No rising generation

by John Quiggin on October 21, 2005

Reading Maggie Gallagher on how gay marriage will bring an end to marriage as an institution for procreation and Leon Kass on how the Pill has ruined courtship, you can see the usual story of a vanished golden age. For Kass, it’s the turn of the 2Oth century when “our grandfathers came a-calling and a-wooing at the homes of our grandmothers, under conditions set by the woman, operating from strength on her own turf”. For Gallagher, it seems to be the 1950s.

The assumption is that turning the clock back a century (or half a century) will be enough to restore the golden age. In fact, the turn of the 2Oth century was a period of moral panic cast in terms very similar to those of Kass and Gallagher. As effective family planning became possible for the first time, the birth rate plummeted, falling from 5.1 births per married woman to 2.6 in the space of only forty years for the cohorts born between 1860 and 1900. My mother wrote the book on this. It’s loaded with quoted denunciations of selfish females pursuing pleasure at the expense of their duty to the race.

As for the 1950s, it’s worth noting that the causality relation between procreation and marriage was mixed, to say the least. About 25 per cent of brides were pregnant in this period. Chasing this statistic down, I found a fascinating study by another ANU demographer, Peter McDonald. He argues that the rise of family planning contributed both to the boom in early marriage in the 1950s and to the rise of pre-marital sexual activity. The argument is that “the knowledge that early marriage did not now imply vast numbers of children” made young people unwilling to delay sexual activities, even though access to contraception was largely confined to those who were already married. I think it’s important to add in the influence of the short-lived Golden Age of full employment, starting during World War II and ending in the early 1970s. McDonald is fairly negative about all this, saying that “as high as 60 per cent of teenage marriages in Australia are likely to have ended in divorce.”

Lots of social conservatives want to go back to the 50s. But if we take Kass and Gallagher’s arguments seriously, they lead us back to the 1850s, not the 1950s.

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1

McDuff 10.21.05 at 6:13 am

But why on earth would you take their arguments seriously anyway? Heaven knows I’d rather live in the modern degenerate world, with our voting rights for women and low infant/female mortality rates, than in some golden age where my female relatives were always at risk because we weren’t able to yet adequately protect them. And I’d far rather live in a world where it wasn’t shameful to have a child outside of wedlock, so that people who do were not cast onto the streets or disowned, but that the first and foremost focus would be the healthy upbringing of the child.

I know we’re still working on that last one, but at least we don’t believe that a father has the right to kill his daughter for getting knocked up any more.

2

Ray 10.21.05 at 6:50 am

The key word is ‘shame’. The want gays to be ashamed of being gay. They want people having sex to be ashamed of having sex. They want women to be ashamed of not being married, of not being good mothers, of not being good wives. They want everyone to know their place, and be ashamed of doing anything to disrupt a clear social hierarchy, because they are sure that _their_ place in that hierarchy would be at the top.

3

almostinfamous 10.21.05 at 6:53 am

But if we take Kass and Gallagher’s arguments seriously, they lead us back to the 1850s, not the 1950s.

conservatives and their love of the victorian age still confuses me.for some reason, a lot of them idealize the socioeconomic situation at or slightly before the turn of the (previous) century. case in point, my former roommate nearly drove me mad with his insistence that we should go back to the gold standard and pass tort reform that would effectively remove all consumer protection because ‘people should be more careful about what they do’. needless to say, i moved out ASAP.

4

rea 10.21.05 at 7:05 am

“pass tort reform that would effectively remove all consumer protection because ‘people should be more careful about what they do’.”

Or, more accurately, people who buy products would have to be more careful about what they do. People who manufacture or sell products, of course, would be LESS careful. Funny how these people always miss that point . . .

5

sammler 10.21.05 at 7:14 am

There are a lot of problems with Mr. Quiggin’s post, and with the preceding [first] comment. I will attempt to address a few.

1) Of the 1950’s, Mr. Quiggin notes, “About 25 per cent of brides were pregnant in this period.” This does not undermine Ms. Gallagher’s conclusions, but rather reinforces them. She has been pointing out that one of the major societal purposes of marriage is to connect children with their fathers — and this is exactly what Mr. Quiggin describes happening.

