Monday, April 28, 2008

What Child-Free By Choice Means

When I came of age in the 60's and 70's, one of the big issues of the day was overpopulation. It was a subject that took on new relevance with the advent of reliable birth control such as the pill. And it spun off into an idea that was radical at the time: having children was a choice not an obligation.

At the same time as the pill came on the scene, there were other factors at work such as the growing Feminist movement that also served to show women had more choices than staying home and popping out babies. Even though the idea of equality for women was not a new idea, it finally reached the mainstream in the 60's after JFK appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman of President's Commission on the Status of Women. Much of what we consider "women's issues" now, such as equality in the workplace, maternity leave, etc came from the studies conducted by the commission.

With this new awareness of women as more than baby machines it was inevitable that large numbers of us realized we could do more with our lives and leave behind a more powerful legacy of work, art, literature, music and contributions to the sciences if we remained child-free. A book that influenced many to remain child-free was Ellen Peck's The Baby Trap. She presented a powerful argument that used real world examples to show not everyone needed to breed to live and enjoy a fruitful life.

As I grew up and matured into an adult woman I had many examples of successful and child-free women to show me this was a valid choice in a world faced with hunger and wars brought on by overpopulation. The images of starvation in places like Ethiopia really affected me and a lot of people my age. We saw the devastation and accepted our role in it and knew our contributions, although small, would be large ones if more people believed as we did.

Many of us chose not to bring children into a world always at war and running out of precious resources. It allowed us to move forward and learn to create a legacy that came from our hearts and minds instead of from our physical bodies. And for the most part the rest of the population was okay with this. They considered it strange, eccentric at times, but completely and totally our choice.

One of my reasons for opening up a Cafepress store that is devoted completely to the child-free by choice is because this tolerance for "our choice" has changed in the last few years. There's almost this rage at those of us who made this choice, as if we are somehow defective or threatening to those who choose to breed. I've had less hatred directed toward my left of radical politics and my Atheism than I've had directed at me because I actively promote a child-free lifestyle.

I consider this hatred as stemming from the Entitlement Movement that believes having babies somehow gives one special powers over the rest of the population. These special powers translate into such things as forcing adults to watch only kid-oriented television, movies, and have access only to child-safe entertainment and lifestyles. The old-fashioned idea of parenting being something that took place in the home has fallen down the pit of letting the government, the schools, and the churches raise children instead of the parents. The Entitlement Movement never learned about off switches, v-chips, filtering software, or adults only, and those of us who choose a child-free lifestyle have to suffer for their ignorance and inflated sense of me-me-me.

My child-free by choice store is one way to bring the choice back to life and out of the hands of the entitlement bunch. I have a range of designs that include options such as overpopulation, anti-war philosophies, and yes, some that the breeders by choice will consider mean and insulting. The reason for those is that parents sometimes fail to get the idea that not everyone wants to interact with their children, not everyone thinks it's okay to let children run over every one's right to existence, and it draws on the old-fashioned idea that you had them so you raise them.

I will be adding designs on a more frequent basis now that it is it's own store instead of a section in Ursine Logic, and I'll also be adding cat and dog designs as many child-free humans devote a lot of time to making sure our furry companions have a good life. For those who think the child-free are selfish, just check out how many of us do support causes that deal with poverty, hunger, the environment, and saving innocent furry creatures that others have abandoned to a life of misery and death before you drop words like "selfish" so casually.

And if you have a favorite design idea or phrase you'd like to see on a t-shirt or other item, do drop me a line and I'll put it together for you because it's time we work together to save what's left of this planet's precious resources.

My email is ursinelogic at gmail dot com. Hate mail will be posted with a link to your email, and threats will be forwarded to law enforcement. On no other topic have I been forced to post that warning, which tells you how rabid breeders can get when their world view is threatened.



Anonymous said...

"Child Free" may also be evolution taking its course. On a genetic level it means dead end.

And a few things about running out of food, wars, and disease relating to overpopulation.

The Roman Empire's military never stopped functioning when the empire suffered from plague.

