The Leftist obsession with gender roles extends even to stain removal

Dirty laundryI know you’re desperately curious to get to the stain removal part of this post, but you’ll have to bear with me as I first work my way through the Leftist obsession with gender roles and the Leftist denial about biologically programmed gender roles before I finally get to the dirty laundry.

Although I’m trained as a lawyer, for the last few years, I’ve mostly been a stay-at-home Mom.  I worked part-time as a lawyer through 2008, but the recession caused my clients to go away and they haven’t come back.  Last year, I spent a few months blogging full-time, but that was very difficult because I’m married to a man, who regardless of whether I earn money, wants me to be entirely responsible for the traditional feminine role in the house.  In other words, he wants a June Cleaver.  That’s not quite accurate. What he really wants is a life partner who is both a Ward and a June. I tried to do that for several years (and again last year), I decided I didn’t want an early grave that badly. Fortunately, my husband is a very hard worker (which is why I don’t mind being June to his Ward), and we are able to live on his salary.

My husband is rather extreme in his sexual role stratification, insofar as he won’t do any work related to the house.  Throughout our neighborhood, though, even amongst the working families, it’s the women who do the laundry.  They’re also the ones who cook on a regular basis, although the man may cook periodically, cook for special occasions, or help clean up.  The neighborhood women also do the bulk of housecleaning, although the men are more likely to take out the garbage and take care of the garden and garage. Those women who can stop working and focus solely on home and children have done so (as I have).

Part of the reason for the men’s lesser contribution to the house in my neighborhood is that they tend to work longer hours.  Yes, ours is the classic neighborhood in which working women earn less per hour than the men, because they’ve made the conscious decision — invariably because of children — to work part-time, flex-time, or “merely” full-time (40 hours, compared to the men’s 60, 70, or 80 hour work weeks).

I’ve heard grumbling from both men and women in the neighborhood, all of whom occasionally feel as if they’ve gotten the short end of the deal. On the whole, though, everyone recognizes that their various accommodations, although they may not be personally satisfying, work best for the family unit.  More specifically, they work best for the children.  I do know of two house husband situations that have been extremely successful, but they’re the exception, not the rule. From what I see, the average family falls in the traditional roles if at all possible:  mom at home, dad at the office.  That’s just the way it is.

The reason for this long rumination is twofold.  First, I’m thinking about these things because of the ridiculous Claire Shipman-Jay Carney puff piece in Washingtonian magazine, which has been roundly, soundly, and appropriately targeted because of the Soviet propaganda wall art; the ludicrously Photoshopped books, clearly intended to make the Shipman-Carneys look intellectual; and a carb-loaded diet that would have heads exploding among Michelle Obama’s food police.

At Power Line, John Hinderaker points out one other thing that lies in the text, not the images:  the article’s main point is that Shipman and Carney have such a wonderful partnership because she made the decision to put her career on the slow burner, so that he could work 12 hour days.  Of course, the way this is written, it’s not about a beleaguered little lady staying home, barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, because of male chauvinism.  The focus, instead, is on Shipman’s empowerment:

“Balancing Act” is written with the usual cloying feminist slant. The news hook, to the extent there is one, is a book that Claire Shipman has co-authored called The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know:

Their book posits that while confidence—rather than competence—plays a key role in female success, particularly in the workplace, many women lack this critical ingredient. …

Many women possess a deep-seated fear of being wrong or embarrassed, which prevents them from taking risks. Risk-taking is important, in part because it can lead to failure—and surviving failure, they say, is essential to building resilience and confidence.

“How often in life do we avoid doing something because we think we’ll fail?” the pair ask. “And how often might we actually have triumphed if we had just decided to give it a try?” They advocate “failing fast,” a tech buzzword that is the ideal paradigm for building female confidence. Take a small risk, fail, learn from it, and move on. Men are more comfortable taking risks, and tend to more easily shrug off failure. Women, on the other hand, stew, worry, ruminate, and second-guess themselves.

Men, of course, don’t mind being embarrassed at all. They don’t worry, they just plunge ahead, full of self-confidence. And failure? It doesn’t bother us a bit! We shrug it off! As a man, you don’t know how easy you have it until you read feminist tracts.

[snip]

And yet Carney’s own experience illustrates how silly the Democrats’ claims are. Shipman has worked part-time for the last five years to spend more time with her young children. Carney, meanwhile, leaves for the White House at 7:25 a.m. and tries to get home by 8:00 in the evening. As in most families, it is his wife who takes time out from her career to focus on children, and who devotes more time to her family: “Flexibility, she says, is what most working mothers really want.”

Even Obama’s closet associates put the lie to his blatant, hackneyed canard about women earning 77 cents on the dollar, as well as explaining the reasoning behind women’s slightly lower earning power:  given the choice, women want to be home caring for the children and men want that too.  It’s the triumph of biology over experience.

So that’s one article that got me thinking about gender roles in my home and my computer.  The other one was an NPR Fresh Air interview with a gal who has advice for getting stains out of things.  Her advice is very good.  If you’re in charge of keeping things clean in your house, I highly recommend it — but do be prepared to laugh as guest Jolie Kerr and host Terry Gross try desperately to assure any men listening that they’re not going to lose their man-card if they don’t immediately turn off the interview.

Before I get to their rhetorical contortions, let me assure you that Kerr isn’t writing like some coy 1920s “advice for the housewife” columnist.  That is, she’s not saying, “When you clean your husband’s clothes, you’re telling the world you love him.  You don’t want him to head off for work with ring around the collar and sweat stains under the arms.  Every woman needs to know these laundry tricks to take care of her man.”  Instead, Kerr just says “for X stain, do Y treatment.”  Gender-neutral, stain-killing advice.  Apparently, though, both Kerr and Gross were pretty damn sure they needed to reassure the male listeners in their audience — college educated Democrats who must have a sneaking suspicion that, notwithstanding the amount of sex the hook-up culture has given them, they’ve somehow sacrificed their core masculinity at the feminist altar:

GROSS: And I should say you address the column to men and women. You are not making the assumption that it is women who do the cleaning.

KERR: Absolutely I am not, no, no, no. I write for both men and women. It’s very important for me to that. It was actually one of the reasons that I moved my column away from its original home into a place where I could be writing for both a male and a female audience. I personally view cleaning as a human problem, not a gendered problem. I would not be interested in only writing for a female audience and to continue to reinforce the notion that cleaning is women’s work. I just don’t see it that way at all.

[snip]

GROSS: OK. Now in talking about these stains you mentioned underarm stains from sweat and deodorant, and we have two people on our show who wanted to know about that. One is a woman, Heidi Saman, and the other is a man, John Myers, and they’re especially interested in white T-shirts and white shirts. So what advice do you have for getting out sweat and deodorant underarm stains?

KERR: Sure thing. Well, the first thing I want to say is that I love that both a man and a woman asked that. It’s actually probably my number one question, both from men and women, total equality when it comes to pit stains.

(LAUGHTER)

KERR: Which is great. I think that that is a wonderful, wonderful thing when we can start showing that…

GROSS: Equality at last.

Yes!  ”Equality at last.”  Exactly what I was thinking . . . NOT.

We don’t have a “gay mafia,” we have a “gay Soviet”

Gay StalinI’m not a Bill Maher fan, but he occasionally shows an intellectual honesty that makes it worthwhile to keep an eye on him.  Last week, he exposed Leftist hypocrisy about racism, when he got Leftist guests to denounce “racist” pronouncements from Paul Ryan, only to reveal that he was quoting Michelle Obama.

On Friday, in the wake of the Mozilla scandal (firing its brilliant and effective CEO for the fact that, in 2008, he supported the same view of marriage that Obama and the Clintons claimed to support), Maher once again went off the reservation.  In discussing the furor against Eich, he came out with what must be, to the Left, an unpleasant truth about the strain of thuggery that runs through the gay professional class:

During the online-only post-show segment, Maher, 58, asked his panel of contributors about their thoughts on the tech wizard’s decision to step down as Mozilla’s CEO after facing backlash for supporting a California same-sex marriage ban effort in 2008.

“I think there is a gay mafia,” Maher said. “I think if you cross them, you do get whacked. I really do.”

Let me add some specificity to Maher’s thought.  We already know that organized ideological thuggery took Eich down, but I’d like to focus on the mentality that drove the anti-heretic hunt.  CNET, which covers the tech world, has a post about the Eich resignation.  What struck me about the CNET article was a comment from the man who started it all — a man who said that, if only Eich had announced that the re-education had been successful and then kept his mouth shut, then everything would have been okay (emphasis mine):

The wildfire that brought Eich down was sparked in part by Rarebit developers Hampton Catlin and Michael Lintorn Catlin, who as married gay men took Eich’s politics very personally, removed their app from the Mozilla Marketplace, and called for Eich to apologize or resign.

Hampton Catlin on Thursday, though, called Eich’s resignation “the worst kind of victory.”

“We never expected this to get as big as it has, and we never expected that Brendan wouldn’t make a simple statement. I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration [sic] and say that he never intended to cause people problems,“ Catlin said in a blog post Thursday. “It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.”

Translated:  If only Eich had recanted, publicly apologized for all gay suffering throughout America (because up until a decade ago, no one had even thought of gay marriage), and then kept his mouth shut , our kapos would have released him from the gulag and given him tacit permission to hold his beliefs, as long as he never acts on them in any way in the future.

Keep Catlin in mind as I walk you back about 70 years in time, to the mid-20th century in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.  Boris Pasternak, a truly courageous intellectual (unlike America’s modern “intellectuals” who march in lockstep with the powers that be), lived his life with incredible bravery under Soviet tyranny.  That bravery included writing Dr. Zhivagoan indictment of the Soviet system.  The Soviets, naturally, refused to publish the book, but it did get published in Italy and, from there, spread throughout the West.

The CIA, in one of its more intelligent moves, decided to smuggle the book right back into the Soviet Union believing, correctly, that it would enable Soviet citizens to see what their government withheld from them, both in terms of reading material and in terms of a free society centered on the individual, not the state.

That’s a fascinating piece of Cold War history, isn’t it?  I know about it because the WaPo has written an article about the CIA’s Zhivago operation.  And in the WaPo article, I found this (emphasis mine):

In Washington, Soviet experts quickly saw why Moscow loathed “Doctor Zhivago.”

In a memo in July 1958, John Maury, the Soviet Russia Division chief, wrote that the book was a clear threat to the worldview the Kremlin was determined to present.