2) Mr. McDuff then makes the contribution that “Heaven knows I’d rather live in the modern degenerate world, with our voting rights for women and low infant/female mortality rates…”. As if Ms. Gallagher, or any of her ilk, were seeking to roll back the scientific progress (as opposed to social change) that has lowered mortality rates. As if female suffrage were under threat. You may believe this brain-damaged conspiracy theory, but the burden on you to justify it should be far heavier than that on Ms. Gallagher to justify claims that same-sex marriage will have deleterious effects.

3) Before belittling the “moral panic” of Mr. Kass and Ms. Gallagher, could you display some statistics as to what portion of the population grew up in single-parent households in 1950, or even (in a much more dangerous world) 1850? It seems plausible to me that their pessimism is justified.

4) That many teenage marriages end in divorce is the sign of two contradictory social forces: the social pressure to marry is not followed by a corresponding pressure to stay married. It does not follow from this that the pressure to marry should be removed, any more than it necessarily follows that the stigma against divorce should be renewed.

In sum, accusing those who question change of wanting to turn back the clock is a cheap rhetorical device, and no more. To point out that other eras were superior to our own in some ways should not be controversial. The challenge is for both sides to honestly attempt to regain those features without giving up the advances made on other fronts.

6

Ray 10.21.05 at 7:32 am

It strikes me that 5 years after the end of WWII, there would have been quite a number of children growing up in households where the father was either a) dead b) absent for long periods (stationed abroad) or c) not the biological father of at least some of the children in the house. That last is important because Gallagher’s argument is that marriage is necessary to create stable families where men stay with _their_ children, and that other families are less valuable.

7

theogon 10.21.05 at 7:41 am

The point isn’t that one expects the repeal of universal suffrage; it’s that Gallagher, &al.’s normative conception of marriage is fundamentally based on the status of women as property (though the framing, notice, is as a restriction on men – bundled nicely with the “all men are sex-obsessed antifamilial animals who need women to civilize them” stereotype.)

If the problem is reconciling a modern “partnership” model of marriage with high birthrates, there’d be no need to oppose gay marriage. One could argue in favor of greater state benefits to help children and their parents (tax credits, schooling, healthcare, etc.), arguably a laudable goal in itself. And hey, look, gays can adopt! Moreover, as pointed out in the last thread, society-at-large can adopt immigrants into its fold.

8

harry b 10.21.05 at 7:44 am

ray, there’s a very big difference between having a dead father and having an absent-but-not-dead father. The former, believe it or not, has much less bad effects (acc to all the sociological literature).

9

Daniel 10.21.05 at 7:47 am

I would take all these attempts to restore the Golden Age Of The Family a lot more seriously if they were combined with attempts to restore its economic base; full employment and jobs for life.

10

Steve LaBonne 10.21.05 at 8:00 am

Hey, Kass has a job for life, so there’s a start.

11

sammler 10.21.05 at 8:04 am

Ray [6]: there are two shortcomings in that argument. First, the total of American combat deaths (349,000) represents about 1/3 of the men born in an average year at the time, and many would not have had children; thus the situation was not common, in the sense that it did not apply to a substantial fraction of households.

Second, no mechanism has been found to connect men with other men’s children; so connecting them with their own fathers is at present the only possibility.

12

Ray 10.21.05 at 8:10 am

On the difference between absent and dead fathers, I wasn’t making any claim for the effects, just wondering how much distance there was between the 1950’s family and the model family. (As for effects, there’s no reasearch showing ill-effects from growing up in a stable 2-parent household where both parents are the same sex)

“no mechanism has been found to connect men with other men’s children; so connecting them with their own fathers is at present the only possibility.”

So what’s the logical conclusion – ban divorce, or just ban remarriage? The small number of children that might be raised in SSM households are dwarfed by the number of children raised by divorced or step-parents. If you want to protect marriage and parental ties to children, isn’t this the elephant in the living-room?

13

sammler 10.21.05 at 8:14 am

Daniel [9]: A few words about “full employment and jobs for life”. This is a feasible goal only in a socially and technologically static society. An attempt to make it a universal promise founders on change, so that almost any change becomes destructive.

The Miners’ Strikes in Britain in the 1970’s provide an instructive example. With the demand for coal declining, and the cost of extraction from older pits increasing, the Coal Board attempted to close some of the most unprofitable pits. But this would necessarily have resulted in a decrease in the number of miners employed, leading to two rounds of strikes (the first won by the miners, the second by the rest of society). If you can never change, you will never grow.

