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Antinatalism has a point but it upsets me

(157 Posts)
sakura184 Mon 08-Jul-19 11:58:04

So I've been involved in feminism for many years.
I got involved in quite a radical group and as time went on I learned about antinatalism.

These radical women very much despise mothers and it didn't feel any different to the run of the mill patriarchal undermining and despising of mothers.

But they do have a point. They say we shouldn't have had babies at late stage patriarchy because we can't protect our children, the environment is polluted beyond all repair, that women have lost their access to clean and plentiful food and water. We have given birth under inhumane conditions and for this we should experience a deep guilt. One said "I can't imagine being able to live with myself after doing something so heinous".

Anyway i find it upsetting and was just hoping for maybe some sort of support thread or something. I've given birth twice and only now I do see that the antinatalist feminists have a point but obviously it's too late for me to change what I've done. They think women who gave birth are either stupid or evil beyond comparesad

How to carry on, in regard to what kind of future our children have. I wish we didn't live under patriarchy, and could raise our children safely and happily.

The antinatalsits would probably say this is a horrible, self indulgent thread. That mothers just should suck it up and live with the guilt, but I can honestly say I had no idea how bad things were when I decided to have children and I think most mothers are like me.

SnuggyBuggy Mon 08-Jul-19 12:20:25

Feminism should also be looking at how motherhood is regarded by society

GarakIsMySweetheart Mon 08-Jul-19 12:26:27

I can honestly say I had no idea how bad things were when I decided to have children and I think most mothers are like me.

I agree. If I could have my time again, I wouldn't have had them. For their own sakes.

They have both said they don't want children for these reasons. If I'm honest, I hope they both stick to that. For their sakes.

FeministCat Mon 08-Jul-19 12:27:25

Antinatalism is not just “one” set of beliefs. An antinatalist can hold certain beliefs behind their antinatalism, and not certain beliefs another antinatalist would.

I would call myself antinatalist due to my beliefs about the harm to animals and environment (and to each other) we as a human population inflict, and continue to inflict as our population grows. Even if it has zero growth from now on in the damage is irreversible as long as we are around. I don’t believe we as humans are so special above all else that we ought to survive as a species where we have caused the extinction of so many others. I don’t see a human extinction event as a “negative” but as a natural outcome of being temporary visitors to this earth (ie why are we more deserving of permanent life here than any other species?), and an outcome that we have hastened by our own actions. I just hope we don’t take down more animals and other life as we do go out (which I also feel is unrealistic).

It doesn’t mean I despise mothers. It does not mean I resent my own mother for giving birth to me. It does not mean I feel mothers should be shamed for giving birth. I don’t think mothers are stupid or evil! I am blessed to have family family and friends who are mothers and I adore them and do not resent their choices.

For me, it’s all about promoting conscious decisions going forward. Ensure your children know that parenthood is a choice, and one they can and should make consciously considering their own life goals but also their values (ie which may be environmental, which may be independence from responsibilities of children, etc).

JessicaWakefieldSV Mon 08-Jul-19 12:30:44

I’ve had a handful of interactions with anti natalists and I find their argument mostly nonsense and their delivery deliberately provocative and unkind- one called my child a ‘fuck trophy’. Doesn’t mean they’d all say that, just that is my experience with every one I’ve interacted with, very negative.

Ringdonna Mon 08-Jul-19 12:31:31

What negative rubbish.

JessicaWakefieldSV Mon 08-Jul-19 12:32:14

Every species does its upmost to survive. It’s a natural thing. We’ve just done it recklessly and with no thought for our environment or other sentient beings... or often for each other! We’re a miserable lot for sure but anti natalism is a bit far for me.

TirisfalPumpkin Mon 08-Jul-19 12:33:57

I find it difficult to envisage a form of feminism that despises mothers and aims to make women feel guilty for exercising reproductive choice.

We need fewer humans, not no humans. We therefore need mothers. I’m childfree by choice (about 50:50 environmental concerns and that I need my sleep). If a woman has one fewer child than she otherwise might have, for the sake of her existing children and everyone else’s, she shouldn’t be expected to guiltily self flagellate for not having 0 children.

I can see a few valid points in their other arguments around conscious decision making and not falling into parenthood as a ‘default’ option.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Mon 08-Jul-19 12:50:26

Interesting you've seen this as a feminist group OP, the only time I've come across antinatilism was through veganism and it was hugely unpleasant. I agree deciding whether to have children or not should be a more conscious choice than it often is, and have deliberately limited my family to one child (though for a number of reasons).