“Pasternak’s humanistic message — that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state — poses a fundamental challenge to the Soviet ethic of sacrifice of the individual to the Communist system,” he wrote.

Once, we were a country that used its government to advance the notion that “that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state.”  Now, we’re a Soviet nation, in which private citizens are told that they must publicly recant their heresies or be destroyed.

So, while Maher’s on the right track, he picked the wrong organization.  Yes, there’s thuggery involved, which is a mafia tactic.  But unlike the mafia, which was just in it for the money, the new Soviet is in it to subordinate the individual and his beliefs entirely to the will of the Leftist state.

Nor is this thuggery a fringe movement.  While I am very honored here at the Bookworm Room to have gay readers who understand that the safest place for all individuals (regardless of race, color, creed, gender indentification, sexual orientation, etc.) is in a nation that leaves the individual alone, I can tell you that every one of my Leftist friends on my “real me” Facebook, gay or straight, applauds the gay Soviet’s successful thuggery against Eich.  These Facebook friends are, without exception, affluent, educated, successful, and vocal, and they think it’s a great thing that a productive man who has never once been accused of fomenting any discrimination in the workplace was the target of an attack aimed at destroying his livelihood.

This time, it was the non-governmental Leftist collective that acted, but you know they were thinking how much better it would be if they could just outlaw opposing thought. Why convince someone that your position has merit when you can more easily destroy them, which has the useful feature of sending a strong message to any other heretics out there?

Let me end this post as I always do:  I think the state should get out of the marriage business, leaving it for religious and private organizations to determine what meshes with their doctrine and values.  The state should recognize civil unions in whatever way the state believes will best suit its ends.  And when I speak of the state, I don’t speak of a grand Soviet, centralized state, run by Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and Eric Holder.  I mean the state speaking through the ballot box, both in direct citizen initiatives and through elected representatives.

Traditionally, the state’s ends included children and economic stability.  In a greenie run world, where humans are the devil, maybe the state would do best to encourage only those unions that are incapable of producing even more environmentally destructive children.  Then, it’ll be the heterosexuals struggling for legal recognition of their evil child-producing mating.

Regarding what happened at Mozilla, I yield the floor to Ben Shapiro who perfectly articulates the problem with thought-crimes

Firefox logoBen Shapiro has published a post that perfectly articulates everything I want to say about the Mozilla thought-crime purge.  I therefore hope that Ben will forgive me for quoting him at some length.  After detailing the way in which Brendan Eich’s outing and subsequent destruction began with OKCupid, and then spilled over to Mozilla, Shapiro says:

Was OKCupid’s action legal? Sure.

Was Mozilla’s action in forcing his resignation legal? Of course.

Were both of them not only wrong, but morally disgusting?

Absolutely.

This is not about the issue of same-sex marriage. I have personally taken the position that the government should get completely out of the business of marriage. If two men or women want to live together and get married through any private institution of their choosing, I’m fine with that; I hold the same position with regard to one man and one woman. And TruthRevolt is obviously not attempting to crack down on pro-same-sex marriage companies – Google is pro-same-sex marriage, and yet we recommend them as an alternative browser to Firefox.

This issue is far larger than the small and parochial same-sex marriage issue. It is about the chilling of political freedom by small sects of motivated political players. It is the same issue as A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson over his comments paraphrasing the Book of Corinthians. It is the issue of McCarthyistic blacklisting and voter intimidation and ultimately, the issue of utilizing power to silence dissent. In America, we typically prize freedom of speech. And while OKCupid and company may be exercising their market power in fully legal fashion, they’re certainly advocates for quashing freedom of speech.

Imagine a world in which all gay people in America were at risk of firing thanks to religious bigots mobilizing against their perceived sins. Imagine a world in which market power wasn’t just utilized to get gay people fired, but government became a tool of the anti-gay mob. Would that be wrong? Now switch the parties. That’s reality.

[snip]

This is a fight for freedom, whether or not you agree with Eich’s political perspective. Privately-held political beliefs are no excuse for wheeling out the stocks and demanding public canings. To stop such activity, we will have to fight fire with fire.

We are not powerless in this fight. TruthRevolt will not stand idly by. Neither should you.

Sign our petition, and uninstall Firefox today.

By way of comparison and contrast, let me introduce you to the New York Times‘ take on the subject, which is that, because Mozilla wants to market itself far and wide, its best business tactic is to engage in blacklisting:

Mozilla is not a normal company. It is an activist organization. Mozilla’s primary mission isn’t to make money but to spread open-source code across the globe in the eventual hope ofpromoting “the development of the Internet as a public resource.”

As such, Mozilla operates according to a different calculus from most of the rest of corporate America.

Like all software companies, Mozilla competes in two markets. First, obviously, it wants people to use its products instead of its rivals’ stuff. But its second market is arguably more challenging — the tight labor pool of engineers, designers, and other tech workers who make software.

When you consider the importance of that market, Mr. Eich’s position on gay marriage wasn’t some outré personal stance unrelated to his job; it was a potentially hazardous bit of negative branding in the labor pool, one that was making life difficult for current employees and plausibly reducing Mozilla’s draw to prospective workers.

The post expands on that topic, but it boils down to this:  Because Mozilla employees are activists, they cannot be expected to cope in an environment that tolerates diversity of thought.

The new American blacklist — and using market forces to counter it

Firefox logoWikipedia has a working definition of the 1950s blacklist that Leftists to this day use as a banner around which to rally:

The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-20th-century practice of denying employment to screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals because of their suspected political beliefs or associations. Artists were barred from work on the basis of their alleged membership in or sympathy with the American Communist Party, involvement in progressive political causes that enforcers of the blacklist associated with communism, and refusal to assist investigations into Communist Party activities.

Summed up, a blacklist deprives seeks to destroy individuals by taking away their jobs, not because they were doing their jobs badly or using their jobs towards nefarious ends, but simply because the blacklisters do not agree with the individual’s political, religious, or other personal beliefs.

Brendan Eich, co-founder and CEO of Mozilla Firefox, a massively popular web browser, believes that the institution of marriage is a heterosexual institution. There’s no indication that he hates gays, wants to hurt gays, can’t work with gays, uses his work to destroy gays, etc. It’s just that he believes that, by definition, marriage is heterosexual. To him, when you take the heterosexual out of marriage, you’ve fundamentally changed its nature, so that it’s no longer “marriage” but is, instead, something different.

Back in 2008, at the same time that President Obama was touting his support for heterosexual marriage in order to get elected (as he did again in 2012 in order to get reelected), Eich donated $1,000 to the people backing Prop. 8, a ballot initiative in California saying that marriage is a heterosexual institution. As you may recall, at the time the “No Hate” crowd (or, as they cutely said “No8”) bypassed such things as using logic and persuasion to those opposed to gay marriage and went straight to thuggery instead. The one that sticks in my mind was the attempt to destroy the elderly Mormon owner of a El Coyote, a popular, gay-friendly L.A. eatery.

Eich’s donation was six years ago. Since then, the “No Haters” have effected a sea change in America, with state after state legalizing gay marriage. Wait, that’s not actually true. In state after state, voters have voted against gay marriage, only to have unelected federal judges say that the voters are bigots. President Obama, who stood against gay marriage as recently as his 2012 reelection, after which he suddenly “evolved” on the issue, has forced the military to recognize gay marriages, has bases hosting drag reviews, and is contemplating making the military a transsexual-friendly environment.

The “No Haters” have won the gay marriage debate (against the will of the people) . . . but victory hasn’t softened them. They still hate. That festering hatred led them (again) to do what they do best: destroying individual’s livelihoods based upon their mainstream political and religious beliefs. Brendan Eich was only the latest, most visible target. Don’t worry, though, there will be more.

Unlike the Hollywood blacklist, which was covert, the gay fascists were open in their tactics and goals. The attack on Eich started with a dating site called OkCupid, which demanded Eich’s resignation and sent to all its Firefox users a message that Eich had to be forced out of Mozilla. That would have been bad enough, but it got worse when Mozilla’s own employees also demanded his resignation. Eich resigned. The “No Haters” blacklist worked.

Upon hearing the news of Eich’s resignation, I immediately stopped using Mozilla’s Firefox. Someone asked me (quite politely) whether I wasn’t guilty of the same tactics as the No Haters. I don’t think so. I’m not demonizing any specific individual and demanding that he get fired. Instead, I’m simply saying that I’m unwilling to do business with a company that blacklists people. Until the Obama administration gets around to legislating that I must do business only with companies that fully support gay marriage – and fining me if I don’t – I’m free to pick and choose which companies suit my values. Mozilla doesn’t. I should add that my problem isn’t with Mozilla’s stand on gay marriage. My problem is with a company that happily destroys people who don’t parrot the party line.

It’s worth pointing out that the No Haters did exactly what Harry Reid is doing to the Koch brothers. In escalating and increasingly unhinged rants, Reid is demonizing and attempting to destroy individuals who refuse to accept the Democrat party as their creed. Reid, of course, is even worse than the Haters because he uses the power of his office to attack a private citizen. Unfortunately, when it comes to Reid, I have no market power to use against him. Despite his awfulness, Nevada voters keep sending him back to Washington. Thankfully, Charles Koch has finally decided to speak out. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303978304579475860515021286.html?KEYWORDS=Charles+Koch
Even if I hadn’t decided already yesterday to ditch Mozilla (which has become a lousy browser anyway over the past year or so), I definitely would have done so after reading Mozilla’s Orwellian attempt to explain how it’s inclusion and diversity meant that Eich could no longer work there because his ideas were insufficiently inclusive and diverse:

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better.

We need to put our focus back on protecting that Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla.

What’s next for Mozilla’s leadership is still being discussed. We want to be open about where we are in deciding the future of the organization and will have more information next week. However, our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that’s what it means to protect the open Web.

We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved.

Thank you for sticking with us.

Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman

Ace sums it all up pretty accurately:

There will be personal consequences for opposing the left. The consequences will not just be the political ones we all accept — that is, if we lose on an issue in the normal democratic process, then we lose.

We all know to accept that as the cost of being part of the American democracy.

No, the new rules are not just that you will lose on the political point, but that you will then be hounded personally for having dared to venture a contrary opinion at all.

And no one has accepted that as part of the increasingly high cost of being an American.

I’m using Safari and Chrome now. Both are managed by companies that hew Left politically and that have offered slobbering support to the Obama administration and the Democrat party. So far as I know, though, neither corporation has deliberately targeted and destroyed private individuals for failing to be good Democrats.  (Truth Revolt is also blocking Firefox access to its site and asking people to sign a petition pledging to stop using the Firefox browser. ) Apropos Firefox, let me say again that dumping it is no great sacrifice.  Over the years, it’s gotten slow, buggy, and vulnerable to malware.  I mean, really, who needs it?