This is not to belittle the desire for more security, but to ask that you find some workable goal rather than stamping and crying for the moon.

14

Grand Moff Texan 10.21.05 at 8:15 am

No, the turn of the 20th century is the beginning of modern (highly sexed) courtship as we know it.

Only they called it “treating,” and grandma didn’t work at home.
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15

Grand Moff Texan 10.21.05 at 8:17 am

Make that “live” at home.
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16

Miriam 10.21.05 at 8:18 am

“our grandfathers came a-calling and a-wooing at the homes of our grandmothers, under conditions set by the woman, operating from strength on her own turf”

I can see several of my female relatives back in the greats- and great-greats rolling their eyes right about now, especially the one who got married off at the age of thirteen. Come to think of it, the experiences of both my maternal and paternal grandmothers don’t quite fit this model, either…

17

Uncle Kvetch 10.21.05 at 8:19 am

For Gallagher, it seems to be the 1950s.

I can’t bring myself to read any more of Gallagher’s “thoughts” on this subject, but there’s one thing I’m very curious about. Does Maggie “I Am NOT a Homophobe!” Gallagher acknowledge that life for gays & lesbians in that pre-Sexual Revolution golden age of the 1950s was, with few exceptions, an absolute misery?

Or is this one of those cases of “Everything was better before the 60s (except for the stuff that wasn’t, of course)”?

18

Grand Moff Texan 10.21.05 at 8:22 am

accusing those who question change of wanting to turn back the clock is a cheap rhetorical device, and no more. To point out that other eras were superior to our own in some ways should not be controversial.

No, confusing

1. the gauzy self-representations of a previous period intent on suppressing certain social realities with
2. the social realities of our own period

in order to prop up otherwise unsupportable social policy preferences WOULD be a cheap rhetorical device if only it had been done knowingly.

Instead, it is merely a cheap ignorance device.
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19

Richard Bellamy 10.21.05 at 8:22 am

could you display some statistics as to what portion of the population grew up in single-parent households in 1950, or even (in a much more dangerous world) 1850?

Are you including fathers who were absent due to their being sold down the river to another plantation?

20

Barbar 10.21.05 at 8:27 am

That many teenage marriages end in divorce is the sign of two contradictory social forces: the social pressure to marry is not followed by a corresponding pressure to stay married.

Incredibly obvious, but there is more to marriage than social pressure to enter and maintain it. You might want to compare the divorce rate for teenage marriages to the divorce rate for non-teenage marriages, for example. Do you really that the difference is due to external social pressures?

As if female suffrage were under threat.

You might want to look back at the debates on female suffrage when it was a controversial social issue. There are some uncanny similarities to contemporary debates.

They want everyone to know their place, and be ashamed of doing anything to disrupt a clear social hierarchy, because they are sure that their place in that hierarchy would be at the top.

I agree with where you start here, but I’m not sure about the conclusion. Interestingly Yale graduate Maggie Gallagher was an unwed mom herself. But I don’t really know what that means.

21

Cala 10.21.05 at 8:31 am

Couple of quick points, some to sammier up above:

1) Gallagher has been pointing out not that the purpose of marriage is to connect children with their fathers, but to promote procreation (with the benefit that the fathers are connected.) To the extent that McDonald’s research shows that even in that vaunted golden age, pregnancies happened out of wedlock, that undermines Gallagher’s claim that, well, there was this golden age where marriage was a prerequisite to procreation. It seems to mean at most that people rush into marriages.

2) You’re right that Gallagher isn’t saying to get rid of all medical advances or suffrage. But it would be hard to deny that many of these things are related, or that (say) believing that women are to get married young and produce lots of children won’t impact ones beliefs on the importance of higher education and independence for women.

It’s only been about 35 years since the major American universities became co-ed. I’m going to take a guess that this is somewhat related to changing opinions on what a woman’s role should be.

3) Quiggen is quite correct; the extreme moralism of the Victorian era developed as a reaction to the mores of the time.

4) That said, if Gallagher’s procreation requirement is really her primary criterion, gay marriage should be the least of her concerns. There are far more couples that choose not to have children due to economic reasons, or who are too old, or who are infertile (and I challenge you to tell an infertile woman that she’s part of a fertile life cycle. Bring a camera, too, I want to see the carnage.), or simply by choice.

