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The world’s most taboo subject

Do you remember this article [1] from a couple of years back? It was big in the media for a few days. Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children [2].

Having a child contributes some thirty times as much to warming the planet as the next closest action an individual can take: living without a car.

Climate change impact of having a child: each one adds 58.6 tons of CO2 equivalents per year. Using a car adds 2.4 tCO2e per year.

And yet, amidst all the discussion of air travel and bicycling and electric vehicles, there’s a ban on mentioning population control.

Another example I came across recently was in a very encouraging article about greening the Sahel [3] in Africa.

… {Farmers had a] cheap, effective way to regreen the Sahel. They did so by using simple water harvesting techniques and protecting trees that emerged naturally on their farms.

Garrity recalls walking through farms in Niger, fields of grains like millet and sorghum stretching to the sun planted around trees, anywhere from a handful to 80 per acre. “In most cases, the trees are in random locations because they sprouted and the farmer protected them and let them grow,” he says. [Depending on species] [t]he trees can be cut for fuel… They can be pruned for livestock fodder. Their leaves and fruit are nutritious.

One tree, Faidherbia albida, goes dormant during the wet season when most trees grow. When the rains begin, the trees defoliate, dropping leaves that fertilize the soil. Because they have dropped their leaves, the trees do not shade crops during the growing season. Their value had long been recognized by farmers….

[But] “He laments that work is moving too slowly. With the Sahel’s population doubling in 20 years, Reij says regreening needs to be finished within 10 to 15 years.”

He makes it sound as if this doubling is a great force beyond human influence, like a solar storm or a meteor strike. It’s not. It’s merely human reproduction. We’re helpless only because the subject is so untouchable it can’t even be said out loud.

What’s up with that?.

I think the answer lies in the two possible trajectories to control births.

One is coercive. China’s one child policy is perhaps the most famous recent example. Since women are the ones giving birth, you have to control women. You punish them if they have too many children. You enforce abortions on mothers. Or, if you’re a Nazi in the 1930s who wants lots of blond babies and no browner ones, you try to enforce a eugenics program on women. You sterilize gypsies or the disabled or Jews while giving “your” women the option to be incubators or nothing.

All those methods involve hideously totalitarian pre-emption of individual choice and body autonomy (like the supporters of forced pregnancy, but we’re more used to them so it doesn’t feel as outlandish). But on the bright side, they don’t require any changes to misogynist and patriarchal social systems.

The other trajectory is to give women control over their own reproduction. Wherever that is done, birth rates drop dramatically. They may not fall all the way to replacement levels, but they get much closer than any other method. Giving women control works, it works sustainably and long term.


But it deprives society of its main tool to control all aspects of women’s lives. Your reliable producers of the next generation, your unpaid domestic servants and nannies and handholders and caregivers, gradually find other things to do with their lives. Members of the upper caste might have to do their own dishes. Your whole system falls apart.

And therein lies the rub. All our current problems are made much worse by overpopulation. Dealing with that requires treating women like human beings. Which gives the patriarchy the vapors.

So suddenly respect for medieval religions and medieval cultures make it impossible to promote birth control. They might be offended!

There’s not the same action-limiting respect when it comes to things that serve the caste system. Porn is all over the place even though the Pope disapproves. But breastfeeding is too avantgarde for the delicate sensibilities of men on Facebook. Nor is there ever equivalent concern that women object to being erased.

The discrepancy has a name. Sady Doyle wrote about it almost three years ago, Trump, Putin, Assange, and the politics of sexism [4]. Supposedly all three are exponents of radically different systems, and yet they have a lizard brain-level understanding that they’re on the same side. Her focus is social and political effects, but the same allergy to anything kind or well-meaning is everywhere.

Recently, reactionaries have made The Misogyny of Climate Deniers [5] obvious by their revolting comments against a 16 year old who’s done nothing except use the full weight of all the evidence to disagree with them.

The connection has to do with a sense of group identity under threat, … both by developing gender equality—Hultman pointed specifically to the shock some men felt at the #MeToo movement—and now climate activism’s challenge to their way of life, male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap, the three reactions feeding off of one another. … Climate change used to be a bipartisan concern, the first Bush senior presidency famously promising to tackle global warming. But as conservative male mockery of Thunberg and others shows, climate politics has quickly become the next big battle in the culture war—on a global scale.

