Every so often I listen to a political commentator who posits all kinds of reasons why people- in this case women- do this that or the other when it comes to their bodies. In this case, it has to do with choosing not to marry and choosing not to have children, which was part of a discussion that NPR’s Michel Martin had with conservative author Mona Charen. (https://www.npr.org/2018/07/01/625187608/conflicting-ideas-on-modern-feminism)
Charen’s take- and to be fair here, she claims she’s very much in favor of equality for women in all things- is that feminism tore apart the American family. In response to the question Martin posed about what her core thesis was, Charen responded:
There isn’t just one, but to cite probably the most societally important one it is the collapse of intact families that is having quite negative impact on those who are less educated. College graduates and beyond are tending to act in the same ways socially more or less that they did in the 1950s. But people with lesser education, for them, marriage is no longer the norm, and even to suggest that it ought to be because it’s the royal road out of poverty is seen as somehow backward or antifeminist. And my point is, no, it’s not. (Bold added)
She argues that those of us women at the lower end of the spectrum both financially and with less education are less likely to marry/have kids.
Um, NO, Ms. Charen. On that you are wrong. Royally and spectacularly so.
Not Marrying or Having Kids is an Educated Decision
Here’s the piece: my nearly forty years of experiences in dealing with smart, bright, competent, capable women entrepreneurs and employees have taught me just the opposite. We choose to stay single and/or not have kids and/or have kids out of wedlock based on educated decisions. Her claim above that college grads and beyond are acting more or less the same way we did in the 1950s is a stunner. Where on earth is she getting her information? Talking only to those in her party and class? I was born in the 1950s. I have no interest in living the way my mother did, pay the prices she paid, and lose what she lost. Nor do millions of the rest of us women. We cannot, and never will, roll back time. Wearing a corset and high heels in the kitchen and smiling broadly while vacuuming until the Big Man comes home is, puh-leeze, not our idea of paradise.
Charen claims, But where I believe feminism took a couple of very disastrous wrong turns was in rejecting the family as antithetical to women’s interests and in endorsing the sexual revolution, which turned out to be less than satisfactory for women, and actually, we’re now seeing has very, very baleful consequences for men as well. (Bold added)
As an additional opposing opinion to this notion, I present the following article which speaks right to my heart https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/05/style/no-kids-happy.html. Glynnis MacNichol and I share a great deal: we’re both successful, we are both writers, we both eschewed kids. That doesn’t follow Ms. Charen’s argument. We’re joined by a great many, and to that I would add a Millennial perspective:https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-arent-millennials-getting-married_us_5a075620e4b0ee8ec3694209
This kind of broad-brush condemnation of a movement which has set men free as well as women, and is part of what would naturally have followed civil rights uprisings anyway, is insulting to millions of us- and let’s please include all those Millennials who eschew both marriage and kids for very good reasons of their own having little or nothing to do with feminism per se. We as a gender are rewriting what’s possible. Genders that never were allowed to have a voice — the entire LGBTQ community which also has children, raises them with love and contributes hugely to all aspects of our society- are now formally legitimized. Back in the 50s they were in hiding and terrified. Like anyone else who wasn’t straight, white bread America. We have choices that barely forty years ago were unheard of, including having our own credit cards, being able to report marital rape, and the entire #MeToo movement, just for starters.
There is an implicit assumption here that women, while Charen says she supports equality, should get married, she argues that we’d all be better off with a breadwinner. My words, not hers- but that’s the implication. This Administration has brought out every woman-hating lugnut — male and female- who use KellyAnne Conway and Sara Huckabee Sanders as their role models. Professional liars? Women who would stoop to absolutely anything to protect a serial rapist? There’s a role model for ya. Sure, lots of Millennial women would love to have either of those two cranial catastrophes as mentors. Pardon me while I vomit.
We want to earn — and spend and save and use — our own bread, thank you very much. And many of us make more than our partners. Until my last BF, I always made more than my mate. That doesn’t fit Ms. Charen’s perfect model. Well, tough. That’s reality.
