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Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America – GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, custody, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Feminism, Freedom, Homosexual Agenda, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Liberty, Marriage, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on August 31, 2009 at 12:53 am

Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America

August 30th, 2009 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

You’d think that an article that ends with this sentence,

What we teach about the true meaning of marriage will determine a great deal about our fate,

would do a better job than this one does of teaching its readers about marriage (Time, 7/2/09).  Caitlin Flanagan gets a few of the high points right, but ignores others entirely.  Maybe there’s an unwritten rule that I don’t know about that forbids mention of certain things.

What Flanagan gets right are things like the value of marriage and a stable home environment to children’s wellbeing.  She understands as well that much of our divorce culture stems from a attitude of hedonism that’s been learned over the past few decades.  Adults often seem incapable of seeing and acting on the most obvious truth – that divorce harms children and that they benefit from having two parents to raise them.  Absent the direst circumstances, adults who have made the choice to have children, should stick together and stick with the children until they themselves become adults.  After that, divorce is fine.

So Flanagan gets the basics, but her context goes a long way toward undermining her thesis.  That context is male infidelity.  The article starts off with photos of various high-profile male philanderers – Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Edwards and, yes, Jon Gosselin.  In the text, she tosses in John Ensign, just to balance the ticket, I suppose.

So what Flanagan is suggesting, without coming out and saying it explicitly, is that the “me first” culture that’s destroying marriage is all about the narcisism of men.  Never does she mention a high-profile female adulterer.  Nowhere does she cite statistics that show that, while married men stray more than do married women, the difference is a matter of a few percentage points.  Depending on which study you prefer, something like 23-28% of married men have extramarital affairs while 15-22% of married women do.  In Flanagan’s piece no women do.

Nor does she mention that most marriages in which one or the other partner commits adultery remain intact.  So sexual infidelity, as wrong as it is, as painful as it is, as self-centered as it is, has little to do with the failure of marriage in America.

Flanagan champions marriage for the many good reasons we all know, but, while bemoaning the fragility of that most important of institutions, she never asks why it’s become fragile.  Doubtless the answers to that question are many and complex, but why not give it a shot?  Why not at least try?

Well, maybe it’s because doing so would inevitably lead where Flanagan and Time fear to tread.  Maybe it would violate that unwritten rule I mentioned earlier.  That marriage is in such ill repute, might conceivably force us to ask how it got that way.  After all, 50 years ago, it wasn’t.  So what happened?

Well, one thing that happened was feminism.

I’m aware of course that many feminists are married.  Gloria Steinem is; Katha Pollitt is; most of my female feminist friends are.  But one of the most consistent themes of feminist discourse over the past 40 years has been that marriage is the seat of male subjugation of women.  According to many feminist writers (see, e.g. Catharine MacKinnon) over the years, marriage is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous to women.  And if men are dangerous to women, they’re no less so to children, so the story goes.

Never mind that essentially every word of those claims is directly contradicted by massive amounts of social science.  Never mind that, whatever may be true about women, men, fish and bicycles, children need their fathers.  And never mind that children have more to fear from their mothers than from their fathers.

Never mind all that because, for decades, popular culture absorbed and repeated most of those feminist claims producing TV programs, movies, books (fiction and non-fiction), short stories, etc. which hewed to the feminist narrative that men are dangerous to women and children and, in any case, incompetent to – and uninterested in – caring for children.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?

No, that’s not my argument.  My argument is simply this: I find it highly coincidental that, after decades of denigrating men, fathers and the institution of marriage, that the institution of marriage is now so shaky.  Maybe the one had nothing to do with the other.  Maybe if second wave feminism had never happened, marriage would still be on the rocks.  About that we’ll never know.  But what we do know is what did happen.  Anyone who chooses to believe that the denigration of marriage by feminists and taken up by popular culture had nothing to do with its current status is welcome to that opinion.

Flanagan, not content to ignore feminism’s contibution to the decline of marriage, moves right on to ignore the law’s.  I’ve detailed elsewhere the many, many ways in which family law separates children from fathers and thus tends to obviate the reason for marriage.  So I won’t go into that again.  But what I will say is this:  we know the one thing that will do more than anything else to discourage it – shared parenting.

Women file for about 70% of divorces in the United States.  They do so because they know to a virtual certainty that they will retain physical custody of their children.  That was the finding of a massive study done in 2000 by Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen of over 40,000 divorce cases in four states.  They learned that far more than any other factor encouraging divorce was the fact that the woman knew she would not lose contact with her children.  What’s also true is that divorce rates drop in jurisdictions that adopt some version of shared parenting.  Establish shared parenting as the law, and, in addition to all its other benefits, watch the divorce rate drop.

But Caitlin Flanagan reports none of that.

Think of what might happen if we devoted even half the resources to telling the truth about fathers and children that we devoted to disinformation about them over the past 40 years.  Combine that with making real efforts – like establishing the presumption of shared parenting in all 50 states – to ensure maximal continued contact between fathers and children post-divorce.  Do those two things and let’s see what the state of marriage is in this country.

Thanks to Jed for the heads-up.

GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive » Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America.

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