We shouldn't have to choose

Alas readers who saw Whale Rider might remember Keisha Castle Hughes, she was the young Maori actress who was nominated for a best Actress Oscar for her role as Paikea. It has just been announced that she is pregnant at 16. Span and Cactus Kate (of all people), have already covered some of the ways the coverage of these facts has been extremely offensive. But I want to look at this discourse in a little more detail, because it is pissing me off. From the NZ Herald:

National MP Paula Bennett, a mother at 17, said whichever way you looked at the situation, 16 was far too young to have a baby.

She believed there was no way a 16-year-old had the maturity to cope with the demands of raising a baby.

and from The Dominion Post

Family Planning executive director Jackie Edmond said New Zealand had the third-highest rate of teen pregnancy in the world. She hoped other teens would not want to “copy” the actress.

This level of tsk-tsking has a very clear subtext about young Maori girls who get pregnant. It’s part of a concerted strategy to blame poor people for being poor.

Look I’m a middle-class white girl, I find the idea of having a baby before I’m economically and socially secure terrifying, but I get to think that one day I will be economically and socially secure. Not everyone grows up with those set of assumptions about their life, and if you don’t have those assumptions your feelings about pregnancy and motherhoood are going to be qutie different.

But there’s actually a bigger issue here. Anika Moa has a song on her new album about the abortion she had when her music career was taking off, that she now regrets. She was told from all sides that if she continued the pregnancy she wouldn’t be able to have a music career – that she had to choose.

That’s why I hate the rhetoric of ‘choice’. Women shouldn’t have to choose between being a musician and a mother. Obviously in the months immediately after you give birth you do have physical restrictions on what you are going to do (longer the longer you breast feed). But so? Why does that mean that you can’t make music – and if you make music people want to listen to, why can’t they get to listen to it?

The answer is, of course, ‘capitalism’. I get that – most women do have to make that choice. But the way most people talk about it you’d think these choices forced on us by something people have no control over, rather than our economic system. You’d think that there was some law laid down that once you had a child you couldn’t do anything else, or if you did it would be 100 times harder. The reason that having a child at 16 is so very hard is that having a child is seen as an individualised project. Parenting gets no economic resouces and no support. It’s hard enough to do with a reasonable amount of money – if you don’t have a reasonable amount of money being able to do anything but parent when you have a child is really difficult.

We could organise our world so that parenting wasn’t just supported, but treated as the necessary work that it is. If we did that, if parents didn’t have to work huge amounts of outside hours (or live on the DPB, and all the poverty that that implies), then parenting wouldn’t be the end or your life. Women who were mothers, whether at 16 or 40, could do other things as well, parenting wouldn’t be seen as the end of your life, and your chance to develop.*

Maybe if we lived in a non-capitalist world that valued parenting women would have children young – when they had lots of energy. Maybe women would have them late, because they wanted to grow up first. Maybe women would make a wide variety decisions based from what they want from life.

But until we build that new world I wish people would just stop judging young women.

Note for commenters: This is not the place for a discussion about Keisha Castle-Hughes or her pregnancy – please keep the discussion general rather than specific, or on the discourse rather than the event.

Also published on Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Families structures, divorce, etc, Feminism, sexism, etc, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

144 Responses to We shouldn't have to choose

  1. 101
    Robert says:

    Maybe we should start at the beginning, if you actually do want a dialog.

    Do you believe that conceiving a new life irresponsibly is immoral?

  2. 102
    Daran says:

    La Lubu:

    I’m wondering if what really bothers you is the idea that young women on birth control are suddenly free from being publically revealed as “sinners”—that is, they can now (on birth control) be considered free from sin, just as their male sexually-active counterparts are.

    To be fair to Robert, you’ll get a much clearer picture of where he’s coming from, if you read this post.

  3. 103
    RonF says:

    I don’t think this is a good analogy; perhaps a better analogy would be comparing driving and seat-belt laws. Birth control could be more accurately compared to the function of a seat belt while driving, not the use of alcohol while driving.

    My example was intended to show what happens when you give 16 and 18-year olds actual responsibility for a life or death choice, and why such choices need to be restricted. The analogy is “life-or-death choice”, not the actual functions. It would be hard to do this with seat belts, as their use has been mandated for all drivers or none, there’s never been an age differential on who has had to use them and who hasn’t. Also, it would be hard to get age-related figures on frequency of use and frequency of deaths due to failure of their use.

  4. 104
    RonF says:

    Richard, you do make some good points there. At some point, society has to say “Hey, it’s time for you to grow up and be considered responsible for your own actions (i.e., become an adult).”