The 1950s SUCKED
While I will agree that it would be lovely if we could all be part of the perfect nuclear family, the simple truth is that this 1950s pipe dream threw a big thick blanket over the reality of many women’s lives. Abuse, pain, loss of opportunity, sexual grotesques, shame, I could go on forever. There is plenty of that still around. But what we are seeing is a generation of younger people more committed to self-actualization first before getting married.
Frankly, for my buck, that’s a damned good idea.
Feminists didn’t hate or excoriate the family- not all of us. Some did, likely because of their own experiences. That’s what drives such movements. The extreme cost of having a baby, the extreme cost of living, lousy wages, and a great many other factors have a lot more to do with it. This is a direct response to that very set of trends as well as how these younger people feel about the Trump era https://therooster.com/blog/10-brutally-real-reasons-why-millennials-refuse-have-kids.
These people aren’t stupid. Feminism didn’t do this. The road America has been on for decades has far more to do with this than the women’s empowerment movement. And you’ll note, the men weigh in on this issue just as much as those of us who have a uterus, which by the way, is ours. OURS. It doesn’t belong to the goddamned State and you do not get to dictate how we use it. That personal power was coming anyway from those of us sick and tired of having religious right assholes tell us what women are for. Those lovely jerkoffs from Focus on the Family? Right down the road from me. They have more internal issues with pedophelia and whackaloons than those of us who chose not to have kids. Religious righteousness has far more to do with how women- and a great many Millennials- feel about the family today than feminism. All you have to do is read the news.
Take a Look Around, Ms. Charen
Other huge factors tearing apart the American family include addictions, opioid abuse, addiction to our devices rather than attending to each other, the overall general sickness of our society because of a backward healthcare system. Feminism didn’t cause these. In fact, if you look at the corporations which have hoisted these indignities on us, they are largely run by…um…men. Very rich men, in fact, who have a lot to gain when we’re sick, distracted, unhappy. Here are your pills, they say. Here are your sweets, they say. Here are your distractions, they say. Feel better! Give yourself a treat! Feminism didn’t create these, Ms. Charen. When many of us look around at a society that no longer values wild lands, Mother Earth, the air and water and natural surroundings, the animals we love, we’re angry about it. Families increasingly have no place to play, no place to stay, no clean water to drink, good air to breathe, and in a pretty short time we won’t even be able to see those animals we love to paint on our nursery walls. Lots of things tear apart families, Ms. Charen, and it ain’t feminism. We want to protect what’s precious, not support a total slash and burn policy which takes away our children’s future. Lots of Millennials look at what is happening and have decided they don’t want kids growing up in the conditions that your party had exacerbated to the nth degree. Democrats haven’t helped much either in that regard. So kindly, right now there’s not a whole lot to be excited about in terms of bringing more kids into the world.
My BF, who is 49 to my 65, also chose not to have kids, long before we ever met. What, this is only the woman’s fault? It’s only feminists who make this decision? Forgive me but screw your conservative, blindered, uneducated, limited understanding of the real world, Ms. Charen. While I agree that being in a nuclear family would be great, the reality, of which every movement that ever happened in this country has influenced, is that women are making different decisions. Men are making different decisions. That may offend you because your notion of the perfect Leave It To Beaver family has landed in the proverbial ditch. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. We are in transition as a nation, as a people. We are torn apart by vast class differences and the struggle to make enough money to survive. With what our government did to the healthcare system, having a kid is a bit pricey. To wit: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/16/why-does-it-cost-32093-just-to-give-birth-in-america.
Millenials, and a great many more of us a lot older, chose otherwise. We wanted a different life than Mom or Grandmom. And we do not owe YOU or anyone else a kid. Or a nuclear family. Or much of anything else. From your 1%-er viewpoint, where you have plenty of coin to punch out a kid, put that kid through college, have a very nice home over your head, a nanny to help with the nappies and all the goodies that come with Those Who Have vs the Rest of Us, I’m sure the rest of us unwashed (and unmarried, and child-free) look pitiful to you.
