Happily child-free: Actress  Eva Mendes.

Happily child-free: Actress Eva Mendes. Photo: Dominique Charriau

Certain women’s brains are too big for their evolutionary boots. Too clever to feel clucky yet not wise enough to see that breeding is their primary function, these women should be pitied for their stupidity and chastised for failing to pass on their smart genes. Or so says Satoshi Kanazawa, an psychologist based at the London School of Economics. 

In an article published earlier this month  in the Daily Mail Kanazawa was reported to have found that a woman's urge to have children decreases by a quarter for every 15 extra IQ points. Based on data from the UK's National Child Development Study, Kanazawa found that the more intelligent the woman, the less likely she was to have children. In his 2012 book The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn't Always the Smart One he made similar claims, concluding from this evidence that ‘intelligent people are the ultimate losers in life’, they are ‘stupid’, ‘lack common sense’ and are committing ‘the greatest crime against nature’.

The UK Guardian’s Sadhbh Walshe wrote an excellent response to the research asking whether we should care. I’d like to go further and give you five reasons why this kind of pseudo-research is more barren than my bookish womb and more arid than all the fruitless femmes of Christendom.

Cameron Diaz: Click for more photos

Happily child-free

Cameron Diaz: ""Having children changes your life drastically, and I really love my life. Children aren't the only things that bring you gratification and happiness, and it's easier to give life than to give love, so I don't know. That kind of change would have to be either very well thought out, or a total mistake — a real oops!" Photo: Steve Granitz

  • Cameron Diaz: ""Having children changes your life drastically, and I really love my life. Children aren't the only things that bring you gratification and happiness, and it's easier to give life than to give love, so I don't know. That kind of change would have to be either very well thought out, or a total mistake — a real oops!"
  • Eva Longoria: 'It's just not in my future.'
  • Oprah Winfrey: "I never had children, never even thought I would have children. Now I have 152 daughters; expecting 75 more next year. That is some type of gestation period!"
  • Actress Kim Cattrall: ""I realized that so much of the pressure I was feeling was from outside sources, and I knew I wasn't ready to take that step into motherhood. Being a biological mother just isn't part of my experience this time around."
  • Renee Zellweger: “Motherhood has never been an ambition."
  • Eva Mendes: "I don't wanna have kids... I love the little suckers; they're so cute, but I love sleep so much and I worry about everything."
  • Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi: ""You have to really want to have kids, and neither of us did. So it’s just going to be me and Ellen and no babies -- but we’re the best of friends and married life is blissful, it really is.”
  • Helen Mirren: "“I just want to be ‘me’. There is something wonderful about knowing I can do what I choose, work commitments notwithstanding, without encumbrance. I always did – and still do – value my freedom too highly.”
  • Chelsea Handler: " I don't want to have kids, and it's not a device to get attention or have conversations about it. I simply find children incredibly immature and, more often than not, dumb.”
  • Kylie Minogue: ""I never had the feeling I was made for a conventional marriage with a house in the suburbs"
  • Julia Gillard never got married and never had children, nor did she ever feel the need to justify these decisions.

1. Women are not just walking wombs

Although this kind of research often begins with words like ‘people’ it doesn’t take long before the primary culprits are identified: women. As Kanazawa says ‘Intelligent people – especially intelligent women – make the worst kinds of parents, simply because they are least likely to be parents.’ In fact, no reporting on his research has questioned the correlation between educational status for men and childbearing urges. Peer through the crosshairs and you’ll see a vacant womb. Why? Because maternity is still seen to be at the core of what it means to be a woman. It’s precisely because it’s so ‘natural’ that we need to ask what psycho-social reason could lie behind a woman’s decision to not reproduce. We usually conclude that these women are materialistic, selfish, decadent, clever and mannish. If childbearing is natural then being child-free is deviant. And if childbearing is natural then we don’t need to see it as work and nor do we need to listen to the women who have realised, after the fact, that they don’t like being mothers. Shut up and multiply!

2. Mothers are not docile lackwits

This kind of research almost seems designed to divide women. Ladies who don’t lactate say the figures show ‘smart women making smart choices’ as Walsh put it, which necessarily implies that if you’ve decided to have kids you’ve made a dumb decision thanks to your low IQ. As I discuss in point 4, Kanazawa’s methodology is flawed. An IQ test is about as flimsy a foundation for research as my own anecdotal experience, which, I might add, suggests that terrifyingly brilliant women do in fact reproduce. Putting childbirth down to irrational evolutionary forces negates the years of reasoned discussions that many couples put in to deciding whether to have children. It’s eugenicist in its suggestion that cognition is a product of good genes and not socio-economic class and it denies the intelligence of multitudes of women through using an outdated method.

3. You can be an adult without experiencing an epidural

Kanazawa sees breeding as marking the difference between cleverness and wisdom or intelligence and common sense. This is a subtle way of saying that childfree women have not socially developed as they should have. You can learn to be clever, but only the passage of time will give you wisdom. In deviating from their evolutionary function, childless women are pathologised as suffering from a kind of arrested development. A perfectly legitimate life choice is diagnosed as severe immaturity. In a world where women’s life paths are mapped out so as to inevitably arrive at motherhood - the pinnacle of feminine achievement - we simply cannot attain adult status without having children in tow. An obvious example here is the suspicion that greeted Gillard’s childlessness.

4. Kanazawa should be fired

IQ tests, according to the largest single study of human cognition, are ‘fundamentally flawed’ and a ‘fallacy’. This is because they fail to take into account the complex interaction of the three main areas of cognition ‘verbal agility, short-term memory and reasoning.’ Poor Kanazawa. There goes the entire foundation for his study. Aside from that, Kanazawa has proven himself over and again to be in scholarly wrongtown. In fact, he’s the mayor of scholarly wrongtown. Being a barren nerd I actually went to his book and read it.  There I found the delightfully homophobic line: ‘More than exclusive homosexuality… voluntary childlessness is the most unnatural thing that any living organism can do.’ Charming! He has also produced a study to suggest that black women are less attractive and was fired for doing so. Why he is still employed at LSE is quite beyond me.

5. Wombs are social creatures

There are abundant reasons why women would choose not to reproduce such as the lack of affordable childcare, an unequal division of labour in the home, inadequate maternity and paternity leave, inflexible work conditions, a rejection of the model of femininity associated with motherhood or a prioritisation of one’s career. There are people out there who would love to have children but can’t afford it and are not so selfish as to put their own desires above that of the welfare of their kids. And then there’s just the plain old fact that not all of us experience the urge to merge then breed. Cameron Diaz loves her life and knows it’s ‘because I don’t have children’, Helen Mirren loves her ‘freedom’ and personally, I relate to Eva Mendes: ‘I just love sleep.’ But even more than sleep I would love it if this infinitely banal question would just go and play hide and not seek… forever.

There are abundant reasons why women would choose not to reproduce such as the lack of affordable childcare, an unequal division of labour in the home, inadequate maternity and paternity leave, inflexible work conditions, a rejection of the model of femininity associated with motherhood or a prioritisation of one’s career. There are people out there who would love to have children but can’t afford it and are not so selfish as to put their own desires above that of the welfare of their kids. And then there’s just the plain old fact that not all of us experience the urge to merge then breed. Cameron Diaz loves her life and knows it’s ‘because I don’t have children’, Helen Mirren loves her ‘freedom’ and personally, I relate to Eva Mendes: ‘I just love sleep.’ But even more than sleep I would love it if this infinitely banal question would just go and play hide and not seek… forever.