The Watch Of Career Women Is Ticking: How Women Around The World Were Forced To Give Birth

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The Watch Of Career Women Is Ticking: How Women Around The World Were Forced To Give Birth
The Watch Of Career Women Is Ticking: How Women Around The World Were Forced To Give Birth
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Pronatalism - or natalism - is politicsencouraging childbirth. Since scientists from different countries realized that through propaganda, bans and rewards, demographics could be influenced, politicians began to use all available means to increase fertility. We will tell you when it started, why pronatalism is needed and how it can limit human freedom.


Yulia Dudkina

Who invented baby boxes

For a long time, childbirth seemed to be something natural - it was encouraged, but no one believed that the state or scientists could control it. Since ancient times, in many cultures, women have been expected to be fertile; different countries have had their own customs and rituals, supposedly helping childbirth. In patriarchal societies, motherhood was considered the destiny of women, but the course towards childbearing, nevertheless, existed at the level of society, not the state. Politicians and academics did not particularly interfere in these matters. Everything began to change in the 18th century, when sociology and demography reached a new level. Scientists began to hypothesize that the birth rate could be regulated through laws and propaganda. The politicians understood that with the help of science it is possible to increase the "human resource".

Peter I was the first to try to influence the demography in Russia by organizing birth and death registration. It turned out that peasant women often got rid of unwanted babies: they threw them out or killed them. Usually this happened with illegitimate children - that is, those who appeared outside of marriage. So, in 1715, Peter I issued a decree: "To choose skillful wives to preserve shameful babies, whom wives and girls give birth illegally …" ". That is, in other words, the emperor established orphanages and came up with the first baby boxes in Russia - places where you can secretly hand over a child to the care of the state.

In today's Russia, baby boxes are a subject of constant controversy. Often, zealots of family traditions oppose them. Elena Mizulina - chairwoman of the State Duma committee on family, women and children - believes that these devices can "provoke mothers to abandon their children." So, although today baby boxes cannot be called part of the pro-natalist policy of the state, in Peter's times they became a step towards improving the demographic situation.

Since then, political leaders in Russia and Europe began to think more and more about the population of their countries. However, a commendable initiative inevitably turned into problems: human life, a woman's body and children began to be perceived primarily as a resource that was necessary to achieve goals, but had no meaning in itself.


The purpose of marriage is procreation

In the 19th century, population census began to be regularly carried out in different countries. Sociologists and demographers not only monitored births and deaths, but also made long-term forecasts by tracking trends. The first country to seriously embark on a course towards pronatalism was France. In 1854-1855, the census showed that the number of deaths exceeded the number of births. In 1870-1871, the Franco-Prussian War took place, and the situation got worse. Officials were afraid that the number of residents would be greatly reduced and the country would not be able to compete with Germany in military matters. So in 1900, an extra-parliamentary commission on depopulation was established - it proclaimed that "the development, prosperity and greatness of France" depends on the birth rate.

After the First World War, other European countries also began to think about demography. Between the two world conflicts, population size became a resource for politicians on which the territory's defense forces depended.“In the face of competition and conflict between states, Britain can defend its ideals only by having enough people. Today, we are losing most of our population even before it is born or grows up,”said the British politician Herbert Samuel. Similar sentiments were in Germany. In 1917, the General Staff adopted a memorandum, which stated: “The decline in the birth rate began in 1876, and from the beginning of the 20th century it began to grow at an alarming rate. If we do not immediately put an end to this evil, Germany's position in the world will soon become precarious. The basis of the state is the family; the state depends on the number of marriages and their fertility. The main purpose of marriage is procreation."

In France, contraceptive advertising was banned in 1920, and three years later the legislation was tightened again -

and women who terminate pregnancy, and their doctors were threatened with prison terms

At the same time, social Darwinian ideas spread rapidly in Europe - as if nations and ethnic groups should compete with each other, fighting for survival. An active propaganda of childbearing began. “The right to have an empire belongs to those people who multiply and multiply, those who have the will to increase their race on the face of the earth,” said Italian leader Benito Mussolini.

In addition to promoting motherhood, European countries have taken on tough prohibitive measures. In Germany, abortion became illegal as early as 1872, and during the First World War, advertising of contraceptives was banned. In France, contraceptive advertising was banned in 1920, and three years later, the legislation was again tightened - now both women who terminate pregnancy and their doctors were threatened with prison terms. In Italy, in 1931, a law was introduced according to which the punishment for abortion could be from two to five years in prison.

In addition to propaganda and bans, European countries began to come up with support programs for families with children, and, on the contrary, punish childless people with money. In 1920, the French government raised the income tax by 25% for people over 30 who were not married, and by 10% for couples who had been married for more than ten years but never had children. Mussolini introduced a "bachelor tax" in 1927 - it had to be paid by unmarried men over twenty-five years of age.

