in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM).

The personal is not political, and it's solipsistic, nevermind stupid, for this woman to extend her personal choices into some kind of universal political movement.

The Intolerance of Tolerance: Liberals are determined to always think not merely well of themselves, but to think the absolute best of themselves. It's very hard, for example, to get a liberal to admit that any political choices they make are rooted in mere selfishness, that is, that the policy they propose would benefit themselves. They always claim some higher purpose, some disinterested reason for their political beliefs.

Now, it's not easy to get anyone to admit selfish motives, but it sure is easier to get a conservative to admit them. Sure, a conservative tends not to offer "personal selfishness" as his first rationale to oppose higher taxes -- there are plenty of disinterested, non-selfish reasons to offer -- but eventually, down on the list, if pressed, a conservative will say "Even if all you say is true, I want to keep my money, because it's my money. There are good reasons apart from this to oppose the government forcibly exacting more money from me, but even if they all fail, I want to keep my money."

This is practically an impossible admission to ever extract from a liberal.

Another example: Liberals who are not ideological atheists, but who are also not religious, will not admit that someone who goes to church every Sunday and believes passionately in God might be more "spiritual" than they are. They will insist their "spirituality" merely takes a different, less obvious form.

Um, no. Concede this one. Obviously the flame of spirituality doesn't burn very brightly in you (as it doesn't in me). Someone who believes in God and frequently think of God and His works is probably more "spiritual" than someone who almost never does.

In this case, this woman seems to feel guilty about her non-maternal instincts. She seems defensive about why she feels no strong drive to procreate but so many of her fellow women do.

Rather than simply making a perfectly defensible argument (if one is even needed) such as "Well, this is my choice and I should have no shame about that" or "People are different, and I just don't seem to have the reproductive drive" or anything along the lines, she feels compelled, it seems, to argue that not only is her decision defensible, but also optimal and universal, in that all women should join her in her I Don't Know Nothin' About Birthin' No Babies Crusade.

A perfectly valid choice is thus warped and perverted into a lunatic call for the extermination of the human race as part of the Gender Wars.

What the hell does she care if other women don't agree with her and want to have children? Why must her decisions be all women's decisions?

Because that's how her mind works. It's just not possible that she is interested by selfish motives (the desire to live the simpler life of a non-parent). It's not even possible to admit she is making one valid decision among many.

No, it must be the case she is making the Best Possible Decision for all people, for all women. And she's got a blog manifesto to prove it.

This, I submit, is puerile and simply fucking weird. This is childish. Children do this -- they are still in the phase of believing, as their loving parents do, that they are perfect in all ways possible. They cannot admit imperfection; they even have difficulty admitting mere ordinariness.

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posted by Ace at 11:43 AM

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