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Apr 19 2006

More Mouths To Feed

This morning I have been asked to comment on the fact that famous hotties Brooke Shields and Katie Holmes both had babies yesterday.

Beyond my usual smirkingly cynical yet somewhat pained (I myself am human, one tends to forget) recognition that each new H. sapiens birth brings our highly overrated species that much closer to its inevitable, grisly, and agonizing extinction at the indifferent hand of plague and starvation, I find that I am unable to feel anything at all concerning these celebrity bundles of joy, no matter extravagantly beautiful they are expected to be.

I am all for the public individual. That is, if the individual in question really is an individual, with a sparkling intellect or brilliant sense of aesthetics or at least a knowledge of fine wine to match her charisma, whose body of work adds to, rather than subtracts from, some ennobling endeavor of the species. When fame can accentuate personal genius, when it is not merely the end objective of some private, self-serving ambition, “you go, girl!” is the cry that parts the Twisty lips.

But celebrities are a different story. They are not public individuals, they are public globs of marketing. They enbiggen nothing worthwhile. Their genius is limited to their mastery of slimming techniques and pole dancing. Their “work” is to a) recite scripted dialogue under direction, b) conform to patriarchal beauty standards while doing it, c) summarily execute a sex scandal or a drug problem, and d) write a book about it. Nobody, aside from a few hack critics who shill for the movie studios and publishing houses, really gives a crap about part A so much as they do about the supposedly extraordinary personal lives manufactured for these celebrities as a result of all that crazy marketing.

It is an unfortunate myth that anybody, however asinine or repellent, can be famous. This gives false hope to the masses—who necessarily view fame as the pinnacle of human achievement—which in turn feeds the mammoth industry that sustains celebrity. Celebrities are like televangelists, bilking the hapless out of their hard-earned cash with the promise of a better life, then jetting off to St. Tropez to get the hell away from them. Brooke Shields, Katie Holmes, and all similar vapid receptacles of proletarian fantasy are the bourgeois royalty of capitalism.

And to the extent that they publicly exemplify bogus femininity as defined by the patriarchy—modeling their conventional beauty in makeup and clothes designed by misogynist fags, dipping their heads to the camera in gestures of delicate submission, smiling ceaselessly through their pregnancies, and, and, at least in the case of Holmes, performing a total subsumption of the self to an egomaniac male Svengali—they are vulgar caricatures. Screw’em.

62 comments

  1. saltyC

    the morbid reaction to birth, more commonly felt than expressed, that reacts to the most excellent event of a human birth, is the knowledge that you will one day die. There must be a rationalization of the fear of one’s one death as revealed by the contrast of another’s birth, a distraction from crass self-interest.

    So it is usually expressed as fear for “the planet”: we will ALL DIE because of this baby.

    If this little baby, who can be taught to use a quarter of the resources that the average airstream traveler squanders, and who at the moment eats about twelve ounces a day of replaceable human milk… is such a burden on “the Planet” that expressions of dismay are more important than well wishes… then who isn’t a waste of space?

    Why not celebrate death as a good thing,, like maybe we should support capital punishment after all, because each death takes us farther from plague and famine.

    Or, maybe we could recognize that yes, time is passing and youth will come in to replace us, and that is a good thing. Maybe our tired old way of seeing things will become extinct and replaced by something better? If that is possible, it is even more likely when we celebrate the entrance of a wanted and welcome human being to their yet undefined life.

  2. Kate

    You Twisty have become my new office distraction. Sitting here and doing paperwork is mind numbing, but there’s always blaming one click away to relieve me.

    I share your disgust with breeding celebrities. I personally never yearned to have children, it just happened as part of my obligatory service to the patriarchy, my personal desires had no place for expression.

    That said, I cannot fathom the urge some people have to procreate, my ex husband included. If they want to raise kids so badly (which I am challenged to think that they actually do, as they can hire people to do the dirty work for them), then why not adopt a child, possibly a child from this country? There’s plenty of children doomed to lives of serious dysfunction in barely fit foster homes, why?

    And hear hear about the ‘talent’ lie. I thought I was lacking some kind of sophisticated radar that others might have to not be able to pick up the fine ‘talent’ these popular actors/actresses supposedly have.

    Lately I have seen on newstands a popular mag with some pregnant celeb, sitting on a bed with white sheets, etc., wearing virginal white linen, smiling coyly at the camera whilst cradling her unlarged fetus-hump in her hands. Prego-porn.

    Then there’s the People mag I just saw yesterday blaring before in the express aisle, with pics of popular female stars and their expectant or recently given birth details. “They’re all doing it, why not you!?” seemed to scream out from the cover.

    As you say: “…and all similar vapid receptacles of proletarian fantasy…”

    Exactly, and some university women’s studies scholar sits in her office looking over statistics pondering her thesis to explain the higher teen pregnancy rates among the lower middle and poor folks. Gosh I dunno, I dunno, let’s do another study.

  3. Amber

    Bravo, bravo!

  4. Ron Sullivan

    Yeah right, saltyC, maybe this time we’ll get it right. It’s only Attempt #Six-and-a-half-billion-and-one, and this little piggy could be taught to fly.

    The blanker the slate, the more we like it.

    And it’s just one more rivet off the airplane, why blame it? We must be all old and bitter, not to mention barren. Human life is the only life, right? More more more.

