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I can’t say I’ve retained much of my freshman-year biology class. (The sciences and I established mutual dislike circa an ill-fated meteorology project in the third grade.) But this fact, I recall: humans are designed for procreation. Deep down within each of us is a supposedly shared instinct that impels us to have babies! Produce offspring! Populate the earth! “It’s survival,” my ninth-grade teacher said simply.
At the time, the assertion was one I accepted without question. After all, haven’t I always planned to have a brood of my own someday? Like Blake Lively before me, I’d like someone to inherit my shoes. Of course, not everyone adheres to this so-called “natural” law. I know plenty of people who neither have children nor want any, and, so far, the earth seems to be spinning along just fine without their reproductive activity. But while the fate of a recently acquired pair of Brian Atwood pumps drives my will to breed, more empirically oriented individuals want to understand why some—particularly women—choose not to procreate.
The latest expert to weigh in? That would be controversial evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa. In The Intelligent Paradox, Kanazawa writes that for every 15 additional IQ points over the UK’s national average, a woman’s desire to have children decreases by 25 percent. Basically, there’s a direct correlation between a woman’s intelligence and whether or not she decides to be a mother. Evolutionarily speaking, this is very worrisome news. Broadly speaking, it’s kind of offensive.
Recently, the Washington Post asked leading authorities to weigh in on Kanazawa’s research. Pamela Smock, a professor affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center, said that her students “do not want to believe this is true. But it is.” As more and more women enter only nominally “family-friendly” workplaces, “something’s got to give, and for many highly successful women it is children.” On the other hand, Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at Concerned Women for America offered a more measured take: “I could list very quickly a handful of genius IQ women that I know personally—some are wonderful mothers and some are awful ones. I seriously doubt the results of this study.”
But whether Kanazawa’s findings are spot on or way off the mark, there’s no doubt that his provocative conclusions make for inflammatory conversation. Have our priorities changed? Are our parents still begging for grandchildren or have their concerns shifted as well?
Were I a betting (wo)man, I’d wager most of us feel that whether or not a woman wants to change diapers is her prerogative. But there’s a nagging detail complicating what I assume to be our collective, 21st-century-hewn stance. We’re total hypocrites. Even as we profess modernity and alterative living and personal satisfaction, don’t many of us continue to obsess about the ticking biological clocks of, say, Cameron Diaz and Carrie Bradshaw and, of course, Jennifer Aniston? Do we still count children as a measure of “true” female success? Just this week, Aniston weighed in on the subject when a particularly form-fitting dress fueled speculation that she and fiancé Justin Theroux are expecting. (They aren’t.) Moreover, the actress told Good Morning America that baby-related questions are the ones she dreads most.
It seems intelligent, ambitious women may not be having babies, but that hasn’t stopped us from fixating on others’ procreative efforts. Why do we care so much about the contents of Jen’s uterus? Who the hell do we think we are, anyway? Rick Perry?
Let’s talk about it.
Written by Mattie Kahn. Photographed Charlotte Olympia heels, available here.