    On that basis, and because different kinds of decisions follow from different kinds of responsibilities, there are different ages set for being able to legally make a given kind of decision on one’s own. You’re allowed to drive at age 16, although I’m not clear on what the minimum age is where you can contract for your own insurance (without which you cannot drive). You can enter the armed forces without your parents’ permission at (I think) 18, you can’t drink legally until you’re 21, you can’t sign most contracts on your own until between the ages of 18 to 21, etc. You can’t assent or deny, on your own, to almost all medical procedures until you are 21 (I think, or is it 18?). Given their consequences, it seems to me that the point at which responsibility for decisions related to sex become legally independent of your parents probably shouldn’t be lower than any of these.

  5. RonF–

    I think you have missed my point. As far as I understand it–and I may be entirely wrong about this–what the State does in the case of age-of-consent laws is take away from parents, at least to some degree, the right to decide when a child is ready to have sex. I can’t imagine, for example, that it would be legal in any state for a parent to decide and then act such that her or his 10-year-old started having sex with anyone, much less someone above the age of consent, and I think we would all agree that giving a child that young, or even 13 or 14 years old, into marriage to an older spouse, which would give the spouse sexual access to that child, is wrong and something that the State would have a legitimate interest in preventing, or at least heavily, heavily regulating.

    So, if the State can interfere with a parent’s control over her or his children’s sexuality in this way, why is it wrong, from the State’s point of view, not the individual moral or ethical position of the parent, to make birth control available to young people, even without parental permission.

    (And I should add that by asking this question, I am not trying to dismiss or trivialize the legitimate concern parents should have over when and whether it is healthy, good, morally correct, whatever, for their children to become sexually active. As the father of an eight-year-old boy who has already learned a great deal more than I knew when I was eight, those concerns are very real to me.)

  6. 106
    mythago says:

    I’ve seen complaints that people of a given age are too young to have kids and want me to give them my hard-earned money to support their selfish choices.

    I hate to point this out, but if you live in the US, you’re already contributing your hard-earned money to support other people’s selfish choices–including their choices to have kids. You don’t have to be on WIC to send your kids to public school, get a child-care tax credit, or write off your dependents on your 1040. Oh, I also understand that part of my taxes subsidize people who use their home equity to pay for trips to the Bahamas.

    I haven’t seen any complaints that someone is too old to have a kid, other than the medical issues involved

    That’s because you’re not really the target audience for hysterical articles and news reports about how women’s fertility supposedly evaporates at 35, and endless anecdotal stories about how Ms. Ivy-League Career Grad put off starting a family to pursue her career and now she can’t find a husband/needs fertility treatments and damn, that bitch is sorry now.

    Do you believe that conceiving a new life irresponsibly is immoral?

    And have you stopped beating your wife?

  7. 107
    Sailorman says:

    Do you believe that conceiving a new life irresponsibly is immoral?
    Maybe to a small degree (doing anything irresponsibly usually is somewhat amoral, isn’t it?) Though I don’t want anyone else defining “responsible” for me. And I don’t think the morality is the central issue here.

    What are you getting at with the question?

  8. 108
    CJ says:

    Do you believe that conceiving a new life irresponsibly is immoral?

    I do. I can think of no worse way to begin a life than to be born to irresponsible parents.

  9. 109
    CJ says:

    Luba: Considering that estimates of marital infidelity tend to range from fifty to seventy-five percent, I don’t see that at all. Looks to me as if the promises of fidelity and faithfulness actually don’t have a little more weight than whispers in the dark between randy teenagers.

    That’s the way you made it Luba. You make marriage out to be a piece of paper, a cheap, meaningless convention with no significance. If you accept that your vows are empty from the moment you utter them then of course they have no gravity.

    can we please divest ourselves of the societal notion that it takes a marriage for a person to be responsible for a child? … And can we also dump the assumption that another parent is automatically helpful? … A marriage is no guarantee of any damn thing.

    Neither is any written contract a guarantee that its terms will be upheld, neither is any article in our canon of laws, or any right given under the constitution guaranteed us if we as a people do not hold ourselves to them and protect them from those who violate them.

    Do you believe we only need the responsible parents to take care of their children? We need the irresponsible parents to accept responsibility for their children too, or we wouldn’t have to bother with vows. We need parents to accept responsibility to each other. We need fathers and mothers and their children to know themselves as family, with all the moral obligations that the label implies. That includes loyalty to one another in hard times, it includes forgiveness for some transgressions that we make out of human weakness. It must be capable of enduring more than other kinds adult relationships need to endure.