  5. Twisty

    I’m not worried about “the planet.” It’ll manage.

  6. Hattie

    Having just spent a week with my daughter and her partner and my lovely granddaughter, I find it difficult to share all the negativity about little kiddos. It is nice to see a girl being brought up so well by two women. They are planning to have another one. Keep in mind that if THEY are the only ones to have kids, WE are in big trouble.

  7. Kate

    “Keep in mind that if THEY are the only ones to have kids, WE are in big trouble.”

    Yes, I’ve considered this Hattie and I tend to agree, except it is an uphill battle as godbags love to screw their wives into pregnant oblivion and idiots don’t know how to do anything else anyway, us thinking folks can’t and won’t keep up with the pace.

  8. jenny

    Doesn’t Brooke get a few points for writing a book about how having a wrinkly being emerge from your body doesn’t automatically make your life all flowers and butterflies?

  9. Annie

    I can’t get into pregnancy bashing, even if there are some gene pools that would seem best left to extinction. I do, however, find that glazed over look in Katie Homlmes’ eyes rather disconcerting. I never had a clue who she was before TC anyway, but clearly hooking up with this dude seems to have converted her from whatever kind Hollywood robot she was before into a Stepford Hollywood bag. She gives me a gnarly case of the heebie jeebies.

  10. Annie

    I don’t know what kind of person Brooke Shields is, but as I recall she was one of those lovely little girls who modeled underwear and played to the camera. Maybe she’s a decent human being, but I don’t afford too much credit to someone who can get a book about breaking a nail published just as easily as she can talk about her postpartum woes. Why in the world to women wait for celebrities to tell them the “truth” about things? Makes me sick. Millions of women have suffered, so this one is suddenly a saint for telling her story and informing women…for profit. Blech! And I don’t care if she donated a portion of the proceeds. I don’t think she was ever in danger of missing a meal. Please.

  11. Evelyn

    I can easily get into pregnancy bashing…I’ve never understood why some people will go to great lengths–fertility drugs, etc–to have their own children when so many kids are without homes. Always seemed selfish to me.

  12. norbizness

    Interesting you should mention Brooke Shields (age 12) in light of the last post. However, at least she’s using her celebrity to fight Hubbardoids; in doing so, she’s saving sufferers of depression for the inevitable plague and starvation two-fer that awaits them.

  13. saltyC

    “Keep in mind that if THEY are the only ones to have kids, WE are in big trouble.”

    that’s making a BIG assumption that children turn out like their parents.

  14. Annie

    I don’t know either, Evelyn, but while I share your concern for the unwanted children who need safe and loving homes, I just can’t bring myself to shame-n-blame on women who have their own private issues and desires. I’d rather blame the patriarchy instead.

  15. alphabitch

    Amen, Annie. It is, after all, the patriarchy’s damn fault.

    Evelyn: I’m with you about how selfish that seems, though. I’m often told that my decision not to reproduce is selfish, and I’m always baffled by that implication. Not that I made the decision for entirely noble and selfless reasons, but still: WTF?

  16. Evelyn

    Annie: Point well taken. It’s the environmentalist in me: we’re not thinking about future generations as it is in regards to the planet,(or anything else for that matter) and that’s just selfish in its own right.

    Though, I often feel as though women with children, at least in my city/neighborhood, have a sense of entitlement. Excuse me if I don’t think your baby is cute and feel the need to acknowledge her. I’ll gladly blame the patriarchy for this one though–women are supposed to want and have kids, right?

  17. Annie

    I think the patriarchy creates that sense of entitlement–the mother as paradigm against which all other women should be measured scenario–that seems so unfair. I actually love being a mother. I sometimes enjoy bragging about my little daughter, and I admit to having an occassional moment of dismay when someone’s not interested. Can’t help it. Seems to come with the territory. Maybe that’s because it’s such a hard job. I would endorse motherhood as a concept for many women who would aspire to it.

    All of that being said, I don’t think motherhood is instinctual for all women. I shudder to think of women being shamed or forced into motherhood. Therefore, I gladly blame the patriarchy for its insistance that motherhood is inate to all women, for turning people who might in some other reality enjoy motherhood but have been turned off to it via the auspices of the patriarchy, for creating the conditions by which women who don’t want to be mothers become mothers anyway, for berating those same women, for devaluing motherhood among those who pursue it, and for just about everything else you can think of that has to do with the degradation, objectification, and subordination of women.

  18. Vibrating Liz

    Aw, man, 24 years ago this morning I gave birth to my second child. Take me out back now and shoot me, they’re welcome to my share of the resources.

  19. saltyC

    Germaine Greer, in _The Whole Woman_ pointed out that, in our patriarchy, the most privileged position for a woman is a high-ranking man’s wife. Mothers are not privileged. On the contrary, actually.

    My experience as a single, non-rich mother bears this out: it is harder work than anything, harder than training for the olympics. And there is no help, none, save from other mothers who are also overwhelmed. Why should anyone help? After all, we are just selfishly adding another member to this dreadful race, which does nothing but eat up resources that could go to whales.

  20. Ms Kate

    I wouldn’t be so quick to bash breeders. We are really just choosing to follow what can be pretty powerful biological programming.

