Fertility and the French
The West can be a bit patronizing to other parts of the world. This attitude was on full display when French president Emmanuel Macron declared, “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.'”
He could not have known what he was getting into.
Thanks to Catherine Pakaluk, a professor of social research and economic thought at The Catholic University of America, certain regions of the Twittersphere exploded with posts bearing the #PostcardsforMacron hashtag, most of them pictures of beautiful families with more than a few children.
As one woman put it: “Macron said that educated women never actually desire a lot of kids. #PostcardsforMacron is an effort to show him he shouldn’t try to speak on behalf of educated women, and to demonstrate that many children can be a choice and a blessing.”
Christopher Scalia, one of the sons of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, paid tribute to his mother, Maureen: “BA in English from Radcliffe. Nine children. 39 grandchildren. Two great-grandchildren.” Because this is social media, Scalia took some criticism for celebrating his mother!
Pakaluk included a photo of herself in academic robes with her eight children. She has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.
Erika Bachiochi is a legal scholar and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. An author, she has degrees from Boston College and Boston University and has been a visiting scholar at Harvard. She has a 7-week-old baby she and her husband recently added to their family of six children.
“Postcards for Macron has been so inspiring!” she explains. “I have especially loved showing the pictures of families to my own teenage girls. We are grateful to enjoy a community with many large families here in Massachusetts, but to see other families like ours from around the globe has inspired us all.”
“My wish for President Macron, and Bill and Melinda Gates at whose conference he was speaking,” she says, “is that they understand the great good that a large family can bring to that family’s children, their parents, and the world. A ‘proper education’ is one that involves and requires virtues of self-discipline, patience, and generosity for the good of others. Big families quite naturally inculcate these virtues, by necessity.”
A Passport to Joy
Dr. Grazie Christie, a radiologist from Miami, posted a picture of her daughter from China with the declaration: “I’m a fifth child and my mother is very educated!”
Catching her after she participated in a recent March for Life press conference in Washington, D.C., she told me: “I responded because it seems very obvious to me that children are good things. To know this in one’s bones is like having a passport to joy. It implies optimism, acceptance, flexibility, detachment from the cruel demands of the self. … As an educated woman, I’m stupefied by Macron connecting that state to a disdain for children.”
Not everyone who participated in #PostcardsforMacron has multiple children. “Just defended my doctoral dissertation with my 8-month-old cheering me on!” Julia M. Dezelski posted, with the addendum: “Oh yes, and I plan to have many more, God willing …”
“As a new mother and professional who aspires to contribute to society in a meaningful way, it was important to send a clear message that women — in many different capacities — are building society with their families first and secondly their careers,” Dezelski says.
“I hope that leaders in the West realize that to undermine the family is to undermine the people they serve,” she asserts. “This is a universal truth that transcends socio-political and cultural differences between continents and nations. The service of women — and men — who raise healthy families is a civic service that political leaders would do well to promote and support in every way.”
Not everyone can or will want to have seven or eight or nine children, but the president of France ought to consider that for some, it is not only doable, but a joy. Work on fixing poverty, not fertility. Help us be more fruitful, not less. And don’t dis some of the most wise and dynamic among us.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at email@example.com.