Birth rates have been falling for decades, in practically every country on earth. But not only are women having fewer children, more women are remaining childless for their entire lives.
15% of women in the United States now remain childless into their late 40s.
However, this choice to remain child-free isn’t one that comes easy.
The Guardian newspaper recently released some videos of interviews with women of various different ages who have chosen to remain childless reveal the fact that they often have to battle against the social norm that they should become mothers.
All of the women in this video explain that they were brought up with the norm that ‘normal’ women wanted children and would at some point have children.
They say that most of the subtle pressure to have children comes from their families, their own mothers and female relatives, but also their female friends and work colleagues.
If they tell a work colleague that they don’t want kids, the typical response back is that ‘you’ll want them one day’, as if the already-mothers or ‘pro-mums to be’ brush off their ‘not wanting kids’ attitude as temporary insanity, and thus to be disregarded.
One of the interviewees talks about how not having kids was never presented as a choice to her during early socialisation – it wasn’t until she was a teenager that she came across the idea that remaining childless was a legitimate choice for women.
She starts off pointing out the obvious freedoms that come with being childless – such as being able to pick up and move and switch jobs/ set up businesses/ go travelling whenever she likes, but she also says she has found freedom in a more profound sense – the freedom to be creative and to pursue and to develop her own career as she sees fit.
Finally, Neumann says that having remained child-free until her menopause has given her a fresh perspective on the whole status of childless women, and she presents a broadly radical-feminist that sees becoming a mother as the main event that locks women into traditionally gendered carer-roles , chained because they are mothers.
She also reminds us that all other things being equal it is much easier to free yourself form an abusive relationship if you have your own income, which is much more likely if you are not a mother!
There is a cost to remaining childless:
Women who remain childless have to pay for it:
Quite literally pay for contraception, and possibly abortions (she’s had two)
You have to be mentally disciplined enough to stick to a contraceptive routine.
You have to put up with the ‘too-personal inquiries’ in to why you’ve never had children (our female bodies are never our own),
And you have to suffer the loss of social status that comes with being motherless, as ‘mothers are the moral future of the nation’.
Angry Wimmin, part two of the BBC’s series ‘Lefties’ is a good resource to use for teaching Radical Feminist Theory. Part 1 below is especially good for the families and households module for A-level sociology.
It involves interviews with real women who were involved with Radical Feminism in the 1970s, and you get to hear in their own words how they thought ‘men were the enemy’, although their views may have changed now as the documentary consists of women looking back 20 years later!
We get to hear about what it was like living in Feminists separatist households – women households, where men weren’t allowed – one woman goes into how she left a heterosexual marriage, taking their child with them to go live in a woman only household; another talks about how her brother wasn’t allowed in the house when he came to visit her – they had to have conversations in his car instead.
We also get to hear about some of the bizarre experiences of political lesbianism – where women became lesbians for ‘political reasons’, even if they weren’t gay. Once actual gay woman talks about odd this was for her – when one non-gay woman decided she wanted to sleep with her to become a ‘proper Feminist’.
NB – I don’t think these radical feminist views were every very popular, these are extreme, but this documentary at least shows that were really was a movement of women who practiced such things!
A Marxist-Feminist response to covid-19 demands that the political response to the pandemic puts people, and especially essential-service workers, before the interests of capital.
Below I summarise an article from Spectre, a Marxist-Feminist journal, based in the United States, which outlines seven ways we should be responding to the pandemic.
I’ve re-worded some of the material to make it a bit simpler to understand, as it is written in typcically ‘Marxist’ language/ Hopefully I haven’t changed the meaning too much in translation
Better funding for life-making institutions
Social reproduction services such as the health care services and education have been undermined by years of cuts. The crisis has shown us how essential these are, and so we should maintain them at a higher level of funding going forwards.