Suicide of the nation

Around the same time, pronatalism as part of government policy began to emerge in the United States. The states have long been considered a puritanical state, where the church strongly influenced public sentiment. As women all over the world began to fight for their rights, demanding higher education and a place in science, Dr. Edward Clarke of Harvard published Gender and Education. There he stated: “Girls attending college have bigger and heavier brains. Thus, the blood rushes to the brain and flows from the uterus, as a result of which the woman may become infertile. " The entire first edition was bought up in a week, and later the book was reissued sixteen more times.

In the 20th century, American President Theodore Roosevelt began in his speeches to blame American women for giving birth to "not enough children." He declared: so many migrants come to American soil that soon there will be more of them than the "Americans" themselves. “The main blessing for any nation is to leave its seed so that there is someone to transfer the land to,” he said. "The main curse is sterility, and the greatest condemnation should be those who deliberately lose the fruit." In 1905, Roosevelt declared that families with fewer than two children were contributing to "the suicide of the nation."

American politicians and officials, like European ones, at the beginning of the 20th century were carried away by the pseudoscience of eugenics. They suggested that it was possible to "improve the human race" by encouraging fertility among "healthy" families.Many states have held Best Kids and Best Families contests at agricultural fairs since 1908. The sponsor was the Red Cross and the judges were doctors.

Participants provided a detailed family history, it should not contain hereditary diseases, alcoholism, mental disorders. Doctors tested the contestants for syphilis, examined their teeth, and conducted psychological tests. The contests were very popular: they were given medals and cups for winning, and for low-income families it was an opportunity to undergo a free medical examination. At the same time, they fulfilled their goals: such contests were conceived as propaganda of “correct”, “beautiful” families and were supposed to encourage “healthy” childbearing.

After World War II, the fashion for eugenics and the idea of ​​"race competition" faded away. By the 60s, American women had access to emergency contraception; in the 70s, more and more American women began to abandon marriage and childbearing in favor of a career. Pronatalism at the state level was suspended for some time, but the idea did not disappear from the public consciousness. For example, in 1978, The Washington Post published a famous article entitled "The Watch of Career Women Is Ticking." It was after this that the "ticking clock" became a metaphor known all over the world. The author - by the way, a man - portrayed a woman whose “biological clock” is ticking so loudly that you can hear it all around.


She is a mother, she will give birth

In the USSR, for a long time, the authorities did not worry about the birth rate: in the 1920s, its level was about the same as before the First World War. But then collectivization and industrialization began. Economist and statistician Stanislav Strumilin noted that, when moving to cities, families give birth to fewer children. It also turned out that the wealthier social strata of the population prefer to use contraception or have abortions. The lowest birth rate began to be observed among Soviet office workers and workers. In 1928, in the USSR, it was 42.2 births per thousand people, and by 1932 it had dropped to 31 births per thousand people.

The Soviet leaders decided: it was time to take matters of childbirth and family into their own hands. “In our life there can be no gap between the personal and the public,” wrote Aron Solts, a member of the Central Control Commission of the RCP in 1936. - We even have such seemingly intimate issues as family, as the birth of children, from personal to public. Soviet woman is not exempt from that great and honorable duty that nature has endowed her with: she is a mother, she will give birth. And this, undoubtedly, is not only her business - this is a matter of great public importance. " Now childbirth was no longer a personal matter for every woman. Being a mother meant taking part in a large Soviet construction project. The leaders insisted: children should be born and cherished "as builders of a new, wonderful working life, as spiritually and physically strong citizens, fighters for the ideals of socialism and humanity."

Abortion in the USSR was allowed since the 1920s - they were done in hospitals for free - and any contraceptive was also allowed. However, as the government took a course to increase the birth rate, the mood changed. In the 1930s, no funds were allocated for the production of contraceptives, and in 1936, all contraceptives that were still in stores were ordered to be removed from sale. In 1936, the government issued a decree: now abortions were allowed only for medical reasons - in the case of a hereditary disease or a threat to a woman's life. "Abortion is not only harmful to a woman's health, but is a serious social evil, the fight against which is the duty of every conscientious citizen, and above all of medical workers," the decree said.

Being a mother meant taking part

in a large Soviet construction site. The leaders insisted: children should be born and cherished "as builders of a new, wonderful life"

Doctor Alexander Gofshtein in his article "Rationalization of motherhood" wrote that pregnancy can be "productive" and "unproductive" - ​​depending on whether it leads to the birth of a child. He also calculated that "optimal productivity" is obtained when a woman gives birth to three children four years apart. More frequent pregnancies, according to Gofshtein, could lead to "deterioration of the mother's body" and "loss of the general useful labor of women for the collective."

