Fertility Shaming: ‘It’s A Vagina, Not A Clown Car’

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Just this week, Will Ferrell announced he’s doing a sequel for Anchorman, a film I love. At the end of Anchorman, they did that thing where they explain where all the characters ended up. The movie, subtitled “The Legend of Ron Burgundy” takes place in the 1970s, so there’s lots to catch up on. We’re told that Brick “I Love Lamp” Tamland, the character played by Steve Carrell, now works for the White House and has 11 children and is actually mentally retarded. This movie came out during the Bush Administration so everyone in my Washington, D.C. crowd laughed hysterically.

It gave me a surreal moment of culture shock. See, I’d just come from a national gathering of my church body. One night we were all drinking beer and learning more about each other and the conversation turned to children. I was still single and childless at the time but many of the people there had children. Some folks were just getting started on their families and only had a couple, three, four children. Others already had a dozen. Literally.

See, in one of the cultures I’m in, large families are considered awesome. You’re not looked down on for being childless or having a smaller family – indeed, my folks only had three children – but large families are considered cool. But in the other culture I’m in – living in Washington, D.C. and enjoying various cultural offerings here – large families are mocked or derided. You only have 11 children if you’re retarded.

It’s not like it’s just a throwaway line in popular movies, either. Perhaps the most common refrain one hears about Michelle Duggar, mother of many, is the phrase “It’s a vagina, not a clown car.” Classy, people!

So what is up with the fertility shaming? It seems so weird that we’re in an era where the slightest hint of criticism of promiscuity is responded to by shouts of “slut shaming!” but that media and culture types go after people who embrace having more than a couple babies.

In fact, the phrases “reproductive rights” or “reproductive health” tend to be euphemisms we employ for fighting against reproduction, avoiding our fertility, and doing whatever it takes to not have kids (or more than one or two of them). It’s almost Orwellian that we use the term “reproductive” mostly when talking about working against the natural reproductive fertility that most of us have.

There was a truly bizarre column in the New York Times built entirely around the fact that each of the candidates for the Republican nomination for president had between two and seven children. The horror! Oh the humanity!

The columnist referred to people having two or more children as “über-fertility.” You know things are scary when you have to bring out the German.

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