Better pay for essential service workers
We need to recognize the real value of nurses, care workers, cleaners and the people who do the basic work of society. They need better pay and conditions
Bail out people, not corporations
The article suggests that some CEOs are sacking people while keeping their high salaries, we need to make sure bail-out money doesn’t go to the shareholders of companies who have cut jobs
Open borders, close prisons
This is the most contentious to my mind – but they remind us that migrants and prisoners are probably some of the most effected people in all of this – the former because their livelihoods are decimated with border closures, the latter because they are forced to be inside in crowded conditions.
Stand in solidarity against domestic violence
Governments need to make sure domestic violence services are funded appropriately to meet the spike in DV since coronavirus
Use solidarity against capital
Ordinary people all over the world are stepping up and voluntarily making sure their neighbours and the vulnerable are getting what they need during this crisis. The governments need to follow their lead in provided assistance – help the people, but take the lead from the people, based on need.
Use solidarity to change society
This moment can be the moment when the left push forward with a pro-people, anti-capitalist agenda, it needs to be dynamic and global.
A few thoughts on the above
IMO there’s little to disagree with in the above statements with maybe the exception of the borders/ prisons point.
I like the idea of building on the voluntary work and renewed (or just new?) respect key workers now have in the eyes of general public to really push forward an economic recovery agenda that emphasizes rebuilding society based on basic individual needs, a recovery which puts health, care, education, essential services at the center.
It will be interesting to see if this is going to be the case!
I read a very interesting article called in Dissent online magazine which seems to be a ‘Marxist-Feminist‘ analysis of the Coronavirus.
The article’s called ‘Social Reproduction and the Pandemic, and consists of a Q and A session with Tithi Bhattacharya, a professor of history at Purdue university and co-author of a book: Feminism for the 99%, which hints pretty strongly at her left-leaning and Feminist views!
I’ve included a summary below, but if you’d like to read the whole thing yourself, then I’ve included a link below.
Social repdoduction theory
Bhattacharya is a ‘social reproduction theorist’ – social reproduction theory sees the real source of wealth and value in our society as coming from human labour associated with ‘social reproduction activities’.
Social reproduction activities are those required for making and maintaing life, such as producing food, education, maintaing health, transportation, caring for people and various ‘domestic chores’ such as cleaning. The institutions associated with such ‘life making’ activities are the health-care sector, education and public transport. Typical ‘life-making’ jobs inlcude nursing, teaching, caring, and cleaning, sectors dominated by female workers.
Bhattacharya suggests that the capitalist system does not value ‘life-making activities’ because the capitalist system emphasises the importance of ‘thing-making’ and ‘profit-making’ rather than ‘life making’. Thus ‘life-making’ jobs such as nursing and teaching are undervalued and the workers poorly paid.
Social reproduction theory aims to analyse social events keeping in mind the fact that the really important work in society is ‘life-making work’, work currently done by women!
How Coronarvirus criticizes Capitalism
The coronavirus has been tragicially clarifying in two major ways:
It highlights that care work and life-making work are the really essential work of society – in lockdown we are keeping the essential services going such as nursing and refuse collection, no one is clamouring for stockbrokers or the leisure industry to be kept running.
It also highlights how incapable capitalism is when it comes to dealing with a crisis – once again we require the public sector to come to the rescue, the sector that’s been undermined by cuts for a decade.
Many of the jobs in America that are on the essential services list (the ones that are allowed to stay open) are paid at minimum wage, or $10 an hour, and many workers have no paid sick time or health insurance.
One suggestion is for ‘pandemic pay’ – pay these workers more as they are now being called on to risk their lives.
The uneqal response in India
Bhattacharya also focuses on the unequal response to the virus in India (her home country) – there is a lot of poor migrant labour in India, and because of lockdown closing public transport, millions of such workers are now literally having to walk home hundreds of miles to their home villages.
Meanwhile the Indian government allowed wealthy middle class Indians stuck abroad to come home on special flights, despite the borders being closed to everyone else.
She goes on to suggest that capitalist governments in the global south might well use the virus as a means to clear out the slums of the unwanted, i.e. just let it kill a lot of people.
