I first saw Katy Faust on Australian television during our same sex marriage debate. She was introduced by a commentator as the daughter of lesbian parents who was against same sex marriage. Of course this was a provocative embellishment amidst a polarising debate. Katy is the daughter of a mother and father like we all are. Her parents divorced, and her mother is now in a committed relationship with a woman. Katy has a modern family, and yet unflinchingly advocates for the traditional “biological” family structure as the only one capable of delivering children’s natural born rights.
Katy Faust joins with Stacy Manning in their new book Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement. This is not a traditional “family first” treatise. In a world of competing rights claims, Faust and Manning insist we need to look first and foremost to the rights of children (them) before the desires of adults (us). The key argument is that children have a right to a relationship with their mother and father, and this is best delivered in the only relationship that produces children where both the mother and father are committed - heterosexual marriage.
It is hard to deny that some arguments for heterosexual marriage have been made to deny the validity of gay relationships and encourage the domestic enslavement of women. While Faust and Manning are respectful to these issues, they claim it is not their responsibility to shield people’s feelings in the advocacy for children’s rights to a mother and father. They argue that biology is the bigot, and we only fight the material reality to the detriment of children.
Even though the authors are unapologetically Christian, you won’t find any scripture in this book. They bring reputable data, science and professional research to the table, to argue that children are least likely to be abused, more likely to be nourished, educated, loved, cared for and given life chances by biological parents. They unflinchingly argue that by redefining legal marriage, gender, sex and biology, we will continue to dispossess children of their natural rights.
Fatherlessness is a big theme in this book, and most of us have seen the tragic statistics on the children who lack this critical presence in their life. Just as traditional societies have established marriage as the way to tie fathers to women and children, so western nations need to go against fifty years of popular ideology and advocate for divorce only in the case of “abuse, adultery, or abandonment”.
The most moving part of the book are the hundreds of personal stories. Many testimonies defy the natural shame of children speaking against those they love the most, and the choices that brought them into the world. Testimony from the children of same sex parents, the gender transitioned, donor conceived, single mothers, speak of the love for their biological and social parents as well as the mother or father “hunger” that results from being deliberately conceived without an opportunity to have a relationship with either their mother or their father.
It is the commercial production of children by Big Fertility that will genuinely horrify any fair-minded person in this book. Faust and Manning document a dystopian slippery slope that starts with an adult’s reasonable desire to access reproductive technology, and steeply descends into legally purchased unloved children crawling around in their own excrement in a basement. Big Fertility in the US seems to be less regulated than the breeding process of German Shepherds. Here the authors join with many radical feminists in the call for the abolition of surrogacy, the sale of gametes and the hire of reproductive labour.
Ultimately this book is a well researched and well argued recruitment drive to the fight for children’s rights. It outlines practical ways that people can support the aims of the movement in their own community and how they can join the international fight for children’s right. In the effort to keep the focus on children, and broaden the appeal, it strays away from involvement in theology, philosophy or political ideology.
I fear this is a little ambitious in a world pickled in theology, philosophy and political ideology, and I I’ll make brief comment here. I didn’t entirely agree with the authors’ conclusions on gender, but I’ve always been a little contrary on matters of gender. I current dwell awkwardly between a diverse group of progressive dissenters and look for points of political and philosophical meeting in a pluralist sense.
What impacted me philosophically in this book, was the class analysis you can apply to the involvement of the medical industrial complex that is promoted by progressive ideology. According to the authors, the premium market for gametes are of white, athletic, college graduates. When you combine this with the disproportionate number of black abortions in the US and revelations about Planned Parenthood’s role in the medicalisation of children’s gender non-conformity, it strikes me that children’s rights may just be the advocacy space that many of us should be meeting under.
While the traditional left and the conservative right have bickered with each other, the medical industrial complex is taking over the management of fertility and children’s gender in the name of the progressive left. They are building a world that is not just against children’s interest, but a society without a fundamental moral or ideological core.
The concept of God given, or natural born rights, is dealt with by the authors, but I wonder if it needs to be more central. We must promote and prioritise the philosophy of rights properly if we are going to restrain the anti-science, fundamentally immoral and unethical ride the “rights” juggernaut is taking us on. We need a collective agreement on rights that are ground in material reality, that can cross from radical feminism, men’s rights, gay rights and the various religions, and that will resist the postmodern denial of true humanity. If we honestly prioritise the most vulnerable, then children must come first.
When I think about this little voice for children’s rights at the table of advocates shouting for a part of the pie, I fear it will continue to fade. But in this book Faust and Manning bring a savage and unyielding insistence that is hard to resist, and impossible to ignore. Even if you completely disagree with its premise, this book is well worth the read.