In a January 13 op-ed for Canada’s CBC News titled "It shouldn't be taboo to criticize parents for having too many kids," Kristen Pyszczyk rebukes HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines for having a fifth child.
Pyszczyk argues that because of climate change and alleged over-population, a conversation must be had regarding child-bearing:
While having a child or five is a very personal choice, it's also a choice that affects everyone who inhabits our planet. So while many people might find the backlash unwarranted, it's actually a conversation we need to have in order to challenge our uncritical acceptance of the life-fulfillment-through-procreation story.
Population control is a fraught topic, and carries with it associations with eugenics and other nasty historical events. But we still need to talk about it, and people who reacted strongly to the Gaines' pregnancy announcement know this on some level. It's not an exaggeration to say that the survival of our species depends on it.
According to Pew Research, in order for the United States to maintain its population, the "total fertility rate" must be 2.08, meaning that the average female would need to have approximately two children over the course of her child-bearing years. As of 2017, the United States ranks 143 out of 224 nations on the total fertility rate scale, sitting at just 1.87 – that’s approaching negative population growth.
First, given the current statistics, the idea that couples in the United States who have more than two children are contributing to some over-population catastrophe is hollow. Because the average in the U.S. is far below "replacement level," the Gaines’ decision to have a fifth child is inconsequential. Our population continues to grow as it has due in part to immigration.
Second, people don’t "uncritically [accept]...the life-fulfillment-through-procreation story." It’s engineered into us. Human beings are designed to create other human beings. It’s neither wrong nor misguided to find fulfillment through that act.
Pyszczyk continues by parroting third-wave feminist propaganda that tells women who have decided to have multiple children that they are either less valuable than women who eschew that decision, or that they are somehow the victims of societal brainwashing:
Now, as a feminist, I tend to oppose any cultural conversation that involves telling a woman what to do with her body. But women have long been told that they need to have kids to have a meaningful life, and they are groomed for motherhood from a very early age.
But we don't often hear arguments for alternatives to motherhood. Women need to be presented with options for a fulfilling life that don't involve taking 20 years of their lives to care for offspring. Changing the narrative around motherhood should help to offset some of the cultural conditioning we receive throughout our lives.
Pyszczyk then offers her suggestion for how to get women to stop having children — shame. Yes, you read that correctly:
Shame is a powerful tool for changing behaviour: it's how we introduce new and existing social conventions. It's unfortunate that Chip and Joanna bore the brunt of changing attitudes, but let's learn from the reaction and examine our own actions. It's not OK to have five kids without once considering adoption. There are so many children in North America and beyond in need of loving homes, yet adoption rates in many areas are lagging.
Pyszczyk begins by saying people like Chip and Joanna Gaines should be made to feel guilty for having five kids, then assumes they’ve never considered adoption.
I get that humankind's theoretical demise is not enough to justify abstaining from what is for many the most meaningful experience of a lifetime. But it's not theoretical. Climate change is getting measurably worse, populations are multiplying exponentially and economic inequality is not getting better ... Procreation is becoming a global public health concern, rather than a personal decision. So when people do irresponsible things like having five children, we absolutely need to be calling them out.
Aside from calling out the Gaines family (which is likely well-off enough to easily take care of five children), Pyszczyk doesn’t expand on what must happen if shame fails. She extols an idea without considering the risks associated with extolling such an idea.
What happens when shame fails? If an alleged problem is perceived as critical by enough people of influence, the next step necessarily requires action beyond what simple societal pressure can force. When a group fails to achieve its stated goals, it often looks to government to step in and wield its considerable might. The evolution of same-sex marriage is a stellar example of this idea. When society didn’t move in the way progressives wanted it to, they took to the courts. It wasn’t societal acceptance that normalized same-sex marriage, but five Supreme Court Justices.
Similarly, if societal "shame" fails to deliver, and enough Americans begin to think like Pyszczyk, a possible end-game would be something akin to China’s two child (formerly one child) policy.
This isn’t to say that the United States would ever wind up in such a position, but the possibility as a logical extension of Pyszczyk’s argument must be noted.
Rather than shame Chip and Joanna Gaines, or any other family that decides that having more than two children is right for them, let’s look for solutions to the world’s problems without resorting to unnecessary cruelty or logical end points that are hard to stomach.