Antinatalism and Marginalized Groups

Submitted by DaisyDisaster in Philosophy

(I posted this on Mastodon first but I think I can get some more thorough replies here due to the lack of a character limit.)

Due to a post on r/antinatalism, I've been thinking lately on the ways antinatalism can be problematic. The community can be pretty ableist, for example, suggesting that disabled peoples' lives aren't worth living. It argues nobody should be born, but people with disabilities and chronic illnesses always come up as an example of why people should not procreate.

 I think this is pretty shitty reasoning in the first place, as you can't decide for another person whether their lives are worth living or not. It's never come up in a conversation I've seen, but I wonder if this line of reasoning also applies to other marginalized people and the working class as well. For example, a rich person will have more resources to ensure the success of their child than a working class person, and so that pressure to not procreate may fall more in the working class person. It may be similar for for white people vs POC due to the disproportionate violence and poverty POC endure.

My reason for being an antinatalist is that all life comes with risks and you shouldn't force that risk on a potential person who, by its nature, can't consent, but I wonder if the whole idea of antinatalism is flawed due to the previous considerations. If it is an idea that is inherently ableist and puts an unequal pressure on the marginalized, I'm not sure I could remain an antinatalist.


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Ant wrote

Insofar as it does do those racist, ableist and tone-deaf colonial things it's a dogshit idea

most antinatalism is based in utilitarianism, which is also a dogshit idea

Benatar's negative utilitarianism is the kind of shit you use to justify eugenics in the poorest most war-torn parts of the colonised world
you could write a book about how dodgy his ways of thinking are

so utilitarianism especially so, along with all normative ethics

that all said, it's pretty hard to justify having kids in this collapsing disaster of a socioeconomic system regardless of how you do your ethics


DaisyDisaster wrote

I'll have to read up more on utilitarianism. I didn't come to antinatalism through any thorough study of philosophy. It was more through a question I asked myself while in a depressive episode of whether I would have chosen to be born or not if I had had the opportunity to have a choice, and coming to the conclusion that the risk of having depression in the first place was kind of forced on me by my parents giving birth to me, which might be some internalized ableism on my part. I only found out this position even had a name months later, when I found the subreddit. It's more an issue of the impossibility of consent for me than strictly reducing suffering.

Thank you for your thoughts!


sand wrote

dang, me too. didn't think about that internalized ableism aspect. thanks


sand wrote

to emphasize a point in Ant's post,

normative ethics are shit. they invariably end up justifying stuff people situationally reject. subscribing to -isms generally means you're gonna end up following its guidelines in a super inappropriate situation and causing harm to your self and others


red_pepper wrote

One thing antinatalism misses is how our material conditions influence our decision to have children. As you said, the working class is pressured to not have children - but that's only in post-industrial nations. In industrializing nations which have yet to implement safety nets, children are people's only retirement plan. What is someone supposed to do if they get injured or sick or too old to work, and they don't have children to take care of them?


DaisyDisaster wrote

I think it depends on what you mean by "misses" because many antinatalists realize people have children for that reason, they just don't agree that that's a good justification for having them. I'm not sure most of them would understand what being in that position is like, though.

One of the things that I've noticed about the conversations between antinatalists I've witnessed is that they don't really discuss what should happen to the sick, injured, and those that can't work who don't have children. There's a lot of energy put towards defending their position as antinatalists but not much on how we take care of people who can't be 100% independent. I think it's acknowledged that if their position won out, that there would be more suffering as humanity dwindled out, but there's not much discussion on how to lessen that suffering, ironically. It's just assumed that suffering would be less overall than the suffering that would continue if humanity lived on.

After some thought about this, I feel like I am moving away from the idea.