There's something in it, I think, but the people I've come across who held similar views were definitely anti-women - I don't think it has to be that way though.

Goosefoot Mon 08-Jul-19 12:57:48

I find a lot of the people that spout this stuff are actually quite unpleasant, making comments like the "fuck trophy" one, or calling people "breeders".

I think we actually have to be very careful about how we conceptualise having children. There is a very strong push these days to see them as a sort of consumer choice, a luxury product. In this view people choose to have them in much the same way people choose to buy a pedigreed dog. That has a lot of implications for how we see family support, support for parents in law, and also issues like surrogacy are very much affected by this mindset.

It's really an artificiality though created because we are now pretty good at limiting birth through technology. Properly speaking having children is more like a bodily function, and one that our control over is really pretty fragile.

The environmental question is a lot more complicated IMO than a lot of people think. I don't see any doubt that fewer people is a good idea, but that also varies regionally. Steep declines in population are not necessarily ideal, and simply moving large groups of people around isn't either.
And of course the elephant in the room about reproductive control is that evidently, reducing population does not in fact lead to less environmental impact, it seems to lead to more. The reason why this is the case stares at us in the face every time someone says "we decided to only have one child so we could give them the lifestyle we wanted and which we could afford/would reduce our environmental footprint." For westerners having fewer children seems to be as much as anything about allowing them to be more extreme in their consumption.

KettlePolly Mon 08-Jul-19 13:07:07

I've not looked into it... I agree that the movement might have a point, many of us might wonder what kind of world we've brought our children into but it's only going to be anti feminist if women are thought to be responsible for the problem. I'm sure some lovely meninists and incels will enjoy hitting women with this new stick, and it sounds like in practice it's juvenile and spiteful in tone - but taking the argument purely rationally it doesn't follow that it is women's fault.

Both men and women want families and both men and women can feel that having children is morally wrong etc. Also if the patriarchy is supposed to be even more entrenched than ever, how are women meant to have some sort of privilege or agency to effect the change? And at the extremes, plenty of women around the world would have LOVED not to have had numerous pregnancies and children, and to be spared the fistulas and prolapse and death in childbirth etc... but due to cultural or religious society or abuse (*cough Patriarchy) had bugger all choice in the matter.

If Patriarchy is so entrenched then we as women don't have the power to make changes because Patriarchy. If anyone isn't happy with the status quo the Patriarchy would seem to be the obvious target to effect change. Wonder why not hmmm...

It's like those people who say feminism has to fix ALL equalities for ALL people - why do women have to do all the work, take all the blame, accommodate everyone else and solve all the problems? I'm off to watch Magdalen Berns video on Everyday Feminism again grin

WhoopsINameChangedAgain Mon 08-Jul-19 13:09:45

Ok so. I've NC for this!

I once said during a lunch break to my fellow, older teachers, that I was considering not having kids (I was single then) as I felt there were too many people as it was.

A colleague angrily said that I absolutely should have children. She was quite cross. This was a very deprived area and we had large deprived families some who were being repeatedly taken away and then more children were born to be taken away. Some were large families where they all had significant learning delays. Teaching was very challenging in the school. Behaviour was challenging. High level of SEND. Low scores in league tables. And hence low ofsted marks.

Her argument was that it was "bright educated" people were not having children and ... I'm sure you can imagine the rest. I was taken aback and mentioned it to a friend who spluttered that it was basically eugenics, but I sometimes think she actually has a bit of a theoretical point.

So that's fine to be an antinatalist but consider the fact that the general population don't think like this and carry one regardless.

Is it better to have 1 or 2 children and make sure they are educated widely enough to make a difference?

FeministCat Mon 08-Jul-19 13:12:02

It is unfortunate that so many people equate antinatalism only with incels or it seems other segments of people with hateful views. That certainly is not the case for all antinatalists or even the beliefs it may come from.

To me it is like equating all feminism (and feminists) as “man haters” just because you have encountered feminist women who also hate men. Or all childfree by choice people as hating of children because you met some who are very vocal in their dislike of them, meanwhile there are childfree people who dedicate their lives to caring for children (teachers, pediatric nurses and doctors, etc). The vocal ones do not always speak for everyone.

WhoopsINameChangedAgain Mon 08-Jul-19 13:14:06

*Carry on regardless.

Obviously state sponsored would be eugenics or population control and definitely Handmaids tale but education of human impact and choice is different.

Fertility is declining anyway and probably will further in the future. You can see more and more how the handmaids tale could easily come about on either side of politics.

