So it looks like modernity is whacking another culture upside the head demographically.
Are we supposed to celebrate Chinese women’s independence, even if they’re not getting married and are likely to wind up on the “high achievement cat-lady plan” just like so many women in NYC? Or should we shudder in anticipation of how brutal the greying of China is likely to be on its elderly, since there is likely to be only one grandchild per family to sustain them?
Happycrow himself can’t talk much — life sent him into high-orbit and strange places, and we have only one Happychick here in the nest. Anyone unfortunate enough to have made our acquaintance knows that this is something that’s more UnHappyCrow than the other way — in this respect, we are like many of our peers, who are living under what some have called the middle class’ “unofficial one-child policy.” But it’s just the way the ball bounced.
People who consciously choose to go extinct are a different species entirely. We know a number of them, love them fiercely….but I can’t understand them in the slightest.
No matter one’s cultural predilections, however, we’ve changed worlds, and the way the world changes shapes us. A decade ago it looked like America would gradually turn into a demographic juggernaut… but that’s seeming less likely now, because much of the birth rate was supported by immigrants. They’re no longer coming, and the party’s over. I know a lot of people who will breathe a sigh of relief — those of us who are psychologically disposed to moderate populations and open spaces often feel distinctly overcrowded already.
As we look towards the new society and discuss what its new governance might look like, we run into trouble. Female hypergamy is real: women do not like to marry someone they consider their inferior, and tend to be unhappy with someone they consider merely their peer (For those protesting, please google “NAWALT”): there is a “standards floor” under which they want nothing to do romantically with a guy, though what the standards themselves vary, and that floor generally equates to “at least my level.” Like Susan Walsh and others, at Chez Happycrow we consider this a description of business as usual, rather than something to be upset about. There are good reasons for men and women to (tend to) see the world of romance differently. High-achieving women by definition tend to find a smaller and smaller pool of men as acceptable mates, thus resulting in some nasty competition. c.f. the New York City dating scene. That’s affecting the behavior of the men being chased, too.
High-achieving Chinese women, breaking the mold on what they can do themselves but still acculturated to marrying up, are not going to want to settle. Like their western peers, they too are going to wind up in the Mommy Wars, trying to determine if they can pursue both high achievement AND sufficient family to keep the human species going. There are definitely high-achieving women who’ve achieved it, and we know a lot of them. But we also know quite a few for whom romance came, if at all, late in the game when children were essentially a non-starter without vast amounts of money and medical expertise.
I don’t know what the solution is — smarter people than us at Chez Happycrow (that’s more or less everybody reading this) have failed to figure it out, but it’s going to be the fundamental reality of the next sixty years. The future belongs to those who show up (which gives the SAHM side of the Mommy Wars a fundamental advantage that feminists dismiss at their ideological peril). There are, however, some ideas worth exploring:
- College kids of moderate achievement have empty wallets but plenty of time on their hands. Having a kid in college (or grad school) may not be the disaster that my generation was told it would be. There are good ways we can change schooling to be far friendlier to family-oriented students while actually boosting academic achievement, too. That would require a total revamp of school to be student-focused rather than faculty-focused, however, and we’ll cover that in a future post.
- Learning to filter aggressively for “keepers” and getting married during your college years might not be a bad idea, either — if you’re not getting hitched until you’re in your 30s, well, by then, most of the guys who are single….are single for good reason. (And this applies doubly to women in their forties, as even a casual perusal of dating sites demonstrates quite clearly).
- Break the traditional hypergamy and decide that it’s okay to date somebody who’s your peer, or even a little bit behind, on the achievement/earnings ladder. Those who are already committed pro-natalists will find that an easy sell… the Betty Friedans and Amanda Marcottes of the world, not so much. That may not be a problem, since by definition the former are going to shape future society, whereas the latter shape only their peers.
- Radically extend lifespan, female fertility, and the degree to which men and women can hold their beauty as they age. Part of the current scene’s problem is that it desperately denies a very old truth: most women “hit the wall” at a certain point, after which their natural beauty (and thus ability to attract mates) declines precipitously and they are generally able to attract only older men. Going onto “the elf plan” with long lifespans and relatively low reproductive rates may not be the best solution, but if we can minimize the amount of care a person needs as he or she ages, then society can grey gracefully rather than with misery. (Plus, this is a goal worth pursuing in and of itself – if you’re starting to “feel your age” and are not familiar with the SENS movement, you should seriously consider giving it a read.)
Either way, if modern societies are going to stave off demographic collapse, something has to got to be done. And that fundamentally means making kids and career materially possible without neglecting either.