    What I see as The Problem here isn’t that people, as biological organisms, make babies. The Problem is that one of our baser biological instincts gets elevated into Woman’s Highest Calling. Something we do (or can do) becomes something We Are. Because of this strange elevation of a bodily function to a higher calling (mainly because it involves a well-timed and storied male bodily function), women like Twisty who “don’t get the breeding thing” are suddenly contemptable, unnatural, unwomanly because they either think beyond childbearing or simply don’t feel that same base desire. They are also suspect because eschewing reproduction also means one less vessel for the sacred sperm. Unsubmissive strumpet!

    Think about it: all the fawning over celeb spawning is really not much better than fetishizing and worshiping any other celebrity orifice produce. And yes, there are people who do that too.

  21. FamousSovietAthlete

    In order not to sound like a blubbering Twistophant and to preserve my dignity, I’ve decided to keep my admiration of this brilliant post to myself.

    Nobody’s reading this, right?

  22. Twisty

    Due to my poor skills as a writer, I appear to have inadvertently confused the reader by expressing my disinterest in banal celebrity lives along with the mostly-unlrelated hypothesis (which hypothesis, incidentally, I did not make up. It was invented and is shared by intellects far greater than mine) that overpopulation will very likely be the ruin of the species. And, as usual, some of you mothers out there imagine that my vision of zero-population-growth = “Twisty hates my baby.” Rest assured, girls, I do not hate your baby, or any other baby. You will recall that I am an aunt to two babies myself, upon both of whom I dote with considerable dorkiness.

    The accusation that I am “breeder bashing” is absurd enough that I won’t even bother explaining why.

    Especially since nobody is reading this.

  23. ms. jared

    i’m with you, twisty. http://www.vhemt.org/

    and i play spinster aunt to my best friend’s (who continues to breed just to spite me) spectacular daughter. it goes without saying (even though i’m going to say it) that i love her to bits. that doesn’t mean i wouldn’t like to see us all “live long and die out” though.

    xoxo, jared

  24. Annie

    Twisty wrote, “I do not hate your baby, or any other baby.”

    That seemed clear in the original post. My comments about pregnancy bashing were in response to my personal discomfort with the direction that a few responses seemed to be heading toward. To each her own choice about motherhood, anyway, but I just didn’t read the zero-pop lines as zero motherhood.

    It may be an interesting (or not)kink in this blogversation to note that Italy is actually concerned over their low fertility rates. There are some who believe that the low birth rate there will create a shortage of workers to run the country. I have listened in on this tale–with curiosity, anxiety, patriarchal blaming mentality, disbelief, concern, distaste for the capitalist machine, etc– amongst a number of friends who are Italian nationals. Apparently it’s a really hot topic there. Who knew?

  25. slim slow slider

    thanks, twisty, for another fine and inspiring post. Having seen the baby-dogfight photos and niece/nephew photos at this site I know you’re no baby-hater…but I admire how you have managed to frame the troublesome topic of public fascination with celebrity breeding in a way that made me go ‘yeah!’.
    I must say, at the risk of being lashed for celebrity-worship, that I admire the fact that Angelina Jolie adopted her first two children from impoverished childhoods/situations. I wish more people (who want to have kids, that is) would do that: think about all the children already out there who would just love to have a comfy home and shelter and food.

  26. thelmyc

    slim slow slider, don’t be too impressed. Those Hollywood bims adopt their babies not out of a desire to do the world a godo turn, but to keep from stretching out their million dollar guts with pregnancy. Stretch marks are for third-world women, not movie-industry fuckbots.

    I’m not sure how I feel about babies-babies-babies. Don’t want any, and while I’m sure that there are decent reason to have them, I’m sick of saying that we have too many people on this tired old Earth or hearing someone else say it, and then watching everyone backpedal, falling over themselves to reassure EVERY SINGLE PARENT IN THE UNIVERSE that, “Oh, but I’m suuure I don’t mean yoouuu!”

    Hell, for all I know, maybe I do mean you. The ozone hole won’t go away until every single one of us starts giving a crap about how OUR individual fuel consumption can be bettered. This is no different. Yeah, for all I know, maybe you SHOULDN’T have had that kid.

    And I’m tired of the rose-colored crap about Hope For The Future and Maybe Junior Might Cure Cancer. Your parents said that when they popped you out — did you do it? No? Then what you’re saying is that you’re just gonna dump the problems of cancer, pollution, etc. on the shoulders of your kids. Nice. Real nice. Maybe some of us should keep our damned genitals out of action and actually get about SOLVING these problems.

    If you want a cure for cancer, then get a frigging medical degree. Or else start saving NOW for your kid’s med school tuition. Or else just say that you want one and you don’t care what it means for the planet as a whole. But stop with the rationalization.

  27. saltyC

    Who needs a cure for cancer if there are already too many mouths to feed?

  28. slim slow slider

    thelmyc, I like the cut of your gib. Or should that be the cut of your blame?

  29. hedonistic

    Funny, I was just going to launch into an anti-breeding rant over at chez moi, even have the little cartoon ready. I was going to title it “I hate babies.” (I don’t really hate babies, I mean, I’m a MOM with a great kid, I just find the title catchy, non?). I was planning to rant against the romanticization of the whole breeder phenomenon.

    I swear, if we all knew what motherhood entailed BEFORE we got pregnant, the whole human race would die out. Birthin’ is definitely NOT a hedonistic pleasure.