    I recognize that a second parent is not automatically helpful. No matter how much we encourage good family conduct some parents will still be determined to be harmful. When that happens they are removed from the family lawfully, punished accordingly, and the child still has one parent to protect and guide them. That’s a form of redundancy.

    When a single parent becomes delinquent, violent, incapable or reckless, that child is in far more serious trouble. There is no second voice in parenting decisions, no second set of eyes to see signs of abuse. Even a unhelpful parent at least does that much, at least connects a child to another family, and if the worst happens and the strong parent is taken away by a tragic accident, a weak parent is still better than none.

    At the end of the day, I see only two choices for us. Either parents are or aren’t required to be responsible for their families. If they are we must publicly acknowledge it through marriage and those that fail in their responsibilities must be punished. If they are not, then we do not require marriage and delinquent fathers and mothers cannot be punished, because you cannot default on an obligation you never had.

    I can’t see the latter option leading to anything but disaster for any society.

  10. 110
    CJ says:

    We concentrate so much on where we disagree we overlook our common ground, so here:

    Luba, I agree with you on the matters of safe sex education and available birth control. The ‘slut’ stigma will diminish as the danger of premature pregnancy diminishes. I doubt it would vanish entirely as the act will always carry an element of risk.

    Robert, I agree with you on your definition of morality and immortality as it pertains to sexual acts, and about your reasoning on the standards we adopt as a society: setting the bar, our duty to our younger generation, making the consequences of youthful mistakes less severe by widening the curtain of prohibition around the worst kinds of acts.

    RonF, I agree with you that it is a parent’s place to decide what children under their care can do. Anything resource the government intends to make available should be done with the informed consent of the parent. I also agree that high school age is too early to be empowered to make that kind of decision.

  11. 111
    Robert says:

    What are you getting at with the question?

    RonF and LaLubu are having a disagreement about the morality associated with reproductive choices. I am attempting to ascertain LaLubu’s moral framework with regard to these issues.

  12. 112
    La Lubu says:

    Do you believe that conceiving a new life irresponsibly is immoral?

    Define your terms. What do you mean by “conceiving a new life irresponsibly”? I know how this phrase has been historically used against women, but am unaware of any objective measurement of “conceiving new life irresponsibly”. It isn’t something that can be measured in an ultrasound.

    RonF, I am also a parent, so I do have a dog in this fight. It’s not that I don’t understand your concerns. But, I am also trying to keep in mind the very practical matter of giving young people options, so they can make the best decision for them. I’m thirty-nine years old. It still upsets my mother that I don’t share (all) her religious beliefs, and that I still leave the house with what she considers messy hair (translation: not hairsprayed into something the consistency of a brick wall). This is the perennial problem between parents and children—the “dividing line”. Where does the child stop, and the adult begin? The fact of the matter is that our children, making the transition from childhood to adulthood, may do so sooner than we want them to. Or, make choices in their lives radically different than the choices we would rather have them make. And frankly, we can Monday-morning quarterback for the rest of the week—but we can’t really predict what is going to happen in our children’s lives (or our own), and the values we transmit—the ones we think are going to serve them well in this world—may do quite the opposite. Life is unpredictable. Add to that the tendency of teens not to share the more intimate parts of their lives with their parents (whether for fear of punishment, ridicule, lack of understanding, adding to parental worries or stress, or just wanting to stand on their own two feet), and yeah—I think giving teens the tools to most effectively make their own practical choice about how to conduct their sexuality is the best path.

    CJ, I sound a lot more hostile to marriage on this thread than I really am. I’m trying to press through the point that marriage cannot be conducted using—-to steal a phrase from the inimitable Vine Deloria—”the Avis approach”, meaning, “just try harder” (he used this phrase to illustrate the spiritual bankruptcy of Western religion and the various commercial gimmicks churches in the U.S. were turning to in the Seventies in an effort to keep congregants; I think the phrase easily lends itself to other forms of spiritual bankruptcy as well). It is disingenous to not recognize that women have been historically, disproportionately considered responsible for the state of our marriages, and that we are the marital partners who are supposed to tolerate a higher level of marital misconduct. I am also mystified at the assumption that single parents don’t constitute a “family”; I come from a background where extended families are the norm. Extended families don’t tend to send children to the orphanage, y’know?

    People illustrate how they really feel by their actions, not their words. Like I said before, it didn’t take a marriage for me to be responsible to and for my daughter. It stands to reason that it shouldn’t take a marriage for anybody to be responsible for their child. It isn’t something you talk about; it’s something you do. What’s the old saying—”character is how you behave when nobody’s looking.”—or something like that? Maybe character is also how you behave when no one is forcing the issue.

