Why Are Conservative Men Obsessed With Your Being Pregnant?
In the fast-growing canon of literature panicking over the supposed fertility crisis, one alarmist feature on the declining birthrate provides an innovation: an anthropological excursion to a hookah bar in the East Village to hear from the young miscreants themselves. (“Decadence,” thy name is hookah.)
There, amid jokes about “popping one out,” and “horrible little grubs,” was a “more serious conversation about their fears of relinquishing sole ownership of one’s own body.” At least the authors of this Daily Beast piece asked actual women how they feel about childbearing, and the tensions between making a living, getting by in a city, and being treated like a “womb on legs,” in the memorable words of one of the interviewees. Most of the other accounts have left women out of the story entirely, with the convenient but noxious result of waging backlash while appearing to change the subject.
It’s getting crowded out there among the hand-wringers over what the birthrate says about America’s imperial future or the sustainability of our social insurance programs. Ross Douthat practically lives here, though in his most-talked-about column about insufficient fertility in December, he was careful to blame “late modern exhaustion” without having to talk too much about the women who evidently were suffering from it. And earlier this month, an excerpt from Jonathan Last’s “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: American’s Coming Demographic Disaster,” under the headline “America’s Baby Bust,” was widely debated.
“The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate,” Last declared, with all of the understatement of a man with a book to sell, citing retirement programs and healthcare costs. When it came to the inconvenient question of “ownership over one’s own body” and the root causes of fertility numbers, Last hinted at it, mentioning women attending college and “branching out into careers beyond teaching and nursing,” as well as the pill and couples cohabitating. He did admit that “many of these developments are clearly positive. But even a social development that represents a net good can carry a serious cost.” When it comes to what other countries have done to make it easier for women who want to have children but face grim tradeoffs — an order in which the U.S. consistently places last — Last dismisses these policies as only producing “marginal gains.”