    So, to overcome a little writers block, I did a google search on “I hate babies.” An IBTP thread from a few months ago was on page two! So why do I go elsewhere for inspiration at all? I might as well just continue to poach from here!

  30. scratchy888

    Don’t know what to say about this, as children bore me rather silly, mostly. Sitting in the doctor’s surgey yesterday, waiting for our ‘flu jabs, Mike and I casually looked over a few of the offerings of women’s magazinal sort….

    The common feature of nearly all the stories was in fact a common formula presented as a female celebrity having a crisis of some sort, positioning her on the point of a nervous breakdown because of the actions or nonactions of some male.

    There were also some pictures of weddings and pregnancies.

    The role of celebrities seems to have devolved into furnishing disappointed housewives with a notion that even ‘the stars’ experience their fair share of calamities. The melodramatic and obviously falsified (by virtue of excessive focus on The Negative) nature of most of these stories said……oh so much about the desolute state of the common readerly housewife.

  31. scratchy888

    oh, I said, “common” a lot. What do I know? But these magazines have the broadest possible distribution in Australia.

  32. AntipodeanKate

    Wow. Usually I love the Twisty threads but what’s with all the “selfish” talk? I don’t call anyone selfish for their reproductive choices — abortion, birth, assisted conception. In fact, to me it smacks of the pro-life rhetoric where women are painted as having abortions for purely selfish reasons. I mean, can’t you hear how asking “why not adopt?” has such clear and unpleasant echoes of that particular debate?

    I’m not trying to be trollish or snarky. I get what Twisty is saying and I agree: more people is bad. But I really think abusing people — women — for their reproductive choices does, you know, nothing to ameliorate population growth or over-consumption.

    The real problem is that we in the west are held at a massive remove by The Man (patriarchy, capitalism, whatever) from the consequences of our over-consumption. While in third world countries, people want what we’ve got. Not unreasonably, either. I fail to see how breating first world parents is going to solve either our over-consumption problems or the massive, grinding poverty of the third world.

  33. anne

    I must say… I love FamousSovietAthlete’s new word – Twistophant. It’s so fitting. It’s difficult sometimes not to fall into that realm. So much of what is said here so eloquently informs how I am learning – at this late stage in life – to be.

    I shall try to fall short of Twistophantery… while keeping deserved admiration in place.

  34. AntipodeanKate

    For what it’s worth, I know Twisty wasn’t blaming women, and I dn’t think people here were doing that either, really, but I guess I hear the world ‘selfish’ applied to women so often these days: selfish for having babies, selfish for not. Selfish for working, selfish for staying home. Selfish for getting married, selfish for not. Seems it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re being selfish.

    I really do blame the patriarchy.

  35. thelmyc

    But I really think abusing
    people — women — for their reproductive choices does, you know,
    nothing to ameliorate population growth or over-consumption.

    Well, I think that criticizing something legitimately hardly counts as abuse. Just because we aren’t falling over ourselves praising EVERY and ANY pregnancy simply because it will result in a baby, this amounts to “abuse?”

    I’m reminded of that woman who came here, said that she was a SAHM, and had a lot of people simply tell her, “You’re taking a terrible financial risk, whatever your freedom of choice may be.”

    She also imagined herself persecuted and abused simply because we didn’t kiss her backside right out of the gate. It’s not abusive to tell someone that the life choices they’ve made may have negative consequences, and that they are not immediately assumed to have thought all this through. As one poster above says, anyone who DID think it through is likely to refrain anyhow. Motherhood ain’t fun.

  36. thelmyc

    It’s also worth noting that while women carry babies, pregnancy takes two. If I criticize it, I can damned well criticize men who do it thoughtlessly, and I do. There’s a lot more of them, and their bodies let them get away with a lot more thoughtlessness.

    I’ll yank the covers off of some Hollywood plastic sexbot for her faux-socially-aware choices to adopt a third-world baby, but I’ll rip into Sting as well, for being Mr. I’ll Save The Rainforests and then dumping another what — 114 western, resource-sucking kids into this world? Wrap your junk you give a fuck about the rainforests so much, pal.

    In short, there was nothing whatsoever particular to women in my own comments, I know that. And don’t play the old “Well, women get pregnant!” comment on me. PEOPLE need to start having fewer goddamned kids. Period.

    What needs to happen is for societies at large to start EDUCATING women, and I’d say preferentially over men at this point because of the dire straits were in as a species. It’s fucking widely known (look it up) that when women are educated, teh damned birth rate goes DOWN. Maybe that’ll cause trouble for economies as they adjust in the short-term, but it beats long-term destruction.

    Basically, if we want to save ourselves as a species, we’d better shitcan the fucking patriarchy is what it amounts to. THAT, for this as well as so many other things, is to blame for ALL of this.

  37. Annie

    AntipodeanKate, ditto! I know too many women who have their very own motives and stories to tell of pregnancy, rape, abortion, marriage, infertility, miscarriage, etc, to even consider coming down on any of them, or using the word “selfish” in response. It smacks of patriarchal foundationalism and creeps me out. There are plenty of times when another women’s choices seem counter-intuitive to my own way of thinking, but I can’t bring myself around to blaming THEM…although the Mom’s who deck their wee daughters out in sex-o-lette garb do tempt me.

