Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Today Show Still Doesn't Get It



Well, looks like The Today Show is at it again - pedaling their pronatalist viewpoints. This time, Matt Lauer is giving the third degree to a young man, Toby Byrum, who has formalized his decision not to have children by having a vasectomy.

Watch Matt throw some of the tired old "bingoes" out to the happily childfree guy: "What about passing on your last name?" "What if you change your mind?" "Did you bank sperm as an escape hatch?" (the assumption, of course, being that Toby surely doesn't know his own mind and that his decision is a questionable one).

Of course, The Today Show wouldn't be The Today Show without an "expert" therapist chiming in with advice and warnings for the poor, confused souls who may be considering such a dubious life choice - insultingly suggesting they receive therapy to uproot the causes of their desire to not have children. Could it be anxiety? Baggage or emotional wounds from childhood? Suggesting, of course, that the young man's choice is pathological and we need to make sure he really knows his mind and is making his decision for sound reasons and not because he's psychologically fucked up.

What I would like to see - just once - are prospective PARENTS given the same third degree as happily childfree folks. When is somebody going to question the prospective PARENT about his reasons for wanting kids? When is somebody going to ask him if he has really thought his decision through carefully, and whether he has really considered all the ramifications of his life-altering decision? When is somebody going to question his potential regrets and what "escape hatches" he might employ if he later discovers he made the wrong choice and hates being a parent? After all, unlike a childfree person who can always adopt or become a foster parent down the road if he changes his mind, parenthood is irreversible, not to mention the fact that plenty of people are not happy being parents (although parenthood-glorifying venues like The Today Show would love us to believe otherwise). In fact, The Today Show itself has run more than one spot on research showing parents are less happy and have lower levels of marital satisfaction than the childfree and yet they continue to put well-adjusted, intelligent people like Toby Byrum on the defensive for an obviously well-thought out decision that brings fulfillment and happiness to his life.

To his credit, Toby handled himself GREAT - and as a fellow happily childfree person - he makes me proud for the way he represented the childfree so intelligently and thoughtfully on that silly show. Thankfully he steered completely clear of the self-depricating and apologetic statements we've come to expect from childfree folks on the hot seat ("I'm too selfish to have kids", "I wouldn't make a good parent", "I admire people who have kids - parenthood is the best job in the world - I am just not cut out for it").

AND once again, The Today Show has disappointed me with their narrow-minded lack of imagination when it comes to any life choice outside that espoused by their target middle-American mommy homemaker audience.

27 comments:

Hilary said...

Ugh! And of course, the Today Show would NEVER interrogate a man or woman going through invasive fertility treatments, but a little snip--preposterous.

Christy said...

On the one hand, I'm sorry to say, but I am happy this finally happened to a man. Now, FINALLY, maybe, we will be taken seriously, as sad as I am to admit that that is what it takes...

Otoh, while it was not the popular, socially acceptable thing to do, while one of my friends was pregnant, I cornered her. I asked her EVERYTHING, from how she would feel about the change in her body, to angry, unruly, promiscuous, expensive teens, to her "baby daddy" seeing other women and introducing said women to her future child. Finally, she broke down from my questions, and said in a weepy voice, "All I know is I'm all alone...and I'm miserable!!!"

She had the child anyway, and despite what she says: yes, it was planned.

I'm just not sure that questioning somebody about why they want kids would have the effect that most of us would expect. Most of these people are in an unfathomable amount of denial. I think potential parents would still answer those questions in self-serving ways.

Margie said...

Awesome blog! Toby was very informative and really explained the points that CF try to hit home. Thanks for posting this and linking the segment!

OctoberSkye24 said...

"You are the last male in your family..." Well, I highly doubt that he's the last Byrum in the entire world, and even if so, it is not his responsibility to make a freaking name linger on a little while longer. I still can't believe that people are so vain that "legacy" is even an issue. And that bit about considering therapy made me boil.