    I don’t want to give a pass to deadbeats any more than you do, CJ. But as a practical matter, I wouldn’t count on any of them changing, either. It takes a special kind of cold to turn your back on a child. And I’ll admit, it is difficult for me to imagine how such a person could possibly be a positive influence in the life of that child.

    My idea of comprehensive sex education isn’t just about the sex, either. It would also cover sexism, domestic violence, rape, manipulation, double-standards, etc.

    I am attempting to ascertain LaLubu’s moral framework with regard to these issues.

    Why? It’s irrelevant. You and I can have different moral frameworks, yet still give the same basic advice to our teens (which, for my part is “avoid parenthood until you’ve got a firmer foundation; you’ve got enough on your plate to deal with getting to that point”—probably not so different from your advice).

  13. 113
    CJ says:

    Define your terms. What do you mean by “conceiving a new life irresponsibly”? I know how this phrase has been historically used against women, but am unaware of any objective measurement of “conceiving new life irresponsibly”. It isn’t something that can be measured in an ultrasound.

    It is simply creating a new life without being ready or capable of (or possibly even interested in) caring for it. I would not choose to be born into such a situation, and I’m sure if you had a voice in it, you would not either.

    Where does the child stop, and the adult begin? The fact of the matter is that our children, making the transition from childhood to adulthood, may do so sooner than we want them to. Or, make choices in their lives radically different than the choices we would rather have them make.

    True, but we have a right as a society to establish standards of behavior. When you remark, correctly, that parents without the oaths of marriage can be as dedicated as any married parent, I think that pilots without licenses can be good aviators, and doctors without medical licenses can be as ethical and competent as any other doctor. The problem is, without the certificates you can’t tell the competent from the incompetent except by trying them out and seeing how they do, but if society allows them to proceed in their professional capacity without qualifications, society becomes liable for any damage they do.

    Given the value children have and the damage they can suffer if mishandled, parents unwilling to make family seem like bad risks. The spoken vows obligate them to care for each other. Allowing them to have children without vows obligates society to assume responsibility for their interests instead and that simply isn’t possible on a national scale. We need to able to have faith in family. You often make this kind of argument out to be a promotion of a religious belief but the virtues of family exist whether you believe in God or not. An aetheist should be as capable of appreciating it as any minister or rabbi.

    I’m trying to press through the point that marriage cannot be conducted using—-to steal a phrase from the inimitable Vine Deloria—”the Avis approach”, meaning, “just try harder”

    Well, would you disown your son because of a gambling problem, or started doing drugs or dropped out of school? Would you stop being a daughter if your father had an anger management problem or your mother drank too much? What could your daughter do to make you give up on her? I believe your answer is that would never stop being family to any of them, is that correct? If you want their father to have this commitment to his family, you must have this relationship to him, and he must have that relationship with you. That is what a family is, and that is what wedding vows mean.

    I have seen many children make the journey to adulthood and I’ve seen many adults make the journey to seniority, and I know the difference that being part of a whole family makes in their lives, and it’s helped me appreciate the difference it has made in mine. The word enriching scarcely describes it, and I feel you must know what I’m talking about. Ensuring that your parents are willing to form that kind of union before having you is not oppression, it’s the greatest gift society could give you.

  14. 114
    tigera consciente says:

    Maia,
    Great post. The connections are clear between capitalism and how it limits our choices. It also tends to define proconcieved racist and sexist biased notions of what is “normal” such as proper childbearing age and who we should be before having a child. I’m 25 and definately living the effects of all this, being single and childless, not necessarily by choice but “necessity.” It infuriorates me that I cannot choose begin a family and live the type of life I’d like to lead based on the knowledge of my ancestors and my own creative imagination. It is true that capitalism totally dehumanizes the act of raising a family and demonizes mothers.

    I am amazed at the teen mothers I know who are challenging the assumptions about young motherhood, by the their own commitment to their own lives and the lives of their children. I know teen mothers who are still in school and responsible caring mothers who value life. I’ve read a few of the comments above, and I’m disgusted at the assumptions being put out there about our youth. Our youth are capable thinking humans involved in the process of growth as much as adults are. Alot of the assumptions youth get stigmatized with are actually reflected in adult behavior as well.

    Motherhood is not valued within capitalist society because of structural limitations against poor families- usually targeting women of color, single mothers (and this is NOT soley limited to young mothers, ok!), and young mothers. Recent history has evidenced this fact, such as the forced sterilization of American Indian, Puerto Rican, and Black mothers in the late 70′s and early 80′s. My mother herself was affected by this. After she had my younger sister in ’82, the doctor persuaded her to get her tubes tied because she had a heart condition that could worsen with childbirth.. Why couldn’t he recommend heart medication instead? Perhaps because she’s a Dominican immigrant with a thick accent and three children.