Considering how meaningless marriage has become, I hereby withdraw any opposition I’ve ever had to gay marriage

Playland at the Beach fun houseFor an almost 80 year run that ended only in 1972, Playland at the Beach was San Francisco’s Coney Island.  Beginning in 1928, and subject to a few minor changes over the decades, Playland settled into the form known to City residents through its final days:  it had roller coasters, the camera obscura, a merry-go-round, and the famous Fun House, home of Laughing Sal (who now lives at the Musee Mecanique).

At its peak, Playland was a vital entertainment hub. It was bright and shiny and fun and funny. The roller coasters and the Fun House were state-of-the-art entertainment. The latter boasted a giant barrel roll; rocking, moving floors; air vents to blow up girls’ skirts; long, wavy slides; spinning floors; wavy, distorted mirrors, and all the other accoutrements of 20th century amusement park culture. You can get a sense of Playland’s attractions from this clip from 1973′s Damsel in Distress, featuring Fred Astaire, George Burns, and Grace Allen:

I went to the Fun House several times in the late 1960s and very, very early 1970s. There was still a musty magic to the slides, mirrors, vented floors, and, of course, Laughing Sal, but mostly the Fun House was a drab, depressing place. For starters, it was filthy, clotted with five decades worth of grime, made sticky from a nice Pacific Ocean salt overlay. All of the attractions were rickety. I always had the lowering suspicion that the moving, rocking sidewalk would suddenly buckle, either throwing me into the air or dropping me into some damp, spider-ridden basement.

playlandfunhouse620x618The Fun House’s clientele was no longer made up of a cheerful amalgam of families, young couples, and children old enough to go there on their on. Instead, it was overrun by screaming, usually overwrought children. It wasn’t bright and shiny. It was less Disney and more Lord of the Flies. We children ran around frantically, evidencing a grim determination to have fun in this hallowed San Francisco amusement park, a bleakness captured nicely in the picture to the right, which was taken shortly before the Fun House closed for good.

I was always delighted with the offer of a trip to the Fun House (I really liked the idea of Playland at the Beach), but I was even happier when it was finally time to go home. I invariably left there tired, dirty, overwhelmed, and both depressed and demoralized. The only magic left was the patina of age, which I was too young then to appreciate.

Sara Gilbert And Linda PerryPerhaps because my brain is wired a bit differently, I thought of Playland at the Beach when I saw this headline: “‘Roseanne’ Alum Sara Gilbert, Rocker Linda Perry Wed.” I have no idea who Sara Gilbert and Linda Perry are, so I was unexcited by their wedding (although I naturally wish them many happy years together).

Thinking about it, it occurred to me that, even if I had known who they are, I probably still would have found the headline uninteresting. Looking at the state of modern marriage, I can no longer articulate a good reason to care about other people’s weddings and subsequent married life.

Just as the Playland I knew was a faded, dirty, broken-down relic of its past, barely hinting at its former grandeur, so too is marriage today leached of the meaning that once gave it such preeminence in Western society. Historically, marriage has been an extremely important event, both at the individual and the societal level, controlling as it did sexuality, paternity, and property.

Up until our very modern era, before a girl got married, she was (in theory, at least) a sexually uninitiated child under her parents’ care. Marriage was her entry into the adult world: she left her parents; her faith and her state both encouraged her to have sex (with her husband); and she began producing and raising the next generation. For centuries, even millennia, the wedding was the single most transformative event in every woman’s life. It marked a profound change in her standing in society, from child to woman.

Victorian wedding photoWhile men weren’t necessarily the sexual innocents their wives were supposed to be, marriage was an equally life-changing event for them. They might not have been virgins, but their previous sexual relations were illicit, carried out with prostitutes or lusty widows. Any children that resulted from these relationships were not supposed to be acknowledged. They were bastards without legal rights, and the man’s obligation to care for these children was a personal decision, rather than something mandated by law or religion.

By marrying, the man got unfettered access to sex, with his church’s and his state’s approving imprimatur, and he got children that were presumptively his, with all the legal and moral responsibilities that entailed. The man’s carefree bachelor days were over, and his days of maturity and responsibility began. If he wanted to be assured that his wife’s progeny were indeed his, he’d better be a good husband.

Marriage’s centrality in pre-21st century society wasn’t just about questions of sexuality and paternity unique to heterosexual relationships. It was also an important economic relationship. For rich people, it meant the blending of fortunes or even of nations. For poor people, it meant that the man and woman formed an economic unit, with the man laboring outside of the house to bring in food or goods, and the woman laboring inside the house (and in the garden), to enable the man to work and to do whatever it took to stretch his earnings as far as possible.

In America’s past, a healthy society depended on the marriage partnership. It regularized sexual relations (and paternity issues), creating social stability and slowing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It also increased men’s economic opportunities, thereby enhancing America’s potential economic growth, which operated to everyone’s benefit.

No wonder marriages were celebrated, not just by the participants, but by society at large. Add in the fact that traditional religions sanctify marriage, elevating it from a social and economic relationship into a covenant before God, and it’s easy to understand marriage’s preeminent position throughout Western history, generally, and American history, specifically.

Nowadays, every one of those reasons for marriage is gone. Sex is unrelated to marriage. Childbearing is controlled by birth control, abortions, and fertility rituals . . . er, fertility treatments. Paternity is determined by genetic tests. Economically, marriage is a good thing, but the state will step in and help the mother and children out if the father decides that all the responsibilities that flow from impregnating a woman are just too burdensome and too little fun. Only people who have a middle class aversion to poverty and welfare enter into marriage for economic reasons. Religions still support marriage’s importance, but many congregants seem more interested in the party than the sacrament.

Sexy wedding dressAnd of course, there’s modern divorce. Marriage isn’t a permanent commitment; it’s a relationship experiment that is easily shucked. It’s a very good thing that we no longer live in a time when only death would part a couple, leaving married people (usually women) at the mercy of abusive, insane, or absent spouses. It’s not so good a thing that we now live in a time when people divorce simply because they’re bored and want the thrill of a new relationship. (And yes, I have known people to divorce for just that reason.)

Modern marriage no longer serves any of its necessary societal functions. It’s a relic, just like the Fun House I knew as a child was a relic. What once was shiny and central to American life has become a peripheral excuse for a frenetic party. The couple standing at the altar have already had sex (with lots of people), they (with financial help from taxpayers and employers) are controlling the woman’s fertility, and they’re making financial decisions irrespective of their marital status. Societal changes, mass media, and the vast wedding industry have ensured that modern American wedding is primarily about the right dress, the beautiful cake, and the most viral wedding video.

All this means that the LGBTQ crowd is arriving at the party when the party’s already over. Looking back on my Fun House experience — high expectations in advance, followed by a disappointing reality when faced with a dusty ghost from the past — I actually feel sorry for those same-sex couples rushing to take part in an event that’s long past its heyday. As a society, we haven’t quite reached the point of Miss Havisham presiding over her long-gone wedding feast, but the decay is setting in.

The end of Playland at the Beach

The end of Playland at the Beach

Modern American marriage has become a form without substance . . . a Fun House without the fun. Given that reality, why should we care that the LGBTQ crowd is flocking to catch the tail-end of the party? Let them have their last dance as the lights dim and the tables are littered with dirty plates and half-filled glasses.

For those Americans who have a religious commitment to marriage, they should go and have that religious ceremony and live their married life in accordance with God’s commandments. And for those Americans who subscribe to the belief that the children’s well-being is best served in a stable, heterosexual relationship, they should get married (in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque, or before a registrar) and they should stay married for the children’s sake. For everyone else, the caravan has already passed on and it’s probably long past time for the dogs to stop barking.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the Civil Rights Act cannot trump the First Amendment *UPDATED*

Gay-flowerI find irritating gay marriage supporters’ reliance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to justify their contention that religious individuals cannot opt out of actively participating in gay marriage ceremonies.  They contend that the Act mandates that (1) a Christian baker, who welcomes gays seeking all other baked goods, must bake a gay-themed wedding cake; (2) a Christian photographer, who would happily take pictures of a gay birthday party, must photograph a gay wedding; (3) a Muslim florist, who would be delighted to sell bouquets to a gay couple, must bedeck a church with flower arrangements for a gay wedding; and (4) an orthodox Jew who owns a small hotel, and who doesn’t quibble at all when same-sex couples check into a room where they have privacy, must host a gay wedding in his reception hall.

I contend that these activists are dead wrong about the scope of the Civil Rights Act.  While, the Civil Rights Act s a virtuous law, it cannot trump the First Amendment.  I’ve made a handy-dandy chart outlining why I believe this to be the case (click on image to enlarge):

Bill of Rights versus Civil Rights Act 1

My usual disclaimer about my views regarding same-sex unions:  It is not semantic quibbling to say that I support civil unions but do not support same-sex marriage. While a religious organization can perform a marriage, it cannot perform a civil union. Civil unions are solely the state’s provenance. Leaving civil unions to the state and marriage to religion perfectly preserves the separation of church and state. (And as always, irony abounds here, because it is the Left that routinely sets up a hullabaloo about even the most minute intersection between church and state.)

If I had my way, I would remove marriage from the government’s vocabulary and make all unions — whether they are heterosexual or same-sex relationships — “civil unions.” States can then promote whatever unions they deem most beneficial for individuals, for children, and for society as a whole, while religious individuals and institutions need not worry that they will be targeted because they hew to the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman (or women).

People running the entire gamut of the gender-orientation spectrum — as recently defined by Facebook — manifestly believe that it’s important to get the state’s imprimatur on their relationships.  (This makes sense, since most of them are Left-leaning statists, who worship at the Big Government shrine.)  Civil unions joining together various sexual identity configurations (opposite sex, same sex, etc.) would give every American equal access to the benefits and burdens (economic, legal, and social) of a state-sanctioned relationship.  What civil unions would not do is force a direct confrontation between church and state.

The recent Obamacare abortion kerfuffle should warn people that a Progressive government won’t have second thoughts about forcing such a confrontation.  In 2008, when California had its Prop. 8 gay marriage referendum, I first raised my concern that gay marriage would result in a head-on collision between church and state.  A Progressive scoffed at this, telling me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He was taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Mine was a good argument then, and it’s a better argument now.  With Obamacare, our Progressive-run federal government is forcing religious institutions and organizations be actively complicit in abortion by mandating that they fund abortifacients (and birth control) through “health” insurance.  (It’s “health” insurance, of course, only if the very act of becoming pregnant is a disease — which is funny when you think about it, because feminists in the 1960s and 1970s were outraged at a male patriarchy that treated pregnant women as if they were fragile and sick.)