Surely couples in these situations are doing far more to undermine the idea of marriage as a procreative institution than the what, 2% of marriages that would be same-sex? Her argument seems to be that SSM would be the last straw in a long slippery slope (death to metaphors), but it seems that as straws go, this one is really really lightweight.

22

dale morris 10.21.05 at 8:33 am

almostinfamous, comment #3:

“conservatives and their love of the victorian age still confuses me”

they know no history. that’s why you’re confused. conservatism in any culture and any time is defined intellectually by hankering back to a past age. it’s a negative reaction to change and or to difference, and it’s rooted in fear, rather than excitement, pessimism, rather than optimism. since the left generally shares the conservative position of pessimism, we find it difficult to overcome their entirely puerile standpoints, and they get a free ride.

why do we share it? because both a devout pessimism and a hankering after a past golden age is deeply embedded in the (previously) western and (currently) global model for society and its nature and function. Since you grow up in it, whether you’re left or right, you take certain positions to be axiomatic.

for example, romanticism is generally considered to be good in the cultures-originating-in-western-europe (hereafter COIWE) sometimes misguided, sometimes devoutly impractical, but generally a force for good and light and truth and beauty. romanticism, like conservatism, is largely defined by a hankering for a past golden age. so when a conservative mounts his argument, using that hankering as basis, he gets virtue by association. while you may criticise his conclusions, you are generally inclined to give the person some credit for a genuine desire for things to be vaguely better.

this happens, despite his or her position being the exact opposite of a genuine desire for things to be better – when a conservative hankers after a lost golden age, and locates it in a historical period, they’re hankering after a worse time for the majority of people. (as another commenter pointed out, they simply believe that they won’t be part of the population for whom things are worse.) free ride. You wouldn’t seriously debate a german octogenarian, who seriously proposed that certain valuable societal mechanisms had been lost in 1945, and mourned the passing of that better world, would you?

Like romaticism (which eschewed factual historical periods in favour of mythological ones), conservatism in its hankering pays little attention to fact. Hence the short shrift given to history in general, and my comment in reply to yours, above.

The reason for this is that a common feature of COIWE societies is their valuing, in principle, what is called ‘idealism’ (and is general practice the simple refusal to address empirical data), over what is called ‘pragmatism’ (and is general practice the simple refusal to address moral data). The result of this in everyday practice, is to debase the worth of empirical data.

The refusal to act from their supposed idealism, and their reluctant acquiescence to ‘pragmatic’ necessity, a feature of COIWE politics, arises from their belief in the flawed nature of this world, its inhabitants and all their endeavours. Hence the second great feature of the COIWE world. a devout pessimism is the common heritage of all the older Christian societies, and it traces its origins to the religiously established premise (and one that guided ethics, morals and politics for hundreds of years), that the world, the people in it, and all its prospects are doomed, doomed, doomed, woe, death and decay, woe, woe, woe.

This legacy of pessimism is most easily observed in the united states, where fundamentalism, politics and intellectual conservatism come together most thoroughly.

Notes:

I’m saying, by the way, that only Christian societies are pessimistic. Nor that only COIWE societies hanker after an imagined past. Chinese history, for example, practically begins by hankering after a lost golden age of wondrous seers and sages. But I would contend that neither strand (pessimism and hankering) was institutionalised to the same degree that COIWE societies did. One should remember that technological prowess notwithstanding, the general COIWE world only very recently ceased being an explicitly absolute theocracy. And that only after a bloody guerrilla battle raged across Europe.

Culturally, the COIWE societies are still very much theocracies, though the European arms of the COIWE world seem to have made more progress in throwing off their religious form. This could be a consequence of their having had to implement their revolution within an existent entrenched world of social norms and behaviours – in short, where there was infrastructure to measure progress against, something that was missing in the states. All of which might have made the slippery slope to the current returning theocracy harder to avoid for the united states.

Nor am I saying, as my first paragraph might indicate, that the solution is blanket optimism. The world is necessarily more complex than a Manichean analysis would have you believe.

the solution is, rather than recoiling from change, to devise better and better responses to change, to encourage ingenuity in the face of change, and to devise better and better mechanism for managing difference, and to to continue to improve them as we go. this is called evolution, by the way, and it has a reasonably good pedigree.