    Capitalism has its indirect forms of population control: prisons, economic marginalization, and cultural demonization are a few that have real life effects on family planning and the options being presented to them. I’m sorry, but tax breaks and the crumbs of society obviously don’t cut it. Patriarchy and racism works right under our noses, we don’t see it but if you’re affected by it you can smell it. There are practices and beliefs that go on legitimizing racist and sexist institutional and individual behaviors and because they are viewed as “common sense” its hard to pin point them, usually leading to blaming the victim for not complying with norms.

  15. 115
    tigera consciente says:

    Your post has been linked to http://eastoaklandstreetphoto.blogspot.com/ as an educational tool for our photojournalism course at East Oakland Community High School..

  16. 116
    Maia says:

    That looks like a really awesome class/project tigera – and some beautiful photos. Thanks for the link.

  17. 117
    fiercelyfab says:

    I wanted to give shout outs to La Lubu –I read all your comments and replies–damn, your voice of reason is in my opinion unparalleled in this thread, specifically in regards to those opposing your beliefs. Thank you for keeping it real and actually caring instead of slut bashing, judging and being part of a realistic outlook and solution.

  18. 118
    RonF says:

    After she had my younger sister in ‘82, the doctor persuaded [my mother] to get her tubes tied because she had a heart condition that could worsen with childbirth.. Why couldn’t he recommend heart medication instead? Perhaps because she’s a Dominican immigrant with a thick accent and three children.

    Or perhaps because she had a heart condition that couldn’t be adequately treated with heart medication, or that would have had a risk of worsening to that point if she had another child. Unless you have some information about her heart condition that you have not disclosed, your statement is nothing but biased speculation.

  19. 119
    RonF says:

    This is the perennial problem between parents and children—the “dividing line”. Where does the child stop, and the adult begin? The fact of the matter is that our children, making the transition from childhood to adulthood, may do so sooner than we want them to. …. I think giving teens the tools to most effectively make their own practical choice about how to conduct their sexuality is the best path.

    The use of the word “tools” brings an analogy to mind. Yes, you should give your children the tools they need to make moral and practical choices. But if you were teaching your 10-year old how to build a shelf, you wouldn’t give him or her a 1/3 hp electric Skilsaw and a pneumatic nail gun. You’d start them out with a hand saw and hammer and finish nails, and supervise them for a while. You wouldn’t let them use the electric radial saw or band saw until they were older, even though they would be physically capable of it.

    So it goes with sex, or anything else in life. It’s quite true that the boundaries between childhood and adolescence and between adolesece and adulthood are blurry. The law sets bright lines for various acts because the law can’t be adjusted on individual cases. That’s the parents’ job. It’s up to them to figure out what tools their child should have the training and opportunity to use, and when, not the State’s.

    It’s also one more reason why there should never be only one parent of a child by choice; it’s too big a decision for one person to make and implement.

  20. 120
    RonF says:

    Motherhood is not valued within capitalist society

    Ah, but it is. It is so highly valued that capitalist societies build in special incentives to make sure that no one should have to face it alone. It has laws that require that the man who participated in helping a woman become a mother should stand up and take responsibility to aid her.

    Human nature being what it is, some men try to duck this responsibility. And human nature also leads some women to have children without either knowing who the father is, or to choose as a father of their children a man who is unfit to meet his responsibilities. Our society does what it can to discourage this by witholding support for the outcome of such a choice.

  21. 121
    La Lubu says:

    fiercelyfab: thank you so much.

    And human nature also leads some women to have children without either knowing who the father is, or to choose as a father of their children a man who is unfit to meet his responsibilities.

    Ron F, I’d like to thank you for this comment, because it is such a bright, shining example of the slut-bashing I referred to earlier. I like the way you shifted the burden and blame from the man who deliberately abandons his child back onto the mother. Seriously. That’s how prevailing sexism works—the attitude is so ingrained, we don’t even question it.

    See, there are prevailing sexist myths about women, mothers, and especially single mothers. By prefacing your comment with a reference to women who don’t know who the father is (a tiny minority), you set up a negative reference point with which to bash the larger group of women—those who couldn’t see into the future.