  38. Annie

    thelmyc, while I am not really on the same page with you here, I must say that your comment about EDUCATION is one I read with particular interest. I have always felt very much the same way in that regard. It’s interesting because one of the most powerful weapons used by militant patriarchs around the world operates by removing women from education. It was certainly the technique of choice in Afghanistan, and Iran (which, btw, was at one time a rather progressive place for women in the Middle East).

  39. AntipodeanKate

    See, thelmyc, I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment about educating people and women and doing the best we can to fix this shit up. In my country, where education is pretty good and mostly free, we actually have a negative birth rate and I think it’s a good thing. When women are educated and have choices, birthrates plummet.

    Instead of us berating our peers for wanting children — which is something I get, dammit, despite my ethical qualms about bringing another baby into the world, I understand why women want to have children — I think education and increasing women’s choices worldwide is key.

    But to couch the whole thing in terms of women’s individual reproductive choices (selfishness vs unselfishness) is, to me, yet again another way of blaming the victims.

    I don’t care a jot for the Tomkitten, though I wish the poor child well, and I will gladly participate in any ragging on celebrity culture. It just rubs me the wrong way when we play ‘holier than thou’ with reproductive choices because it is aiming at the wrong target. (And that goes for women who say “not breeding is selfish” too.)

  40. Annie

    Of course, there’s always the Patriarchal method for dealing with over-population. In the Patriarchal economy, why get rid of just one mouth when you can get rid of two…

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/04/19/priest.mexico.ap/index.html

    UGH!!!!!! WHY am I NOT shocked by this? Oh, yeah, because crap like this happens to women every day!

  41. Annie

    I want to throw out something sensitive, or maybe it’s just idiotic. In that case I am sure I’ll be ignored or assaulted. At any rate, I have often wondered about the role of modern medicine, beyond matters of fertility.

    For example, for the past 10 years, until she died a few weeks ago at 89, my grandmother was exceedingly unwell, and often suffering. Yet, she, and everyone in the family, put an extraordinary amount of effort into keeping her alive and among the resource depleting population. I was certainly not ready to give up on her, even when she had generally given up on herself. And yet I have at times found myself complaining about the number of mouths there are to feed around the world. She was old; she’d lived her life. I could see how some might argue that if we cut off life-preserving treatments for the elderly we’d cut down on some significant percentage of the population. But then at what age would we start withholding treatments? How would we develop the rubric for determining the standards for decreasing the population by way of elderly management? And when that wasn’t enough, how long would it be before we began lowering the age, or refusing to treat people’s illnesses?

    It’s a stretch, I know, as the numbers between the potential death rate and the current birthrates might not be particularly relative, but we do live longer because we practice more life-extending techniques. We do keep people in the world on purpose. And I am pretty much for it more often than not. Otherwise many magnificent people would expire all too soon.

    It’s an awful thing to even think about, but I am not so sure that I’d be willing to leave the population crisis at any one particular doorstep, ya know? ‘cept maybe the patriarchy. I’m not sure that I’d want to suggest that my life is more valuable and worth preserving than the one some lady on my block is brewing in her belly, or the one a friend of mine is trying to conceive through IVF. I’m honestly not sure what I believe, aside from an overall certainty that hyperactive global appetites for virtually everything is killing the environment.

  42. thelmyc

    But to couch the whole thing in terms of women’s individual reproductive choices (selfishness vs unselfishness) is, to me, yet again another way of blaming the victims.

    See, if I’d ever SAID anything about selfishness or unselfishness, fine. I didn’t.

    And I have to admit, I don’t much care for the idea that by disagreeing with anything at all that any woman has done anywhere, that I’m victim-blaming. If by virtue of having a uterus I’m not allowed to disagree with thing one that ANY woman has ever done, then I look forsward to the surgery that will remove the thing from my body. Does our victim status automatically exempt us from mindfulness or what?

    Ultimately, the blame for this rests squarely on the patriarchy. But Christ, can we also use our own tiny little heads, too?

  43. saltyC

    Antipodean Kate and Annie,

    you are brilliant.

    Anyway,
    I don’t care if this has to do with Twisty or the post,

    but there is too much radical left bashing of procreation.
    Let’s celebrate a wanted child coming to the world. The left is dreary at times. Morbidly, mysanthropically dreary. Everyone knows death, everyone knows degredation, some of us have been homeless and poor, some of us have been drug addicts, etc.

    But bringing a child into this life can be a joyous thing, and celebrating it will not cause more overpopulation. Helping women raise children will not cause more overpopulation. It will make life better for the children that will come, and that makes life better for everybody.

    Children are shunned in our society, exploited and otherwise irrelevant. And avowed feminists will spout hateful phrases such as “goddamned babies”. People say freely “I don’t like children” “they’re boring”, etc.

    Children are in more danger in America now than ever, fewer safe spaces, less for them to do. TV is completely innappropriate for any child, at almost any hour. Children are not welcome in most places where “adults” have “fun”.
    The most important thing everyone can do is ask yourself, how can you help a child you know, and help that child’s mother.

  44. AntipodeanKate

    And I didn’t say that you shouldn’t disagree with people just ’cause they’ve got wombs, nor did I say you said anyone was selfish — I was referring to the comments upthread about selfishness and reproductive technology and how they made me feel very uncomfortable.