Wars don't have to be fought over food-and they frequently aren't (if nothing else note that the US involvement during the 60s and 70s in the war in Vietnam sure wasn't).

Serious STDs (like AIDS) are usually spread by the actions of a few people in a room together, not by being in a crowd.

There has been more than enough food grown worldwide to feed every man, woman, and child on the planet for the last several years running. And people somewhere have gone without each of those years (recently there were riots over food prices in Haiti). I thought one of the things those on or beyond the "radical left" did was at least be a critic of capitalism when it failed to deliever a good result.

And if you're by chance also worried about the environment don't get me started on how much the low birthrate "Western World" (and increasingly other places as they "develop") pollutes.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh but if people are worried about suffering in the world I would recommend doing things that may actually work to end it. This doesn't look like one of them.

Some Crazy Bear said...

Interesting comment. I, of course, have a few comments in return.

The dead end thing. You're assuming that evolution ends with the decrease in the birth rate. How can you know what ways will be devised to recreate ourselves in the future? We already have the rudimentary ability to clone ourselves.

Or how do you know that our out of control breeding won't result in an inability to breed easily sometime in the future? The number of people who want to breed now and can't because of physical limitations is probably close to or equal to those who have voluntarily chosen not to. How do YOU explain the increase in infertility?

The Roman military may have continued to function, but where are they today? If they left themselves behind as seeds from their bodies, how do we know the difference between their spawn and that of a lineage that has nothing to do with them? We inherited a legacy that was far more informative and valuable in the literature and art of the time then we did of any babies born from those soldiers. And since many of those wars were fought with slaves and indentured servants, we can just about safely assume they didn't have the time or resources to leave us those legacies. So who left them for us to hopefully read, enjoy and learn from?

The next wars will more than likely be fought over water. Just check out some of the water restrictions already in place in the southwestern United States.

And as always, the ones starting these wars, no matter what the reason, will do so because it stands to make them wealthy. Without these bottom feeders there would be no such term as "war profiteering."

And as long as there is unconscious breeding, there will always be enough cannon fodder for them to use for their games. And plenty of free hot dogs and marching bands and screaming idiots questioning the common idiot's patriotism if they hesitate to buy the official party line and go to war to make their masters richer.

Vietnam...aha, yes. I do believe that certain names associated with that catastrophe such as Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney also had a good excuse (cough cough...commies) to line their pockets with blood money.

Considering the number of people throughout history who died from diseases such as Dystentery, Cholera, Starvation, Plague and Tuberculosis, I think that what a few people do in a room together will never match those numbers.

Where is this food you speak of if there's so much of it? Next you're going to tell me that hunger doesn't exist in so-called civilized countries. Believe me, if the likes of the Bush Junta could make money from Food Wars, we'd be fighting over who gets the table scraps by next week. And if you don't believe there's such a thing as hunger, you obviously don't get out much.

Aha..the term "radical left." So, if I think that raising children to send them off to die in wars for profit is a bad idea, then that also requires me to somehow be a spokesperson against Capitalism? Sorry to burst your bubble here but as a small business woman who makes a decent living at it, I have a certain fondness for the capitalist way of life.

So it's the low birth rate, well off of us who burn coal for heat and have open sewers running through our cities? Can't possibly be that people are losing the use of their legs because they drive a couple blocks to the grocery store, no matter what the price of gas. Or that pollution controls are only in place for those who can't afford to pay fines for the same violations over and over again. Talked to any fishermen in Alaska lately who are still waiting for their fishing grounds to get cleaned up from the Exxon whoopsie?

I think doing things to help the environment isn't as simple as doing just one thing. It is a set of behaviors that as a group tend to inflict the most damage. Just one family that has multiple children, uses disposable diapers, buys everything in containers they throw into the garbage and the landfill, and drive huge gas-guzzling ego machines does more damage than some peasant burning coal in a village. But they all contribute to the same problem and we have to address all of to come to a workable solution. I prefer educating people that they have a choice about everything. What do YOU propose?

