February 5, 2018

Breeders vs. Non-Breeders

Promo shot for Last Splash

Image via Wikipedia

Some people hate the term “breeder.”  Mostly it’s breeders that complain. To me a breeder is someone who chooses to have children and a non-breeder someone who does not. I’m a non-breeder and think it’s a funny title. You are welcome to call me a non-breeder even to my face. Also The Breeders happens to be the name of one of my favorite bands, so named because the term “breeders” is gay slang for heterosexuals. Interesting, right?

Urban Dictionary
has a slightly modified version of the term breeder:

1: slang term used by some childfree people for one who has a child and/or has many after that, refuses to discipline the child/ren, thinks the sun rises and sets for their child/ren, look down upon people who do not have children, and are in general very selfish and greedy when it comes to their whims and those of their child/ren, especially if they can use their parenthood status or their children as an excuse to get their way.

Okay. Ouch. That is not so nice. When did “breeders” become derogatory term against parents?  An alternative definition is  a person who breeds livestock or other animals or plants professionally. (That could be taken a couple of ways perhaps.) Apparently defining the word breeder is not that simple and a touchy subject for many including Renee from the blog www.womanist-musings.com:

“The main slur that has been directed at me from the LGBT community is the term breeder.  I understand that this a reaction to the fact that straight people constantly shame same sex couples for their inability to reproduce.  Though many straight couples spend a lifetime together and chose never to become parents, the biological impossibility of two women, or two men producing a child has been constructed as a negative.”

And on www.christianforums.com

“Are you aware that we parents are sometimes referred to as “breeders” by childfree people? It just made me sad, as I am one of those people who doesn’t judge couples for not wanting a child. That’s their decision, but why should we as parents be termed “breeders” because we decide to have children? The term is primarily use in reference to someone breeding animals! Really… I do find it offensive, and very hurtful.”

So why do we need labels like breeder, non-breeder, childfree, non-parent? Do names and labels hurt or discriminate? What do you think breeders and non-breeders? Are you loud and proud?

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  1. I’ve been a bit surprised at the offense some take to this term, but I’m often surprised… Though I don’t often offend, I hope! That said, I’m not a fan of labels and boxes and stereotypes, so I can perhaps see that the bundle of implications highlighted in the Urban Dictionary example above is the culprit. I’d like to echo Amy’s question: “When did ‘breeders’ become derogatory term against parents?” Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  2. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    Many words can have a feel to them that is greater than their by-the-book definition. To me, the word “breeder” implies a certain mindlessness. Most animals breed simply because it is their biological wiring to do so, but many humans like to feel they are above these instincts and make the choice to reproduce (or not) for loftier reasons. So the label “breeder” implies this thoughtless, instinctual procreation while at the same time having what appears to be a neutral, inoffensive definition. And the label “non-breeder” implies a certain mastery of our animalistic nature, while having what appears to be just as neutral and inoffensive a definition.

    At some level, “breeder” is a jab. I think we know this, deep down. Or not so deep down.

    I’m sure there are many “breeders” out there who would view the label with the humor with which it is intended, and I’m sure that many “non-breeders” use the term good-naturedly or even, as many of us claim, purely scientifically. And there are probably many heterosexual “non-breeders” who wouldn’t take offense to being generically labeled “breeders” by members of the LGBT community. But they’re not neutral terms. They come with hidden baggage, whether the user intends it or not. That’s why language is so difficult and wonderful, and why the ones you learn in school are never quite as good as the one you learned at home.

    I think it’s always tricky to apply a blanket label to a group of strangers that they don’t embrace. Not everyone knows how you view this word, or what your underlying intentions are.