    I’ve rewritten this comment about seven times detailing my views on population growth and what have you, but each time it ended up being about seven paragraphs long! So I’ll spare you the whole thing, but I will say, as I do have some shreds of optimism about the human race, since my own nation has a birthrate of 1.4 births per women, we probably are mindful of our choice in this area.

    Unfortunately that doesn’t stop us from being rampaging consumerists and ruining our environment through out lust for more stuff — but I guess you can’t have everything.

  45. sybil

    Ms.Kate, Something we do (or can do) becomes something We Are. is, of course, the crux of the matter. As is performing a total subsumption of the self to an egomaniac male , in the words of Ms. Faster.

    Ms Jared, great site!

    It’s not just the Italians who are freaking out. Japan is seriously worried about how to support an aging population with not enough newbies to take it on. It’s easy for Americans to believe it’s possible to always have more. It’s what Americans do. Economy of scale makes the US successful materially, even as worries grow about social security availability.

    Annie, I’m with you. After watching my grandma hang on, complaining bitterly that she wanted to die, and now my mother, to say nothing of all those oldies we warehouse, it all seems pointless to me. Some oldies are actively engaged with life. I don’t begrudge them that. Others are just consuming resources, semi-conscious, like the living dead. I’m not about to push anyone else, but I’m very clear that when I reach a certain level of disability I’ll have the means to check out. I’ve made my wishes clear to not be kept in limbo if something horrific happens, which still needs to be formalized as a living will. I didn’t breed for reasons of population, bad genes, poor mothering which compromised my own ability to mother. I’ve never been anything but grateful that I tied my tubes when I was 28. Education, Education, Education. Yes.

  46. Ron Sullivan

    Annie, I’ve been dealing with the frail and worse-off elderly a lot lately, and it doesn’t leave me feeling good about getting older. Frankly, though, the resources consumed… I don’t think they’re all that huge, for most of them. That’s one place I think we can apply that “Oh, it’s a distribution problem” meme. If we put our resources to something more humane than, oh, list ‘em: vain wars, billionaire cultivation, paving every damned thing, plastic tchotchkes, we could pay skilled and kindly and not-hideously-overworked people to help us take care of our old folks, and if we did it right we might even enjoy their company longer. They might even enjoy living, what a concept.

    But I still think attrition is a more humane way of reducing population and consumption than killing off anyone, even by withholding help. Which, might I add, we’re doing lots of now anyway; it’s just offstage for most of us.

    Once we acknowledge reproduction as another appetite, and wanting to nurture mostly people who look just like us because we think they carry “our” genes (rethink that one after calculating every human’s share of those chromosomes and arrangements) as something like hoarding air, we might get rational about some of this stuff. Also, we might notice that life is everywhere, and, like matter, can’t be created, especially by species that don’t even photosynthesize. Sure can be destroyed though. The planet will survive, so to speak, and maybe the human species will too, but what impoverishment! How much of what we love will be gone? How much of what generations before us loved and took for granted is gone already? Have you noticed that there are fewer voices in the dawn chorus? That’s one thing I’ve found out, both talking to old folks and remembering for myself. Got census data to back it up, too.

    We don’t even have to do selective embryo reduction, so to speak, if we can stop getting drunk on fertility in the first place. Which takes seeing something in the world other than ourselves, at least.

  47. Dr.Sue

    Annie, I hear you. I used to work in a nursing home. There was not a lot of attention paid to the residents’ quality of life, but because of a huge fear of lawsuits, people were kept alive long after they would have wished. One particularly torturous life-prolonging technique was the forced insertion of feeding tubes into terminally ill people who had stopped eating because they no longer had any desire to live. Ron Sullivan, yes, diversion of resources from savage and destructive uses to life-enhancing ones would resolve many of our economic woes, but, as you said elsewhere, a change of focus and attitude–toward actually caring about the people we purport to “save”–would be necessary for any real change to take place.

  48. Annie

    Ron,a few things: First, I like this thread;it’s helping me to think through things in more careful detail and decide how I want to act on my convictions. I share your concerns about hyper-consumption and a radically impoverished planet so I’m all for slogging through this messy conversation.

    I guess where I was headed in my earlier post was that medicine, by way of the pharmaceutical industry perhaps in particular, preserves not only the lives of the elderly, but also many young lives, through radical interventions. I come from a family of pediatric hematologists/oncologists so I’ve wept vicariously through other people’s pain and watched in awe to see children with leukemia survive into a healthy adulthood…a new life. In between the elderly and the children are all of the millions of younger and middle aged adults who battle sickness and disease. In situations where the end of life is imminent, I know how magnificent palliative care-givers are and how brave and wonderful the patients and their families are. But I think the itch I’m still scratching is about what we have come to demand as a society is the exhaustion of all medical resources in order to keep ourselves and people we love alive. Would we have it any other way? Probably not. So then, I guess I have trouble getting from there to the point where I say to some perfectly decent person, “Sorry. Population full right now. If you want a baby your can go to ABC Adoptions where children are sold for $$5,000 – 20,000, or here to the rejected child bin – take your chances and good luck, or you can just get in line and wait until some group of politicos or another says we have room for a few more newborns and we say it’s your turn to give it a whirl.