    This is a pattern I see repeated on just about every conversation on the topic of single mothers and their male partners who abandon their children—the reference to “choosing the man who won’t be responsible”. As if these men are distinguishable from men at large. Here’s a tip: unless a man has a previous record of abandoning his children, you can’t predict with any certainty whether or not he will do so in the future—and that includes in the event of a marriage. That sounds a lot more cynical than I want it to—but damn!, why is it so difficult to place the blame for child abandonment on the shoulders of the person who did the abandoning?! Talk about enabling!!

    Lemme put it this way: if a man and a woman had a child together, and the man decided to steal some money from his employer—you know, skim a little off the top, supplement his income—would you consider that partly the woman’s fault? No? Why not? Shouldn’t she have been able to see that coming? Shouldn’t she have been able to see that he was destined to be a thief, regardless of his previously spotless record? Shouldn’t she have known better than to get involved with a man who would steal?

    I’m curious as to why the discussion is always framed that way—that the blame for child abandonment has to be shared between the parties. That the person who chose to be responsible for her child is somehow to blame for the action of the person who chose to abandon the child. My guess is that it is part-and-parcel of the same prevailing sexist attitude that holds women responsible for the behavior of men, period. Don’t you find that attitude incredibly insulting to men? I do.

    Ron F, why do you keep coming back to the strawperson of the State? Providing comprehensive sex education and the option of accessing birth control is not usurping parental rights or responsibilities. Parents still have the option to teach their children on these subject, and still have the option of teaching their children according to their own beliefs or creeds. The fact still remains though, that children become adults, and often have their own ideas about these matters, as part of the normal developmental process of becoming an adult. To go back to your tool analogy: it’s one thing to expect that a 10 year old won’t be having intercourse. It’s quite another to expect that an older teen won’t be having intercourse.

    Yes, it is the parent’s job to raise a child. But it is also part of the parent’s job to step back and let the child raise him or herself as the child ages. There comes a time when a parent has to admit that his or her child is no longer a child, but a young adult with a foundation of his or her own—a foundation that is partly the parent’s contribution, and partly the contribution of others—including the young adult’s own. And yes, young people who are scrupulously raised to believe that premarital sex is a sin still engage in it—just like their parents, grandparents, etc. did before them. And still the human race goes on. Thousands of years of shaming and slut bashing haven’t killed the sex drive yet. ‘Nother words, it’s an ineffective tool at preventing unwanted pregnancy. Birth control has proven to be an effective tool at preventing unwanted pregnancy. What’s not to love?

    It’s also one more reason why there should never be only one parent of a child by choice; it’s too big a decision for one person to make and implement.

    And of course, you couldn’t leave without this parting shot—-the claim that single parents are inherently bad parents, due to being incapable of making and implementing parenting decisions (you do realize that a person who is incapable of making and implementing parenting decisions is de facto a bad parent, don’t you? Good. So don’t come back and claim “I never said anything about bad parenting.”) . Let me remind you (again) that a marriage license does not confer the ability to be a good parent, nor does the presence of a spouse automatically confer any extra parental help or family income.

    Also, let me remind you (again) that lip service is not the same as “being valued”. If our society “valued” motherhood, motherhood wouldn’t put one’s career on the fast track to the shitter—it would put one in the forefront of opportunities for career advancement—you know, kind of like how simply getting married does for men. If society valued motherhood, mothers would get social security credit for it. If society valued motherhood, flexible schedules, affordable childcare, a schoolday (and year) that coincided with the workday (an year), and paid parental leave would be the norm. No, society most certainly does not value mothers.

  22. 122
    RonF says:

    La Lubu, interesting that you failed to comment on my statement:

    “Human nature being what it is, some men try to duck this responsibility. ”

    then quote the next sentence where I discuss poor choices some women make and then claim that I have “shifted the burden and blame from the man who deliberately abandons his child back onto the mother.” Nicely done.

    The bottom line is that people make bad choices, both men and women, and in these cases the people who suffer most for it are the kids. You ask:

    “I’m curious as to why the discussion is always framed that way—that the blame for child abandonment has to be shared between the parties.”

    It doesn’t always. Sure, there are guys out there whose behavior in such cases had no previous indicators that anyone short of a degree is psychology might have spotted. There are also guys out there who have done such a thing where there were such indicators. Like your example of “unless a man has a previous record of abandoning his children” – astonishingly enough, such things do happen. And people change – a guy who was upstanding when he fathered a child might some point down the line lose his honor and bail. These things cannot always be predicted.

    Nowhere in my statement that there are women that become single parents because they’ve made bad choices does it imply that this is the only reason that it happens. But it’s foolish to pass by the fact that there are many occasions where it does happen.

