Regarding the terms "breeder" and "non-breeder"
There has been a disturbing pattern of posts recently in which the terms "breeder" and "non breeder" have cropped up. The term "breeder" is used as a derogatory term for parents, people who have given birth. While "non-breeder" is, by corollary, also used to denigrate people who have had babies. (This has been coming up especially often lately, as one poster has chosen to use the name "non breeder (because I care about the planet)" in their author line, which has led others to point out that the implication is that those who have given birth do not care about the planet. This is a touchy topic that has derailed several other threads, mostly animal rights threads. It's something that deserves to be discussed, but preferably not at the expense of other important topics. So let's talk here.
Those who use the terms "breeder" and "non breeder" insist that the labels apply equally to either sex, and that there is nothing sexist about them. (Just like people peddling angry anti-immigration rhetoric continue to insist that there is nothing inherently racist about their rants. Sure, you can claim that those labels apply to others, but there is one particular group that is being hit with a whole history of oppression behind those words. And it ain't the white guy.)
We live in a culture that has always blamed the woman. For everything. And in particular, it has always blamed mothers. From Eve to Murhpy Brown, every social problem is always traced back to motherhood. Even our "science," supposedly so objective and infallible, has erroneously laid the blame for countless maladies at the mothers' feet. Bruno Bettlheim, for example, fashioned an entire, despicable career out of blaming mothers for their childrens' autism. It was his contention that autism was caused by emotionally "frigid" mothers. Later, of course, we learned that autism is an organic dysfunction that has nothing at all to do with the disposition of the mother. But imagine the pain of generations of women who were haunted, not only by the pain of having a child with autism, but by the judgment of Science that it was somehow her fault. It destroyed families and lives, this ridiculous mother-blaming. Some people still try to advance Bettlheim's discredited theories, because they fit so well with the dominant gestalt: "The mother is to blame."
Bettlheim was neither the first nor the last "scientist" to assert such nonsense. Psychology is fraught with theories of blame, and mothers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Mothers who are "too close" to, or "too protective" of their children are accused of being "suffocating" mothers, still known in the vernacular as "smother mothers." (If you haven't heard it, look it up.) Mothers who are not close enough are "frigid." Mothers who are not protective enough are unfit mothers. Strong mothers are called "domineering," and as recently as 20 years ago it was still widely believed that strong mothers "caused" homosexuality in their male children. Laissez faire mothers, on the other hand, have a whole different set of syndromes attributed to their bad parenting style. All manner of psychological disorders are erroneously chalked up to bad toilet training by over-protective or under-protective or smothering or frigid or domineering or laissez faire mothers. It's all crap, but as long as the mother is to blame, it suits our cultural framework so the myths perpetuate into endless mother-blaming psycho babble.
But it isn't only in the realm of psychology where mothers get the blame. Poverty itself has been laid at mothers' feet. Yes, "breeders." That's where this term was most poignantly used to denigrate women - during the anti-welfare hype that swept this country during the 1980s and early 1990s, before benefits to mothers and children were gutted and the nation determined that hunger and want would be better for poor children than food stamps. Many of us remember those dark times, when nasty men buying short-cases would stand behind women paying with food stamps in the check out line and sling the epithet "breeder" at her. As in, "Can't feed em, don't breed em." Motherhood very often leads to poverty for women, because mothering is a full time job that is inexplicably not compensated in our culture. So that the man dribbling a basket ball around an arena is deemed worthy of a multi-million dollar wage, but women raising and socializing the next generation are deemed unworthy of any compensation at all for this difficult and demanding work. Rather than recognizing the inherent sexism in the very roots of our capitalist culture, those throwing the word "breeder" around in those days suggested that it was the women themselves causing the poverty by "breeding." (For those "non breeders" who are thinking, "good, mothers shouldn't be compensated because motherhood is not a productive pursuit," I humbly point out that it will be other peoples' children who will be taking care of you in your dotage. Other peoples' children will be paying for your nursing care, wiping the spittle from the corner of your mouth, handing out your meds, and cleaning up your bottom. Which points out how important it is that those children be properly raised and socialized.)
Right along with the epithet "welfare queen," came the ever sexist "breeder." Both are hate speech, and neither should be tolerated on this site.
Beyond the welfare queen "breeders," there were also those women who dared to procreate without being married. These were the so-called "unwed mothers," engaging in what was once considered to be the number one social problem of its day: "Out of wedlock births." In other words, births not sanctioned by society... and in still OTHER words, births not sanctioned by MEN. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan actually made his career with his passive-aggressive bashing of so called "unwed mothers." In that sticky, liberal way of embracing-in-order-to-put-the-knife-in, Mr. Moynihan "compassionately" told Americans that the reason things were so rough in African American neighborhoods was that there were too many "unwed mothers." That's right, it wasn't racism, it was uppity women daring to "breed" without a license from the State. Oh, there was some racism, all right, but it was located way back before the civil war, when the practices of white slave owners led to the disintegration of the Black family. All we had to do to end poverty in the ghetto, suggested Moynihan, was to teach those poor Black folks how to adopt the state-sanctioned, male-headed, nuclear family like all us white folks have. Men just needed to "take control" of their families, women needed to stop breeding without licenses, and all would be better.