So, lady, all due respect but feminism didn’t break up the family. A host of influences, issues, dynamics, politics and much, much more did. Options- to travel, to experience, to grow up, to make a difference in the world, to become something other than a vehicle for producing dead soldiers for the state that we can salute at NFL games- changed us. The cost of living changed us. Gun violence changed us. Choosing not to be infected by the religious right changed us. And for many of us who eschew formal religion completely, the need to learn personal responsibility vs. claiming that well, it’s “God’s will” is a very high priority. Doesn’t mean we don’t have faith. Not at all. What we aren’t interested in is some guy in a monkey suit dictating to us how to manage our bodies or telling us to obey our husbands. Not if he beats the shit out of us we won’t. Not if being forced to have a child because of your twisted belief system ensures homelessness, starvation and living in a car, we won’t.
As George Carlin once said about the abortion debate, when the then- New York Cardinal John O’Connor of New York “is willing to bear three children and raise them on minimum wage, he’ll be happy to hear what the man has to say about abortion.” When the virulent pro-lifers are willing to carry a Black crack baby to term because they feel so strongly about the fetus, we’ll have a conversation.
In the meantime, don’t blame feminism. Feminism was just one response to the abuse of women that has been going on for centuries. The fact that a great many men are also feminists- because they also benefit- is a testament to the fact that this was a human movement.
That human movement, which is still a tsunami wave, has resulted in part in the new crop of uber female athletes, uber female executives, uber female scientists and doctors and educators and every other thing you can imagine. I admire the hell out of all of them. In the Fifties women with that kind of potential drowned under the burden of babies, nappies, and family duties. The human movement freed up a lot of talent. Powerful, intense, amazing talent. Talent that scares the holy shit out of a great many conservatives, apparently including Ms. Charen, for whom the powerful, well-educated, single, childless female is the epitomy of evil.
That human movement is part of what has pressured a number of countries to put a formal end to the forcible removal of the clitoris so that a woman can’t experience sexual pleasure.https://www.reproductiverights.org/document/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-legal-prohibitions-worldwide In this country, 24 states still don’t have laws against it. Yah. We are still in the Middle Ages, Ms. Charen. https://mic.com/articles/182161/24-states-have-no-laws-against-female-genital-mutilation-heres-why-that-needs-to-change#.IcmclKrJH. Let me repeat: FGM is a human rights violation. And 24 states have no laws against it. And let’s talk about child marriage, shall we? Kids of twelve being married off to adults? Often in so-called “pious communities” because, after all, her childlike body belongs to the pedophile…whoops, I mean her loving 45-year-old husband. Sure. Right. In other words you, a serious pedophile, can show up and shout “Praise Je-sus!” and be handed a child bride, rather than go to jail for precisely the same thing in the rest of society. Is it any wonder why Millennials and a great many more of us don’t trust so called “pious communities?” Pious my ass. They are havens for offenders. Just like the Catholic Church. But I digress.
These are just a few of the many, complex, vicious issues that drive women- and very good men- to join a human movement.
Charen’s final prescription from this interview:
And so my prescription would be that we have a huge movement, a social movement maybe not unlike Mothers Against Drunk Driving, where we make it clear that the success sequence in life is finish high school, get a job, get married before you have your first child, and you will not be poor, and your children will thank you for it.
Uh-huh. Funny how she left out college. (Language is the geography of our consciousness. The more educated we are, the less likely we are to have uber-traditional 1950s lives. Wonder why the Right is so afraid of college? Science? Don’t get me started. )
She also left out the part about being too young to finish school before the kid is sent down the aisle with a repeat offender. But I digress.
Well, in that regard, I failed miserably, Ms. Charin. And so have a lot of other successful, well-educated, happy, fulfilled, engaged women in our society. We don’t need marriage to feel safe. That’s something we have to work for within ourselves. Because if a scared-of-his-mortality hubby decides to dump us for a skirt half our age, who ya gonna call? Mona Charen? Nope. We have to lean on ourselves, our ability to earn a living, manage a household and carry our own burdens. Nothing is forever. That includes marriage. What is forever is the wicked-hard work of becoming who we were meant to be.
For a great many of us, male AND female, that means childless. And fighting for the rights of women everywhere to determine their own destinies.