    OK, clearly it isn’t as cut and dry as all that, and I doubt still that the numbers would bear out equally anyway. It’s just that I don’t think that we have a leg to stand on telling otherwise healthy, self-sustaining adults that their infertility should be treated differently than my cancer. What’s so special about me that I get the medical resources to sustain my life? So, for those kinds of reasons I have a hard time making calls out on someone trying to have a baby for any of her own private reasons. There’s a lot at risk there, and I do find myself positively REVOLTED when I read about these agencies troll the ovaries of paid-n-pretty Princeton girls so that someone who clearly doesn’t have a clue can have themselves a designer baby. THAT freaks me out!

    My trouble is kind of an ethical one, I think, Ron. I see this scenario that we are all so concerned with as having spiraled so far out of control that there’s no chance of stopping it. Do I promote population ignorance with reckless abandon? Of course not! Surely we have to keep trying to educate people, live smaller, and live ethically with the environment and with others, but in the end I am not convinced that it will be enough. UGH! Well, I am depressed now. You?

  49. finnsmotel

    These days (I say, these days, because my mind does change), I think of human reproduction as something akin to hunting and fishing.

    We’re built for it, wired for it, but it’s no longer necessary to our survival. The part of us that evolved those skills is still there and has yet to be mutated out of the gene pool. And, for many of us, it feels good to use it, even if it serves no ‘purpose’ per se.

    People are always looking for a purpose. And I don’t believe there is one.

    I digress.

    Now, I don’t know how many fellow hunters or fishers I will find at a blog like this, but for those who are not, let me explain just a bit. Those who have not hunted or fished might be surprised to find that those who do are not just bloodthirsty creeps intent on destroying all that crosses their path. (there are such creeps, but I truly do not believe they make up the majority of hunters/fishers)

    Hunting, especially, awakens senses we rarely use in our daily routine in this modern world. But, make no mistake, those senses are still present. And, when we use them, we get a sense of satisfaction that I would have to imagine was also part of the mutation that brought the skill in the first place.

    I have to think that human sex and reproduction are similar instinctive activities. We get the same ancient satisfaction from some chemical reaction borne of some ancient mutation.

    People often mistake chemical reactions that bring satisfaction for being a purpose or higher calling. I understand why, but think they’re confused.

    -finn

  50. Pony

    The hunters and fishers I’ve known, yes I will say all the hunters and fishers I’ve known, have a respect of animals and nature which verges on, if it is not in actuality, religion. If you kill an animal for food, there is an awe that grows in you, to be respectful and live sparingly of these creatures and the spaces they need. Both of which sustain you.

    Those who don’t have invariably lost touch with themselves. They are lost souls. Either because they have lived so removed from what sustains us because they are so urban, or because they’re culture has been destroyed. I may have just repeated myself.

  51. Pony

    Well if I didn’t repeat myself I certainly used the wrong “their”. What the h…? I never used to do this. Where’s the copy editor?

  52. Ron Sullivan

    Annie, I’ve been depressed for years. Just got a dose of it today, in fact, when we went out along Mines Road and Del Puerto Canyon east of Livermore, looking for birds and posies. We’ve been doing that route about once a year since nineteen-seventy-something. In the golden eagle stretch of I-5/580, there are several of those developments Nina pictured in “The Stork,” and more in by Livermore, including a big fat thing that’s elbowing what birders call “Frick Lake.”

    Frick Lake is one of those anti-enviro whipping boys, a temporary (most years) body of water. It fills up in winter and a hell of a lot of California gulls, as well as assorted ducks and shorebirds, sustain themselves on it or retreat to it. Many of those gulls then go to Mono Lake (east of Yosemite) to breed, and disperse in random directions as far as I know. You’s think the Mormons would be buying up land and water to protect the species, since that’s the gull that famously saved the Mormons from a plague of locusts.

    The back end of Mines Road and much of DPC are still too steep to build on, thank Coyote. But from both ends, the habitat I’ve known for decades is being paved and stuccoed and run into rags by ORVs and beshatten by cows, not that that last one is new. The (exotic) starlings that follow us humans have extirpated the Lewis’ woodpecker colony nearest Livermore, thought the ones way back past Del Puerto are still there. Have you ever seen a Lewis’ woodpecker? They do something with light that paintings can’t duplicate. Structural color is half of what drives birders, I think. But see, we managed to trash one village of them even before paving their place. They didn’t “move”; they died out. Those other territories already had woodpeckers.

    No, actually, I don’t think education will be enough, though I’m still pushing it. I honestly think it’s too late for a lot of what I love. In fact, rather a lot of it is gone. And ya know, it’s not the fact that I love it that makes it important.

    The thing is, it’s not someone’s reason for making babies that matters; it’s the effects. And as a species we seem incapable of reasoning our way around it, of figuring how what we love so much can possibly have bad effects, how we’d do well to indulge some appetites a bit less often and for cripes sake stop calling them virtues, let alone duty.

    Finnsmotel, I think you’re on-target in #49. We can, of course, get those chemical thrills without killing anything, just as we can get our rocks off without having babies. Acourse, once you get those synapses all honed and working, it can be hard to live in the average town or city or any other concentration of our fellow humans.

  53. Pony

    These lands which are lost, these ecosystems, almost always turn into developments that are unaffordable to anyone but the CEO of the corporation that killed them.