These "breeders," these female heads of household, caused all kinds of problems for their offspring, said Moynihan, particularly their male offspring. They were figuratively castrating their male offspring by leading their families themselves, thus offering a skewed model of the universe in which men are not the center of everything. As a result, said Moynihan, crime and drugs afflicted African American neighborhoods disproportionately. So yes, poverty, racism, crime, and drug addiction in poor neighborhoods was all blamed on, you guessed it, the mother.
This mother-blaming is especially vehement when it comes to mothers of color. Black women who dare to procreate at all, and especially those who dare to procreate "out of wedlock" are the most likely to have the term "breeder" thrown at them. Latina women are also very often denigrated in this way, as in the horrifically violent, racist, and sexist video game "Border Patrol," in which participants are encouraged to shoot "breeders" (pregnant Mexican women) to death in order to stop them from coming to the US to go to welfare offices. (See link to www.racialicious.com.) "Breeding" among brown women conjures fears in the white, male mind of being outnumbered and over-run by The Other. So it's even more of a sin for brown women to "breed" than for white women.
I could go on all day with examples as to how mothers and motherhood have traditionally been denigrated in our culture, but you get the point. So perhaps you can finally see that placing the blame for the current problems of the world at the feet of mothers just looks like more of the same to me. And that IS what you are doing when you start pointing your finger at "breeders." Yes, it is. It is, by all the implication of history, locating the problems of the world in the Womb. And we're sick of it. Men have not had this kind of crap shoved down their throats for centuries, so they have no right to tell us that there is nothing wrong, nothing offensive, behind the term "breeder." Yes, there IS. We know it when we see it, thank you. [If you want to call yourself something to congratulate yourself on your decision not to procreate, "Non breeder (because you care about the planet)," then how about calling yourself "vasectomy"?]
Yes, we have huge issues with over-consumption in this world. Indeed. But the hype around over-population often takes on a familiar cast, and this is never more obvious to me than when we begin calling people "breeders" and placing the blame for the destruction of the earth at their feet. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as we still live in a violently sexist world, it seems to me that very few of the CEOs who head the timber, oil, factory-farming, and other industries that are killing this planet are women. Few of the heads of state who condone this destruction are women. Yet somehow, it must be Eve's fault that the world is not right. Ah, yes. Because she "breeds." How simple minded and how typical.
This is not to say that we need not think about population. However, in our culture we have a "thing" about looking there first. Every time any species of animal becomes what we consider in our skewed perspective of the world to be too fecund, we start pulling out traps and guns, and looking for ways to control and "manage" their population. Usually, we do so when there is no reason whatsoever to do so. We just can't stand the sight of fecundity, it seems. Too much "breeding" scares us.
Let me just say, there are cultures all over the world in which it is normal for women to have 5 or more children. And yet, most of those cultures use many times fewer resources than our own culture, in which we consider it normal to have 1 or 2 children. A family of ten in come cultures can live for a year on fewer resources than a couple in the US can live on in a month. So we have a LONG way to go before we can blame "overpopulation" rather than over-consumption. These are two entirely different concepts, but blaming "overpopulation" makes it easier for some people to absolve themselves of any responsibility than blaming over consumption. It's easier to point fingers than to consume less.
Birth and motherhood have been denigrated in our culture for a very long time, and as I said, mothers get the blame for absolutely everything. I think this stems from what I like to call "venus envy." Women are the womb bearers, the bringers of life into the world. This is a vast and unimaginably important role, and men can't do it. As a result, they feel compelled to minimize and ridicule that role. Women's fertility has been looked upon through the ages, by men, with all manner of fear, envy, awe, and trepidation. Men have attempted to regulate and control women's sexuality and women's procreation since the beginning of time. And when they could not control it, they denigrated it. Modern culture is no different in this regard. Now that women are refusing to accept any social stigma at all for exercising their right to give birth "out of wedlock," and women are taking control over their own reproduction, we hear more about the sin of "breeding."
But the term "breeder" is offensive on others levels as well. Women have traditionally been the ones to be referred to and evaluated as "breeders." This is not a label that has traditionally been applied to males. "Breeder" reduces women down to their reproductive potential, objects to be used and exploited just as "breeding" dogs, cows, horses, and etc are used and exploited. "If I can't give birth myself, then I will pretend it's nothing important, and I will simply co-opt that ability in others."
So yes, the term "breeder" has historically been used to sexualize, to objectify, and to denigrate women. It is a patently sexist, virulently offensive word. Please stop using it. If you want to talk about population control, you are in a gray area that could arguably be seen as sexist womb-blaming, but could also be seen as a legitimate topic of discussion. I'm willing to engage in that one with you. However, if you want to talk about "breeders" and "non breeders," there is no gray. You have most assuredly crossed the line. "Breeder" is sexist hate speech. Yes, it is.
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion
view discussion from this article