I welcome your comments regarding this post.

UPDATE:  A lawyer I know commented that the Commerce Clause gives the federal government the power to legislate any type of commerce related activities.  (Sounds like a familiar argument, right?)  My response was a simple one:  The Commerce Clause represents a power that the People granted to the federal government.  The First Amendment represents an right inherent in each individual that the federal government (in theory) may not touch.  It seems to me that, especially when a law is narrowly drawn, the First Amendment, which states the People’s inherent rights, must trump the Commerce Clause, which merely reflects a power the People granted the government under contract.

 

The Left is wrong about AZ’s proposed law, but religious freedom supporters might have to boycott the Super Bowl to make that point

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.I’ve mentioned gay marriage once already today as the latest non-issue to roil the left even as the world around us crumbles (a la the 1930s), the American military is reduced (a la the 1930s), and tyrannies are rattling their sabres (a la the 1930s).  Overnight, the same liberal who have been remarkably quiet about the Obamacare debacle, uprisings in Ukraine and Venezuela, the flat economy, etc., have found a new cause:  Arizona, they scream, is poised to enact the next generation of Jim Crow laws, in the form of Senate Bill 1062, an amendment to Arizona’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This Jim Crow claim, which gained instant traction amongst America’s Progressive class, is flat-out wrong as a matter of law and fact.  Nevertheless, presumably in the foolish hope that it can appease the Left into backing off from its ongoing effort to destroy football, the Super Bowl committee is using economic blackmail against Gov. Jan Brewer, promising to pull the upcoming Super Bowl from Arizona if she signs the bill.  To the extent that the Left is using the Super Bowl as a cudgel against religious freedom, it may be time for supporters of traditional marriage to use their own economic pressure against the Super Bowl.

Better people than I have examined the proposed law, so I won’t rehash it.  Without addressing the proposed law’s specifics, though, it’s still possible to show the falsity of the Jim Crow comparison.

First, no mainstream American religion has ever had racial discrimination as a core religious doctrine.  All traditional religions, however, have heterosexual marriage as a central tenet of the faith.  To the extent Southern racists claimed Christianity as their justification for separating the races, all that they could point to was their own twisted interpretations of the Bible, a document that never concerned itself with racial discrimination.

Heterosexual marriage, however, is something quite different.  The Catholic Church elevates it to one of the seven sacraments, and all other traditional religions enshrine marriage between a man and a woman (or several women).  What this means is that the Southerners in times past who asserted their right to Jim Crow laws had no protected First Amendment right.  The contrary is true today:  Those people who will benefit from the proposed Arizona law have a strong First Amendment right that cannot simply be thrown aside.

Second, the Jim Crow laws were actual laws, relying on the state’s coercive power.  In other words, they represented government action discriminating against American citizens.  The Arizona law, however, does  not advocate any type of segregation or discrimination.  It simply says that Arizona’s government cannot use economic coercion, not to mention the threat of imprisonment, to force Arizona citizens to engage in religiously offensive activity.  There are also safeguards is the act:  The protesting citizen must show that he is acting consistently with his faith and that he has a track record of being faithful.

Jim Crow laws meant that the government was discriminatory and coercive in a matter that did not implicate religion.  By contrast, the proposed Arizona law narrows the range of situations in which the government can be discriminatory and coercive against people of faith.

Third, the Jim Crow laws mandated that Southern citizens refrain from providing goods, services, or jobs to blacks, or they mandated that those goods, services, or jobs, if provided, must be provided in the most limited, demeaning way possible.  The proposed Arizona law not only does not mandate any conduct, it’s also extremely narrow in scope.  It says only that genuinely religious people cannot be forced to participate actively in a specific event that clashes with their faith.  It’s worth keeping in mind here, as Eidolon so beautifully explained, that up until just a few years ago, every mainstream Democrat politician in America (including Obama and the Clintons) rejected gay marriage, a position consistent with all known human history.

Super Bowl ArizonaI have no doubt that Gov. Brewer is going to cave to Leftist pressure because of the economic risk that the Super Bowl will pull out of Arizona.  That seems to be the ultimate leverage, right?  But supporters of traditional marriage — or supporters of a religious individual’s right not to participate in a ceremony that mocks his beliefs — actually have an even bigger stick than the Super Bowl.  Just as the Super Bowl can boycott Arizona, believers in religious freedom can boycott the Super Bowl.  I mean, it’s a great game, but sometimes we have to subordinate pleasure to principle.

The coming constitutional clash between traditional religion and homocentric secularism

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.Matt Lewis nails the core issue when it comes to the LGBT crowd’s demands that shopkeepers engage in acts contrary to their religious conscience:

But let’s be honest about something else. This is really a surrogate battle. A much bigger one is coming.

[snip]

The reason conservative Christians are fighting this fight today is because it’s a firewall. The real danger, of course, is that Christian pastors and preachers will eventually be coerced into performing same-sex marriages. (Note: It is entirely possible for someone to believe gay marriage is fine, and to still oppose forcing people who hold strong religious convictions to participate — but I suspect that is where we are heading.)

Think of it this way. If you were a congregant in a church, wouldn’t you expect the pastor to marry you? Why should you be treated different?

Any pastor — if he or she wants to maintain the church’s tax status, that is — had better grapple with this now.

Whether the analogy is fair, or not, refusing to officiate a gay wedding can just as easily be called “denying service.” And it will predictably also be compared to the bad old days of Jim Crow — where racist Christians opposed interracial marriage (until the courts struck down state laws prohibiting biracial marriage).

Gay rights and religious liberty are on a collision course.

I’m too lazy to go through my archives now, but long-time readers will know that I’ve been saying this for years.  In fact, just three years ago, I made precisely this argument using lawyer logic and the example of England:

I have said all along that the main problem with the gay marriage debate is that, by creating an entirely new bottom line (gay marriage) we’re going to see two bottom lines crash into each other.  You see, traditional male/female marriage meshed nicely with the vast majority of traditional religious norms.  Gay marriage, however, does not mesh with traditional religion.  While Progressive churches and synagogues have opened their doors to gay marriages, more traditional ones, especially the Orthodox Jewish faith and the Catholic Church, have not done so.

When I’ve raised this concern to people, they scoffed.  One liberal told me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He looked a bit taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Others, while acknowledging that my point has a certain intellectual validity, say that it will never happen.  I’m not so sure, especially after reading a story out of England involving a Pentecostal couple who were told that, as long as their religion held that homosexuality is not acceptable behavior, they could not foster needy children:

A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality today lost a High Court battle over the right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was acceptable.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers but withdrew their application believing it was ‘doomed to failure’ because of the social worker’s attitude to their religious beliefs.

The couple deny that they are homophobic and said they would love any child they were given. However, what they were ‘not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing’.

What’s relevant to this post is that the judges explicitly held that homosexual rights trump religious rights:

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation ‘should take precedence’ over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

Admittedly, Britain does not have a First Amendment.  However, as I noted above, First Amendment or not, our government bars, and (when Mormons are involved) actively prosecutes, polygamy.  It does so despite the fact that polygamy was official doctrine for the Mormons and is official doctrine for the Muslims.  Likewise, although Voodoo is recognized as a religion, we don’t let practitioners engage in animal sacrifice.  In other words, First Amendment or not, the government will interfere in religious doctrine if it runs completely afoul of a bottom-line American value.

If gay marriage is deemed Constitutional, we suddenly have two conflicting bottom-line values — gay marriage and religious freedom.  I’m not predicting how this will turn out.  I’m just saying that, if I was the Catholic Church or an Orthodox synagogue, I’d start having my lawyers look at this one now.

I’m not usually a great strategist or long-term thinker, but it was easy to see this one coming. It’s not about homophobia. It’s about a clash between faiths: traditional religion versus homocentric secularism.  The traditionalists have people who will willingly martyr themselves for their faith, while the secularists have people who will cheerfully force martyrdom on others.  It remains to be seen (a) which is the more powerful impulse and (b) which resonates more strongly with Americans.  Sadly, if I had to bet money on this today, I’d put my money on the secularists, who long ago successfully co-opted America’s cultural institutions:  the news media, the entertainment world, all public primary schools, all colleges and universities, reform Jews, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians.

If you think marriage between a Democrat and a Republican is bad…

NPR reports that mixed marriages don’t work.  It’s not talking about mixed race or mixed religion, it’s about mixed politics.  Democrats and Republicans make for bad bedfellows.  What NPR doesn’t discuss is marriages in which one partner has a mid-marriage political conversion.  Believe me when I saw that doing so is as bad, if not worse than, having an affair.

When to marry? When you find true love — not shallow infatuation or mere passion, but true love

The Left has been kerfuffling lately when it comes to the age by which women should marry.  (If “to kerfuffle” isn’t a verb, it should be.)  The kerfuffle (now I’m using it as a noun) started when Susan Patton, who was one of the first women admitted to Princeton, wrote an opinion piece in The Daily Princetonian advising young women not to wait, but to get married while still in college:

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.

I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again–you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

The Left was outraged, accusing Patton of trying to reinstate the sexist old joke that, when women go to college, the degree they’re looking for isn’t a B.A. or B.S., it’s an M.R.S. James Taranto nicely sums up the outrage Patton’s opinion piece sparked:

Many of the attacks on Patton were notable for their infinitesimal ratio of ratiocination to emotion. “Oh no,” wrote Maureen O’Connor of New York magazine, adding: “Ugh.” She sarcastically characterized Patton’s argument thus: “Touching the flesh of an older woman will actually cause a man to wither and disintegrate into dust.” (To her credit, O’Connor phoned Patton a few hours later and conducted what seems to have been an entirely civil interview.)

“Why would the Daily Princetonian publish such inanity?” demanded Katie Baker of Jezebel.com. “Patton could’ve saved herself a lot of time and energy by simply writing ‘[obscenity redacted] my youngest son while you have the chance!’ ” Gawker.com’s Caity Weaver got even nastier and grosser: “If Susan A. Patton had daughters, she would be encouraging them to marry their brothers, for there is no finer achievement in a woman’s life than securing the prized stallion that is a Susan A. Patton boy.”