    Any woman who has a child by a man who then abandons them has been victimized by that man, and so has their child. And it’s damned unequal; I’d guess that very few women run out on a kid and leave it with the father. So the burden of “I better make sure that the person I have a kid with won’t run on us” falls mostly on the mother. Is that fair? No. Is it real? Yes! If a man finds himself in that position, then I’d tell him that he should consider whether or not he should have done a better job of making sure that he’d chosen the right partner to have a kid with. But I simply doubt that there’s much occasion to do so.

    Providing comprehensive sex education and the option of accessing birth control is not usurping parental rights or responsibilities.

    Actually, I haven’t argued against sex education. Considering that to be usurping parental rights and responsibilities would have to be a function of what you consider “comprehensive sex education”. If we’re talking biology and the immediately attendant emotional and financial effects, fine. Few people would disagree with that. But if you start getting into how homosexual sex works and the desirability or morality of it, or the desirability and morality of premarital sex in general, then I’d disagree.

    Parents still have the option to teach their children on these subject, and still have the option of teaching their children according to their own beliefs or creeds.

    Which they don’t need the State using it’s power to undermine.

    Yes, it is the parent’s job to raise a child. But it is also part of the parent’s job to step back and let the child raise him or herself as the child ages. There comes a time when a parent has to admit that his or her child is no longer a child, but a young adult with a foundation of his or her own—a foundation that is partly the parent’s contribution, and partly the contribution of others—including the young adult’s own.

    And the judgement of when those times occur is something to be determined by the parents and the child. The State’s intrusion into the process should be absolutely minimal.

    And yes, young people who are scrupulously raised to believe that premarital sex is a sin still engage in it—just like their parents, grandparents, etc. did before them. And still the human race goes on. Thousands of years of shaming and slut bashing haven’t killed the sex drive yet.

    All true.

    ‘Nother words, it’s an ineffective tool at preventing unwanted pregnancy.

    I don’t see how this conclusion follows, though. Unless you have figures on how many unwanted pregnancies there would have been absent people having been raised with such stricturees.

    Birth control has proven to be an effective tool at preventing unwanted pregnancy.

    Yes, it has, and it should be taught.

    What’s not to love?

    People giving it to my kid without my knowledge or approval, especially when they use my own money to do so.

  23. 123
    Original Lee says:

    Go, La Lubu, go! RonF, if you don’t see that you’re blaming the responsible parent for being a victim of an irresponsible parent, then I can’t help you.

  24. 124
    RonF says:

    the claim that single parents are inherently bad parents, due to being incapable of making and implementing parenting decisions (you do realize that a person who is incapable of making and implementing parenting decisions is de facto a bad parent, don’t you? Good. So don’t come back and claim “I never said anything about bad parenting.”

    It seems I went a bit far, then, and I apologize. Single parents are certainly capable of making and implementing good decisions. But it’s certainly a lot harder than when there are two active parents, because there’s only one person to do so.

    Let me remind you (again) that a marriage license does not confer the ability to be a good parent, nor does the presence of a spouse automatically confer any extra parental help or family income.

    Nope, they don’t. But it increases the odds.

    Also, let me remind you (again) that lip service is not the same as “being valued”. If our society “valued” motherhood, motherhood wouldn’t put one’s career on the fast track to the shitter—it would put one in the forefront of opportunities for career advancement—you know, kind of like how simply getting married does for men.

    I’m not talking lip service; IIRC there are various levels of government support for single mothers. Not real high, I imagine, but then I don’t think that government should be the prime actor in expressing society’s support for things. People are free to express their support for care for single mothers and their kids by contributing to or working with the various private charities that support such things.

    Now, if you want to talk about government support, consider the laws regarding marriage and property, etc., that do things like presume that a married man is the father of his children and grants them certain rights unless he presents evidence to the contrary, presume that ownership of his property passes to his wife and children if he dies, provide Social Security payments for his wife and children, etc. Of course, this means that society places a much higher value on married motherhood, but that’s only wise public policy, since it means that there’s a higher likelihood that the children will have two parents, higher income, etc. Not a guarantee, but it greatly increases the odds.

    Getting married puts men on the forefront of opportunities for career advancement? How so?

    If society valued motherhood, mothers would get social security credit for it.

    Social security isn’t given out to assign “value” to something. It’s given out because money was put in it. Social Security money is given out because the person who contributed money into it is retired, or died and left dependents. It has nothing to do with assigning “value” to single mothers or school teachers or NBA players or anything else.

    If society valued motherhood, flexible schedules, affordable childcare, a schoolday (and year) that coincided with the workday (an year), and paid parental leave would be the norm. No, society most certainly does not value mothers.