Misogyny isn’t the only motivation of reactionaries. There’s greed and garden variety hatred in there, too, but misogyny is the core. It’s misogyny, not greed or racism or ordinary hatred, that makes men fear weakness more than anything. And fear of weakness is what ties together the worst of what they do.

They think strong man governments are a good idea. They like guns and “defence” — war, really, so long as somebody else dies in it. Peace is only tolerable “through strength.” The reactionaries are against anything that doesn’t shout big power. They like nukes because gigawatts! dangerous! The truth is [6] that even building a new gigawatt nuke every two months from 2010 till 2050 would solve only a small part of climate change and energy needs. Meanwhile renewables could provide all our energy by 2050 for a fraction of the cost and without radioactive waste. But distributed power, whether that’s rooftop solar or real democracy, strikes reactionaries as la-la limp-wristed hippie crap. Likewise, restraint against environmental destruction is pathetic weakness in the face of hard choices.

And weakness is the worst thing you can show. They (“They”) come and take your man card away. It’s the only thing that gave you any standing and it’s gone.

That is a future so horrible it’s worth burning the world down to avoid it. It must never be spoken lest saying its name calls it forth.

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "The world’s most taboo subject"

#1 Comment By quixote On 08 Sep, 2019 @ 00:31

Bernie Sanders just a few days ago said [7]. Interestingly, for someone who thinks abortion rights are a “distraction” (his word), he wants to see control over reproduction in women’s hands to achieve that.

The right attitude.

But conservatives immediately interpreted it as the only possible population control in their world: totalitarian enforcement against any personal say in having children. Eugenics even!

They can never afford to admit there’s another way. Women having control? That’s taboo.

#2 Comment By quixote On 08 Sep, 2019 @ 22:27

Twitter has been silencing women to the best of their ability for a while now. Another one today, Victoria Brownworth [8]:

I was locked out of my account by Twitter for a day for describing the difference between #FGM and male circumcision. I chose to remove the tweets as well as appeal, but honestly, this is men mass reporting women for telling the stories of our lives.

This is obviously more than don’t mention population control. This is “don’t mention anything remotely feminist.”

People are going to see them if they’re that obvious.

#3 Comment By pdxpat On 23 Sep, 2019 @ 16:49

It was very courageous of you to publish this, not only here, but on a more widely read but less feminist site elsewhere.

One of the most effective, longest lived forces holding women back is religion. You called those institutions out. I was so happy to see this.

One effect of so many woman not standing up for women, but instead using their outrage capital for safe male-approved victims, has just been played out here in Oregon: the new updated hate crimes law still does not include gender or sex. The most recent, much ballyhooed version did add gender identity (sexual orientation was already included). Goody for them.

So a very typical incident I just endured on a local wooded trail here, four mid-thirties whites with a loose pit bull, who blocked the path, threatened me, and allowed their dog to get at me, all the while using common sexist terms like “bitch”, combined with age-enhanced abuse, remains A-OK under Oregon law. The only way Oregon sexism differed from North Carolina sexism was that they pulled out of thin air insults also accusing me of probable racism, saying they were certain I had abused some black man somewhere. (A bizarre but foreseeable result of the “all white women are privileged and also racist” bigotry pushed relentlessly by white men before, during and after the 2016 election. And no, I did nothing other than repeatedly ask them to call their dog when it was coming at me, called police when they didn’t and stood there in silece for 15 minutes until police eventually showed up.)

And that awful incident where a man was killed on a Portland metro train for defending two Muslim women would
a) not even have happened if it had just been based on gender. In my experience 30+ years ago in Portland, no man and very few women would have even noticed a woman being harassed and threatened solely for being a woman, it was so common. And hell would have frozen over before any man stood up for her.

b) not have been a hate crime even if it had happened, even if someone had been killed. Just women, no bias there.

1,948 women murdered by men in 2017. [9] Another 1,948 unfathomable, mysterious “tragedies” no one can apparently understand or stop.

