New research is fueling outrage that women who don’t have kids aren’t just selfish losers, but dumb ones as well
It seems that women these days are too clever for their own good, at least when it comes to making babies. Research emerging from the London School of Economics examining the links between intelligence and maternal urges in women claims that more of the former means less of the latter. In an ideal world, such findings might be interpreted as smart women making smart choices, but instead it seems that this research is just adding fuel to the argument that women who don’t havechildren, regardless of the reason, are not just selfish losers but dumb ones as well.
Satoshi Kanazawa, the LSE psychologist behind the research, discussed the findings that maternal urges drop by 25% with every extra 15 IQ points in his book The Intelligence Paradox. In the opening paragraph of the chapter titled “Why intelligent people are the ultimate losers in life”, he makes his feelings about voluntary childlessness very clear:
If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success. If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness. All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce. Reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence.
That said then, Kanazawa finds it paradoxical that intelligent women apparently don’t possess the desire to pursue what should be the ultimate goal of their biological existence, (hence the loser reference). He says that it’s not yet known why intelligent women are having less babies but says it’s not the reason most people assume, that women with higher IQs are more likely to go to college and have demanding careers. Basically he seems to come to the paradoxical conclusion that intelligent women just aren’t all that wise.
I’m not sure why he dismisses the link between higher education and fewer kids as there’s census data that shows women with advanced degrees are less likely to have children. (I should probably note that Kanazawa’s judgement has been called into question in the past, regarding a study in which he found that black women are less attractive). His ultimate conclusion, however, is that intelligent women’s failure to reproduce is bad for them because they are flying in the face of their biological destiny and it’s also bad for society because fewer intelligent moms means fewer intelligent kids and that may have drastic implications for the nationwide IQ.
So put another way, smart women are doing society a disservice with their dumb reproductive choices. This plays nicely into the narrative that women who choose not to have children are selfish or sad or both. Time magazine’s cover story this week deals with the phenomenon of “childfree” couples. Birthrates are at an all time low and couples choosing to forgo having babies are contributing to that. The article focused mostly on the female half of these couples, who explained their decisions to not have children.
The reasons were varied; some of the women alluded to demanding work schedules that made having a child undesirable, others to the fact that they simply have no desire to have a child. A common thread among all the women’s stories was that they felt they were continually having to justify their choice. As the author Lauren Sandler pointed out,
We rarely ask, ‘Why do you have kids?’ Instead it’s ‘Why don’t you?’ And that ‘why don’t you’ comes with a ton of judgment.
For instance, Fox and Friends invited former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on their show this past Saturday to discuss the Time cover story and its implications. The most terrifying thing about the article, according to Huckabee was that it might send the (obviously wrong) message that it was actually possible for people who didn’t have children to lead a fulfilling life. (Imagine the horror if childless women started to believe that their lives were still worthwhile.) As far as Huckabee is concerned, reproducing is “the highest particular calling that I think we can have as human beings” and anyone who rejects that calling must be in some way lacking. One of the co-hosts, Tucker Carlson, was even more direct in his criticism of the childfree:
Having children means less time for vacations and spin class, where the real meaning in life resides, right? I mean, have you ever seen anything more selfish, decadent and stupid?
Take that ye clever women who choose decadence over duty. The irony is that it’s the very people (yes Fox and Friends, I’m talking about you) who go around waxing lyrical about the virtues of motherhood and conception that are also the most likely to be pushing policies that make it next to impossible for many women to even conceive of being a mother. No one ever mentions the selflessness of women who choose not to have a baby, not because they wouldn’t love one, but because they don’t feel they are in a position to provide that baby with the kind of life it deserves.
Anyone who is genuinely concerned with falling birthrates should be supporting policies such as paid maternity leave, subsidized day care, flexible work schedules, affordable health care and so on that would make it feasible for more women who want babies to have them. As for the women who don’t, we should be grateful in the knowledge that they are intelligent enough to make the choice that is best for them and then back off with the judgement.