Enclume Mon 08-Jul-19 13:17:19

I see the antinatalists as misanthropic nihilists tbh. Who is going to wipe the bums of, produce the food for and look after the babies of today when they are elderly? Or is it ok for them to die a festering lonely death? Or should they all just be forcibly euthanised at the age of 60 as in Brave New World?

FeministCat Mon 08-Jul-19 13:28:12


That sounds like you are against childfree persons, not an argument against antinatalism. Personally, I am not in favor of having children for the sake of having jobs to care for their parents and the like.

I also don’t know any antinatalist or childfree person who realistically thinks all people are going to stop reproducing, unless there is some sort of Children of Men worldwide sterility event.

butteryellow Mon 08-Jul-19 13:40:39

I also don’t know any antinatalist or childfree person who realistically thinks all people are going to stop reproducing, unless there is some sort of Children of Men worldwide sterility event.

But how does that work then? I can understand making the choice yourself not to have children. I can understand there being a movement around it, but if people in this movement also don't actually expect other people to stop having children, isn't it just being used as a way to look down on people? As a way to show how much better they are than all those other breeding humans?

Anti-natalist sounds like species suicide to me.

JessicaWakefieldSV Mon 08-Jul-19 13:40:48

Anti Natalism is not the same as being a person who decides that they themselves won’t have children. Anti natalism means you don’t think anyone should be having children. Which is utterly stupid.

Enclume Mon 08-Jul-19 13:42:38

No, an antinatalist actively tells others to refrain from having kids. Those are the misanthropes I object to. There are many reasons someone might be childless and that is none of my business. I don't give a damn until they preach to me about my childbearing decisions.

Personally, I am not in favor of having children for the sake of having jobs to care for their parents and the like.

There are many reasons why people have kids. I imagine relatively few have them for this specific reason. But it's nonetheless true that we all benefit in old age from having able-bodied young people to do the work.

crumpet Mon 08-Jul-19 14:04:36

Extremism in all forms is so tiring...

Goosefoot Mon 08-Jul-19 14:09:34

There are countries now which have a steep enough population decline that it will cause a problem in terms of caring for the elderly. I don't think that is insignificant, if it comes to fruition it could be very Children of Men, and that will affect people's attitudes towards others more generally.

SquishySquirmy Mon 08-Jul-19 14:15:34

...*we can't protect our children, the environment is polluted beyond all repair, that women have lost their access to clean and plentiful food and water. We have given birth under inhumane conditions and for this we should experience a deep guilt. One said "I can't imagine being able to live with myself after doing something so heinous"...*

Well they sound like a right barrel of laughs. hmm

I'm sorry if I sound like I'm trivialising things. But seriously, no wonder you feel upset after taking that crock of shit on board.

They remind me of those very extreme, puritanical religious fundamentalists where everything is a sin, everyone is going to hell and life is all misery, sackcloth, ashes with regular self flagellation followed by a tedious eternity of more of the same (if you were miserable enough in life to escape the hellfire that is).

So nihilistic.

Where's their solution beyond berating those with kids and feeling holier than thou? You can't exactly push your kids back in, even if you did regret becoming a mother (which I don't).

Things are bad, but not irreparable! Even the environment is not doomed yet.
Life, for most around the world, is better than it has ever been and the general trend is that things are getting better.
There are huge challenges facing humanity, but we have overcome huge challenges before. Population increase is a concern, but it wont be solved by a handful of woman having no children (instead of 1 or 2, which demographically they were most likely to anyway).
The real rise in population is not due to those from wealthy countries having 2 kids each. The best way to prevent exponential population increase is to increase the prosperity of poorer countries, and most importantly to empower and educate the women and girls there. Not berate them for being born.

I don't know what the future holds but I know that you don't improve things by moaning about others and declaring "doooomed! Doomed! We're all doomed!"

What do these people do for fun, out of interest?

Enclume Mon 08-Jul-19 14:18:02

I bet they watch Countdown.

Endofthedays Mon 08-Jul-19 14:18:25

If some people genuinely believe there should be no more people due to the environmental consequences, why haven’t they committed suicide?

Pywife2 Mon 08-Jul-19 14:19:25

Sounds like the way some people are expressing themselves is the problem rather than the concept that there are too many people on the planet (okay, I know I simplified that!).

I think there's a distinction between people who hold strong opinions, but don't feel the need to belittle or attack others, and people who start out as bastards and then find a belief system that allows them to express that by acting all superior and making everyone around them miserable.

How do they know they're right, that's what I want to know? They never bloody listen to anyone else so how do they know they haven't missed something?

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