This is were cowardice on the part of most women in the U.S. has gotten us. Not even trickle down rights. I’m very glad you have used your voice and extensive reach to stand up for us.

#4 Comment By quixote On 24 Sep, 2019 @ 14:37

pdxpat, thanks for the kind words. Part of me wishes I did have extensive reach 😀 And part of me is glad to just be some voice in the wilderness talking mainly to the trees!

I admire the hell out of Greta Thunberg speaking truth to power with so much self-possession, stage front and center. She gives me hope. She really does.

That “incident”! Attack sounds more accurate. What a horrible horrible horrible thing to happen. So depressing that Oregon is so woke they can’t be bothered to acknowledge the largest group targeted with hate crimes.

Replay of what we just saw when Warren read out the names of the 18 trans-identified males killed in the past year. That’s 18 too many. And here’s a [10] about the thousands upon thousands killed in the same year whose names she’d still be reading because the list is so long.

Anyway. Remember Thunberg. It can be done. Water wears away stone.

#5 Comment By PDXpat On 24 Sep, 2019 @ 22:11

Good for Greta.

She not only brings a message from her mitochondria, i.e. all of our’s future, but from a far more evolved country than my own formerly beloved one.

Good for you for speaking up for all of us. I saw your post on another blog, and the hackles it immediately raised. Defensive, much?

I’m too asocial a nerd to engage the way you do. Thank you for standing up for everyone.

#6 Comment By quixote On 04 Oct, 2019 @ 23:11

Yikes. And [11]:

Yesterday @AOC [Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez] was confronted by a woman claiming to be a climate activist at a town hall meeting. Her proposal to solve the climate crisis – “eat the babies”.

@AOC did not denounce this woman. She thought that she was suffering from some kind of mental illness, and treated her kindly. But all kinds of figures on the right and the alt-right have pounced on the story. Including the President.

Matthew Sweet goes on to note: “So who was this woman? Not a climate activist. Not even, perhaps, someone with a mental illness. She is a representative of the bizarre political cult once led by Lyndon LaRouche. Previous targets for this kind of stunt include @Janefonda Olof Palme & Michael Dukakis. Now @AOC.

“The LaRouchies are pretty exotic. They believe that the Queen controls the drugs trade. They think Prince Philip wants to start WW3. They think Bertrand Russell used the Beatles as part of a secret British psy war against the USA. They are, to use a technical term, nuts.”

But nuts who simply cannot wrap their minds around a peaceful, just future in which women are understood to be real human beings.

If there’s to be birth control it must be instantly conflated with atrocities. Because the other future is just too hideous to consider.

#7 Comment By pdxpat On 06 Oct, 2019 @ 01:05

I do so wish you and all other women would realize how much we can’t escape.

You know this better than the other bloggers I’ve followed, but still.

There’s no solution here to escaping control from those who prevent women from ownership over our most inarguable possession, our own physical being. No law that ever enacted “stand your ground” could honestly tolerate “give up your body”.

There’s nothing to place our rights on the same level as some small sliver of men’s, say, race or religion (non white men being 5 to 20 % of American citizens. women being 50+ percent) or taking a vacay in a woman’s body or any other gag the majority of men stuff down the throats of the majority of American women.

In Oregon, right now, that paradigm of ignoring 50 percent of the world’s population, the legislature passed two months ago laws to include fake females in their hate crimes law but left out women.

So that means the words “bitch” and “cunt”, when shouted at a stranger aren’t hate speech. Even when threatening a woman with physical violence. But if that same woman shouted back anything that might have anything to do with race, religion (including the ubiquitous male-supremacist religions here, like Catholic, Mormom and Seventh Day,etc), she could legally be hauled in on hate crime charges. That’s where the bent-backed, fit in at all costs women got this state.

Hate speech isn’t hate speech even when murdering women – like Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Our deaths only matter when some male jacks off to it, but not to the law and not to law enforcement.

Those young female human beings lives, all they were and all they would ever be, were ended by a man who is still alive.

It’s stayed with me not only for the sheer horror of it, but because at that time, the internet was honest enough to report that the video this man took while he raped and murdered those young female children was in so much demand worldwide that Canadian security took extreme precautions to keep it from being distributed worldwide.

