Reinforce: Pope Francis’ critique of childless couples hurts both parents and non-parents

Reinforce: Pope Francis’ critique of childless couples hurts both parents and non-parents

Pope Francis will hold a weekly general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican on January 12.VATICAN MEDIA / Reuters

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Zosia Bielski is a reporter for The Globe and Mail.

Those of us who choose not to have children are often involuntarily put in the spotlight.

The spotlight grew strongly in the early days of the new year when Pope Francis criticized opting out of parenthood as “a form of selfishness” during a speech in the Vatican.

The pope cautiously warned of the risk of not having children. He warned of a rapidly feeding “demographic winter” – a reference to declining birth rates in developed countries where women have reproductive rights. Next in the pope’s crosshairs were people who have pets and not children, which “diminishes us, removes our humanity.” The statements reflected the pope’s 2014 complaints about childless pet owners signaling “cultural degradation.”

The ill-informed comment would provoke much anger from women, apparently the Pope’s intended goals. So the usual quarrel between parents and non-parents about who is selfish and who is selfless – as if they are monolithic groups. The pope’s rejection of pets was particularly pronounced: not only did the pope fail to live up to his namesake, the animal-loving Francis of Assisi, he overlooked that nuclear families also love their cats and dogs and are more human to it.

As a reporter covering major shifts in family structures, I felt that the pope’s trolling and the kneeling of the public were a distraction from the deeper issues. In the days after the explosion, I asked three top thinkers to reflect on the pope’s motives, why this message continues, and how baby pressure harms both parents and non-parents.

“In so many ways, these talking points are amplified for us: You must have children to be a full human being; you are not a real woman if you do not have children; you will never know what love is; you will die old and “You have to step back and say what’s this about?” said filmmaker Therese Shechter, whose new documentary My so-called selfish life is a captivating deep dive into the child-free choice.

“The Pope’s argument is thin and meaningless, and yet it continues to be ruled out because it speaks to something fundamental that we grow up with,” Shechter said, citing criticisms routinely directed at childless women that they are incomplete, immature and self-absorbed. “An attack on our humanity, our femininity and our generosity is sadly effective.”

Beautiful DePaulo, author of Designated: How singles are stereotyped, stigmatized and ignored and still live happily ever after, broke down the hostility.

“People belittle those who do not have children because the problem is not a random belief but an ideology that many people are deeply invested in. It is a way of thinking that insists on the right way to live.” is having children, “said DePaulo.” People who have chosen not to have children defy that ideology. If they also enjoy their lives, then the threat to the ideology is even stronger. ”

That ideology has a name: “Pronatalism is a set of pervasive social beliefs, assumptions and forces across different cultures that pressure people, especially women, to have children,” explained Nandita Bajaj, who launched a new online graduate course on the subject in Antioch. University of New England.

It goes beyond family members wanting children and grandchildren to maintain the tradition or preserve a genealogical heritage. Institutions also exert baby pressure: Politicians and growth-based economists want more taxpayers, big business wants more consumers, and religious leaders – the Pope included – want more followers, argued Bajaj, Toronto-based Population Balance CEO. The non-profit organization focuses on how unsustainable human overpopulation and overconsumption has led to ecological destruction, creating an “unprecedented life” for young and future children compared to older generations.

Interpersonal is the great pressure to make children confusing and harmful to people who make the most important decision of their lives, Bajaj said.

“There are so many people who say, ‘I did not know I had a choice,’” Shechter noted. “Bringing a new human being into the world is such a profound thing to do – the disruption of it all, even if you want children, the way it affects women’s health, ambitions and lives so thoroughly.”

That wisest critics of the pope argued that societies evolve when they allow people to have an impact on their lives.

“The fact that women in some countries, after fighting for personal and reproductive liberation for centuries, are finally able to break free from their prescribed biological and gender roles and authentically exercise their right to no or fewer children is something that must celebrated, “says Bajaj. said. “It simply came to our notice then. It is neither a loss of humanity nor selfish. ”

Ultimately, having a choice on the issue of parenthood means greater financial stability for women, deeper investment in children and a higher standard of living for families, Bajaj argued.

“Given the pope’s stature, he needs to start raising discussions about children’s needs and well – being. Children’s real well – being, not just having them to have them.”

What else are we thinking of:

The missing daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s joking film adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel from 2006, stood out to many women for her atypical portrayal of motherhood. Leda (played by Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley at various stages of her life) is not a saint or a monster, but an “unnatural mother” who leaves her young daughters for three years while pursuing an academic career and her sexual impulses . Women’s writing on The prodigal daughter has been as nuanced and revealing as the film. Leda “epitomizes a type of woman whose needs are rarely addressed in mainstream American movies,” writes The New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis. The mother is “a person who can embrace and resent the job of caretaker to an equal degree,” writes The Atlantic’s Shirley Li. (“It’s a dangerous thing to ask, to relate to this person,” Gyllenhaal told Li about his protagonist.) Vultures Alison Willmore captures Leda’s “maternal ambivalence” as “so banal and at the same time so taboo that when characters recognize what they have been through in another, their instinct is to strike out instead of pity. ”

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