Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The most bitter fruit of feminism?

Sometimes the most significant news is barely acknowledged. Here is the shortest of items from the Melbourne Herald Sun:

Women who go to university are nearly twice as likely to end up childless as those who don't, a survey has found.

Nearly half of Britain's graduates had no children by middle age but only a quarter of those without degrees were childless, the Friends Reunited website found. (Herald Sun 28/12/06)

This is an extraordinary development. In the 1950s only about 10% of women remained childless. Now we are told that 50% of university graduates haven't reproduced.

It's possible of course that the statistic is wrong. I tried to track down some other information on the internet. One article stated that 41% of Scottish graduate women aged 45 to 49 were childless compared to 30% of English graduates.

The only Australian statistic I could find was that 34% of postgraduate women have remained childless compared to 11% of those without a degree.

So although there's some discrepancy in the figures it does seem that very large numbers of graduate women are missing out on motherhood.

Why? According to the Prime Minister, the careerism expected of women by feminists is partly to blame for lower fertility rates. He said recently:

We've seen a tiny improvement in the fertility rate ... Fortunately, I think today's younger women are more in the post-feminist period, where they don't measure their independence and freedom by the number of years they remain full-time in the workforce without having children. They've moved on.

I think they have moved on from that sort of demonstration phase, in the sense of "I'll be letting the sisterhood down if I don't stay in the workforce until I'm a certain age."

I think what I would claim is that we support choice and we don't measure women's achievements and women's rights by the number of full-time female participants in the workforce. The truth of the matter is that when most Australian families have children, they really want a situation where, in the very early years, in the very early stages, somebody - usually the mother - is at home caring for the child full-time...

Some feminists have tried to distance themselves from the idea that feminism has ever discouraged women from having children. For instance, at the left-wing LP site there was the following sarcastic response to the PM's comments:

Unfortunately this will be my last post here. Feminism is over, and I have nothing else to write about. I had mistakenly thought that feminism was about autonomy, choice and equality in all areas of life, but now I know that it was only about having a career to keep the hivemind sisterhood happy.

Now I have permission to quit my job and have babies before it’s too late.

I think, though, that John Howard is closer to the truth than the LP sisterhood. Feminists have strongly emphasised careerism as an indicator of the progress of women. Last year, for instance, deputy opposition leader Julia Gillard completely ruled out the idea that a woman might choose to be a full-time mother:

If one suggested to a girl in school today that her future life would consist of marriage, raising children and tending the family home, she would no doubt look at you as if you had just arrived from Mars ...

Why would Julia Gillard exclude traditional motherhood as an option for women? The reasons have to do with the logic of feminism itself.

Feminism is liberalism applied to the lives of women. Therefore, feminism follows liberalism in making individual autonomy (in the sense of being unimpeded to do what you want or be what you want) the overriding goal.

The problem is that we don't marry and have children to increase our autonomy. If anything, we agree to sacrifice a measure of autonomy when we marry in order to fulfil other needs and drives.

So feminists were unlikely to promote marriage and the family as doing so would conflict with the principles on which feminism is based. It's no surprise, therefore, that the feminist culture of the 1980s and 90s was based on the ideal of the independent career girl, who was expected to focus on activities like work, shopping and travel which were thought to make women independent. Marriage and family were matters to be postponed until some vague, unspecified time in a woman's thirties.

There's a second reason why feminists have promoted female careerism. For liberals what matters, what makes us human, is our power to enact our own will. Therefore, liberals tend to understand social relationships in terms of power, dominance and oppression. If men have more economic or political power, it is assumed to be an illegitimate attempt to assert control over oppressed women.

Imagine you're a feminist woman who understands things this way. It will then be natural to view men as an oppressor group and you will naturally wish to overcome your oppression by competing with men in careers to secure economic and political power.

And this is where much of the problem lies. If graduate women have failed to have children it's due to a large degree to a failure to partner.

And isn't it less likely that graduate women will partner successfully if they've been brought up on feminist ideas? If you think autonomy is the most important thing in your life, so much so that you spend your entire 20s as an independent career girl, then the chances of partnering well are greatly reduced.

Similarly, if you think that men are an oppositional group you are duty bound to compete against for power in society, then there is not much room for romantic love to flourish.

And what about the impact of such ideas on men? Will men be romantically inspired by women who treat them as a hostile force? Will men be encouraged to work hard to establish careers if this is assumed to be an act of power over women, rather than a means to support a family?

Feminism hasn't been neutral when it comes to relationships between men and women. It has had the effect of disrupting family formation to the point where large numbers of graduate women have missed the opportunity to marry and have children.

What we must do now is to learn the lesson and understand why feminism, in its most basic assumptions, has led us to such a destructive outcome. Otherwise, a future generation of women will be left to the same fate.


  1. Id like to add three things:

    First, I think what the federal health department and Minister Abott are doing is fantastic. It will counter the murderous feminist feotoscide regime.

    And second, I bet the Leftists dont pile in here with their hateful comments because 1) they cant treat people with contempt safely. And 2) they cant delete or control the debate, which is what happens on other Leftoid web-sites.

    Uncanny eh; all hate and spew for the other side, as long as it can be controled and manipulated at the very personal level upon the bloggosphere.