The market for that video are our husbands, our live-in partners, our coworkers, our family members, our sons, our sons-in-law, our grandsons – above all, those who make our laws and those who enforce our laws. These men competed on a world market to see these two female’s children’s lives ended.

Men killed us at the rate of 2000 in 2017 and it didn’t even make Black Lives Matter. Men altered the laws to make sure they could keep on raping and killing us. (US. v. Morrison, Gonzalez v. Castle Rock, Lenahan v. USA)

Men do not care. They do not see us as human.

#8 Comment By quixote On 08 Oct, 2019 @ 17:20

“There’s no solution here to escaping control”

Way too true. I wish I did have a solution. Or that anyone did. The more I realize to just what a complete extent women are furniture to too many people, the more I boggle. I consider myself a sort of, kind of, half of a firebrand, and even I find myself having no idea how bad it is.

(Actually, I think I do have an inkling of a solution, but not really. Money and power follow each other. If women had incomes and assets equal to men’s, and got paid for reproductive, emotional, carework, and otherwise currently unpaid labor, then I suspect much of that invisibility would end in a generation.

But it’s not a solution because how do you even get started on distributing money according to contributions to society?)

#9 Comment By Pdxpat On 23 Oct, 2019 @ 23:16

“But it’s not a solution because how do you even get started on distributing money according to contributions to society?)”

Ah! Very simple answer. Simply enforce the laws as they existed for women before they were clawed back starting in 1991-present.

Women wanted to work in America. They (we) wanted to earn our own living by our own brains and talents, letting the market set the wages for these. All my ignored harping on the Civil Rights “restoration” Act of 1991 and the allied court decisions splitting out women’s rights from all others showed how that was literally ruled out.

Instead of waged work, the majority of women of all races in the U.S. earn their economic and social status by leasing out unlimited access to their vaginas and wombs, and to unlimited hours of menial labor, in exchange for room, board and a legally undetermined amount of pocket money from men’s wages. That is literally the law for U.S. women. Since we are without legal access to jobs, it’s still the best bargain we have.

It was too repugnant a contract for me to ever countenance, but most women were in the boiling water before they even realized it was hot. I’ve just been told by a well meaning but thoroughly embedded woman in Southern Oregon that she could see I’m “passionate” about women’s lack of rights, also while excusing and acknowledging that same lack of rights in her community.

Honestly, if there were any way I could logically separate a commitment to women’s rights from that of uniform justice in this country, I would do it without hesitation. Still haven’t managed it, even though every other demographic seems to have excised us quite handily.

#10 Comment By Pdxpat On 24 Oct, 2019 @ 00:01

Also to add: as for women supporting themselves and their children without economic dependence on men, I fought as hard as I could against Bill Clinton’s revocation of welfare in the early 90’s.

In addition to calling, writing and proselytizing, I set up the local welfare rights organization’s antique donated computers, trained them in the use thereof, introduced (!) them to email even though they didn’t think they needed it then and got them online. They went on to have a pugnacious very effective online presence that continues today.

Women, like other human beings, want to have children and raise them in yes, a comfortable middle class way. True even if a man isn’t the primary beneficiary of all of that homemaking (the sole difference between welfare and marriage). Welfare kept women afloat while making the transition from economic dependence to independence and (in my view) adulthood. At the time welfare was killed, two years was the average time women needed it before gaining enough livelihood to leave it. As a high wage earner, I paid very high taxes and could not have imagined them going to better use.

Virginia Woolfe’s “Three Guineas” and Marilyn Waring’s “If Women Counted” are still the best rational theses for women’s economic equality. But E.M. Forester’s conclusion to “Passage to India” is the best emotional one, even though it was meant for men, and in terms of race and nationality: with all the best intentions in the world, there can be no real friendship between colonizer and colonized as long as that relationship exists.

#11 Comment By quixote On 30 Oct, 2019 @ 22:57

Woolf and Waring, both so brilliant.

It’s funny, meaning not funny, that in all the sudden talk of universal basic income it doesn’t seem to crop up that maybe the first application of it should be to women for all their unpaid work. Recognition for unpaid reproductive work, caring work, emotional labor, it goes on and on.