Coronavirus and the domestic sphere
Battacharya thinks that this is a positive time for us to reconnect with families, and we might even see a rebalancing of domestic labour with men doing more housework than usual, but she also reminds us that there will probably be a spike in domestic violence for those unfortunate enough to be caught in absuive relationships.
‘War-footing’ not an appropriate analogy…
Some really interesting thoughts on why the ‘war footing’ isn’t an appropriate analogy:
Firstly, we need to ramp-down production rather than ‘ramping it up’ (like we normally would in a war) – because we need to think of minimising the social contact through global supply lines.
Secondly, we need to redefine ‘troops’ – they are not soldiers, but our care-sector and essential service workers.
Coranavirus and climate change
An interesting final thought – we need to deal with climate change with the same sense of urgency as we are dealing with this pandemic!
You’ll probably recognize Caster Semenya the female 400 meter runner with intersex traits who won the 800 meters in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
However she probably won’t be at next year’s in 2020 because the Court of Arbitration for Sport recently judged that female athletes with intersex traits won’t be able to compete in middle distance events (from 400m to 1 mile) unless they take medication to suppress their naturally high levels of testosterone.
On the surface this seems to be creating a ‘level playing field’ for all female athletes, but if we’re going to insist that someone like Semenva takes medication to suppress her unfair natural advantage, surely we should drug all the future Michael Phelps and Usain Bolts of the athletics world too?
Michael Phelps’ 6 ft 7″ arm span and size 13 feet certainly gave him an unfair natural advantage, and Usain Bolt’s supreme body-mechanics contributed to his sprint world records: how many other people have you seen ‘jogging to line’ and winning that often?
So maybe there’s more to the Semenva Case?
Maybe she (and anyone else whose intersex) is being punished for their ‘gender ambiguity’ rather than this being a just penalty for being physically advantaged.
Then there’s the fact that she (and other intersex females) are easy victims here: they are an extreme minority, and relatively powerless, after all – easy to mete out harsh justice on such individuals and then forget about it in the name of ‘fairness’.
Maybe this is about rendering intersex females invisible – policing our ‘normalised’ sex-boundaries, making sure the rest of us don’t become too uncomfortable about the reality that sex/gender are complex/ fluid….. it CANNOT be about just biological advantage as the cases of Phelps and Bolt demonstrate – we celebrate their ‘good’ freakishness, after all!)
The league du LoL was a closed Facebook group of around 30 male journalists who co-ordinated sexist trolling of various female journalists, feminists and LGBQT activists between the years 2009-2012, although it’s believed that some of the members were active well after this period.
Examples of their harassment include co-ordinated condescending comments on twitter, photomontages mocking the appearance of some female journalists and one member of the league even posted a recording of himself offering a fake-job to another female colleague.
The League has resurfaced in the news recently because Check News, a fact checking web site has recently published an article querying whether the League actually existed.
Clearly it did, given that most ex-members have issued formal apologies for their being members of it it and 6 of them have faced disciplinary action at work over their previous membership of the league.
It goes without saying that various victims of the league’s activities can also testify to its previous existence.
I thought this was of particular interest given that it specifically involves journalists, so it’s very relevant to the media and crime – being an example of how a group of male journalists can effectively belittle and thus prevent female and minority journalists from making the most of their careers. Shows journalism in France is far from objective and value free.
It’s also an explicit example of Heidensohn’s control theory of crime – this is a group of men quite literally ‘keeping women in line’ through the use of co-ordinated sexist attacks, although it shows how the practice has moved on (or moved online, excuse the pun!)
Then there’s the ‘denial of responsibility’ on the part of the equation – members of the league justified their actions by claiming that they were just doing it all for the laughs, it was basically banter rather than done with the intention of harming anyone.
This example may be several years old now, but it really stood out for me given the explicit use of a closed group for malicious purposes. It’s also quite possible that such closed groups exist today, possibly on more secure platforms such as Telegram.
