The Case Against ‘Saving’ Marriage – Married Nuclear Families Are the Gold Standard Against Which We Are All Judged. by N. Rodgers
I am not always in complete agreement with every last view in every editorial or article I link to.
- I am right wing with traditional values but agree with liberals that right wingers, Republicans, and Christians need to stop idealizing the Nuclear Family, in so far as it marginalizes, punishes, or discriminates against those who do not fit that demographic or lifestyke.
The following editorial is from a progressive (left wing) site. I agree with much of what this editorial says, though not all of it.
(Link): The Case Against ‘Saving’ Marriage by N. Rodgers
Married Nuclear Families Are the Gold Standard Against Which We Are All Judged.
Marriage rates have been declining for more than half a century and single women now outnumber married ones. There are few guides better at navigating this new landscape than Rebecca Traister.
In a recent New York Magazine (Link): article, adapted from her soon-to-be-released book All the Single Ladies, she offers an insightful, nuanced analysis of the plight and power of unmarried women “taking up space in a world that was not designed for them.”
Traister argues that the current democratic policy platform may be more liberal than it has been in a generation in response to the growth of unmarried women. It’s about time. Public policy has lagged almost criminally behind in meeting the needs of single women, and especially single mothers, for decades.
But while a policy platform that stands to benefit unmarried women and mothers is necessary, it is not sufficient. There is no substitute for identity politics. Part of why the U.S. still has such inadequate public policies is the fear of publicly supporting families that conservatives have already convinced us are unequivocally bad, subpar alternatives to the married nuclear variety, especially “single mother” homes.
Progressives should confront conservatives’ favorite national pastime, shaming single mothers (especially if they are low-income or women of color), with an equally powerful dose of approval and respect: Dignifying them by publicly affirming their inherent worth and equality with other families. That is still the third rail in politics.
Case in point: strongly (Link): “endorsing marriage” has become the one of the few agreements across political lines, even in today’s politically polarized environment. “Nearly everyone agrees that marriage itself offers stability and economic benefits to couples and to society at large,” historian Andrew Yarrow recently stated in the New York Times. (Who would want to disagree with “nearly everyone”?)
There are serious consequences to this.
If everyone agrees that marriage benefits society at large, it’s no surprise that married nuclear families are the gold standard against which we are all judged, and against which so many fail. Letting this idea go unchallenged creates a harmful cognitive dissonance that undercuts the work of progressives.
…. Indeed, if marriage is what makes a family whole (a belief still imbedded in our language of “broken” and “intact” families), it follows that declining marriage and increasing non-marital birthrates would be used as evidence that the American family is in crisis.
But as historian Stephanie Coontz has painstakingly (Link): documented, marriage has never been just one thing, and norms dictating the role of marriage and family have evolved significantly over time.
Marriage has only been a love-based institution for the past 150-200 years, and used to be rooted in assumptions of wifely subordination and male domination. Enslaved people were often not permitted to marry, since they were considered the property of enslavers.
In the agricultural era, husbands selected partners based on strength and childbearing abilities, as they needed labor for the family farm.
And until quite recently, women were still expected to marry for social respectability and financial security.
Once middle-class women entered the paid workforce in droves during the 1970s (“working class” women have always done just that—worked) one of the main reasons for getting married disappeared, and many marriages dissolved.
The idealized period in the postwar 1950s and ’60s when the “traditional” nuclear family model was briefly dominant is still misunderstood as a halcyon era, the passing of which is opportunistically lamented when bemoaning how family life has changed.
“People may be disappointed that we don’t have more stable, long-term traditional marriages, but people have to understand that, inside that model, was a lot of suffering, heartache and exploitation,” sociologist Philip Cohen has cautioned when talking about that period.
Endorsing marriage has become a dog whistle, used to prime racist, (Link): debunked stereotypes about so-called absentee black fathers, to invalidate non-nuclear family arrangements, and to treat those within them as failures.
..Saving marriage is not like eradicating smallpox, reducing smoking, or improving motor vehicle safety. It cannot be “fixed” with a public health intervention.
Of course, affirming non-traditional family models does not mean condemning marriage. The two are not mutually exclusive.
We are living at a time when the (Link): best marriages are better than ever before.
But only those who have the time and energy to invest—along with access and availability of good partners—are experiencing these historically unprecedented benefits. That gives marriage a socioeconomic dimension that manifests in even greater inequality.
Poor people are not only missing out on the potential rewards of marriage they may want, but being vilified for failing to do so.
….The myopic focus on married-parent homes as best for children has also caused a neglect of the data that contradicts this narrative, and plenty exists.
One of the most comprehensive longitudinal (Link): studies that looked at adolescent well-being across twelve different family “types” found that one group of adolescents actually had better outcomes than children raised by married parents in their first marriages:
Children raised in multi-generational households with never-married single mothers. Doesn’t that suggest that we may be thinking about the ingredients of good families, and the importance of marriage, all wrong?
Right-wing conservatives may be out of touch with the values and lives of mainstream America, but they still claim the monopoly on “family values,” and their misguided nostalgia masquerading as policy thrives because of a huge, unimaginative void when it comes to alternatives.
With high profile organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, conservatives have created an enormous, generously funded infrastructure that promotes a “God-ordained institution of the family” and “marriages that reflect God’s design.” A lack of intentionality and imagination in developing other roadmaps has allowed the messages of the right to drift slowly and imperceptibly toward the center for decades.
A framework for supporting families that meets them where they are is not abstract or impossible. It is the difference between policies intended to “endorse” marriage and help revive married nuclear families and public policy that start with the goal of supporting families as they actually look right now.
….We honor families when we not only create policies that address the existing circumstances of people’s lives, but when we affirm them without measuring them against the nuclear family ideal.
For too long, we have let the idea that marriage is the key to our society’s wellbeing stand, when in fact, achieving wellbeing—through financial stability, access to fair-paying work, healthcare, housing, and a strong communities of friends, family, and intimate partners—does not require or depend on marriage at all.
(Link): This Headline Has My Fellow Conservatives In A Tizzy, but It Should Not: Just 18% of US households are ‘nuclear families’ with a married couple and children, down from 40% since 1970s and the lowest since 1959
(Link): How Christians Have Failed on Teaching Maturity and Morality Vis A Vis Marriage / Parenthood – Used as Markers of Maturity Or Assumed to be Sanctifiers – Also: More Hypocrisy – Christians Teach You Need A Spouse to Be Purified, But Also Teach God Won’t Send You a Spouse Until You Become Purified