Slate.com’s Amanda Marcotte made something of an effort at a substantive rebuttal. In the course of an epic tweet-down Saturday, she cited the strong correlation between college education and marriage as if it refuted Patton’s argument (and this columnist’s defense of it). We explained last year why that correlation is far less encouraging than feminists wish it to be, but in any case Marcotte’s argument was a non sequitur.

Typically for Taranto, he also has the correct rebuttal to the feminists’ argument, which boils down to the fact that biology means that women do have a childbearing, child-rearing imperative that starts to time out as they get older.  Also, while they’re male peers can look downwards (both on the age scale and the education scale) for a mate, professional women are stuck looking for someone their own age to meet these biological demand.  They’re looking for the men, but the men aren’t looking for them.  Sexist it may be, but it’s also the way the world works.  And under that analysis, having spread before you a pool of intelligent, upwardly mobile, attractive, age-appropriate young men is as good a time as ever for a woman who wants a family to go spouse-fishing.

The debate about when feminists think women should marry got rekerfuffled today when Julia Shaw, who married at 23, said early marriage was a good thing for her.  She was grateful that she didn’t let her externally-devised, rigidly-constructed professional timeline prevent her from finding the right partner for her life.  Once again, Amanda Marcotte led the opposing charge:

Watching conservatives desperately try to bully women into younger marriage with a couple of promises and a whole lot of threats is highly entertaining but clearly not persuasive. Women marry later because it makes sense given their own career aspirations. . . . I’m glad young marriage is working out for Shaw, but for the majority of women, dating and cohabitating until they’re more sure is working out just fine. If he’s good enough to marry, he’ll still be around when you’re ready to make that leap.

Marcotte is always irritating, even when she has a point.  When she doesn’t have a point, as is the case here, she goes well beyond irritating into whatever emotional area lies “well beyond irritating.”  For one thing, it’s overwrought for Marcotte to contend that having one say “it worked for me,” amounts to conservative bullying.  For another thing, by what possible standard does Marcotte assume that living together, followed by the maybe of marriage, to a man who might just stick around (or may look for greener pastures, where he can get new milk for free) actually works for the majority of women?  If she thinks Shaw is being doctrinaire (“marry early”), Marcotte is being just as doctrinaire (“marry late; I’m sure he’ll wait”).

Here’s the bottom line about marriage:  finding someone you love, who loves you back, is one of life’s great blessings.  I’m not talking about free-floating physical passion, which is an enjoyable, but transient thing.  I’m talking about meeting someone where you have that perfect and blessed combination:  love, respect, companionship, comfort, and passion, or at least strong physical attraction and affection.  Bid that good-bye because of some sort of arbitrary time-table, and you may never be lucky enough to find it again.  And no, even good people won’t always wait, because the mere fact that you insist on waiting may signal to them that you don’t view them with the same level of commitment, love, respect, and passion that they have for you.

Here’s another bottom line about marriage:  people change.  They change in their 20s, their 30s, their 40s, their 50s, and so on and so on.  Passing by your soul-mate because you’re young and assume you’ll change and grow away from others is foolish.  Change is inevitable.  But if you are lucky enough to find someone who respects you as much as s/he loves you, that change can be an enriching, not an alienating, process.

These feminist time-tables are irritating.  True love is precious.  If you are confident that you have found it and it has found you, take the leap, whether you’re young or old.  You may not be as lucky a second time if you throw the gift away just because some opinionated harridans told you that you’re not on the politically-correct timetable.

Why married women deserve Social Security benefits

From 1947, a week worth's of woman's work.

(From 1947, a week worth’s of woman’s work)

James Taranto highlights a couple of women, Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell, who complain that it’s unfair that married women, when widowed, get to receive social security benefits that tie into their husband’s social security “earnings.”  Here, per Taranto, is the heart of Arnold’s and Campbell’s argument:

“More than 1,000 laws provide overt legal or financial benefits to married couples,” they complain. “Marital privileging marginalizes the 50 percent of Americans who are single. . . . Marital privilege pervades nearly every facet of our lives.” Income-tax liability is generally (though not always) higher for unmarried earners; married workers more or less automatically have access to spouses’ health insurance; couples can share individual retirement accounts, and so forth.

[snip]

That of course begs the question. Any policy that differentiates among individuals is “discriminatory,” and not all discrimination is unjust or irrational. One of Arnold and Campbell’s examples–Social Security–illustrates the point quite nicely.

If a single person dies without children, her money will–must–go into the system to be provided to whomever [sic] needs it most, which is good because that was the original intent of Social Security. However, if a married person dies, the money can be routed back to her family. This is good for the married person, but fails to account for the important people in singles’ lives.

“Social Security privileges marrieds in many ways,” the duo complain. “For example, [a] married woman could receive up to 50 percent of her husband’s benefits while her husband is alive.” Wait, that sounds like a cost of marriage to the hubby. “Spouses can also receive 100 percent of their dead spouse’s benefits, if the deceased’s benefits are higher than the recipient’s would have been.”

As one would expect, Taranto quickly exposes the logical flaws in their argument, one that flows from a fundamental misunderstanding about social security:

The bottom line is that a married woman is likely to collect considerably more in benefits than a single woman with the same lifetime income. The difference runs into six figures in the hypothetical example Arnold and Campbell devise. That sounds unjust: Why shouldn’t benefits be fully concomitant with the money one paid into the system?

Because that’s not how Social Security actually works. Although it is often misunderstood as an insurance plan, in reality it is a pay-as-you-go welfare program. That is to say that tomorrow’s retirees depend for their benefits not on their own contributions but on tomorrow’s workers. If you retire single and childless, that means you’re living off the labor of other people’s children. Why shouldn’t you get a smaller benefit check than those who accepted the personal and financial burdens of raising those workers?

Taranto is absolutely right about the issue from the social security end, but he could have made a further argument — namely, that Arnold and Campbell are being utterly sexist insofar as they’re denigrating a woman’s very real financial contribution to a marriage.

The old male chauvinist pig argument was that, because women made no income, they actually contributed nothing of value economically, either to the marriage or to society as a whole.  The first feminists were quick to point out that this is a fallacy, as the stay-at-home mother’s contributions do, in fact, have a very real valuable.  If mom were to vanish suddenly, and there was no female relative to step in to fill the gap, the father would have to hire someone to shop, cook, clean, and, most importantly, raise the children.

Children playing

Merely feeding children is not enough.  In an America with large swathes developed after the automobile came along, and in one dominated by media-fed fears of child-snatching, the caregiver spends an inordinate amount of time ferrying children about, whether to school, to friends (if you want them to be marginally socialized), to mandatory “volunteer” activities, to doctor’s appointments, or to sports and other extracurricular activities.  Additionally, when the children are little — and maybe even more when they’re big — they need to be supervised so that they don’t get into mischief.  Their associates need to be vetted (druggie or good kid?) and their emotional and intellectual development overseen.  Children are hard work.  There’s pleasure involved, but, boy!, is there work.

Many women work outside of the home, with their income going to pay for childcare.  This works only if the working mother’s income is sufficiently high that, after the household and childcare fees are met, and after the woman pays all her taxes (including Social Security withholding) there’s something left over.  Otherwise, she’s just working so that she and her husband can pay someone else to raise the children.

Family

The core fact here is that raising children and running the household is a job.  There are two ways to view this when looking at a married couple.  Either the man and the woman are a partnership, with each having a different function, but with all profits derived from the enterprise, in the form of the husband’s salary, covering the partnership as a whole.  Under this view, as a contributing member of the functioning partnership, the mother is clearly entitled to a share of the Social Security payments, even though her side of the partnership consisted, not of working outside of the home but, instead, of enabling her husband to earn a cash income that’s subject to social security withholding.

A less nice, but still accurate, way of looking at social security payments and stay-at-home moms is that the husband essentially employs the wife.  He earns the money, and he gives it to her to provide services such as housekeeping and child-rearing.  In her absence, he’d have to pay someone else — in cold, hard, taxed cash.  Because she is an employee, her earnings are subject to Social Security withholding, something that the government sees to by taking those withholding from the husband.  After all, if it wasn’t for his children, she could be out there earning money.

Husband's funeral

It’s perfectly true that not all women have children or that there are women with children who cheerfully work outside the home.  On the bell curve, though, both of those situations occupy the long-tailed margins.  The reality is that married women mostly have children, and that these women mostly provide child and household care, and that, by doing so, these women mostly see their personal income drop, even as they contribute to their husband’s income on behalf of the marital estate.  This last fact means that they’ve earned Social Security benefits as certainly as their husband did.  And these women certain deserve the payments after their husband’s death because their withdrawal from the labor market to benefit the family means that, once hubby dies (and hubby is statistically likely to die first), they no longer have much, if any, income-earning capacity.

Arnold and Campbell couldn’t be more sexist than when they demean stay-at-home moms by arguing that their contribution to the martial partnership is valueless and that it shouldn’t be compensated in the form of repayment of the money the government forcibly wrested away from the family unit.

Found it on Facebook — misconstruing Mitt’s correct statement about marriage and gun violence

Here’s today’s Facebook find:

This poster, of course, comes from a liberal.  What the liberal doesn’t realize is that Mitt was riffing right off the liberals’ own beloved New York Times when he said that the best way to deal with gun violence is to promote marriage.  Just this July, the Times ran an article acknowledging what conservatives have known intuitively, which is that two-parent families are much less likely to live in poverty than one-parent families:

The economic storms of recent years have raised concerns about growing inequality and questions about a core national faith, that even Americans of humble backgrounds have a good chance of getting ahead. Most of the discussion has focused on labor market forces like falling blue-collar wages and lavish Wall Street pay.

But striking changes in family structure have also broadened income gaps and posed new barriers to upward mobility. College-educated Americans like the Faulkners are increasingly likely to marry one another, compounding their growing advantages in pay. Less-educated women like Ms. Schairer, who left college without finishing her degree, are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.

Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.

The next analytical step is to recognize that there is a strong correlation between poverty and crime.  Even Barack Obama acknowledged this in an ugly, back assward way when he said that “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but rich people are all for nonviolence. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got what they want. They want to make sure people don’t take their stuff.”  The corollary to Obama’s class warfare statement is that rich people don’t take other people’s stuff either — they buy it.

So a root cause of crime is poverty and, as the New York Times admits, a root cause of poverty is single mother parenting.  That means that Mitt didn’t say something stupid; he said something smart.  Only people in deep, deep denial would deny the wisdom of his statement that we deal with violence, not by getting rid of the Second Amendment, which is our bulwark against government tyranny, but by reaffirming traditional middle class values.

