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Why Is Reproduction Still Regarded as the Sole Responsibility of Women?

23/08/2013 09:44 BST | Updated 19/10/2013 10:12 BST

The results of a recent study by the London School of Economics psychologist, Satoshi Kanazawa, posits that women who don't have kids are going against the most basic value of all species, namely procreation.

In his study Kanazawa found that women with higher IQ's were less likely to have children and he wondered why this was so. He reasoned that surely smart women must understand the importance of maintaining the human race.

"If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success. If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness. All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce. Reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence."

At first glance Kanazawa may appear to have biological logic on his side but closer inspection reveals that his language is inflammatory. He's suggesting that 'voluntary childlessness' is 'truly unnatural' and that as humans are 'designed to reproduce,' if they don't, they have failed in their main purpose in life.

Pronatalists used to refer to the reproduction process as an instinct but Kanazawa doesn't. He calls it a 'value.' That's because as a society we've grown up and today life is all about choice. People don't feel obliged to follow set paths the way that previous generations did.

Also, according to Laura Carroll's book, The Baby Matrix, Abraham Maslow did some research in the 1980s, which proved that humans are not slaves to their instincts the way that animals are.

He found that because people have the ability to ignore their instincts, as in "I'm hungry but I'll eat later because I'm busy right now," these urges are not instincts, they're behaviours. Maslow stated that, "humans no longer have instincts because we have the ability to override them in certain situations."

Likewise, if biological values were fixed, everyone would have the same number of children at the same age. A little research into demographics shows that the very opposite is true. In the 1930s, 20 percent of women had no children; in 1970, 12 percent of women were childless and more recently the figure is back up to 20 percent.

And just in case you're thinking that fluctuations in birth-rate are exclusive to modern society, according to Carroll, in Roman times Caesar Augustus instated laws that rewarded couples for having kids and penalised those that didn't in order to boost rates of childbirth. He did this because birth rates were falling.

But perhaps what's most disturbing about Kanazawa's research is that he views women as guinea pigs and despite the higher intelligence of the particular guinea pigs he's researching, he rates their success on one life choice alone: whether or not they have kids.

These women are educated, have high-paying jobs and lifestyles that they've worked hard to earn and yet Kanazawa draws the conclusion that they're failures. In his report, he goes on to say that these women are doing society a disservice because they're denying future generations their intelligent offspring.

In short, not only are these women failing themselves, they're failing the whole of society. So, no pressure then.

It's impossible to read his conclusions as anything other than a last ditch attempt to guilt-trip women into biting the biological bullet because if someone spoke to a man that way, he'd tell them where to shove their values.

But here's the really baffling question. Why is this research only being carried out on women and not also men? Yes, lots of women today do opt to have IVF even if they're not in relationships, but having children is still regarded as the preserve of couples i.e. a man and a woman.

There are plenty of men out there who don't want children and never intend to have children and no one questions why or why not? Case in point, Simon Cowell, who hit the headlines recently not because he's promoting a new band but because his got his lover pregnant.

Has Mr. X-Factor finally seen the error of his ways, realised that all his millions, his harem and his yacht are worthless without the whiff of a dirty nappy? Did the creator of One Direction wake up one morning and not realising his IQ was down, unwittingly create a child?

Of course such a suggestion is ridiculous in the same way that suggesting that intelligent women who elect not to have kids are going against the natural order.

But the real problem is that reproduction is still viewed as the sole responsibility of women. It's an old argument but it begs the question how different would society be if men had kids? Would we have longer-term paid maternity/paternity leave, better childcare facilities and more flexible working hours?

The flaw in this research is not just that it's insulting to intelligent women but that it also ignores one half of the population and alleviates them of their reproduction responsibility. As the song goes, 'it takes two baby.'