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Culture War Roundup for the week of May 13, 2024

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Whenever the topic of tradwives and fertility comes up, my first thought is, what do the women on this board think?

Grew up in a very trad wife centric Christian homeschool subculture. It mostly didn't work out. Mostly, we had to get jobs. It isn't trivially easy to find a man who's prepared to be a husband, father, and primary earner fairly young, willing to ask girls out, often at venues like church functions, and interested in those girls. There are some, sure, and some families were formed that way. But now in our late 30s, I'm hearing about even some of the women who did marry a traditional head of household man divorcing, because he's pushy, unpleasant, domineering, and re-training as a nurse or something, now with several children.

Marriages don't have to rise to the level of beating to be worse than working a lower middle class female job. If my now husband hadn't kept inviting me on romantic dates at ancient castles, I would still be basically content with being single, because being a single woman in the modern world is really just fine, with a long educated Anglophone tradition full of slightly lonely but basically fine governesses and nuns. Even at the standards of a century ago, I would certainly rather be a nun than marry a man I didn't like, of whom people said "well at least he doesn't beat you, just have more grit."

I am not a feminist by current standards. My grandmothers and great grandmothers went to teaching colleges, and followed their husbands around the world while they translated Mayan carvings or something, and returned to teaching when their children where older. They kept copies of Virginia Woolf in their houses. There are great grandmothers I don't know much about, because their children ran away from home (and first marriages, I think?) and met up on a Pacific island, and then went on to have those 3-4 kids together, and raise them while teaching. I don't know how to evaluate the alternate universe where everyone had more grit, sticking out their first marriage on some frozen windswept cattle ranch.

Much is made of the state of family formation in Asia lately. Chinese great grandmothers probably had too much grit, breaking their daughters' feet to help their marriage prospects. I don't know how things were for the great grandmothers of the current generation of South Korean women -- the educational issues there sound like an excess of grit -- everyone could just not cram that extra hour, and things would likely be just the same, but slightly more pleasant. It sounds very zero sum after a pretty baseline educational level and some research skills.

Anyway, I'm pregnant with a third baby because I don't think being not particularly successful in America is that bad, actually. Probably none of my kids will go to an unusually excellent college or have an unusually excellent job or win at a high level competition, and that's alright. Someone came in to my classroom today to say that she's pleased that her daughter is shift manager at a Starbucks and leading literacy tutoring over the summer. This is good! People should be able to be pleased with their children living normal, functional lives!

Maybe we ought to just accept the world's population contraction. Who knows, maybe there really is some sort of equilibrium where this mysterious negative feedback mechanism we can't identify will taper off. If we are completely allergic to placing demands upon our women on a societal level, which we clearly—and astonishingly suddenly—are, I just don't see a way to a future with more kids.

The hypothetical case of a domineering, asshole husband is just too rhetorically powerful. I have conservative friends who agree that no-fault divorce was a mistake, but always with the reflexive ritual mitigation: of course any system that doesn't afford each woman an easy, automatic penalty-free exit from the marriage, so long as it's deemed abusive, is a non-starter. Just how common a problem was this? I have no idea. Sure enough stories from the Bible and historical accounts from hundreds of years ago are filled with examples of husbands taking counsel from their wives, being convinced this way or that. Instead of noble agents fulfilling an ancient and proud feminine role, however, these women may today be considered "hidden figures" who were repressed and prevented from participating in public affairs first-hand.

Who knows, maybe there really is some sort of equilibrium where this mysterious negative feedback mechanism we can't identify will taper off.

I mean, the obvious natural counterforce is "without state-enforced indoctrination to break their retention rates or some form of genocide, insular subcultures like the Amish and Orthodox Jews - possibly also their Muslim equivalents - will outbreed everyone else".

Note the caveats on that statement, though, and the rather-drastic nature of that transition even if it's allowed to happen.

It remains to be seen what the long term trajectory of both of those cultures will be, since both have existed in their modern incarnations for fewer than 150 years. I mean modern ultra-fertile Ultra-Orthodox Judaism is partially a postwar thing, to some extent it’s an invention of the twentieth century. And even if you zoom out to ‘all’ Orthodox Jews or Mennonites, many modern secular, very low birthrate Jewish and Swiss people emerged from those ‘trad’ cultures, it could happen again.

Drawing a curve that assumes all these people will have six kids who have six kids who have six kids is historically the worst way to project future population growth.

Oh, they're not 100%-retention, but they don't have to be. They just have to be high-enough retention to perpetuate themselves. And while yes, something might change internally to them (although with the Amish it's not really a good bet), anything that didn't get all of them would just start the cycle over again in microcosm.

My overall point is this: you can beat natural selection - Azathoth, as Eliezer called it, although frankly Shub-Niggurath's a better fit from what I know - but you're not going to beat it by accident for long enough to actually die out. Shub-Niggurath doesn't always win, but she always wins by default - you have to actively try if you're going to hold her down. I noted above that such an attempt could indeed be made to destroy the Amish, and of course "not actually the end of the species" is some damnation with faint praise indeed, but keep your head about you.

Hasn't it only been about 5 years now that society has been worried about population collapse?

My mother remembers Population Bomb rhetoric when she was younger. Google says China only ended their one child policy in 2016. The trends are probably just moving too fast. If you tell a whole generation they're destroying the world by having children, it surely takes some time to pull that back with "we didn't mean you, women who were already having 2.5 children! We meant the Nigerian ones having 7 children in desperate poverty! (But, also, global warming is a very terrible disaster, you should feel bad)"

I think the Christian perspective is something like that marriage is hard, but it's alright to ask hard things of people. Traditional cultures also ask people to do things like serve in the military, fast, and stand multiple hours for public ceremonies. Orthodox churches have crowns instead of vows, and one of the several symbols involved is "crowns of martyrdom." Is staying married to an angry, unpleasant man and bearing his children as hard an ask as fighting in a war? I don't know, I've never done either, but maybe it is! And if we have a norm of people in general never needing to do hard things, it isn't surprising that the same would be true of marriages.