While I’m on the topic of marriage, poverty, and crime, I’ll just throw one more thing into the mix:  Daddies.  Studies show that Daddies matter when it comes to boys and crime (and boys commit vastly greater numbers of crimes than girls do).  Interestingly, it’s not clear that this Daddy statistic applies as well to two Daddy families.  Still, two Daddy (and two Mommy) families are still going to be economically more stable than a single parent family, and the single parent trap is what I believe Mitt was addressing.

Facebook is just a wellspring of clever misinformation aimed at credulous, emotionally charged liberals.

A nice break from politics, as we look at dating today

Today’s young people don’t date.  They hang out.  A relationship is lasting if the couple is still together after a week or two.  Hook-ups (i.e., casual sex) are normative.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing for long-term relationships?  Do people know each other better than they did before or less well?  And where does the wedding fit in when it comes to these New Age lead-ins to marriage?

Good questions all and the Anchoress points to some answers.  As for me, I’ll say only that I think that it’s impossible to have a happy marriage unless it is premised upon mutual respect.  I further believe that, while traditional dating doesn’t guarantee mutual respect, a hook-up, hang-out culture makes that respect even less likely.

Dennis Prager on adultery, character and politics

I happen to think Dennis Prager is right — and I say this as someone who does not have a personal stake in the adultery issue.  I’ve known people who committed adultery because they were obnoxious jerks, and people who committed adultery because it was the only way to survive emotionally in a terrible marriage that nevertheless needed to continue as a marriage.

I’m curious as to what you think.

Submission in a marriage *UPDATED*

As part of a larger rumination about religion, Barney Quick looked at the Christian notion of a woman’s submission within her marriage, since the media is going after Michele Bachmann on that point:

The recent dust-up over Michelle Bachmann’s statements on record that she feels Biblically commanded to be submissive in her marriage is another example of the kind of thing that hangs me up.  She’s not alone. There is even a network of blogs maintained by women who are proud to be submissive.

I know, I know.  The Christian view of marriage is that the man and woman become one, and the the man loves his wife like Christ loves the church, and therefore there is mutual respect, but ultimately there is no doubt that what is being asserted is that the man is the captain, the leader, the one in the family who makes the decisions to which the wife and children will defer.  I like Michelle Bachmann a lot; she’s one of my top three or four Pub presidential candidates.  But let’s be candid; she’s been dancing around the theological point since it resurfaced last week.

I’ve been thinking about the subject a lot myself, for years actually.  Twenty-five years to be precise.  Twenty-five years ago, in a single weekend, I went to two weddings.  The first wedding was a yuppie New Age ceremony with a mail-order minister who waffled on about universal harmonies, shakras, karma, the joining of souls, etc.  I found the ceremony peculiarly un-compelling.  I couldn’t figure out if the bride and groom had committed to each other for life, or were taking some sort of oath before embarking on a spaceship for galaxies unknown.

The next day, I went to the wedding of two people who belonged to a small, deeply fundamentalist church.  It was my first exposure to an evangelical wedding, which meant it was also the first time I’d heard a minister give voice to the notion that, just as Christ is the head of the Church, so too is the man the head of the married couple.  The minister said that, for the man, this position carries with it tremendous responsibility to love, honor, protect and respect the wife, but that the man still has the dominant position.  I was shocked to the core of my feminist soul . . . yet, even then, I had this sense that I had attended a real wedding, with the bride and groom committing themselves to each other and to God.  I also had a sense of order.

Fast forward to today.  I have a friend who has what is, without question, the most successful marriage I’ve ever seen.  He would say that it’s because he’s married to the most wonderful woman in the world which is, of course, true.  But she would say (I’m pretty sure), that it’s because she is married to the most wonderful man in the world, which also happens to be true.  These two like and respect each other at a level that I’ve only seen a few other times.  But here’s the kicker:  on the rare occasions when they have disputes that reach an impasse, he casts the deciding vote.  Because he loves, likes and respects her so much, he never casts a vote that is intended to hurt or demean her.  Nevertheless, he is the tie-breaker.

Frankly, this strikes me as a good thing.  When he finally makes a decision, she hasn’t lost, nor as he won.  He’s simply exercised his position within the relationship to resolve stalemates.  If you don’t have someone in the marriage who occupies that role, you end up with each dispute becoming a fight to the death.  Neither party can afford to give ground, lest they be seen as taking a subordinate place in the relationship.  Rather than tie-breakers, there are only winners (smug) and losers (demoralized).

If the Christian model is how Michele Bachmann’s marriage functions, fine.  In every marriage there are disputes, and every married couple has to figure out how to resolve those disputes.  It could be through a bloody emotional battle to the death (yeah, I know:  crazy metaphors), or it could be by designating one partner as the tie breaker.  Presidents always have their spouses at their side (or at their backs), and the spouse will always be part of the equation, regardless of the method they use for resolving their own disputes.

What do you think?

UPDATE:  Obama recently offered an insight into his own marriage, which James Taranto examined in the second entry in his BOTW column.  One gets the feeling that Michelle scares him, just a little bit.

The covenant of parenthood

A long, long time ago, NPR did a series of stories aimed at “documenting” the state of marriage in America.  One of those stories stood out strongly in my mind, because the woman the reporter interviewed articulated a view of marriage that I’d never considered before.  She said that, in America, secular people view marriage as a “contract.”  Each party has obligations to the other, and if one party breaches his (or her) obligations, then the other party is automatically released from the contract.  Her view, a religious view, was different.  To her mind, marriage was a covenant.  Under that approach she said, one spouse’s obligations continue regardless of whether the other spouse abides by her (or his) promises.

I’ve often thought about her words when I look at the divorces in the community around me.  None happened lightly.  All happened because one or another partner to the marriage truly broke his (or her) marriage vows, usually with adultery.  All were unhappy marriages to begin with.  And because I live in a child-centric world, all of the divorces involved children.  In each case, the true anguish for my friends wasn’t the divorce itself, it was the child’s (or children’s) well-being.  Would the child be better off shuttling back and forth between two single-parent happy homes (because the presumed that divorce would make the parents happier), or would the child be better off in a two-parent home that was a battlefield of parental pain?  Most opted for divorce, feeling that their marital pain was so overwhelming that they were rendered incapable of being good parents.

Because I respect my friends, and because I know their abiding love for the children, I would not presume to second guess their decisions.  None were made lightly; all provided much food for thought.

I was reminded of the dramas that have played out around me over the years when I read David French’s Social Justice Begins at Home, which decries the ease with which practicing Christians have accepted the culture of no-fault divorce.  He notes that, traditionally, the church has severely limited divorce, but that, even as this doctrine exists in theory, it is vanishing in practice.

In a way, it seems to me that what French is saying that, even amongst Christians, marriage has slipped from being a covenant to being a contract.  However, that social/religious shift has blinded people to the fact that our relationship to our children is not a contract, it is a covenant.  We owe our obligations to them regardless.  They didn’t ask to be born.  They’re vulnerable, they’re dependent, and they are tied to us emotionally in ways that transcend any normal consensual relationship.

Some marriages are so disastrous that the children’s welfare demands a divorce.  (I know one of those situations, which involves an increasingly abusive father, and a mother who is unable to protect her children from his escalating verbal and, sometimes, physical abuse.)  Most unhappy marriages, though, involve parents who manage to put on a good front for the children.  Sure, mom and dad fight, but that’s normal even in all but the most perfect marriages.  Mostly, though, the parents experience private pain, while continuing to create a stable, financially secure home for their children.  These are the marriages in which, even if the contract between the parents is breached, the covenant to the children continues.

I think French and I are on the same page, whether one views it from a Christian perspective or from a non-observant Jewish perspective, which is that the children’s needs are transcendent.  If the parents are able to shelve their pain and their discord, it is their obligation to the children that must determine whether the marriage continues.  The mere fact that life would be easier for the parents if they weren’t burdened with their respective spouse cannot serve as a justification for breaking apart the home, thereby destroying both the child’s emotional and economic security.

Really sweet Steve Crowder post on marriage

Steve Crowder who is not, so far as I know, married, used the GLSEN scandal as the starting point for some really sweet thoughts about marriage:

When I really think about it, it seems as though the only kind of sex at which Hollywood will ever choose to poke fun… is the kind that occurs within marriage.

Don’t you watch the movies? Haven’t you listened to the stand-up comedians?  The day you tie the knot is “the day your sex life ends.” According to sitcoms and romantic comedies, it’s a scientific impossibility for married couples to enjoy playful romps in the bedroom.

Correct me for being naïve, but isn’t married sex supposed to be the best sex of your life? Shouldn’t your life-partner provide you with the most sexually gratifying experiences you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing? Afterall, your wife or husband is supposed to be the person you love more than anyone on the planet. Given that mutual appreciation and (hopefully) an unparalleled level of communication, how could the sex NOT be amazing? What is marriage, if not an institution designed to cultivate bonding/closeness on every level, including physically?

I think that, when Crowder does get married, his wife will be a very lucky woman.

American Jews

Contentions blog has a short post about the Jewish vote for Obama.  I wrote a comment to that post, and share it with you here:

American Jews aren’t really Jewish anymore.  With regard to Prop. 8′s success in California (preserving male/female marriage), I told a disappointed Jewish acquaintance, who was blaming “fanatic” Christians, that most religions had male/female marriage as a fundamental tenet of the religion.  “Not my religion,” he said.  Who knew that Moses came down from the Mountain with a commandment mandating gay marriage?

In the same vein, another liberal Jew of my acquaintance, when I expressed concern that gay marriage could be used as a wedge for polygamy, assured me that this was no problem because “we always had polygamy until it became illegal.”  He was taken aback when I pointed out that the last legal polygamy in Judeo-Christian culture was at the time of the Biblical Patriarchs.

As I said, whatever American Jews are, they’re not really Jewish.

Last gasp of the old media *UPDATED*

Do you think it’s coincidence that the Sunday before Prop. 8 formally goes before California voters, the SF Chron runs an article about a lesbian couple’s wedding that would be perfectly suitable for a saccharine Barbara Cartland romance?  I probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared about this little subliminal push for its readers to vote with the liberal agenda if I hadn’t read this on the same day I learned that the Chron suppressed information about Obama’s boast that he was going to bankrupt the American coal industry.