23

harry b 10.21.05 at 8:34 am

ray,

I think the 1950’s family is probably not so far from the model they have in mind (though its worth noting, for example, very high rates of teen motherhood in the 50’s — much higher than today — its just that the teens were married!). But, yes, there is a problem with re-marriage, and there is no evidence of a problem with same-sex parents.

Here’s a couple of caveats. First, it is much harder for same-sex couples to have children than for opposite-sex couples, and that may mean that those who become parents are much more committed to parenting than many opposite-sex parents (and better at it). So the non-evidence of harm may be skewed. That said, it is hard to see how it is going to become MUCH easier for same-sex couples to have children than it is now.

Second, the opponents of SSM seem to think that granting SSM would be bad for OSM — leading to more marital break ups (and remarraiges) among them. If so, that could be a reason to oppose SSM. The evidence they offer for this causal conjecture is…. well, they don’t offer any, they just rant. My conjecture: allowing people who want to make a public lifetime committment to each other to do so, when they are in loving romantic relationships, would at least not harm, and might improve, the prospects for OSM. I’m actually not very keen on civil unions – I think it is same-sex marriage we should want, not the privatisation of marriage which is what the proliferation of marital-type relations suggests. (But, of course, I realise that something is better than nothing, and if CUs are the best we can get right now because of the oppostion to SSM, then we should go for it. The opponents of SSM are the enemies of marriage, not the supporters of SSM who go for CUs as a second-best).

24

Grand Moff Texan 10.21.05 at 8:44 am

Who is this idiot? If this is her idea of an enchiridion, I hope she’s swinging a wiffle-ball bat or someone’s gonna get hurt:

A subtler argument sometimes made is this: well, we have some nonprocreating couples in the mix. Why would adding SS couples change anything? Two points: SS couples are being added to the mix precisely in order to assure that society views them as “no different” than other couples.

A subtler strawman, you mean. “Views them as no different”? Puh-lease. They’ll always be different in society. There is no reason for making them so different in law. I stress the word “reason,” because I have never seen any in support of this reflexive bigotry.

This intrinsically means (if the effort is successful) downgrading if not eliminating the social significance of generativity (procreation and family structure).

“Intrinsically” is another clue; it’s like saying “obvious,” which is as much as saying “I have no argument, only disgust.” The author has not established this physical declension metaphor, it’s just a dressing up of the usual scare tactic: gay marriage will ruin straight marriage. A causal chain or test case has never been established.

The second truth is that both older couples and childless couples are part of the natural life-cycle of marriage. Their presence in the mix doesn’t signal anything in particular at all.

And now a tautology that ignores the terms as defined, wrapped up in a personification metaphor. Nice. Still waiting for an argument in this direction. Have been for decades. (At least they’ve been amusing decades.)
.

25

Grand Moff Texan 10.21.05 at 8:50 am

Interestingly Yale graduate Maggie Gallagher was an unwed mom herself. But I don’t really know what that means.

Considering some of the scholarship I’ve seen of late, I’m not sure what an Ivy-League education means, anymore.
.

26

almostinfamous 10.21.05 at 9:09 am

Dale, that was a great explanation especially wrt the political history. thanks!
as to this:the solution is, rather than recoiling from change, to devise better and better responses to change, to encourage ingenuity in the face of change, and to devise better and better mechanism for managing difference, and to to continue to improve them as we go. this is called evolution, by the way, and it has a reasonably good pedigree.

i think, put in those terms it might enrage the dominionists here in the US a lot more than if you just say we have progressed. your explanation sort of puts the evolution pseudo-debate in greater perspective for me.

GMT said:Considering some of the scholarship I’ve seen of late, I’m not sure what an Ivy-League education means, anymore.

I wonder that too actually. case in point the wondrous comments of one H. Mansfield as quoted by Echidne of the Snakes here

27

b 10.21.05 at 9:45 am

Are women happier now than fifty years ago?

Are men happier now than fifty years ago?

Does it matter?

28

Jabot The Scrob 10.21.05 at 10:49 am

My grandma (b 1920’s d 2000) genuinely thought that if people wore hats more, then somehow many social ills would be cured and we would have a renaissance of manners and a moral utopia would be re-established. I think this is roughly what many peoples unhealthy obsession with other peoples business boils down to. Usually it is also advanced with claims that, for some reason the side disagreeing has a higher burden of proof than those advancing these mickey mouse theories. For my grandma it had to do with the fact that she was advancing good ol’ common sense that would only be obscured by argumentation or facts.

