It was Immanuel Kant who said that people are not means to an end, they are ends in themselves. In other words, not tools. Not cannon fodder. Not just supporting characters who have to subordinate their needs to the protagonist’s personal arc. And in the case of women (I do not know that Kant would see it this way but I do) not just baby making machines.
By contrast we have the view that the prime duty of women is to serve men. We shouldn’t allow women’s equality because it destroys men. We should redistribute women like we do tax money. Sexist pundit Dennis Prager thinks women’s sexual desire is irrelevant to their duty to put out “Why do we assume that it is terribly irresponsible for a man to refuse to go to work because he is not in the mood, but a woman can — indeed, ought to — refuse sex because she is not in the mood?” Right-winger DC McAlister similar argues that if the man’s horny, the woman’s duty is to make love, whether she wants to or not. If that’s a typical view, small wonder so many conservatives think marital rape should be legal. I have yet to see these misogynists argue the reverse — if she wants it and he doesn’t, he has a duty to finger, tongue or sex-toy her to orgasm. Her wishes are negligible, what matters is that the husband get off. And yet right-wingers argue that it’s premarital sex that objectifies women …
Similarly, there’s the sense that the decision to have babies shouldn’t depend on whether a woman wants one, only on whether society needs one. Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, for instance, declares that a woman’s womb is “OUR WOMB — that’s right, it doesn’t belong to her, it belongs to the males in her society.” He’s speaking specifically about white women having interracial babies but it’s just as applicable in other situations. Claims women have to pop out babies to keep up the population or the white population. Alt.right male supremacist Sacco Vandal, for example, declares “we have to strip females of suffrage and most if not all political, legal, and economic power …Our men need harems, and the members of those harems need to be baby factories.” Similarly white nationalist F. Roger Devlin condemns feminism because it offers women choices other than getting married and breeding more white babies (sorry, too rushed to link to everything).
“When you get a birth rate less than 2 percent, that society is disappearing, and it’s being replaced by folks that come behind them and immigrate, don’t wish to assimilate into that society and they do believe in having children.” — Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley on how we need to ban abortion to keep our native-born (again) population up. Delaware State Rep. Rep. Richard Collins says he opposes abortion because “Our birthrate is way, way below replacement [levels]. You know, we are just not having enough babies.” Pastor Hans Fiene says women and men being friends distracts them from getting married and making babies for America.
Of course this comes from the same wing freaking out that Obamacare makes insurance ob/gyn coverage standard. They don’t simply want women to stay home, barefoot and pregnant, they don’t give a crap that it’s increasingly hard to do, even in a two-parent household. I’ve heard arguments that since college education correlates with smaller families, maybe governments should make college harder to get into. None of these male supremacists ever suggest better legal protection for pregnant workers. Better day care. Better pay. Better parental leave. Laws that ensure the rights of the fetus don’t cancel out the mother’s. It’s always the stick, never the carrot.
There’s no guarantee that if we did offer carrots, women would have more babies. Even countries with much more parent-friendly policies than ours still have low birth rates. But the solution, contrary to Vandal and Devlin, isn’t to take away women’s rights, it’s to figure out alternative paths.
What would it take to keep the economy going if the native-born population dwindles? More immigration would do it, but that’s unthinkable to the right wing these days. What about automation? I’ve heard scary predictions how many jobs will go away over the next twenty years; maybe we actually don’t need as big a population to run the economy. And there must be ways we can finance an effective government with fewer taxpayers.
But the people who fuss about the lack of babies aren’t going to be into any solutions that require not treating women as means to an end. They can’t stomach them being anything else.