    How Ironic, yet not unexpected of the, Leftist intelligentsia. And they want to take the Federation accusing the encumbant of the very thing they are actually inculcating in cyberspace.

    I hope the new counselling service destroys the political impetus and the ideological momentum of the murderous feotoscide regime, forever. And that it teaches the Feminist movement the harsh realities of their dream mantra - intellectualised population reduction and control. And that the feminists and abortion practitioners learn of the horror and loss their barren dream creates for countless women.

  2. Excellent post

    Thnaks for pointing out that the left-liberal obsession with power issues is connected with the wider (and unrealistic)liberal emphasis on willpower/self actualisation.

    All the various left-liberal movements are liberation movements claiming to represent repressed "species-beings"

    The term "species-being" has also be applied to non-humans. Although Marx, who coined the term disliked nature intensely his theory is now being borrowed by environmentalists and animal rights activists who wish to liberate 'nature' from human oppression.

  3. Mark you could have also included the fact that feminists have bought into the incorrect assumption that one should live to work rather than working to live, the whole consumerist rush to acquire more...
    but then(engages tongue into cheek).. Feminists are all just dupes in a grand conspiracy to create vast wealth for the purveyors of reproductive technologies having priviliged a career over he biological imperative to breed.

  4. John Howard is a real national treasure. I am amazed that he can still talk sense like this, given the times we live in.

    I have often suspected that feminists want other women in the workforce chiefly for company and validation of their own choices.

    The other thing I've noticed is that what upsets feminists most is what reminds them of female biology: (live) babies, weddings, motherhood, sexy advertisements, and so on.

  5. Interesting post, Mark! I have written my own post about feminism and its attitude to women as childbearers. I would agree with you that feminism has failed the modern woman in some respects. It has sought to marginalise the fact that women are biologically different to men and are designed to bear children, which has lead modern women into difficulties.

    Interestingly, there has been a baby boom amongst my friends (I know of at least 8 babies born in December 2006). Perhaps things will change.

  6. "Women (in general) tend to have more insecurities than men, and as such, saw (see) feminism as security in their lives - where once it would be men that they turned to."

    Of course if no actual live feminist has ever had a conversation with you, I can see why you'd come up with this sort of garbage.

    Independence is not another word for alone. I am independent, but I'm not alone - it just means I *can* look after myself and am not *dependent* on someone else to fill my emotional needs/look after me/feed and house me.

    Julian, you haven't met any actual live feminists either, have you? It's all just a theory to you as well.
    "I have often suspected that feminists want other women in the workforce chiefly for company and validation of their own choices.

    The other thing I've noticed is that what upsets feminists most is what reminds them of female biology: (live) babies, weddings, motherhood, sexy advertisements, and so on. "

    I couldn't care less whether other women work, or not, or whether I work with men or women(my boss is a bloke, and he's an absolutely fantastic bloke, and his boss is a woman, and she's great too). What I do care about is whether women have GENUINE choices about what to do - that's what feminism is about, not about knocking some choices and endorsing others. My sister-in-law is a feminist, and she's a stay-at-home mum with three kids. You don't seriously think we're some collective who all think alike and only support *some* choices, do you? Time to get out and discuss things with some actual women instead of swallowing the lines the right-wing media throws you hook, like and sinker.

    And I can't think of a single feminist - and I know quite a few - who is upset by live babies, weddings, or motherhood. Occasionally we're upset by a sexy advertisment if it's exploitative or particularly if it's sexualising children.

    And despite what you conservatives claim, feminism does NOT claim there is no difference between men and women. What we DO claim is that we should have equal opportunities (for example, we should get paid the same to do the same job), genuine choices and respect. But once again, we don't all think the same. There is no feminist hivemind.

  7. Rebekka, you claim that feminism is about genuine choices and that you don't mind women being stay-at-home mums.

    This claim would be more credible if you hadn't left a second comment at this site today full of negative connotations about stay-at-home mums.

    You criticised Bobby N for wanting a traditional type of wife, on the grounds that he was after "a submissive domestic slave" and "a domestic drudge" rather than "an intellectual equal".

    You have also written a comment on your own blog on the topic of having it all which runs:

    "It's pretty funny ... that men just get "it all" because they're paid 25% more than us, do only half the unpaid domestic labour that we do, no-one tells them they ought to be staying at home with the children and enjoying it, dammit, because otherwise the kids will grow up fat/disadvantaged/stupid/bratty rather than having a fulfilling/well-paid career, no-one expects them to be responsible for organising child-care etc, and yet when we want the same thing men get automatically, we're being rabid hairy feminazis who want to emasculate men, etc.

    And in fact, we all ought to be wearing twin-sets and pearls in some sort of 1950s housewife revivial and reading books like this in some sort of weird, neo-conservative sort-of-vaguely-ironic-but-not-really attempt to not have it all and go back to having only some of it and probably taking too many tranquilisers."

    This is not exactly showing equal consideration to women making more traditionalist choices, is it?

    Nor does it exactly encompass, in a positive way, the possibility of natural gender differences, and hence natural gender-based preferences.

    Nor does the claim that men get it all automatically show that you have much awareness of the reality of men's lives.

    Time to get out and discuss things with some actual men?