Welcome to the Baby Bust

When House Speaker Paul Ryan urged U.S. women to have more children, and Ross Douthat requested “More babies, please,” in a New York Times column, they openly expressed what U.S. policymakers have been discussing for decades with greater discretion.  Using technical language like “age structure,” “dependency ratio,” and “entitlement crisis,” establishment think tanks are raising the alarm: if U.S. women don’t get busy having more children, we’ll face an aging workforce, slack consumer demand, and a stagnant economy.

1-US-Birthrate-1900-2018-SOURCE-v2Feminists generally believe that a prudish religious bloc is responsible for the protracted fight over reproductive freedom in the U.S., and that politicians only attack abortion and birth control to appeal to those “values voters.”  But hidden behind this conventional explanation is a dramatic fight over women’s reproductive labor.  Continue reading “Welcome to the Baby Bust”

Women on Strike—A Birth Strike

logo_with_slogan

Book Review by Judy Ancel

More than 120 years ago the American Federationist, the newspaper of the American Federation of Labor, printed an editorial denouncing the entry of women into the trades. One of its many nuggets of misogyny was this: “The wholesale employment of women in the various handicrafts must gradually unsex them.”

That term was probably as unclear then as it is today, but if unsexed means women today are declining to pursue “nature’s dearest impulse” (another of the article’s nuggets), then we are indeed unsexed, because there’s a birth strike going on.

It seems the more we labor outside the home, the less we engage in that other form of labor—childbirth. Women may still be barely visible in the trades, but our wage work has become an essential part of the economy.

THE ECONOMICS OF REPRODUCTION

The political economy of our role in production and reproduction and our rejection of the double burden is the subject of Jenny Brown’s Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work (PM Press, 2019).

Brown, a former co-editor of Labor Notes, begins by citing the declining birth rate in the United States—currently 1.76 births for every two people. Population politics are an essential part of this book, and the U.S. has gone from panic about overpopulation in the 1970s to fear that we won’t replace ourselves now. Elite thinkers, says Brown, are concerned that shrinking population brings a shrinking economy, which is not good for business.

So are corporations and government encouraging women to have more babies? In a way. They’re making it hard not to have babies, by failing to cover birth control and restricting access to it and by making us run a gauntlet to get an abortion—in many places today abortion is impossible or prohibitively expensive. Forced pregnancy appears to be their policy.

But having children is increasingly difficult, with no mandated paid family leave, inadequate health coverage, and very expensive childcare. In fact, the high cost of raising kids on flat incomes is the main reason women are avoiding pregnancy in unprecedented numbers. That’s why Brown calls it a birth strike.

She contrasts the U.S. with the rest of the world, where most of the wealthier countries make it much easier to work and have kids. She zeroes in on Germany, France, and Sweden. There, punitive policies that made it difficult to avoid pregnancy failed, so governments incentivized childbirth by providing what they call a social wage. This includes free childcare, paid family leave and sick leave, paid vacations, pensions, and universal health care. So why doesn’t the U.S. do the same? ….

Rest at: https://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2019/09/book-review-women-strike-birth-strike

Birth Strike Study Guide

Birth Strike Study Guide CoverNational Women’s Liberation has developed a consciousness-raising study guide to go with Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s WorkIt can be downloaded here.

Here’s a sample:

Meeting 1

Read pages 1—59 of Birth Strike:

Introduction

Chapter 1. International Comparisons

Chapter 2. Small Government, Big Families

Chapter 3. Is it a Birth Strike?  Women Testify

Consciousness-Raising questions

a. What are your reasons for wanting children? For not wanting them?

b. Has your thinking on this changed? Are your parents’ lives a factor in

    your thinking?

c. Do you experience pressure from anyone on the subject?

Alternate question:

a. What care work do you do (child rearing, care for elderly family members,

    or others in your life needing care)?

b. What care work do the men in your life do?

c. Have you tried to get them to do more? What happened?

