War on children. Why are feminists vilifying motherhood?

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Feminists are trying to convince women that motherhood is torment. They do this in a “subtle” way, appealing to the selfishness that lies in the nature of every human being. The effects of this type of – let’s not be afraid to say – brainwashing, may forever change the structure of society, including that of Poland, which means a demographic disaster.

Zuzanna Dąbrowska

At the beginning of the year, the media was dominated for some time by disturbing news: in 2021, Poland’s population suffered the most dramatic plummet since World War II. The fewest number of children were born (331,000), while the biggest number of Poles died. The record number of deaths, experts explained, was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, infected people were dying, and on the other hand, the months-long shift of health care attention to the infected deprived those struggling with other diseases of crucial care. But what is behind the dramatically low birth rate? The problem is known to be present all across Europe. By 2020, the fertility rate in EU countries has fallen to 1.5 children per woman. This means that there is no replacement of generations, which implies that there are two children per mother and father.  According to Eurostat, in order to achieve a fertility rate that would preserve the current size of the population, it is necessary to maintain a coefficient of 2.1. Meanwhile, in none of the EU countries is the coefficient even 2. The highest number of children is born in France – an average of 1.83 per woman, followed by Romania – 1.8, the Czech Republic – 1.71, and Denmark – 1.68. Things are much worse in Poland. The fertility rate in 2020 was 1.38. As recently as 2019 it was 1.42, while in 2018 it was 1.44. We are already an aging society. If the current trend continues, the problem will only get worse.

Thinking about the reasons for this, two aspects can be pointed out: the role of the state and the role of mass culture. What the state should and does not do to encourage family formation and women to become mothers will be discussed later. First, it is worth focusing on the cultural context. Contemporary feminism and its impact on generations of women of childbearing age seems crucial to understanding the problem. This is a movement that, in its modern form, does little to implement the ideas of the “founding mothers.” Reaching back to the beginnings of the feminist movement, that is, the late 18th century, it is worth recalling the “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Citizen.” Written in 1791 by French playwright Olympe de Gouges, the text mirrored the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” which stated, among other things, that all men “are born and remain free and equal in rights,” and that these rights are universal. Thus, the first feminists, although they did not yet call themselves such, fought for completely basic issues. Their “heiresses” of today (although it is difficult to unequivocally say that Olympe de Gouges and Paulina Kuczalska-Reinschmit would stand shoulder to shoulder with the women from the pro-abortion protests in Poland) are instead fighting not so much for women or on their behalf, but with women, as manifested in the detestation of motherhood.

Uniqueness under question

It would seem that feminists, who have made themselves the No. 1 enemy of the white, heterosexual male, should defend the uniqueness of women. This is quite logical: being in opposition to masculinity, one should care about what is feminine. And is there anything more feminine than carrying new life inside you? Therefore, today they should be displaying banners with slogans to protect the labor rights of women who become pregnant, to support mothers-to-be by the state, and to guarantee them and their children the highest possible standards of maternity care. Meanwhile, activists are arguing that a woman can be fully a woman only when she hates a man and has the right to kill her child. This pathological misconception of independence is supposed to constitute femininity. In Poland’s backyard, the most extreme and flamboyant in its pro-abortion message is the Abortion Dream Team. According to this group, abortion is no longer just a right, but an integral part of the life of a modern, conscious woman. It is not a dramatic decision and act of last resort, but a trendy choice, put into the calendar somewhere between run for a soy latte at the local coffee shop and the weekly yoga class. Post-abortion trauma, on the other hand, is supposed to be an invention of fundamentalists. As one ADT leader Natalia Broniarczyk said, “from experience, and from research, the most common feeling after an abortion is relief. Every day we get many messages that confirm this. Sometimes there is even a euphoric state.”

The activists have gone so far in their radicalism that they are trying to make the case that pregnancy is not a natural result of sex. “We often hear in the context of abortion that you have to take responsibility for your actions. As if pregnancy and motherhood should be a punishment for sex. Would the people who say this really feel satisfied that in exchange for sex, they are forcing someone to give birth? (…). Consent to sex does not mean consent to pregnancy,” the Abortion Dream Team argues in a Facebook post. “Motherhood as punishment” is a great example of the message that abortion advocates are sending to the public. Motherhood is not a source of joy, a new phase of life, or even a difficult but beautiful full-time job anymore. It is punishment.

