Women had a good pandemic the last time around—something actually came of it!—compared with this one, which is total shit. Just over a century ago, the 1918 flu pandemic may have vanquished a decent chunk of the global population, but after witnessing mass death, plus the loss of their children from other preventable diseases like diphtheria and meningitis, women decided to actually do something about it. When (white) American women got the vote two years later, they used their newfound political power to immediately pressure local and federal governments into action, resulting in the largest expansion of public health spending in US history up until that point. It was wildly successful, fueling later large-scale door-to-door household hygiene campaigns and driving an 18 percent decline in childhood infectious diseases, with 20,000 fewer annual deaths compared with pre-suffrage mortality rates. Then, as now, women were overwhelmingly the early adopters of that revolution—washing their hands, boiling milk to kill bacteria, and refrigerating meat—while men generally resisted even the most basic public health directives, much as they’ve resisted wearing masks today. Quite simply: More children lived because politicians actually responded to the flush of new female voters and their demand for less death.
This must sound like a sick joke to the over 3.5 million mothers who’ve watched Covid-19 kill their careers and then West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin cancel any hopes of paid leave or state-subsidized child care. Now, as we’re staring down the complete loss of Roe v. Wade and a new bill in Missouri where the party of life—as long as it’s cis, straight, male, and white—just proposed (and scuttled after a massive outcry) a ban on abortion for nonviable pregnancies, women everywhere are taking shallow breaths. It’s a death cult of motherhood that treats child-rearing as a moral redemption for the sin of womanhood. A compulsory test of character for which there can be no cheating, like accessing modern health care, having a job, or securing affordable day care.
Withholding social infrastructure to push women out of the workforce while making them privately finance raising their children is peak capitalism and pure evil. The only solution is to lean into our exponentially consumer-driven society and deploy a market strategy: Women need to start charging men to have babies.
It’s really very easy. As long as we still have access to hormonal birth control, women can control the means of production as a bargaining position. I know, it’s not as good as having actual rights, but if conservatives are going to complain about falling birth rates, we may as well leverage the demand.
One hero is already leading the way. In a recent viral Reddit post, a 34-year-old man described his 29-year-old partner’s all-business approach to having babies, complete with a 16-page ring binder breaking down the cost-benefit analysis and its impact on her career. The TL;DR is that it sucks. By our anemic American standards, the woman in the Reddit post is lucky because her company offers six months of paid leave at 50 percent of her salary. But considering the immediate income reduction she faces and her likelihood of getting “mommy-tracked” (i.e., following a career path that offers greater flexibility to devote time to child-rearing, at the cost of raises and promotions), she proposed that her partner pay her $50,000 to compensate for the loss in earnings. This was apparently a huge “turn-off” for our author, who at no point suggests that he might take any of the leave, paid or otherwise, offered by his equally well-paying employer. It never occurs to him that his behavior might also be a boner-killer for her, or that her relatively modest proposal doesn’t even begin to make up for the lifetime hit to her finances and career prospects.
But the beauty of her approach is that it doesn’t matter whether he likes it or not. This isn’t your grandmother’s free baby store, where men get to spawn and then carry on with their lives at no cost. Welcome to the future, where men use their “fatherhood bonus”—the documented salary advantage that working fathers receive compared with working mothers and childless men—to pay for the privilege of passing on their genetic material. No more entitlements.
Now, I know it sounds great, but there are some downsides to this plan. As the psychologist Laurie Rudman discovered in her studies of bargaining power in relationships, when women deploy more competitive negotiation tactics, their husbands tend to punish them by withholding emotional labor. Defying conventional gender norms comes with a cost, so be sure to factor it into the price of having the baby. There are, of course, other expenses to consider, such as the hit to your 401(k), the cost of more therapy, etc. Just capitalize it all into the final valuation, and don’t be afraid if it reaches into the millions. You don’t want to lowball yourself like the woman in the Reddit post, who isn’t even charging for all the grief her ungrateful partner is giving her on the Internet. Remember, the goal is to make pregnancy so prohibitively expensive that men might actually insist on a government bailout.
Oh, and once all the baby-making is over: mandatory vasectomies as a condition for sex. By then, Republicans will have fully criminalized birth control—which is itself already a responsibility borne disproportionately by women, who are expected to reroute their reproductive systems to maximize male pleasure. This last part is a long shot, I’ll admit, since relying on men to compromise themselves in any way is a fantasy. But then again so is crypto, and that doesn’t stop them. Maybe the solution is to rebrand our kids as IRL NFTs, then sit back as men fall over each other to “invest.” Sure, they may be disappointed when their Bored Ape turns out to be a crying baby, but at least they’ll have gotten something out of it, which right now is a hell of a lot more than women can say.