Functionalism is the only perspective which has traditionally argued that religion is a source of value consensus, all other perspectives disagree with this in one way or another, but not all believe that religion is necessarily a cause of overt conflict in the world.
Marx believed that religion prevents revolution (or violent conflict) by pacifying people, through acting as the ‘opium of the masses’ and making think inequality is Gods will and that suffering in this life is a virtue. The message is to put up with suffering now and seek your reward in heaven.
However, in Marxist theory, the masses will eventually see through the mask of oppression and rise up bringing about a revolution and a communist society free of religion.
Religion can be a source of conflict because it is autonomous from the economic base.
For example, religious leaders in Latin America took the side of peasant against the elite. However, attempts at social reform were ultimately repressed.
There must be millions of young women in the world who, having graduated with high hopes for a bright future, now find themselves wondering which is more tedious: their job or their relationship: the job only paying them enough for food, bills, rent and debt servicing, and the boyfriend frustrating them because his porn and video game addictions have killed his aspiration to strive for something better.
But fear not young ladies for help is at hand, in the form of self-styled Jet set Babe Anna Bey, who provides advice on how you can ‘bag yourself a billionaire’ via her blog – JetsetBabe.com.
Bey, 32, is originally from Estonia and grew up in a middle-class family environment in Sweden but has successfully navigated the international jet-set and ‘levelled-up’ (her own term) so that she now resides in a flat in Knightsbridge, which is paid for by her banker-boyfriend.
The blog, along with her online ‘finishing school’, provides advice to aspiring ‘JetsetBabes’ on how to find and attract a rich boyfriend – it includes several posts on ‘how to dress’ (‘classy, like Grace Kelly, not Kim Kardashian), ‘demeanour’ (don’t get drunk), where to find rich men (hotel lobbies, not first class in a plane), and even the kind of ‘mind-set’ you need to adopt to ‘level-up’ – as in this post on ‘ditching your average-jo boyfriend’.
JetsetBabes.com – the positives
Bey’s rational for setting up the site was that when she first started out on her quest to find a rich boyfriend, she made a few style and demeanour boo-boos, and wished there had been someone like she is now to show her the ropes, so I guess she’s well-intentioned.
There is also clearly a market for this sort of service…. The closed Facebook group linked to the bog has 3000 members, and I imagine many more readers, but there are only a handful of extremely rich men, and an even smaller handful of decent extremely rich men…. one of the downsides of playing the jet set game is that you might find yourself waking up having been drugged at some point, as has happened to Bey in the past.
Many of the women involved in the JetsetBabe circle find comfort in the fact that the group provides them somewhere where they can discuss their aspirations without being looked down on by members of wider society, somewhere where they won’t be labelled ‘Gold Diggers’ or ‘Sugar babies’.
I think they have a point criticising the labels given to them, when the men who are prepared to pay for them don’t get such negative labels.
Is this liberating for women?
If your definition of freedom is the freedom to shop, dependent on your partner’s wealth for as long as he is your partner, then yes, this is female liberation. The problem is, that’s an extremely limited definition of ‘liberation’…. And it’s a form of liberation that’s totally dependent on the man with the debit card, or bag full of cash.
It also does little to challenge the practice of men treating women like they are sex objects. In fact, if anything it reinforces this…. Among some members of the Facebook group, women seeking to live off their partners financially is justified BECAUSE men treat women like sex objects who can be bought… the logic is ‘if they do it, why can’t we’.
What about equality?
If you believe one of the goals of Feminism is reducing the income and wealth inequalities between men and women, this strategy does absolutely nothing to bring this goal closer. Bey has the explicit belief that women have a hard time in life compared to men, and so men should effectively compensate them by paying for everything, which surely can do nothing other than maintain gender wealth inequalities?
Simply ‘demanding financial compensation’ isn’t exactly empowering yourself financially or putting yourself on an ‘equal’ footing with men’.