How many people supported the Iraq invasion because they were promised cheap oil. Looks like we have a bunch of dead people, gas prices so high they are destroying the economy, and we'll be leaving behind a country so devastated by our presence that it will take centuries to recover.

In that sense, yeah, it doesn't really make much difference whether I breed or not.

Anonymous said...

You claimed to be on the "radical left" and part of what it is supposed to do is point out the abuses of capitalism. I asked why you didn't serve as a critic when capitalism fails to feed everyone when there is the food to do so.

That starvation exists in a world with the food to feed everyone (no, not just those in "civilized" nations but every man, woman, and child on this planet). Starvation is not a "disease".

I think you missed my point that hunger exists in this world alongside surplus food. Highly recommend you read World Hunger: 12 Myths.

And if you doubt it (or my points) ask yourself why people sometimes go hungry here in the USA where grocery shelves are rarely empty and the nation is a net food exporter.

I suspect there are few different reasons people are having fewer children in modern times.

First they are expensive. In rural and family dependent agriculture children were future laborers that could also be part of a retirement plan. In modern USA you plan for you own retirement and have to pay money to feed and raise children who will go off and work for themselves. Thus people are no longer paid to have children and in the general sense have to pay themselves.

Second, career plus fun. Many young adults are enjoying what they can of this world and not marrying until later. This effectively reduces the amount of time they are likely to have children. Career, impacting in a similar fashion, is the fact that (at least in the USA) many people work at careers to build up both economic stability (that they feel responsible parents should have) and a future in the work world. The time it takes to build up finances again limits the amount of time spent on actually having a family. Also some companies (not all but certainly some) may feel you don't take your job seriously if you want to take time off for children. Thus you are paid/encouraged to not have children (your company/employer frequently wants you to spend time working, not raising kids). Some (probably not all but some) women even end up feeling like they missed out because they will not be able to be mothers as they spent the years they could have done that focused on work.

Evolution-you are hoping that a science fiction like ability will compensate for having fewer children such as cloning? That particular option isn't available to the public just yet and may not be for some time. That is speaking on a broader basis. On an individual basis a person who has no children could end up being done as far as genetic linage is concerned. Have no children and you have self selected yourself out (similar to self induced natural selection).

You assume that our breeding is "out of control". As some of the things I mentioned above indicate, that isn't happening-in modern situations breeding is frequently quite controlled (by both you directly and sometimes your job indirectly).

About diseases, there are some that one is more likely to catch by being in a crowd (as having more people around means there is a greater possibility one of them will be ill and spread it to a person). That is also just one factor, for a plague to really get going there has to be some sort of carrier (modern transportation could aid in this process) and lack of an ability to deal with the disease (no vaccine in use).

It is possible there will be wars over water in the future. Having both a less energy intense way to covert salt water to a drinkable and a greater willingness to be careful in how we use water could help both increase and conserve water supplies (working to avert shortages-which may or may not spawn wars). That answer of mine is only part scifi and part we aren't doing everything we can today.

A point I tried to make (and I think you came to agree with to some extent) is that there will be a military no matter how few people there are. And if the argument is to get rid of anyone who could become a soldier and get killed before he/she actually does that doesn't improve the life of the person (just cuts his/her life even shorter). Ditto for civilians trapped in whatever warzone.

Point of fact, most places where there are open sewers running through the cities aren't as likely to be "developed" enough to have a large number of the gas guzzling autos that it takes to transport a single individual (ever count the number of times you see an SUV with only 1 or 2 people inside) these days.

That is part of why much of global warming is due to the developed and wealthy world (we have the money to buy so many things that run on fossil fuels). And yes it is us with the low birthrate as there is a large difference in the pollution generated both per person and in total in the developed world and the developing world. As the developing world develops (like China) and becomes like us the amount of pollution they generate also rises (like it has been doing as their 1 child policy has been in place). Getting totally away from digging or pumping up long buried carbon for energy would probably be one of the first things I'd do, not easy and certainly not the only thing to do but decidedly of benefit to the environment.