    They aren’t going to live in downtown River City, choking on pollution. Noooo.

  54. Annie

    Ron, it is like that where I live too…maybe worse. I am essentially at the very edge of the Everglades, and I probably shouldn’t be here. Sigh. I ask myself, is it like this because of the number of people here, or because of the ways in which the people here live. Both, I guess, and I’m guilty too. I turn the A/C off during the day even when I am home, but the minute the thermostat pushes 85 inside I’m closing windows and joining the ranks of the comfortable. I could ride my bike to the grocery store…I take the car because…fill in my excuse. But of course I tell myself how happy I am to live in this development because they have recycling and for years I didn’t. Expiring habitats and species? Ya, we’re all about that here in South Florida, and people are smug about it. The Russian Tree/Roof Rats and Euro Starlings are living quite comfortably though. Building here is about 5,000 sq ft homes. There’s no affordable housing, and yet people keep moving here. I know it’s like this everywhere. Depressed? Oh yea, I got a mean case of it. Maybe I just gotta quit blaming for a while…

  55. Ron Sullivan

    Annie, have you read any of Carl Hiaasen’s books? I like them myself. Florida breaks my heart. I speak as one who was literally struck dumb when she saw her first swallow-tailed kite.

    The thing that got my attention about numbers as opposed to, say, recycling, was reading a bit on the lives of the original inhabitants of the place I live — books like The Ohlone Way and Before the Wilderness. The people here lived on the shores of SF Bay, ate lots of shellfish and ducks and fish and all, and then walked up into the hills every year to gather acorns at proprietary trees, shoot deer, snare small game, like that. Grass and flower seeds too — they made flour or roasted them. All very biodegradable and eco-groovy. And then I pictured the current population trying that. Forget it. And this was one of the most densely populated places in pre-Columbian North America.

    Set Chicago to hunting bison? Orlando to snaring ducks and fishing and eating hearts of palm? NYC to fishing and clamming and hunting and raising corn? Et cetera. We’re far from efficient, and we’re incredibly wasteful, but supposing that a bit of recycling and community gardens and crunchy granola and windmills on the roof can stem the destruction strikes me as bad arithmetic.

  56. Annie

    Hiaasen is witty, but generally I’m a non-fiction reader. And these days, with the damned thesis hanging over my head like an anvil, I read less and less for pleasure. This blog seems to qualify as my pleasure reading, and look I’ve gone and ruined it for myself by getting bummed out. I’m blaming…well…you know.

    The swallow-tailed kites are breath-taking…as are the Friggates that follow the hideous cruise ships into port, and the assortment of wading birds, and “strays”* from the tropics. Whenever I drive or walk along the beach I just want to weep because of the towering condos that take the places of so many nesting sea turtles, sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, etc. Trust me, I have no myths about recycling and such.

    * Do a search on “ringed teal.” We’ve had a few here migrating and hanging aroudnd with the green and blue wings over the past few years. I think they may be escapees and not migrants, but they are the dearest little duckies ya ever did see!

  57. Ron Sullivan

    Oooh, Annie, nice duck. We get vagrants here a lot, including ducks — including, several years ago, a garganey drake at the Bolinas sewage plant* — but they’re rarely tropical. And the escape/ship-assist/true vagrant debate is always fun. There was a demoiselle crane in the Sacramento Delta a couple years back that’s still being puzzled over. Probably an escape, but no bands and none of the feather wear that most confined birds show. It was hanging out with a sandhill crane flock. Nice bird.

    *Beware of turning into a birder. It’s a strange obsession that leads to strenge behavior and thoughts. I have a map in my head of local sewage treatment plants, rather like the map I suppose Twisty has in her head of local taco purveyors. Vagrants, aka extralimital birds, often show up at sewage treatment plants, for some reason. Bolinas’ plant, like Arcata’s, is actually a pleasant place to be. Arcata’s is a tourist destination. No shit.

    And turning into a birder can break your heart, as things disappear. Alas, the dusky seaside sparrow.

  58. Annie

    It’s too late for me, Ron; I have a life list and binoculars. However, I MUST drop off this blog for awhile. Potential employers, however much I would prefer to be here at home, are calling my references and eating something other than ramen noodles is dependent upon my re-entry into the workforce. Unfortunately, the pretty job with health benefits I’m after requires completion of my thesis by August. ((((Ron)))) Y’er great!

  59. Pony

    Annie

    What’s your PhD and thesis in?

  60. Annie

    Topic:Ethical dilemmas, dealings, and classroom praxes for writing practioners situated amongst fundamentalist religious students in college composition classes…a real “light” topic for a blamer, eh?

    Area of study: Composition and Rhetoric

    Track: Multicultural Literature and Literacies (with an emphasis on cultural and literary theories)

    Degree: M.A. English

  61. Pony

    I have no idea what all that means Annie but I wish you luck anyway, especially with the job, and if you really want the piece of paper, yes that too.

    I can’t tell you how I wish someone had forced me to take math and science. Oh wait, someone tried. A tutor was hired. He spent most of his time trying to work his free hand between my legs.

  62. Ron Sullivan

    Annie, I want to see it! Whenever you’re at that point, anyway. It’s one opf those writers’ problems that interest me a lot.

    And good birding to you, when you get around it.

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