  3. When did “breeder” become a derogatory term against parents? Good question. I’m not sure when it became popular for this purpose, but I imagine it’s been in use for a long time. This book: http://www.amazon.com/Breeder-Real-Life-Stories-Generation-Mothers/dp/1580050514, in which I have an essay, is entitled thus to reclaim the term, as it were.
    And if the reviews aren’t a good indication of how divisive this term is, I don’t know what is!
    In any case, as far as it being offensive, I personally think it is diminishing…as though parents can be defined entirely by their reproductive functions.
    I know that some childfree people find it offensive/diminishing to be thought of only in terms of *their* reproductive choices–thus the reason for WNK?–so of course it makes sense that anybody would feel diminished by such a limiting definition. Yes?
    Anyway, all that said, I personally don’t care if people think of me as a breeder. I’m not that easily offended.

    Insult my kids, however, and that’s an entirely different story. 😉

  4. Thanks, Ana. Kudos on the book inclusion and thanks for recommending it. Quick thought on WNK reason/genesis: the blog/community is an effort to dilate and nurture the conversation about why some of us choose not to have children. In other words, the reason for WNK is to foster and encourage discourse, reflection, debate. Certainly some are offended by being labeled (childfree, breeders, etc.) but we appreciate and share your thick skin. Unlike groups who advocate strictly childfree marriages or defend themselves against derogatory epithets, the four founders are pretty lighthearted folks who’ve long found it curious that so many people ask us why we have no kids. Our answers and opinions are multiple and not always in agreement. But we’re finding the broader conversation to be pretty fascinating and worthwhile, and your contributions are high on the list, Ana! 🙂

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Adi. I appreciate your observations about the mindless, animal-like connotations of the term breeder. Sometimes. But just as “breeder” or “non-breeder” or even “childfree” or “DINK” can be used as jabs, they’re not always jabs. Labels are limiting and potentially offensive because they oversimplify, but they’re also helpful. Context is key. In sum, your point is well taken, and in broad strokes, I’m on the same page. On the other hand, we could all stand to have slightly thicker skins. AND more sensitive intentions. Here’s hoping!

  6. I think it’s pretty obvious that “breeder” is meant to be derogatory, and what makes it obvious is the context. It’s like when certain people say the word “liberal” – you can almost feel the spit hitting your face. – Sylvia, child-free, not a fan of the word “breeder” OR “non-breeder”

  7. I find the term Breeder offensive if it is referring to the line up that includes Kelly Deal. If Breeder is being used to refer to the line up with Tanya Donelly and Josephine Wiggs, I don’t find it offensive at all!

  8. I see “breeders” not as those who have children, but those who have NOTHING but children.

  9. Breeding, like coupling and the sex obsession in general, are basically products of the lizard brain. All of the small talk, social signaling, etc. seem pretty fucking boring if you have actual hobbies. I love how defensive breeders get about their hobbies! Their pretension and superiority complex – for having done the most thoughtless, common and easily reproducable thing in history – pretty much make them targets for antipathy. So, yes, ‘breeder’ can be derogatory; but those who use it in such a manner usually have plenty of social and philosophical reasons to view breeders in a negative light; whereas the Breeder tendency to look down on anyone who doesn’t share their psychotic neurosis/inability to keep it in their pants is virulent, widespread and taken as a matter of course despite making no logical sense.

    Breederism is, in a sense, the ultimate religion (which is why religions tend to be anti-sex and even anti-family: it competes too well). If you’re of an intellectual, nihilistic or existential bent then the Cult of PaterFamilias and the Baptismal Rite of the Breedmonkey may be far less appealing for the same reason that Hinduism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity don’t appeal.

  10. Most people have nothing worthwhile about them. This is why Breeders often do define themselves entirely by their ability to have unprotected sex. They’re gene bags, with no future, a negligible past, and a conformist pretension to clothe their arrogance.

  11. Breeders became a derogatory term in the 1700s when Jonathan Swift first coined the term to refer to the Irish poor who had children, suggesting that they could sell them at one year to be food consumption for the wealthy. While a Modest Proposal was clearly satirical, generally placing any term used to refer to animals and livestock onto people is an insult (like calling a person a cow or a dog or a monkey).


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