Form and Content
In Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility, Germaine Greer, the author of The Female Eunuch, challenges the right of Western industrialized societies to impose fertility control on the rest of the world. Greer considers the social meaning of fertility and sterility, the history of contraception and eugenics, shifts in family and kinship structures, and the development of the concept of a “population explosion” (which she takes to be a figment of the imagination of racists and statisticians). Her long, dense chapters brim with statistics, quotations, anecdotes, and cross-cultural examples, all related in her characteristic witty and impassioned style.
Much of the book is a warning against the ethnocentric projection of the values of one culture onto the people of another. People who live in industrialized consumer economies (where children hamper adult live) value fertility differently from those who live in subsistence cultures (where children provide entertainment, labor, status, security of aging parents, and existential meaning). The industrialized West has too often assumed that its own values (individualism, pleasure, privacy, and the accumulation of consumer goods) are universal. Greer documents many poorly conceived “foreign aid” programs of sterilization and family planning that have been based on the unfounded assumption that everyone in every culture wishes to live in a small nuclear family. She believes that “foreign aid” that is actually...
(The entire section is 616 words.)