Along with motherhood, the Soviet authorities began to actively promote marriage, sexual abstinence and protection from STDs. In 1936, the government made divorce more difficult. Previously, spouses could easily disperse at the request of one of them and pay a fine of 3 rubles, but now it has become a complex bureaucratic procedure, the fine for which has grown to 50 rubles. If in the 1920s the family was called a bourgeois relic, now politicians, fearing for demography, have changed their minds. The People's Commissariat for Health issued tens of millions of brochures and posters about sexually transmitted diseases.

A special kind of art appeared - staging courts, or "sanitary courts". These were mock trials where "sexual promiscuity" was exposed. The performances were held in workers' clubs. Among the heroes were usually: a pregnant woman, a young mother, a worker. Some of the characters must have had a "licentious" sex life and suffered from STDs. A popular story is the trial of a woman who had an abortion. As a rule, she was accused of being guided by selfish considerations and violating her duty to Soviet society.

Another well-known plot is "The Trial of the Pro ***." This performance began to be shown in the 1920s. The accused - a woman by the name of Zaborova - provided sexual services for money and infected the Red Army soldier Krestyaninov with an infection. Zaborova's defender explained to the audience: it was not she herself who was to blame, but the capitalist system. Zaborova is a young mother who took such a step for the sake of her baby. “At the age of seventeen, helpless, abandoned by everyone, she stopped at the crossroads of two roads: to go along one - to destroy herself, but to save the child, on the other - to save herself, to destroy the child. And she, the mother, did not think long, did not choose, of course, to save her child, to save her at any cost, even if she needed to destroy herself … She gave the child to the village and went to earn bread herself. With the money earned by her body, she fed the child,”said the defender. In the end, all charges were dropped from Zaborova. An infected Red Army soldier Krestyaninov was found guilty for using the services of Zaborova.

In the reports of the People's Commissariat, thousands of cases of illegal abortions were listed.

Often clandestine operations were carried out

in unsanitary conditions and brought

to the death of mothers

In the years when the play was just beginning to be shown, the policy regarding sex work was sparing - it was decriminalized, and any woman forced to do it could turn to a special center, receive additional education and help from the state in order to find a case in the future. to your liking. But in the 1930s, the agenda changed and women began to be sent to camps.

In addition to setting ships, the "sanitary and educational poster" became an important part of the propaganda. For example, in 1923, the artist A. Komarov released a series of posters “Meeting of Children”. Babies walked to them with banners: "Give us breast milk", "We demand mother's breast", "Down with social diseases: syphilis, tuberculosis and alcoholism." As in the time of Peter I, in the early Soviet years, infant mortality was mainly associated with the lack of education of the population. So many of the posters urged mothers to refer to "midwives, not midwives."

However, the campaign did not lead to noticeable results. By 1936, the People's Commissariat reported thousands of cases of illegal abortions.Often, clandestine operations were carried out in unsanitary conditions and resulted in the death of women. Mothers who received payments for the birth of children promised to “give birth again,” but in practice the statistics remained disappointing. In 1937, 356 thousand abortions were performed in hospitals, and in 1938 - 417 600. 10% of them were legal operations related to health conditions. The rest are “finishing up” unsuccessful criminal abortions. Fertility rates increased for some time, but after 1938 they began to decline. In 1937, it turned out that many children did not go to school because mothers had no money to buy clothes and shoes for them. Soviet pronatalism has failed.

Age of childbirth

One of the main properties of pronatalist politics is state intervention in a person's private life, an attempt to influence the choice that concerns a woman and her body. Natalya Pecherskaya, PhD in Philosophy, Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology at the Higher School of Economics, in Russia, the course towards pronatalism has noticeably intensified since 2006. Then Vladimir Putin, in his message to the Federal Assembly, called increasing the birth rate a priority. He said this would ensure the country's national security and "people's preservation."

In 2012, he returned to the same topic: “If a nation is not able to preserve and reproduce itself, if it loses its life orientations and ideals, it does not need an external enemy either. Everything will fall apart on its own. For Russia to be sovereign and strong, there must be more of us and we must be better in morality."

Today the Concept of State Family Policy is in force in Russia. It is aimed at "increasing the authority of parenting" and "affirming traditional family values." Almost a hundred years have passed since the Soviet Union banned advertising of contraception and limited access to abortion. The course of history shows that when the authorities of any state take a course towards pronatalism, this does not bring noticeable results. Nevertheless, today this topic has begun to rise again: the Russian Orthodox Church and members of the State Duma regularly propose to remove abortion from the compulsory medical insurance system, and officials urge women to abandon education in favor of childbearing.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)


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