Back when the pandemic started, there were those who thought that it would lead to a new baby boom as the tedium of lockdowns would send couples to the bedroom to do one of the few remaining entertaining things you can do without a mask on.
Well, they were completely wrong. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control reveals that the birthrate in the United States plunged by 4 percent to the lowest its’ been in roughly 50 years; the decline was a full ten percent if you only include the babies conceived after the start of the lockdowns. Now the rate in the US is only 1.6 children per couple, lower than the replacement rate of 2.1.
While the news was generally reported as a bit of a bummer, conservative commenters were especially rattled. They’ve been worrying about the “birth dearth” of (white) babies for decades now and don’t want the country to admit the (usually darker hued) immigrants who could keep the country going.
According to right-wing commentator Bethany Mandel, writing in the Deseret News, this is “the worst fertility news we’ve ever seen in this country” and a threat to civilization itself.
“We are not a civilization confident in its own continuity,” Mandel wrote.
which is why more and more Americans are choosing not to bring more children into it. This slow dying can be attributed to countless signs of ill health, our faltering faith and our increasingly atomized families and communities, the latter only made worse by a pandemic that forced us all online and away from each other in person.
Nonetheless, noting that some people plan to make up for lost time (in bed) once the pandemic eases, Mandel is worried that any rebound in the birth rate will somehow also be a bad thing because people having sex for sex’s sake aren’t
ready to implement meaningful life changes based on deep reflection about the meaning of life [or] ready to take on the responsibility and meaning that childbearing brings. …
Other commentators on the right offered similarly bleak assessments, with the Daily Wire describing the baby bust as “alarming” and conservative columnist Josh Hammer lamenting our “bleak demographic reality” in Newsweek.
But not everyone is booing the bust. In Reddit’s ChildFree and antinatalist subreddits, the regulars are cheering the plunge in birth rates.
In r/childfree someone called lockworkEyelash writes,
Personally I love and care about children so much that I’m devastated for every single one born into this burning world with no future ahead, and like another commenter responded, it’s great seeing people embrace choices in life and deciding what’s best for themselves, so that’s why I find lower birth rates exciting.
Revolutionary-Swim28 is not quite as positive about children:
I’m glad. In a world that is slowly progressing but somehow getting worse, there is no sense birthing little demons who will sometimes grow up to be serial killers or criminals. Plus everything is so expensive so why the Hell would you think to do that?
Gaiamanuscript seconded that emotion:
Well I think women don’t want to ruin their bodies for a disgraceful person. Only a few children are blissful to have through every stage of their lives. And women do most of the child rearing but also get the blame when the children are unruly. Second, Most children put strains on marriage, friendships, careers ect if you want to be a good mother. Raising children costs the government nothing but you as a mother will cost you everything you hold dear.
Other commenters, like Zomg_A_Chicken, would prefer a less crowded world — or at least a less chaotic shopping experience.
This means shorter lines at Costco
Kairain, meanwhile, has some complaints about Walmart, or at least their customers.
The only thought that could occur to me while I was at Walmart was that I almost said to someone you and your child are the greatest form of birth control that ever need be presented. But I didn’t because I felt that was unnecessarily antagonistic and was not a good representation of the child-free community.
But by golly she was completely ignoring her daughter screaming so loud you could hear her throughout the entire store while she continued looking at whatever she was looking to purchase and did nothing to stop the assault on everyone’s ears…
Others focused on the effect on nature and managed to sound a good deal less like a mad eugenicist. As GorpQuest put it
I hate the concern that there won’t be enough babies to replace the current generations. How the fuck is this bad news? This is excellent! The world is already severely overpopulated and drained of its natural resources. A decline will be a quality over quantity in terms of living conditions, and the earth might finally get a chance to heal.
Others gave their interpretation of the baby bust a feminist twist. As yourbitchofanexwife wrote,
The women choosing not to have children have more options than ever before. We have careers, our own homes, credit, we travel, we enjoy our lives, we live independent of the demand to be housewives and mothers.
It’s fucking amazing.
Over in the nearby antinatalism subreddit, the regulars were if anything a bit blunter about their opinions and happier about the news. (These comments are from a thread about the birth dearth from about a week ago.)
Come on guys we can make it, let’s extinguish human kind
Millennium-popsicle had a similar thought:
Finally some good news! A small step towards extinction. Very dapper if I say so myself!
HotPhilly was feeling pretty chipper:
This is so good to see. And i have hope that younger generations having access to information like never before, this trend will continue.
It will boil down to only breeders breeding, but they will inherit the stupid, dead world they deserve.
Claire_lovely offered two cheers to the pandemic itself:
I’ve been wanting the pandemic to end but I realized that the longer it goes on the lower the birthrates will be. So while I’d like there to be a day where I don’t need to wear a mask outside or be under so many restrictions, I’m not as worried about it lasting longer anymore.
Seriously, if your politics lead you to cheer on a deadly pandemic as it sweeps through the human population killing millions, maybe you should take a step back and reflect a little on your life and your choices.
I mean, I’m technically “child free” and quite devoted to never having children of my own. And I think the sinking birth rate to be, basically, a good thing. But I would never call myself “childfree” or “antinatal” because I don’t want to have any connection whatsoever with all this — from the nastiness towards literal babies to the eugenics-lite of cheering on a disease.
While it incorporates some tropes from actually liberating politics like feminism, the childfree movement isn’t a progressive movement; rather, it echoes some of the worst characteristics of the most reactionary politics of the last century. The politics of cultural despair, to borrow a phrase from historian Fritz Stern, can get pretty dark pretty fast.
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