Being a parent makes you stupid.

A certain blogger, who I will not name, was making some posts about how we cannot “give up” on raising male children so they don’t grow up to become abusers. I raised the point privately to her that by and large parents who try to educate their children against the strong current of mass media (including pornography) and the social consensus generally fail, because the media messages and social consensus are reinforced (and mutually reinforce) in a way that parental messages are not (for more on this, see the last part of Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine). She considered this message to be a personal attack against her decision to raise a male child. While as an antinatalist I obviously object to anyone having children (especially if they are intelligent and well-intentioned, as I believe this woman is), I was not telling her I was objecting to her having children. I was telling her that her belief in raising male children “her way” and against the media and social pressure was misguided.

People taking systemic criticism as personal criticism is nothing new, and not, in itself, particularly stupid. However, there is a particular problem that arises when antinatalists talk about the systemic problems of parenthood. Parenthood comes with a severe case of entitlement: parents believe that they have the right to have children and raise them any way they see fit. They do not just take systemic criticism as a personal attack, but take systemic criticism as an attack against their basic human rights (their right of property over their children). Any sort of antinatalist reasoning is therefore interpreted by parents as an existential threat.

Such an existential threat is not credible, since antinatalists have no political power and (barring overpopulation so great that it entails massive human die-offs, especially white humans) never will. To parents, this doesn’t seem to matter much. They still react rather violently when it happens. I have experienced this many times, and I’m sure other antinatalists who argue online (or perhaps the occasional brave or suicidal soul who dares to talk about this in real life) has their own stories about how arguing against parenting in any way made a parent turn against them.

We already know, from feminism and anti-racism, that entitlement makes people stupid. Since parenthood is an extreme form of entitlement, we should therefore expect that being a parent makes people especially stupid. The only thing that can make people stupider is the sincere belief that one possesses the absolute truth, like fundamentalist Christians. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that some natalist arguments sound rather similar to Christian apologetics (or, for that matter, that some arguments against Christian apologetics can be transposed to natalism, since procreation is basically a Creation in miniature). The main difference is that Christians start from their (absolutist) conclusion and make arguments to rationalize it, while natalists are defending what they believe to be their human rights (or the rights of parents in general).

I saw a webcomic one day that illustrates the entitlement very well. A guy says to the other that he doesn’t want children because he doesn’t have the money to do so, to which the other replies that “when you have a child, you’ll find a way to get the money.” The first guy points out that this seems rather similar to the way drug addicts think. Once you’re addicted, you’ll do anything to get the money to buy more drugs. Likewise, people whose position as parents depends on their power over children will do anything to justify that power. In our hierarchical societies, power is its own justification: if you have enough power over others (money, political status, or otherwise), everything you do is justified by the existence of that power. And there is no relationship with a bigger power imbalance in our societies than that between a parent and “their” child.

We see the parental stupidity in action when we bring up misanthropic antinatalism. When faced with the risks of procreation, natalists usually just ignore them or argue that they are magically immune to those risks. This is not rational behavior in the face of known risks: it is more akin to how some Lakota people believed that “ghosts shirts” could protect them from bullets (they didn’t), or how right-wing politicians react to global warming (another similarity between extreme entitlement and the belief in absolute truth, maybe).

Having a son means you are raising a potential abuser. Having a daughter means you are raising a potential abuse victim. Some women are also abusers, and some men are also abuse victims, but this does not deny the truth of the previous propositions: it only makes the risk of something going wrong even higher in both cases. Future or current parents do not want to hear this. They want to believe that their children are exempted from those risks, or that they, as parents, somehow confer some immunity to their children (that their own happy lives will rub off on their children, perhaps). This is magical thinking, which is why I am especially miffed when feminists engage in it. We don’t need magical thinking in a movement which is based on evidence and rational analysis.

The only solution to break the cycle of abuse is to refuse to procreate and refuse to use children as guinea pigs for so-called genderless parenting techniques which are doomed to failure. While parents obviously believe that this world is good enough for them to raise children into, but somehow not good enough to expose them to large, commonplace parts of it, that’s not their determination to make. We cannot allow some people to make risk evaluations for other people. What level of risk I am willing to allow in my life is my determination alone, and is not really anyone else’s business (unless I am linked to them in some way). The parents’ opinion is only that, their opinion. It has no bearing on reality.

4 thoughts on “Being a parent makes you stupid.

  1. What do you mean by “especially white humans” in this sentence – “Such an existential threat is not credible, since antinatalists have no political power and (barring overpopulation so great that it entails massive human die-offs, especially white humans) never will.” ?

    • Francois Tremblay January 8, 2017 at 05:29 Reply

      Well, because white people have most of the power in the world so far, and they probably wouldn’t care very much about massive die-offs unless a lot of white people died as well.

  2. David Jacquemotte January 9, 2017 at 14:57 Reply

    Hi, Francois. I have recently become more interested in the anti-natalist position (unfortunately AFTER having 4 kids myself) and have started arguing in favor of it. I am also a Desirist, a la Alonzo Fyfe. I have looked over your articles pertaining to Desirism and I see many misrepresentations of the theory. I wanted to contact you to discuss this as well as anti-natalism itself, but didn’t see any contact info posted here. Would that be something you are interested in? If so, you can reply here and we can work out a way to connect. Thanks!

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