Toby handled himself VERY well. Great job on his part, BOO to The Today Show.

CFVixen said...

Watching that made me CRINGE! I completely agree with you: why is this man being interrogated for NOT wanting children? Why don't we interrogate those who DO since they are bringing another human life into the world without much thought about the impact on their lives or the community and world as a whole? Isn't that the larger impact? UGH!!

Tilley's Mum said...

Yeah this made my blood boil too. I am so glad Toby didn't back down.

I love how they HAD to mention that he still likes children. And what if he didn't? Were they so afraid to offend all the stay-at-home moms?

Kudos to Toby for representing us well.

lauracarroll said...

Hi there, Had to post on this myself as well beyond blurb on fb-The positive: the topic made network tv; the negative: go a long way to go to having this choice presented less in terms of it consequences and more on how it's one big decision we make among many re what we want in life and how we want to live it.
Laura
La Vie Childfree,
http://lauracarroll.com

Dave said...

I saw this clip over on Laura Carroll's (she is a frequent commenter here, as I am on her blog) childfree blog. My reaction to it was the same as yours - I was offended by the bingos and how Toby's to be chidfree was portrayed as abnormal.

Besides wanting to see the choice to become parents being grilled the same way Toby's choice to be childfree, I want to see a childfree person boast about all the positive things he will achieve by being chilfree as well as all the negative things the childfree will avoid by being childfree.

I agree that Toby held up well in the piece, including his remark that he doesn't hate children, a common stereotype of the childfree.

Amy Guskin said...

Mandy, they really need to have *you* as a guest on the Today Show to set them straight!

Childfreeeee said...

Dave - you know what? The media don't want to HEAR about how childfreedom makes us happy and all the great things about it. I was once interviewed for a local news program about childfreedom and they edited out all my positive comments about childfreedom and instead, the final product contained the usual bingo questions and answers. They like the "controversy".

J said...

Good for Toby handling himself so well.

While it'd be great to see parents grilled about their decision in a similar way, I don't think the Today Show is a likely candidate to host it. The show runs from what, 7-11 AM? Most of us are off to work by that time so I'm guessing SAHMs are one of their top viewer demographics. You don't tell one of your top viewer groups they might have made a poor life choice if you want them to keep watching.

Spectra said...

Good for you, Toby! He definitely handled himself well in that interview, despite the rude comments. Passing down the family name is sort of an antiquated concept, IMHO. What happens in families like mine where the girls got married (me and my sis) and changed our last name and my brother never wants kids? Guess our family name will die out. Oh well. I'd rather my family name die out than force myself to have kids just because it's an obligation to society.

redwings19 said...

I am going to go the other way. Sure, we all want to see the tables turned but all agree it won’t happen. So I am going to walk away with a positive for “the other side” and try and be a glass-half-full person.
Good for TODAY for finding a way to present the topic to their audience, and with such a great guest! Toby was a perfect guest to have on as he was intelligent, articulate and spoke to a growing trend of not wanting children. While the topic “has to” be presented as an “OMG” piece to their major audience (SAHM), it was done in an intelligent manner.
Sure, the interview could have been done in a much less offending manner. But I believe that can be chalked up to knowing your audience. And if you add the smart guest to the equation, it is a spin on just what we have been asking for: an intelligent piece that shows a smart ChildFree Person who is not pandering and self-depreciating, who is leading a full life.

(OK, I’m done stretching for an upside now….  )

ElizabethR1533 said...

Could that show have been any more patronising?

Clare said...

Bravo Toby, and bravo to any other young man honest enough with himself to make this decision!

TLO said...

The HILARIOUS bit is when Laura Berman suggests that, given time and therapy, Toby will change his mind. Wow. So apparently now I'm not only child-free, but also deeply damaged and require therapy to "cure" my lack of desire to want kids. It's all so clear now!!!

Hannah78 said...

"What I would like to see - just once - are prospective PARENTS given the same third degree as happily childfree folks."