But it is not only the concept of abortion as a woman’s fundamental right that feminists are arguing for to convince us that motherhood is not worth it. It is increasingly common to come across discussions or confessions about regretting having children. This is a “soft” way of anti-maternity programming women already at the stage of their consideration of having children in the future. These programmers seem to ask rhetorically: “Do you want to be a mom? Well, ok, but read about girls your age, how they pity their youth, their beauty, their travel, how much they hate their lives, and thus themselves and their children. Do you want to live like that? Think carefully.”

It should be noted: it is one thing to talk about motherhood as it is – with its difficulties, challenges, sorrows, and, very importantly, the need to give up our lives as we know them. What is different, however, is the failure to add the missing element to this picture – namely, that all these difficulties, challenges, sorrows, and resignation of self, are not in vain. After all, what one gets in return is something quite special, namely, the love of a new human being, who, properly shaped, will be our friend in the future and our guardian in old age. One of the forerunners of speaking out loud about the grief of having children is Israeli sociologist Orna Donath. In her acclaimed book, “Regretting Motherhood,” she published research on the phenomenon and presented testimonies of specific women who, in retrospect, would not have chosen to have a child. The publication, which appeared several years ago, sparked a worldwide discussion. First of all, dozens of posts with the hashtag #regrettingmotherhood (“regretting motherhood”) appeared on the German Internet. Opponents of such a way of putting the issue also spoke out. Either way, the avalanche has started. “Donath explains that if we are outraged by the idea of women struggling with this dilemma, we should think deeply. Instead of harassing them and hurling insults at them, we need to answer a difficult question. Why does society impose motherhood as a natural step for human beings?” – this is how the book is advertised by one industry website. The last sentence is very interesting. Motherhood, which is a natural, conditioned both mentally and physically stage of a woman’s life, has been considered something if not unnatural, then at least a socially artificial construct. The same is being done today with biological sex.

Błańska’s quest

Certain social trends come to Poland with a slight delay, so the aversion to motherhood began to be talked about on a larger scale quite recently. However, media describing themselves as “women’s” and “lifestyle” are eager to make their pages available to women talking about the regrets of having children. Forums and Facebook groups dedicated to this issue are very popular. The Polish Orna Donath, on the other hand, seems to want to be Malina Błańska, a feminist and former journalist for the anticlerical weekly “No,” who today functions mainly on Instagram. Błańska has signed a contract with the publishing house Krytyka Polityczna for a book in which she will collect testimonies from women who regret motherhood. In an interview, the journalist pointed out that her heroines most often struggle with guilt. “Of course, these women regret that something this circumstance took away from them, something they lost, something they won’t experience – it was too soon or not with this partner, or I’m made to run around Palestine and save the world. And everyone else could just be a mom. My heroines have this reflection of the injustice that these children experience as a result of their grief. I had a conversation with a girl who said: “Malina, recently to my son I said you Soviet pig, he is 8 months old.” Or she admitted that when she is so extremely exhausted and already wants her children to just sleep, she squashes them with her own body, so that they wriggle, get tired and fall down like that,” – Błańska reported. The book is also expected to feature a “scientist” who will debunk the myth that there is such a thing as maternal instinct. “There is no such thing and scientists confirm it. It’s just a social tool for framing a woman to take care of a child alone,” says the former “Nie” journalist.

The fact that regretting motherhood is actually a common phenomenon is evidenced by the Polish women’s supplement to “Gazeta Wyborcza,” the forerunner of all progress, “Wysokie Obcasy.” In a rather absurd text entitled. “There is a greater number of women who regret motherhood than we think,” Anna Pamuła, who is a mother herself, stresses the need to break the taboo. She cites “Charlotte, a mom from Germany,” who in turn complains about the German system for encouraging motherhood. “Our welfare system encourages women to stay at home: parental leave can last from one to three years and is paid,” this was pointed out as…a drawback. That is, financial support for mothers is something reprehensible in the minds of the authors, because it encourages women to take up motherhood. A surprisingly extremely anti-feminine view for such a feminist newspaper. “So let’s be women who will take on the world and make decisions on their own. Let’s be the owners of our own bodies and lives and, as Donath writes, the owners of our own thoughts, feelings, as well as imaginations.” – Anna Pamula appeals in conclusion.