I’m glad those two women found happiness together, and I have no problem with giving them civil recognition as a couple, with all the legal benefits and burdens that entails.  However, let’s just not pretend that this civil recognition is marriage, a pretense that will have two horrible side effects:  (a) it will insert the government into religion, which is precisely what the Founders most feared and (b) it is a slippery slope that inevitably (no brakes) opens the door for Muslim polygamy, not to mention some less savory practices such as polyandry and bestiality (or, if you’re in Japan, marriage to cartoon characters).

UPDATE:  Thanks to Rockdalian for bringing to my attention the story that the Chronicle isn’t telling in the days leading up to a vote on Prop. 8:  namely, the fact that the California school system is sitting on its hands in the face of a teacher who gave kindergartners a form to fill out supporting Gay and Lesbian rights.

Gay marriage is legal in California *UPDATED*

California joins Massachusetts.

I’ll be interested to read the decision when I get the chance.

As for me, let me reiterate my usual point. I am not categorically opposed to gay marriage. However, I think we’re rushing too fast to change human relationships that have been fixed across all human cultures for thousands of years: marriage is between a man and a woman. Even polygamy doesn’t mess with that basic (and biological) principle. I prefer more thought before getting pushed politically into such changes.

UPDATE:  I just wanted to say, friends, that you are a remarkable group of people.  In a series of 56 comments, despite differences of opinion, all of you have consistently been intelligent, respectful, thoughtful and open-minded.  Thank you so much.

Unclear on the marriage concept

I don’t know anything about Evergreen State College, except that I’d certainly steer clear of one history professor there — and if she’s representative of the rest of the faculty, I’d avoid the school entirely. But let me back up.

In today’s NY Times, one of the top most emailed articles is an op-ed by guest contributor “Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history at Evergreen State College.” Coontz is not a nobody in academic circles. Judging by her website, she has spent her long academic career focusing on women and marriage, and has published many books on the subject. She looks like a nice lady. All of which makes more incomprehensible the fundamental thinking errors underlying her op-ed piece.

Her article’s premise is spelled out in its title: “Taking Marriage Private.” That is, she suggests that marriage cease to be something affiliated with the state and become a purely private matter — sort of like living together, except with some sort of preliminary party. To support her premise, she embarks on a laundry list of historic moments in marriage, which reads like one of the time charts on a library wall — all facts, no substance or understanding. The end of the article is, of course, the conclusion that the state should allow gay marriage.

But here I am, being conclusory myself. Let me explain what I mean about the intellectual flaws in Coontz’s chronology. I think the easiest way to do that is fisk her essay. I’ll apologize in advance for the fact that fisking her essay destroys the chronological coherence of my argument, since I’m responding to her sometimes random, vague, or misleading points in the order in which she makes them.

WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married. [This argument may be technically correct, but it still misses by a mile the core issue, which is that marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic faith. Catholic marriage is not simply a formulaic procedural event. Instead, as one Catholic website explains, "Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n.4, ex S. Aug. 'De Catechizandis rudibus)." In other words, sacraments lie at the heart of the Catholic faith. People who professed themselves married, even if they did so on their own, were still presumably embracing the sacrament of marriage, which obligated the church to recognize their self-imposed status. And to the extent it was a sacrament, people were not going to mess around lightly with the concept.]

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce. [See my discussion above.]

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match. [True, but Coontz is being disingenuous in this paragraph by coyly handing out minimal facts. What she fails to mention was that, in the 16th Century, the Catholic Church, which hitherto had been practically indistinguishable from the governance of Europe, was suddenly being challenged by Protestantism. In England, for example, Henry VIII broke with the Pope and started the Church of England, with himself as the head. Nevertheless, he was a traditionalist and continued to be believe in marriage as a sacrament. To the extent he merged marriage and state, marriage had to be taken out of the Catholic church and put into the state to satisfy his religious requirements. The same was happening throughout Europe. As the Church faltered, the state took over, either because it was replacing the Church, as in England, or because it was trying to reinforce Church hegemony, as in France or Italy.]

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage. By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry. [Again, true, but there are a few problems. First, Coontz makes it sound as if merely living together was sufficient to create a recognized marriage. The opposite was true. Common law marriages were hard to prove at law: the relationship had to be one of long duration, and both parties to the relationship had to hold themselves out to others as husband and wife. In an increasingly bureaucratized age, and in an era of greater social dislocation and alienation, however, these public representations became harder to validate, and the states needed a recognizable procedure for clarifying relationships. The potent amalgam of a mobile population, children, and the full faith and credit clause requiring State A to recognize a marriage in State B, meant that it made sense to standardize the situation.]

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce. [I'm not sure what Coontz's point is here. That some states had bad marriage laws has nothing to do with the fact that states had valid reasons for passing basic marriage laws in the first instance.]

In the mid-20th century, governments began to get out of the business of deciding which couples were “fit” to marry. Courts invalidated laws against interracial marriage, struck down other barriers and even extended marriage rights to prisoners. [Ditto.]

But governments began relying on marriage licenses for a new purpose: as a way of distributing resources to dependents. The Social Security Act provided survivors’ benefits with proof of marriage. Employers used marital status to determine whether they would provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information. [Again, Coontz is being disingenuous by slipping in here for the very first time in her lengthy disquisition the core historical (and, perhaps, modern) point of marriage: children. Indeed, she doesn't even make this point explicitly, instead euphemizing it as "a way of distributing resources to dependents," and then trying to disguise the point with babble about Social Security benefits and hospital visits. At all times, in all cultures, the focus behind marriage is children and inheritance. When the Church controls a society, the Church sets the terms for marriage. When the state controls society, the state sets the terms. But it's always about establishing patrimony, ensuring child care, and distributing wealth. To imply that this factor is a sudden mid-20th century phenomenon is misleading.]

In the 1950s, using the marriage license as a shorthand way to distribute benefits and legal privileges made some sense because almost all adults were married. Cohabitation and single parenthood by choice were very rare.

Today, however, possession of a marriage license tells us little about people’s interpersonal responsibilities. Half of all Americans aged 25 to 29 are unmarried, and many of them already have incurred obligations as partners, parents or both. Almost 40 percent of America’s children are born to unmarried parents. Meanwhile, many legally married people are in remarriages where their obligations are spread among several households. [This is not an argument. It's a glossy statement that hides the fact that the 40 percent of America's children that are born to unmarried parents also constitute the greatest number of American children living in poverty. And the fact that people have identities outside of marriage has nothing to do with the societal benefits that arise from marriage (although I assume she's trying to say that, in the 1950s, when "almost all adults were married," all you needed was a marriage license to become a recipient of distributed state benefits. That's untrue, of course.)]

Using the existence of a marriage license to determine when the state should protect interpersonal relationships is increasingly impractical. Society has already recognized this when it comes to children, who can no longer be denied inheritance rights, parental support or legal standing because their parents are not married. [Whoa, Nellie! Did she just say that children cannot be denied inheritance rights? That's certainly true in places such as Italy and Brazil, but last I heard, parents could still cut ungrateful American brats out of their wills. In fact, I know of one particularly mean-spirted parent who successfully cut her lovely child out of her will. I will provide for my children as part of my testamentary planning because I love them, not because the state forces me to. And even in the old days, when remarriage was common because of one spouse's death, the break-up of a marriage didn't necessarily deny the children of a previous marriage any testamentary rights. It just depended on the way in which the estate was originally devised, a fact all Jane Austen readers understand.]

As Nancy Polikoff, an American University law professor, argues, the marriage license no longer draws reasonable dividing lines regarding which adult obligations and rights merit state protection. A woman married to a man for just nine months gets Social Security survivor’s benefits when he dies. But a woman living for 19 years with a man to whom she isn’t married is left without government support, even if her presence helped him hold down a full-time job and pay Social Security taxes. [Well, then, maybe they should have gotten married so as to take advantage of the government benefits. Polikoff and Coontz both get the argument bass ackwards here. They say because the law is unfair to people who make different choices, the law is wrong. It never occurs to them that the law is intended to increase societal stability, especially for children, and that maybe the choices are wrong.] A newly married wife or husband can take leave from work to care for a spouse, or sue for a partner’s wrongful death. But unmarried couples typically cannot, no matter how long they have pooled their resources and how faithfully they have kept their commitments. [Ditto.]

Possession of a marriage license is no longer the chief determinant of which obligations a couple must keep, either to their children or to each other. But it still determines which obligations a couple can keep — who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits. This may serve the purpose of some moralists. But it doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments. [Ditto.]

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship. [Or perhaps it's time for society to remember what marriage is about and, instead of shaping the law to choices that although beneficial to individuals are deleterious to society, Society should remind individuals that marriage is good for children and stabilizes society, that these laws serve a valid purpose and that those who, knowing the law, still elect to co-habitate, have made their choices and must take their chances.]

As for me, I’m conflicted about co-habitation before marriage. I did it because, in my heyday, everyone did it. I was very pragmatic about it, seeing it as a way to save on rent and as a practice for marriage. As to the latter, it wasn’t, of course, a point best made by a friend of mine who also lived with her husband before marrying him. She said that everyone asked her, “if you’re already living together, why get married?” She replied that this question showed a complete misunderstand of marriage.

“When John and I were living together, we always knew that we could just walk away if it didn’t work out. We were roommates with sex. However, when we got married, we stood before man and God and made a commitment to each other. Our vows were a covenant to the marriage. It’s not a contract. It’s not that, if one person ‘breaches’ the contract, the other person can walk out. A covenant binds you regardless of the other person. Since we’re married, John and I are much more careful of each other’s feelings because we are bound together.”

My friend was absolutely right. And she spoke that way before having children. As those of us with children know, that binding tightens when there are children involved. Even though children can put great stress on a marriage, their needs — physical, emotional and economic — are best met by a stable marriage.

When marriage is a miserably unhappy experience, even if there are children involved, it’s probably a mistake to try to hold the marriage together. However, if the marriage is tolerable, that combination of public commitment, religious covenant, and obligation to the children should keep a couple together, since their togetherness benefits their children and society as a whole.

UPDATE:  Myriad typos corrected, although I’m sure you can still find many more.

Non-traditional families are not good for children

One of the constant themes from the Left is that a traditional home, with a biological mother and father (or a home with a married mother and father who have committed to adopting children) is no better than a single mother home, or a two father home, or a two mother home. With respect to that first — the single mother home — they could not be more wrong, as even an AP article admits:

Six-year-old Oscar Jimenez Jr. was beaten to death in California, then buried under fertilizer and cement. Two-year-old Devon Shackleford was drowned in an Arizona swimming pool. Jayden Cangro, also 2, died after being thrown across a room in Utah.

