Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Special Case Of Parenthood

Last month, Sir Ian McKellen caused a stir by telling an interviewer that “Britain has already had one or two gay Prime Ministers”. Perhaps a catty allusion to Edward Heath's girth? Now Iceland, plunging in all other respects, has appointed the world's first openly gay prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, a former air hostess.

The time has come, perhaps. Some commentators believe that Keynesianism, with its carefree attitude to saddling future generations with debt, could only ever have been propounded by a childless gay man — one who famously said “in the long run we are all dead”. Perhaps in the current climate we need more gay leaders, to shape up to putting millstones around our children's necks for years to come? If so, Sigurdardóttir is no good. Lesbian she may be but with her partner she has three children. Presumably each one of them, like every man, woman and child in Iceland, owes £116,000. - David Sexton Evening Standard 30/01/09

I'm going to ignore the obviously latent homophobia of this short piece of comment (catty indeed) and instead focus on something that has always goaded me; the supposed specialness of parenthood.

It seems almost universally believed, as suggested here by David Sexton, that becoming a parent makes you a better person.

I have two major problems with this:

1) If it takes becoming a parent to make you less selfish and more responsible than that truly is a damning commentary on your moral character as a human being.
2) Given that most people become parents it is fairly self evident that parents are no more likely to be selfless and responsible members of society than those who are childless, through their own choice or otherwise.

Don't get me wrong; I think becoming, and being, a parent should be a wonderful moment in someone's life. But it does not make a bad person good.

Sure some people might be better people as a parent than they were as a childless person. But the same could obviously be said vice versa. That's pretty much how life is, every situation affects everyone differently. Any suggestion that those who are childless are more likely to be selfish and irresponsible than those who are not is naive in the extreme.

I have nothing against parents (I have more than two of my own plus I go out with one) but I do have something against this prejudice against those without children. Given that the world is already over populated perhaps those who are childless should be considered as being rather selfless giving up their quota of children so that the more fecund can have as many kids as they wish (not that there's anything wrong with that).

P.S. Keynes was not a gay man. His last relationship was his reportedly happy marriage to a woman. That makes him bisexual at the very most (and I use that term loosely as one can't really be certain of anyone's sexuality), not that this affects his level of selfishness but it does show how widely ignored bisexuality is throughout the media who seem to prefer to the safe titles of gay and straight. I might be gay but I am constantly surprised at how many folks out there are bisexual. You wouldn't know that from the media. Bisexuals rule.

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