Onet.pl, or more precisely its “sub-service” dedicated to women, is not falling behind. “I regret becoming a mother. I irrevocably lost my life,” a letter with such a title was published there in early October. In the mainstream media, similar texts and publications can be found in abundance. The feminist shaping of minds, including those of editors, is bearing fruit.

After a somewhat general analysis of the phenomenon, though simultaneously recognizing its most important elements, the easiest thing to do would be to say that it is bad, period. However, the conservative side, which understands the seriousness of the crisis of values and the demographic crisis that comes with it, cannot stop at complaining. Pop culture cannot be let go. It’s about good, attractive content that promotes motherhood, but also the pro-life lifestyle itself. There is a lack of young, “cool” women on social media to show the “bright side” of life. True, on the occasion of “White Friday,” organized in opposition to “Rainbow Friday,” there are plenty of them on Twitter, but these are one-off actions. What is needed is a strong voice for women to oppose the “culture of death” and feminists. There is not enough space in the right-wing media that is given to them, and it is often the case that elderly men speak out on their behalf. Editorials are not publishing letters from happy mothers and rarely prepare reports on family life. There is a deficit in books (here the glorious exception is “Mama na obcasach” / “Mother on Heels” by Magdalena Szefernaker), podcasts, YT channels, that are not merely boring, anachronistic drivel with a conservative zest, de facto indigestible for today’s 20-somethings.

The right example

It is also worth going beyond the axiological realm in the government’s message. It’s necessary to stand in the truth and understand that conservatives in power have no chance of winning against feminists in the battle for “morality.” First of all, because the young do not want to listen to the government, even less so on worldview issues. Even if it is right. That’s why politicians, instead of talking about “women getting plastered” and trying to moralize society, should speak clearly – “if we don’t reproduce, our system will collapse. You and your female colleagues may choose to not have children, it doesn’t take away your femininity or indicate poor values, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see your pension, because there simply won’t be anyone to work it out.” However, in order for the government to communicate in this, after all, brutal way, it should first provide conditions for having children. Of course, someone will say that “during the People’s Republic we lived on 40 sq. meters with seven people and no one complained.” But if we want to take the matter seriously, we need to understand that as society becomes more prosperous, the demands increase. What was once the ceiling is now the floor, and lecturing the young is no way out of this situation. They simply need to be wisely helped to realize their basic needs, and that is a comfortable home. A glimmer of hope is the statement of PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński, who admitted during a meeting with residents of Żywiec that the current housing policy has completely failed and new solutions will be needed. He assured that a new solution will be proposed if PiS wins the next election. The question is whether it is not too late.

The milestone is to be the implementation of the “Demographic Strategy 2040,” developed at the Ministry of Family Affairs. Deputy Minister Barbara Socha, who is in charge of the document, points out that it draws ideas from countries that have succeeded in reversing the trend of declining births. She cites the Czech Republic as an example. Socha mentions that among the most important tasks to be carried out, in addition to the referenced facilitation of finding housing, are guaranteeing employment stability and increasing the level of childcare. A counter-argument must be presented – feminists claim that a child is the “end of life”? The government needs to show that this is not true, because it has concrete solutions for mothers to return to work and achieve their career aspirations.

The desire to successfully wrestle with modern feminists for the “government of souls” of young women, although it seems not easy, is not impossible. However, it requires gigantic grassroots mobilization, an understanding of the mechanisms of mass culture, and a wise message from the authorities. If these efforts can be combined, there is a chance that Polish women will listen to the voice of common sense and nature instead of listening to celebrity activists like Anja Rubik or “fierce competitors” like Marta Lempart.