Monday, May 18, 2009

A screed about people who do not breed

Feministing detailed the Supreme Court's new ruling that found pregnancy pay discrimination to be legal until the date it was found illegal, (That sounds dumb, but it seems like a pretty straightforward ruling to me.) It sparked some surprisingly anti-mother comments.

Commenter Alice says:

This isn't discrimination against women, it's discrimination against people who become pregnant.* Isn't the idea that those two groups are the same thing something we're fighting against?!
Yes, amongst others like paying women less money for their work.

The replies go back and forth over whether discrimination against women who go through pregnancy is discrimination against women in general, and the very same Alice says

If you oppose infringing the rights of the childfree, then presumably you would oppose ant[i]-discrimination efforts such as this, as mandatory maternity benefits make it illegal to negotiate such benefits away. It consists of the government imposing itself between parties of a voluntary exchange and dictating what they are and are not allowed to agree to. No such similar thing happens to the childbearing in the converse situation. There is no loss of rights, only the loss of social privileging of decisions that society has deemed more valid than others.
The beneficiary of this right is the child who, as a human being, is deserving of the same parental care that anyone who chooses not to have children presumably enjoyed in childhood.

I can appreciate and understand not wanting to have children or go through a pregnancy. I do not, though, think that affording children and their relatives the right not to be punished for their very existence creates a social privilege that those who do not go through pregnancy are denied. I think Bitch Ph.D. said it best when she said,
children are not "goods." They are--are you sitting down? They are human beings. Actual members of society.
I think of that post whenever I hear childfree whinging about being denied a privilege parents are provided. You may be working very hard to practice impeccable birth control for your entire life, but you are still a member of the human race that reproduces itself. Sorry. Just like we have a social obligation to spread costs of healthcare among our fellows, it isn't fair to push the costs of raising children onto the people who do it and still reap the benefits of a growing population's social security program. There are choices you can make to avoid some of the responsibilities/burdens of childrearing (don't get pregnant if you don't want to give birth or care for a child), but the phenomenon of pregnancy and child-bearing isn't going to go away because you avoid doing it yourself.

Men do not get pregnant and therefore never have to contend with pregnancy discrimination in their own pay and career paths, but they benefit from the efforts women expend toward raising their children. They cannot negotiate away maternity leave because they can't get it. Living as a childfree woman doesn't entitle one to a bargaining chip that no one else can use. We see through the wage gap that men use the bargaining chip of not being at risk of pregnancy to negotiate higher salaries, but the conditions in which salaries are negotiated are something we choose as a society according to what we want and what we need. A huge proportion of people want to have children, and everyone needs someone to do it, and we supposedly choose not to punish women for doing the necessary work of maternity.

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