The Controversial Reasons Why Intelligent Women Aren’t Having Children
Women can't seem to catch a break.
No matter what choice we make, we're scolded for it. We're too curvy or too thin. We're too sexual or not sexual enough. We're too intimidatingly intelligent or too ditzy and "basic."
We're too this, too that, not enough this, not enough that.
Now, we can add "not enough of a desire to have children" to that list.
Last year, a controversial study from London School of Economics researcher (and notorious backlash creator) Satoshi Kanazawa revealed an interesting link between intelligence and desire to be a mother.
In his book, “The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn't Always the Smart One,” Kanazawa suggests that for every 15 IQ points a woman possesses, her maternal urge drops by 25 percent.
He claims the smarter a woman is, the less likely it is that she will want to have kids.
It may sound like too simple of a correlation, but there are actually reputable statistics out there that support Kanazawa's conclusion.
Data from the Pew Research Center suggest that "most educated women still are among the most likely never to have had a child."
So, there's validity to Kanazawa's research: The smarter you are, the less likely you really are to have kids.
Despite this, however, his findings stirred much controversy. But it wasn't necessarily the results that upset people; it was his discussion of the results that did.
As an evolutionary psychologist, Kanazawa's discussion of his findings focus on the role reproduction plays in the lives of "living organisms." In the study, he writes:
If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success. All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce; reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence... Having children, and having as many children as one can potentially raise to sexual maturity so that the children themselves can reproduce, is an evolutionarily familiar goal. In contrast, voluntary childlessness is evolutionarily novel.
Here's the thing: Women are not just any "living organism" existing solely by the rules of "evolution."
Human beings aren't supposed to just bumble through life competing for resources until it's time to reproduce and raise our young in the wild.
Human beings have open-ended imaginations and the ability and desire to use those imaginations to think about and reflect on our lives.
We tell engaging stories. We attach meaning to our experiences and contemplate them. We mull over our morals and judgments.
We solve complex problems, watch our solutions unfold and analyze their effectiveness.
It's unfair to boil the existence of a human being, especially a woman, down to reproduction.
We aren't animals or bacteria or anything else Kanazawa might also lump into the simple category of "living organisms."
We're far more complex than that.
His other problematic rationale for his findings puts a lot of unfair pressure on childless women. He writes:
General intelligence is known to be highly heritable... and the genes that influence general intelligence are thought to be located on the X chromosomes... It means that boys inherit their general intelligence from their mothers only, while girls inherit their general intelligence from their mothers and from their fathers. So women influence the general intelligence of the future generations more than men do. If more intelligent women are more likely to remain childless... then one potential consequence is that the average level of general intelligence may decline over time.
Basically, according to Kanazawa, intelligent women are doing a disservice to the entire future of humanity by not spreading their intelligence through breeding.
I suppose this is somewhat of a backhanded compliment. As a woman, I'm strangely flattered by the value Kanazawa places on intelligent women.
After all, he is saying our brains are too good to just be used by one generation -- us, namely -- and then die off.
Thanks, Kanazawa. I know. You don't have to tell me twice.
But there's also the other part of this reasoning that puts a hell of a lot of blame solely on the woman for not having children and fails to consider all the social factors that come into play when she's deciding whether or not she wants to have children.
There are lots of real, legitimate reasons women aren't having children, whether it's because they physically can't, they just want to focus on their marriage or, most importantly, the fact that there simply aren't enough social services available in the United States to support working mothers.
In fact, the US is the only developed country, along with Papua New Guinea, that doesn't have any kind of partially paid, mandatory maternal leave policies in the workplace, which might hinder a woman's ability to chase her dream career and start a family at the same time.
All of these reasons, especially that last one, apply to women with high IQs, too.
Even if a social factor doesn't come into play as a reason a woman doesn't want to have children, placing the weight of the future of the world on her shoulders is a huge, unreasonable burden.
Kanazawa's discussion of his findings peg women only as a means through which to achieve an end. According to Kanazawa, women have no agency at all.
They have two choices: either reproduce or make the world a stupider place.
Well, what about what she wants? What about her needs? Why doesn't she matter here? To Kanazawa, she doesn't. But she should.
Her happiness matters -- and she doesn't need to have children to lead a happy, fulfilling life.
In fact, lots of claims have been made in an attempt to make linear correlations between children and happiness, but the Pew Research Center acknowledges the relationship between the two is more complicated than the people who shame childless women would probably like to think.
Pew suggests that "parenthood in and of itself may not be the ticket to happiness" and, instead, satisfaction comes from how marriage, parenthood and happiness interact with each other.
If a woman doesn't want to have children, she's not self-centered, like far too many people say she is.
She's not doing society a disservice, and she will not be the catalyst for the demise of humanity.
Those who think women who aren't reproducing are any of those things should go talk to adoption centers that are overflowing with children.
Would we rather hesitant mothers have children only to give them away and leave them in cycles of social workers, foster cares and neglect? I think not.
Instead of shaming women into making choices that fit one's narrow definition of "success" -- like Kanazawa did in his study -- it's time to give women the freedom to live their goddamn lives however they please.
And if that means they don't want to have kids, then they don't want to have kids. Period.