In each case, as in many others every year, the alleged or convicted perpetrator had been the boyfriend of the child’s mother — men thrust into father-like roles which they tragically failed to embrace.

Every case is different, every family is different. Some single mothers bring men into their lives who lovingly help raise children when the biological father is gone for good.

Nonetheless, many scholars and front-line caseworkers interviewed by The Associated Press see the abusive-boyfriend syndrome as part of a broader trend that deeply worries them. They note an ever-increasing share of America’s children grow up in homes without both biological parents, and say the risk of child abuse is markedly higher in the nontraditional family structures.

“This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. “Cohabitation has become quite common, and most people think, ‘What’s the harm?’ The harm is we’re increasing a pattern of relationships that’s not good for children.”

The existing data on child abuse in America is patchwork, making it difficult to track national trends with precision. The most recent federal survey on child maltreatment tallies nearly 900,000 abuse incidents reported to state agencies in 2005, but it does not delve into how rates of abuse correlate with parents’ marital status or the makeup of a child’s household.

There’s a lot more in the article which, even though it admits that some statistics are hard to come by, nevertheless says that existing statistics show a very disturbing trend for children trapped in single Mom homes, with revolving door boyfriends.

I’m actually quite surprised that this went through the AP filters, because it’s a tacit admission that the conservative agenda, which promotes stable traditional marriages, is actually better than the alternatives.  I’m not saying, of course, that we should make it illegal for women to raise children alone or that women alone should be denied boyfriends, or anything silly like that.  I am saying, though, that one of the ways in which America can improve child welfare without more taxes and endless government programs is simply to promote traditional marriage.

Right now, between the devaluation of traditional marriage because of the pressure for gay marriage, the PC claim that single women don’t need a man (which is both a sop to feminists and to African-American women who have traditionally found themselves parenting solo, for myriad reasons), and the pop culture that turns its back on the old rhythm of “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage), the social and emotional validity of marriage as a prelude to children is at a low ebb — and children need us to reverse that trend.

Ward and June Cleaver revisited

Back in December 2004, I wrote a post over at my old blog site about how difficult life is in the 21st Century for June Cleaver. Since Blogger posts, after a certain period of time, lose all formatting, I’ll reprint it here, in an easy to read format:

I’ve been looking around at friends’ marriages, and wondering what makes some happy and some unhappy. And I keep thinking of Ward and June Cleaver, who have always typified for me the classic American division of male/female roles in a “married with children” relationship. She maintains the house; he pays the bills. They are polite to each other. She is the first line of defense for matters involving the children, but he is the final word, and all defer to him.

One could argue that, at least from the woman’s point of view, it’s a dreadful division, since she works hard, but he holds ultimate power. What’s weird, though, is that the couples I know who have returned to a Ward and June life-style have very happy marriages. Each knows his or her area of responsibility within the relationship, and that seems to take away from, rather than to add to, stress.

The other happy couples I know are those where they’ve truly mixed-and-matched the Ward and June roles. That is, both work, but both share equally in household management. Each seems to respect the other and there is a health give-and-take for responsibility. I know only two couples who have achieved this, so it seems to be a real rarity, at least in my circles.

The most angry marriages are those where the man clings to the Ward role, but expects his wife to be both June (household manager) and Ward (breadwinner). These are the households where the woman holds a full- or part-time job, and is also the primary caregiver for the children (when they’re not in school), as well as the chief shopper, cook, laundress, and house cleaner. Sadly, this is also the dominant model in my community, and I think it goes a long way to explaining the very resentful women I know.

The problem I’m observing is nothing new. Fifteen years ago, Arlie Hochschild wrote a book called The Second Shift, which examined relationships in which both man and woman work. I haven’t read the book since its publication, but my memory is that the women who carried the heaviest load were the yuppie wives whose husbands paid lip-service to an “equal” relationship in the marriage — a dynamic that precisely describes the married couples in my world.

What Hochschild discovered is that those husbands — even while claiming that, just as their wives added the Ward role to their June role, they too added the June role to their Ward role — were creating an elaborate fiction themselves. Their “equal” role in the house amounted to toting out the garbage once a week, or picking up the occasional milk. Those who laid claim to all responsibilities outside the house’s walls (that is, yard work), essentially mowed the lawn weekly. Meanwhile, their wives, who also held paying jobs, were handling shopping, cooking, cleaning, childcare, and all other miscellaneous stuff.

Ironically, those husbands who were most likely to provide real help around the house were the old-fashioned men who bitterly resented the economic necessity that forced their wives into the workplace. It was they who placed the most value on their wives’ work, and were therefore most likely to recognize the women’s sacrifice in leaving the home for the workplace. “Modern men,” with their views of equality, seemed to see traditional women’s work as valueless and were unwilling to sully their hands with it.

It’s interesting that, 15 years after I read that book as an unencumbered single, I look around my world and see that the book could just as easily have been written today, ’cause nothing’s changed. Apparently Ward and June were on to something….

It turns out Arlie Hochschild’s 18 year old conclusions and my three year old observations are still right on the money. More and more research is showing that, while men still enjoy a Ward Cleaver level of “life is good” satisfaction, augmented by more gadgets and better health than Ward could ever imagine, women are increasingly unhappy because of the burdens their Ward and June expectations impose on them:

Two new research papers, using very different methods, have both come to this conclusion. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, economists at the University of Pennsylvania (and a couple), have looked at the traditional happiness data, in which people are simply asked how satisfied they are with their overall lives. In the early 1970s, women reported being slightly happier than men. Today, the two have switched places.

Mr. Krueger, analyzing time-use studies over the last four decades, has found an even starker pattern. Since the 1960s, men have gradually cut back on activities they find unpleasant. They now work less and relax more.

Over the same span, women have replaced housework with paid work — and, as a result, are spending almost as much time doing things they don’t enjoy as in the past. Forty years ago, a typical woman spent about 23 hours a week in an activity considered unpleasant, or 40 more minutes than a typical man. Today, with men working less, the gap is 90 minutes.

These trends are reminiscent of the idea of “the second shift,” the name of a 1989 book by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild, arguing that modern women effectively had to hold down two jobs. The first shift was at the office, and the second at home.

But researchers who have looked at time-use data say the second-shift theory misses an important detail. Women are not actually working more than they were 30 or 40 years ago. They are instead doing different kinds of work. They’re spending more time on paid work and less on cleaning and cooking.

What has changed — and what seems to be the most likely explanation for the happiness trends — is that women now have a much longer to-do list than they once did (including helping their aging parents). They can’t possibly get it all done, and many end up feeling as if they are somehow falling short.

Mr. Krueger’s data, for instance, shows that the average time devoted to dusting has fallen significantly in recent decades. There haven’t been any dust-related technological breakthroughs, so houses are probably just dirtier than they used to be. I imagine that the new American dustiness affects women’s happiness more than men’s.

For women, it seems to be damned if you don’t have the choices and damned if you do.  Either way, the to-do list is too long, and the rewards for effort are too small.

It’s “random thoughts” day

I’m on another vacation, sitting in a cyber cafe, working at a small computer with a microscopic keyboard, so it must be random thoughts day. Thank goodness DQ is doing the heavy lifting.

The first thing that caught my interest is what Mitt said at the debate, which I really liked:

But it was Romney forced on the defensive on the issue of abortion, when Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback defended automated phone calls his campaign had been making that highlight his rival’s one-time support for pro-choice policies.

“It’s truthful,” Brownback said.

Romney called it “desperate, maybe negative,” adding moments later, “I get tired of people that are holier than thou because they’ve been pro-life longer than I have.” (Emphasis mine.)

The fact is that many people who came of age in the 1960s have taken a long slow journey from one side to the other. As my own change in political convictions shows, the fact that I came late to the game doesn’t mean I’m not one of the biggest fans. In any event, as I keep reminding and reminding people, the best we can hope for is a chief executive who appoints strict constructionist judges, since it is they, not the President, who will change abortion policies.

Indeed, I’m reminded again and again that, probably, the most important thing the new President can do is change the Supreme Court — and we must really hope that the new President is a conservative. I think I’ve hammered hope the point that, if you haven’t already read Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan, you must. It points the finger of blame at activist judges who decided that the laws and traditions of their own country were irrelevant, because they were connected to a higher authority of human rights law, courtesy of the EU and the UN. (As you may recall, some of our more liberal and aged Supreme Court justices have been making tentative moves in the same direction.)

I’m now reading Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, which describes in chilling detail what is happening, day-to-day, on the streets of Europe as a result of the multi-cultural, socialist, non-democratically judge ruled European nations that allowed unlimited Muslim immigration, with full funding no matter the fraud, and has proven unwilling because of  its doctrinal blinders to deal with the inevitable Islamist nihilism, violence and brutality.  Bawer is a liberal  gay man who is mad, frightened, and finally aware the America is the last, best hope for Western freedom  and democracy.

Continuing randomly, Confederate Yankee continues to eviscerate the once reputable TNR over the Scott Thomas propaganda piece.  It now turns out that when TNR did  it’s little “we were sort of wrong” mea culpa, it left out  a few pertinent facts.  Whoops!

TNR’s not  the only one covering up information to score political or ideological points (or just to cover up journalistic  malfeasance).  Turns out that, again, the Times is guilty of allowing the publication of an article attacking Orthodox Jews that used as its starting  point a known false anecdote.  Starting with Walter Duranty, journalistic integrity at the Times seemed to have morphed into, if we beieve the underlying ideology, we are acting with integrity when we lie about those  facts to support our ideological  beliefs.  Incidentally, that’s psychologically similar to the European Muslims who have no problems breaking European laws because, as far as they’re concerned, such laws don’t exist.

Incidentally, since I’m in Times bashing mode (it’s editorial policies make it an easy target), let me just  direct you to an American Thinker article exposing its decision to publish a piece by known  Israel  basher — and Canadian — Michael  Ignatieff as he explains  why he can’t support the war in Iraq. Surprise, surprise!  It’s all about the “Jooos.”  As Babu said to Jerry, finger rhythmically wagging, “You are a very bad man.”

And the last random thought, a surprising report today that more women are living with the fathers of their children!  We used to call that marriage, but they don’t because they aren’t (married, that is).   I  suppose this should be heartening, but I find it depressing, at least from the child’s  point of view.  Marriage says (even though it may not  mean) “we’re committed for the long haul.”  Living  together says (even though it may not  mean) “I can walk out at any time.”  I think the former is better for children’s sense of stability, rather than the latter.