At She Thought, Anthropologist Underground kind of nailed it with this piece about how not immunizing becomes a mark of social status in some parenting communities:
Many women who can afford to stay home gave up careers to do so. Larger society undervalues stay-home moms (as well as teachers and other child care workers). So bright, educated women find themselves in clusters, isolated from prestige, and they bring the work ethic and focus that advanced them in careers to parenting. They must seek status and validation from other members of the stay-home community, and this requires separating themselves from the unwashed masses. (My friend calls this “competitive parenting.”)
My read is that challenging the authority of conventional medicine and MDs is one way of artificially ascribing status to oneself.
Thought provoking, and yet completely unsurprising, really. Living in LA, I’m surrounded by status moms like this. They were all over my mom support group listserv, to the extent that I finally had to unsubscribe. I often posted on here and Rational Moms about these moms. Reading their posts on the listserv was a great way to take the temperature of the anti-vax community in response to news about the Wakefield scandal or the whooping cough epidemic. (Ultimately, it proved too frustrating for me to encounter their responses daily, so I left the board.) I think Anthropologist Underground has pegged the way these people think, to a large extent. And I wouldn’t confine it to moms. There are plenty of stay-at-home dads who join the status parenting club as well.
I would add (and I did in my comment) that unfortunately, recent events in our country do lend credence to the idea that a web of financial interests can override public interest. Just watch The Inside Job to have that sneaky suspicion confirmed. So I don’t think it’s only a group status/power mentality at work here. I believe anti-vax parents are egged on by a prevailing cultural suspicion of authority that has been intensified by the events of our time.
Responses to this idea?