Study questions

1. Who is the power structure?  What are some terms people use to describe these   

    individuals? Which terms do you prefer?  Why?

2. To what do you attribute the continuing battle over abortion and birth control

    in the U.S.? Did the reading change your view?  How?

3. What caused other countries to develop universal programs such as childcare,     

    healthcare, paid family leave, and family allowances?

4. What do “pro-family” conservatives mean by family?  What is their ideal of family

    life?  Who would benefit from that?

Jacobin: Abortion Is Our Right To Strike

GettyImages-108294014Abortion isn’t a “cultural” issue. The production of children, and who will pay for it, is a key economic battlefront.

For decades, we’ve been told that abortion is merely a wedge issue used by Republicans to split working-class Catholics from the Democratic Party and excite a Protestant evangelical base. “Starting in the 1970s,” feminist law professor Joan C. Williams writes, “Republicans have offered support for working-class anti-abortion views in exchange for working-class support for pro-business positions.”

According to this view, politicians and the one percent really don’t care one way or the other about abortion — they’re just using the issue to get votes. This reading of US politics is so common that if you ask a group of feminists today why abortion is under attack, someone will explain that it is a political ploy to capture the support of conservative “values” voters. Thomas Frank even argues that banning abortion would be against the interests of these political forces because they would lose an issue to mobilize around.

But this explanation has frayed as abortion restrictions have proliferated, with several states now down to one abortion clinic and repressive regulations making abortion difficult to obtain for many and impossible for some. Even “blue” states like Minnesota throw up obstacles to those who want abortions. Several states have banned abortion outright, racing to be the one whose law overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized most abortions. Birth control, too, has come under attack, revealing that the stated goal of reducing abortions is a ruse.

While other “cultural issues,” such as same-sex marriage and cannabis legalization have been making progress, we have gone backward on abortion. This is because abortion is wrongly classified as a cultural issue. In fact, the production of children — and who will pay for it — is a key economic battlefront.

 

Continues at:

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/08/abortion-rights-strike-economic-battlefront-birth-rates

Foreword’s Matt Sutherland Talks Women’s Work with Jenny Brown

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 9.31.13 AM

The birth rate in this country is plummeting for a very obvious reason: Women don’t want babies. But the reason women don’t want babies is something conservative Republicans hate to admit: Having children is expensive and burdensome, and the US government provides mothers with very, very little help. There’s no paid leave, many women lack healthcare, there’s no financial assistance for nurseries or childcare facilities. All the while, the work of maintaining a household and raising kids is just plain hard, especially when you consider that most mothers are working full time.

Faced with these obstacles, even women who desperately want children are saying no, or are only having one child. They’re discouraged, and it doesn’t help when they learn that the governments of approximately fifty countries around the world require that mothers receive six or more months of paid leave. The enlightened leaders in these countries realize that a healthy economy needs plenty of workers. That, and stable governments need a solid tax base, which is only possible with an adequate number of citizens paying taxes.

This week’s interview is with Jenny Brown, the author of Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work, one of the most thought provoking titles we’ve seen in years. In a nutshell, Jenny believes women have finally had enough: They’re refusing to have more babies until this country’s leadership recognizes the work they do is vitally important and worthy of government support.

Full article here: https://www.forewordreviews.com/articles/article/reviewer-matt-sutherland-talks-womens-work-with-jenny-brown-author-of-birth-strike/

Radio Interview: By Any Means Necessary

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.19.59 PMIn a special segment of “By Any Means Necessary” Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon are joined by author Jenny Brown to talk about her new book “Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work” now available from PM Press, the perverse motives behind anti-abortion and anti-birth control legislation and campaigns, the exploitation of motherhood by capitalism, what an organized birth strike could look like, and the intersection of white supremacy, male supremacy and birth policy.

Listen here:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/radiosputnik/book-review-birth-strike-the-hidden-figh