Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Marrital Idiocy

In the Science section of the New York Times on Tuesday, Claudia Dreifus interviews Stephanie Coontz who is promoting a book she wrote on marital history. The majority of the interview is humdrum, but I have to quibble with a couple of the questions and responses. It is pretty clear that Coontz is promoting a feminist prospective on marriage in this book, which I do not mind per se, but I do mind some leaps she makes.

Q. Some critics wonder whether the changes in marriage have been good for children. Are you sympathetic to their concerns?

A. Certainly the situation for modern families is not easy. But you know, when people romanticize the marriages of the past, they say, "Marriage is about making sure that every child has a mother and a father." But for thousands of years, marriage was about getting in-laws, making alliances, determining which child had a right to parents and inheritance. Illegitimate children had no rights. A lot of these traditionalists idealize a paradise that never was.

Where in her response does she actually address the fact that children, especially male children, are being hurt by single-mother househoulds? In econometric analysis of crime rates, for example, 50% of crime is linked, controlling for poverty, to single-mother households. What about the fact that children are now being more raised by day-care workers than by one of the parents? It seems like a non-sequitor response to avoid addressing a legitimate concern.

Q. What do you make of the fact that divorce rates are especially high in many "red" states like Oklahoma and Alabama?

A. I see it as a sign that families are changing so rapidly that stated values are poor predictors of actual behavior. Educated individuals are more likely to have a value system that says it's O.K. to be divorced, but they are less likely to do it. Blacks are more likely to disapprove of cohabitation than whites, but much more likely to cohabit. Oklahoma and Alabama have high divorce rates. Massachusetts, the poster state for liberalism, does not.

This was a rather loaded question by the interviewer and is the standard rebuttal by liberals on the values issue. The fact of the matter is that these statistics are very misleading. Perhaps the higher divorce rates in "red states" come from that fact that instead of cohabitating or fucking around a different person each month, people with a strong value system are much more likely to get married at a younger age especially if they are staying virgins until they are married. Perhaps people in “red states” are much less likely to do bullshit like open marriages and other perversions popular among the moral-relativists

Alternatively, perhaps the lower divorce rates in some “blue states” come from the differing numbers of Catholics in respective states. Contrary to idiotic stereotypes, Catholicism is one of the few Christian sects that actually has strong language against divorce. While many evangelical groups do not encourage divorce, they usually do not actually persecute the members who do it. There are simply more Catholics in Massachusetts than there are Oklahoma or Alabama. Any “scientist” like Coontz should be statistically rigorous enough to test other possibilities or at least suggest them.

Q. What's the upside to the marriage revolution?

A. How much men have changed in these past 30 years. You never used to see men with their children. Husbands may now believe they do more housework than they in fact do, but they are doing some. When I see the wonderful, respectful relationships that my son and his friends have with the women in their lives, I see something really new.

I assume Coontz is talking about the upside for women and not for men. She backs up none of what she is saying with evidence here and is just spouting out her assumptions and anecdotal observations. Men did not used to be seen with their children? Perhaps that was because in the past parents did not feel the need to bring out their children in public as some sort of expensive accessory to flaunt. Perhaps they believed more in spending quality time with the children at home rather than over-scheduling their children into pointless, structured activities. Perhaps men had to work a lot more back in the day or did less housework in the past because they were doing things like yard work, fixing appliances etc.

The truth of the matter is that being a man is no longer respected anymore among the establishment anymore. Now boys in school are pussified, restrained and forced to conform into feminine ways of learning. A father’s contribution to parenting and to a marriage is mocked by popular culture. Men are always portrayed as the bumbling idiots in sitcoms and advertisements. Positive masculine attributes of self-sacrifice, bravery, and strength are belittled and viewed as outmoded. Now we don’t usually bitch about this because we can take it but sometimes men do not know what the fuck they are supposed to be doing now. While woman needed to have their full potential for success opened up to them as well as full rights as citizens, the accompanying social side-effects have not necessarily been all candy and rainbows. Being blind to this is dangerous for the long term health of our families and our society.

Why are strong marriages so good for society? Well, there are a number of reasons but the key is that women make men not be stupid. They force men to stop taking dumb risks, stop sleeping around with anything that has a hole and stop starting fights with every damn person. They also are more likely to get on men to eat better, take showers and other frou frou stuff. I hear this is good for quality of life, but what do I know.

That’s enough for today as I am hungry. Sorry if I offended anyone as I am stupid sometimes.

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