29

Daniel 10.21.05 at 10:50 am

(full employment and a job for life) is a feasible goal only in a socially and technologically static society

really? they did invent things in the 1960s you know. they called it “the white heat of the tehnological revolution”.

30

Peter 10.21.05 at 1:05 pm

Personally, I blame the introduction of the Penny Post in England in 1840. This enabled young women to communicate with young men without being overheard or seen by a chaperone. Caused immense social damage, which we’re still dealing with. Abolish the postal service, I say, wot!

31

Maynard Handley 10.21.05 at 3:10 pm

Those lucky, lucky Arabs.

Why exactly is the US so intent on beating them up? As far as I can tell, the way they run their societies is everything a certain segment of the Republican party wants for the US.

32

Maynard Handley 10.21.05 at 3:27 pm


Are women happier now than fifty years ago?
Are men happier now than fifty years ago?
Does it matter?

Oh my, this question opens up a can of worms.
The answer on self-reported happiness, for the UK, is a rise after WW2 till the 70’s followed by a very mild fall; rising from about 6.5 out of 10 to about 7.6 out of 10 falling to about 7.4 out of 10. (Figures from memory, so may be slightly off.)
This can be viewed two ways. The obvious way(relevant to this post) is some sort of rant about the good old days of the 70s when society still existed and people cared about their brother man.
The alternative is to say that this is just not much of a change when viewed in light of the changes of society, and the 3x increase in income over this time period (especially when this happiness scores are viewed across societies all over the world, including those much poorer than the west, and which likewise are in the same sort of range). One’s happiness seems for the most part hardwired, or, to put it more explicitly, people seem hardwired for discontent with what they have.
(Daniel Nettle’s book on happiness,
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0192805584/qid=1129926176/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-6988525-9343169?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
covers this material.)

This raises very interesting (and unanswered, as far as I can tell) questions about what the goal of public policy should be. If happiness is out of reach, what else makes sense? National greatness? Sharia and creation of God’s Kingdom on earth?
(My personal answer would be something along the lines of “veil of ignorance type justice for all”, and if that reduces the rate of growth of GDP, well, why exactly is that such a tragedy?)
I’d love to see some serious discussion of these findings — I think they raise some uncomfortable questions for both the left and right.

33

Martial 10.21.05 at 3:34 pm

no mechanism has been found to connect men with other men’s children; so connecting them with their own fathers is at present the only possibility.

There’s a mechanism for connecting men with their own children? You mean, like, child support?

34

aretino 10.21.05 at 4:07 pm

Isn’t Kass just warmed-over Allan Bloom?

35

Walt Pohl 10.21.05 at 7:19 pm

What astounds me is the incredible sexism of Gallagher’s comments and those of some of her supporters — not in their attitude towards women, but in their attitude towards men. Clearly Gallagher believes that men are barely socialized monsters, who need constant societal pressure to be stopped from running amok in the streets. As the father of a small child that I would never abandon, I find it all fantastically offensive.

36

blah 10.21.05 at 7:47 pm

These people are cartoon sociologists.

37

Henry 10.21.05 at 9:30 pm

Are men happier now than fifty years ago?

I was three then and free of any responsibilities. So count one vote for happier fifty years ago.

38

Crystal 10.21.05 at 9:41 pm

I don’t understand why feminists get such a bad rap for being “man-haters” when a lot of these right-wing types spout the most anti-male vitriol I’ve seen. Men, according to this line of thought, are nasty, brutal, violent, and can’t keep it in their pants. I don’t know if Kass realizes how very like Andrea Dworkin he sounds.

Oh, and they’ll take my Baskin-Robbins away from me when they pry my cold, dead fingers off the cone.

39

Peter 10.22.05 at 4:21 am

In response to Henry (post 38): When I was three years old, I had no control over my own life, barely any ability or skills to make cognitive sense of my surroundings, limited access to information or experiences not mediated through my family, and hardly any capability to make decisions about matters which affected me, or to experience their full consequences. I was as frustrated as all hell. Even without suffering any maltreatment or abuse, I certainly was not happier as a child than I am now, an adult.

