I’ve been mulling over an idea sparked by the work of social psychologist Melvin Lerner. Mr. Lerner’s work surfaced in a recent New York Times piece. Curiously, the article had nothing whatsoever to do with infertility but that didn’t stop me from linking his work to those unable to conceive or successfully bear children. (Sigh. It’s true. No longer consumed with infertility treatment I am now on a mission to understand and/or find answers to explain why society harbors such apparent apathy and antipathy toward those who struggle with infertility and its fallout.)
The article referenced Mr. Lerner’s 1980 book, “The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion,” and his argument that people want to believe in inherent justice and to believe that people who appear to be suffering are in fact responsible for their own situations. According to the just-world hypothesis, society has a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve.
See where I’m going here?
Mr. Lerner’s work has been applied to many situations though I may be among the first to apply it to infertility. It certainly seems to fit given how often and quickly fertile folk seem ready and content to ignore or marginalize the challenges associated with infertility.
I have yet to meet or come across anyone who deserved infertility, yet I get the distinct vibe that society is just more comfortable and content in assuming anyone who can’t have children, well, they are somehow responsible. Case closed. Next!
Yes. I believe Mr. Lerner is on to something here. And this framework frees up people’s time and energy to focus on other less troubling topics. Like whether the Pistons are going to end the season on top. Or whether Indiana Jones still has the ability to draw crowds. Or whether Nicole Ritchie is going to edge out Angelina Jolie as the newest candidate for Mother of the Year. French fries or onion rings…
I wonder if Mr. Lerner would give me a passing grade. You can read more about how his Belief in a Just World thinking has been interpreted here.