YES! Amen to that! I couldn't agree more! Having children has a much bigger impact on your life and the rest of the world then not having children and that is not always a good thing.

Childfree people need to be celebrated as independent thinkers. Not treated as freaks!

lauracarroll said...

I get all they ways we can ugh! when watching this segment, but like redwings19, can find a positive or two...the topic did make network television, Toby presented himself well and as a normal guy--at least they did not have someone who appeared a bit wacko, etc. It seems they have to ask the bingos as these Are the questions people who are not hip to the cf thing will ask--let's face it--it is still not a popular choice. So doing a segment like it is a sign of moving in the right direction..I for one am motivated to get more of the positives out there on media like that~Laura

flamencokitty said...

To add another positive, glad they interviewed a cutie. ;) Well, he's cute to me, anyway. Maybe make the SAHM viewers a little jealous ("Oh, why won't he pass on his genes to MY kids?"). Ha ha. He's ours!

Almost Alright said...

I think a HUGE whole the piece missed was the lack of women's access to sterility treatments. I admit I haven't had personal experience with this - but my understanding is that many women find that doctors will refuse them the procedure until they are a certain age (certainly older than 28) and some docs refuse to sterilize a woman until she has had at least one child. I wish they had talked about whether women have the same rights to decide they don't want children as do men.

Patricia said...

Why oh why can't some people just accept that some of us DON'T WANT CHILDREN???????? Nobody gives you the third degree if you say you don't like dogs and don't want one, but say you don't want a kid and the bingoes start to fly.

Hannah said...

I just want to know: am I the only female that finds myself instantaneously attracted to childfree men?

I mean, I am happily married to a great childfree guy. But it's like CF guys are so rare, at least in my circle, that when I see another one I just swoon.

But of course, I can't get greedy. :]

Hally Bell said...

I just don't understand why it always has to be preficed with 'but he likes children'. Why do we feel the need to explain ourselves or use it as an apology. I myself don't like kids all that much. I'll hold 4 kids in this world, and that's because they belong to my best friend. If they didn't I probably wouldn't care less.

Todd said...

The world's not gonna last forever. One way or another, someone's going to end up being the last person (male or otherwise) in my lineage. Might as well be me.

marmite and jam said...

My soon to be sister-in-law's childhood best friend decided to marry a man with children from a previous marriage and a vasectomy. I witnessed nothing but nasty venom from this woman on how wrong it was for her friend to marry a man who couldn't give her children. There was even a pause in the friendship over the issue. The whole time I could not believe her judgment and nosey involvement. It's people like her, people who think they know what is best for everyone else, that completely blow my mind! P.s. She "accidentally" got preggers a few months after the whole ordeal; conveniently at the same time all her friends where.

Temujin said...

I thought in this interview Matt Lauer did have a little edge to his questions and it did seem a little like he was grilling the guy. But, it probably wasn't much different from the way the show interviews everyone about serious subjects. The interviewer is supposed to play devil's advocate and bring up questions that the majority of viewers are thinking.

It was certainly lopsided in the KINDS of questions. They were all anticipating negatives, about how there's no going back, what if you regret it, women won't like you, etc. Why not ask something positive, like "what are the things this procedure helps you do now?"

Or how about something neutral, like: "How do you see this making a difference in your life?"

I noticed the piece said he was losing his "reproductive capabilities." You could just as easily say he was losing liabilities, accidents waiting to happen, dependence on birth control, unpleasant surprises....

Temujin said...

On the plus side, the interview seemed to suggest that if you're a man in your 40's and/or you're already a father, then getting a vassectomy is perfectly reasonable. For the _Today_ show, the big deal was that Toby was young and childfree, not one of those "normal" men who do it AFTER reproducing.

What does it say about parenthood that being a dad makes one want to get a vasectomy afterwards? Careful, pronatalists -- if it's okay for men to hang up their spurs after 2 or 3 children, maybe it's okay to hang them up after zero children....