Population growth remains a big problem but male patrimony is a major factor often ignored

By Julia G. Kahrl, Ph.D. | 8 July 2019
Church and State

(Credit: Say NO – UNiTE / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I agree that overpopulation must be addressed, but the way Kurt Dahl has done so is abhorrent to me. In his article “The Population Elephant: ‘The Problem’ we choose not to discuss,” he does not address the foundation of what he says supports population growth by ignoring The Problem. He would say that democracy, capitalism and religion are the three factors that allowed a denial of population growth. He may be right, but he does not address the issue of global patriarchy. The version of democracy, capitalism and religion that we experience are all male-dominated, and have resisted equality for women over the millennia. My ire was triggered by the statement:

“But the killer blow for population management advocacy has probably come from the women’s-rights movement. Women have made incredible progress toward equality in this country in just the last forty years. The women’s rights movement is now a large and powerful force. And one of the foundational rights of women, is the right to personally control their own reproductive choices.”

Despite that last sentence, there is a distinctly patriarchal tone to that statement. It seems to blame the women’s movement for lack of progress in reducing population growth. This is reinforced by the statement: “…the paradigm for population management dramatically shifted from ‘population control’ to ‘the empowerment of women’.” It sounds as though the author thinks that control of others is just fine and the empowerment of women is causing “The Problem.” Underscore that statement with “the one-child per female policy.” He fails to address the role that men have maintained over the millennia.

If MEN had not made abortion illegal because the male-dominated medical profession wanted to take over from female midwives in the 19th century; if MEN had allowed women the vote before 1920; if MEN had not excluded women from higher education for many years; if MEN did not dominate most religions, etc., etc. life on this planet might well be very, very different. Admittedly, many women have supported the patriarchal system, so the blame for overpopulation is somewhat shared. Women are the ones who do not want to bear more children, and who would have limited the number of children per female to many fewer a long time ago. After all, women have been the ones who have sought access to abortion over the millennia, not men. Men have held onto their belief that their virility requires that they sire many children.

If you really want to diminish population, don’t just set down a controlling policy as they have done in China (where now there is an excess of males as a result of that policy, a result that has caused other problems), show women respect. Support their rise to positions of leadership, starting with assuring their education. Make certain women have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care including abortion. Support policies which help women to work outside the home, to participate in public life.

It sounds simple to recommend a “one child per female” policy but the pushback and resistance would be enormous. Without violent means of enforcement, (which few of us want) the systems of “democracy, capitalism, and religion” must be transformed so that women are equals. Change will not be sustainable until women have power equal to men.

Why are we not addressing overpopulation? Because the patriarchal system underlies all other systems. The dominant male power continues to resist change. Create a culture where women are equals and much will change. Women would start by addressing overpopulation of their families!

Judy Kahrl initially embarked on a successful career as a preparatory school educator, but her main interest has always been as an active family planning advocate. Working through many family planning organizations, Dr. Kahrl has been closely associated with assisting and visiting numerous international programs conducted by Pathfinder International which her father Clarence Gamble founded in 1956. Several years ago she founded GRR! — Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights — which has gotten a lot of US media coverage in its advocacy for abortion choice and reproductive justice.

The Origin of “Limits to Growth” – Interview with Dennis Meadows

Vatican control of World Health Organization population policy: An interview with Milton P. Siegel

Catholic Church – Unethical Obstruction of Family Planning

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