Our culture perpetuates a myth that childhood is an idyllic state, and this belief is just nonsense when viewed from the perspective of a child.

40

McDuff 10.22.05 at 10:09 am

Sammler

As if Ms. Gallagher, or any of her ilk, were seeking to roll back the scientific progress (as opposed to social change) that has lowered mortality rates.

What lowers female mortality rates? Contraception, mainly. Pregnancy and childbirth remains, even with our advances in modern medicine, the most dangerous time of a woman’s life. The freedom to control their own sexual and reproductive health is exactly the freedom that saves lives, and exactly the freedoms under threat by those who seek to return to a Golden Age of ignorance masquerading as chastity.

As if female suffrage were under threat.

It would have to be were we to restrict women from behaving in the way they do now. For, you see, as we so aptly demonstrate in our society if you give people the freedom to not be locked in their chaste little towers and court “from a position of strength,” but instead to go out and live life, then they will pick the latter, and it is this choice which makes people who think women should stay inside break out into cold sweats. Since women will not voluntarily submit themselves to the Old World Order, the only workable solution to the problem is to restrict their freedom of action. Oh, maybe we’ll let them vote, though, even if we don’t let them work, so I’ll give you that.

Of course, if your idea for improving the morality of women is nothing more insidious than asking them nicely to put down the Bacardi Breezer and get back in the kitchen to wait for that nice man to come a-courtin’, then I wish you every luck with that. I’m sure your audience will give your suggestions the consideration it deserves.

Before belittling the “moral panic” of Mr. Kass and Ms. Gallagher, could you display some statistics as to what portion of the population grew up in single-parent households in 1950, or even (in a much more dangerous world) 1850? It seems plausible to me that their pessimism is justified.

Only if it’s the case that growing up in a “single parent” household is detrimental to children, and I hold that the emphasis on “single parents” vs “married parents” entirely misses the point about what children need when they grow up, and that the “pro-family” nonsense is shockingly misnamed because it never mentions families.

Second, no mechanism has been found to connect men with other men’s children; so connecting them with their own fathers is at present the only possibility.

I’ll be sure to tell my dad that grandad doesn’t really love him when I see them at Christmas.

41

ajay 10.24.05 at 4:40 am

My grandma (b 1920’s d 2000) genuinely thought that if people wore hats more, then somehow many social ills would be cured and we would have a renaissance of manners and a moral utopia would be re-established.

I say this has to be worth a try. Unlike most schemes for restoring moral tone, it has absolutely no oppressive content – at worst, it simply won’t work. There is no discrimination in this plan (except by head size); we’re not proposing that only straight people should wear hats, or that Jews should wear a different sort of hat, or women should only wear pink hats – hats for all! Martin Luther King wore a hat! Churchill wore hats! Lincoln wore a terrific hat!

On a more serious note: on the absent father issue, has any work been done on post-war Britain? A million dead – one in ten of the total male population – in the Great War would have left a lot of fatherless children, it would seem.

42

sammler 10.24.05 at 7:18 am

Daniel (#9): I have written more on lifetime employment and structural unemployment, here.

43

anon 10.24.05 at 9:07 am

“These people are cartoon sociologists.”

Please — they’re not *anything* sociologists. Kass is in biomedical ethics at Chicago, and has no affiliation with the sociology department. Gallagher is a journalist / pundit. I imagine she visited Linda Waite’s office once or twice, but that’s about as close as she’s ever been to a sociological text.

44

sammler 10.24.05 at 10:48 am

McDuff (#41) writes:

It would have to be were we to restrict women from behaving in the way they do now. For, you see, as we so aptly demonstrate in our society if you give people the freedom to not be locked in their chaste little towers and court “from a position of strength,” but instead to go out and live life, then they will pick the latter, and it is this choice which makes people who think women should stay inside break out into cold sweats. Since women will not voluntarily submit themselves to the Old World Order, the only workable solution to the problem is to restrict their freedom of action. Oh, maybe we’ll let them vote, though, even if we don’t let them work, so I’ll give you that.

This is an odd burst of hysteria. As far as I am aware, women form roughly half of the substantial majority which opposes same-sex marriage. Perhaps they are insufficiently edified as to the threat they are posing to their own suffrage, freedom and livelihood?

I certainly share their confusion.

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