In terms of ‘inequalities between women’, there’s the problem of ‘being traded in for a younger model’ and being left to bring up the children on your own. The golden age for bagging a billionaire is tight, and the over 30s in the JSB group are mocked as being ‘used goods’.
As low-consumption tight wad, I’m never going to feel any sense of empathy with women who want a millionaire lifestyle, however, neither do I feel the need to ‘condemn’ women who engage in such a strategy.
Trying to bag a billionaire is, after all, just another individualised coping strategy: an escape from the mundane drudgery and uncertainties of ordinary day to day life in postmodern society, at least until you’re traded in for a younger model.
I’m actually left feeling a sense of pity for these women, not only for the ones who invest time and money in seeking a rich boyfriend but never succeed, but even the ones who do succeed… it just seems like such a shallow life.
However, as a final ‘qualifier’, I’m aware that not all women who do this are shallow, some will use their time gained through financial freedom to do amazing things…. but somehow, I doubt that will include fighting for a ‘deeper’ type of female liberation.
If sociologists refer to religion as being ‘ideological’, they typically mean the beliefs and practices of that religion support powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.
The idea that religion is ideological is usually associated with Marxist and Radical Feminist Perspectives.
This sub-topic overlaps with ‘religion as a conservative force’.
Marx argued that religion creates false consciousness – it teaches that social inequality is God’s will and thus mystifies the real cause of inequality and misery which is exploitation by the Bourgeoise
Religion is the opium of the masses – religion prevents change and keeps the elite in power by providing spiritual comfort for the poor – by making a virtue out of poverty, and promising a better life after death if people obey the rules now, for example.
There are direct links between the church and the bourgeoisie – the bourgeoise fund the church, and the church support (ideologically) the bourgeoisie
Neo Marxist Otto Maduro argued that the Catholic Church in Latin America was relatively autonomous from the state and the bourgeois – i.e. they were not directly controlled by them. Thus, there was some degree of freedom for some priests to interpret Christianity in a way that was pro-poor and anti-elite, and not ideological. As with the example of Liberation Theology.
Mary Daly argued that Christianity was as set of Patriarchal myths. She sees the Catholic Church as especially bad: it downplayed the role of women in the bible and legitimated sex role segregation for example.
Simone de Beauvoir argued that religion is used by men to compensate women for their second-class status – it provides them with spiritual rewards for accepting inferior social roles.
El Saadawi suggests that Islam itself has been hijacked by Patriarchy in many countries, but is not necessarily ideological: women can fight back.
Carol Christ’s work shows that religion does not have be ideological: her idea of ‘embodied spirituality and focus on women ‘finding their Goddess’ stands against monotheistic religions. It is empowering for women and challenges existing power structures.
Further examples and evidence for and against the view that ‘religion is ideological’
Religion is ideological
Religion is NOT ideological
· Marxists and Feminists generally point to established churches as the most likely institutions to support elites.
· The New Religions right in America tends to support white, male wealth – e.g. it supports the Republican Party.
· Max Weber… over hundreds of years Calvinist believes lead to social changes which undermined religion.
· Postmodernism – people are free to pick and choose which aspects of religion they like. Thus, it cannot be ideological.
· Some sects challenge the existing order – e.g. The Nation of Islam.
Over the last couple of decades, women have been leaving mainstream Christian churches at about twice the rate of men.
There are a number of possible explanations for this:
The impact of Feminism – Various Feminists have highlighted the role of the church in supporting patriarchal values and oppressing women. The Catholic Church especially maintains a male-dominated power structure, which stands in sharp contrast to the egalitarian ideals of Feminism; and it’s anti-contraception and abortion stance stands in contrast to female sexual liberation.
The increase in female paid employment – most women now work, and so no longer aspire to be merely child carers, the preferred female role in traditional Christianity. However, for those women that do work, they are typically still the primary child carers, which simply means that women, more so than men, have less time to attend church.
Increasing Family Diversity – Higher rates of divorce and single parenthood may mean fewer women from these household structures go to church, because the church generally sees these as inferior to the married, nuclear family household.
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