    Some of the changes above are coming about, especially flexible schedules and parental leave. But it seems that the difference between your viewpoint and that of society as a whole in the U.S. is that you think that society should value and thus subsidize to a certain level with tax money all kinds of motherhood. Whereas American society says that it values mothers who are married to the fathers of their children, and that it wishes to discourage single motherhood where the mother was never married to the father. I think that’s reasonable.

  25. 125
    RonF says:

    Go, La Lubu, go! RonF, if you don’t see that you’re blaming the responsible parent for being a victim of an irresponsible parent, then I can’t help you.

    No, what I see is the presumption that my comment that some single parents are that way because they’ve made poor choice being interpreted as meaning that all single parents being that way because they’ve made poor choices.

    Tell me this; do you think that all single mothers became mothers without having made some irrepsonsible choices of their own? If not, do you think they should bear an equal share of the responsibility for those choices?

    To me, the fact that a male who ducks out on his parental responsibilities is worthy of moral condemnation and legal sanctions is so blinding obvious as to require little comment. Certainly I don’t expect to see any dispute here on the matter. It’s the mindset that a single mother is completely a victim and has not and should not be held responsible for any part of her situation that intrigues me. When a woman becomes a single parent (presuming that we’re not talking about the father dying in some accident), I think that in many cases we might find that she’s made an irresponsible choice or two of her own. What level of support does society generally give people who make irresponsible choices, and what level should it give?

  26. 126
    La Lubu says:

    It seems I went a bit far, then, and I apologize.

    Thank you. Apology accepted.

    Single parents are certainly capable of making and implementing good decisions. But it’s certainly a lot harder than when there are two active parents, because there’s only one person to do so.

    I don’t know how you mean this statement, but this statement is a version of a ubiquitous claim about single parenting—that it is somehow “harder” than coparenting. I’ve been on a lot of threads across the internet where this idea was expounded upon by others, and the general meaning is that single parents—especially female single parents, don’t have the authority or discipline it takes to raise children. That without the strong hand of a man–literally, as in the ability to give painful spankings—the parenting is inevitably wishy-washy, indecisive, lenient, undisciplined.

    And that’s just bullshit. Look. Single parenting isn’t “hard”—it’s busy. There isn’t anything inherently difficult in parenting alone—in fact, it is superior to having an uninvolved, uncooperative or dysfunctional spouse. The only aspect of single parenting that is inherently “harder”—or more accurately, can read as “harder”, is that there isn’t anyone else to foist the mundane, daily jobs onto. If you are the only parent, there isn’t anyone else to cook dinner, do the laundry, help with homework, cut the grass, do the shopping, change the oil, paint the house, take the kids to the park, etc. And if you get sick, you still have to get up and do most of that crap anyway, even if you feel like hell. (That’s the “hard” part—standing at the stove with a fever.) But seriously, the work itself isn’t materially harder—you just get to do it all the time. Then again, some of the married people I know experience this, too.

    Nope, they don’t. But it increases the odds.

    I agree with you here—it does increase the odds. However, the argument that single parenting is bad because there is only one income is distinctly gendered. See, single female parents are the ones offered this trope (tripe?); none of the male single parents of my acquaintance have ever been accosted by do-gooders questioning their ability to raise a child because of the lack of a second income. I doubt married men who have stay-at-home wives are scolded for not having a second family income, either. Not to mention, in this shitty economy, that everyone, male or female, parent or no, should assume several job losses within the course of their working life, and live (and save) accordingly. Sheesh.

    One of the background assumptions behind the “marriage incentives”, is that if a single mother gets married, that her husband will contribute to the family income. In most of these cases, that isn’t true—because the jobs aren’t there. The living-wage, entry-level jobs that were once open to those with a high school diploma (or even less) no longer exist. (And not many, if any, men with college degrees and good jobs are willing to date single mothers with only a high school diploma and a McJob—just putting that out there so we can have an honest discussion about the material advantages of marriage for young single mothers.)

    Mind you, I’m not anti-marriage. But getting back to the original basic topic of the thread—teen mothers—we should be giving the assistance necessary to put these young women on the path to self-sufficiency. Translation: higher education. You seem to think that programs that encourage and assist teen mothers at staying in school and furthering their education is somehow encouraging young women to get pregnant. That’s ludicrous. What those programs do is provide the best path for these young mothers to get on with their lives and have the best future—by giving them the tools to rely on themselves. Yes, marriage increases the odds of having a stable family income—but not as much as having your own education, and your own career. Having resources of your own to rely on is crucial. This isn’t sexist or anti-male—we raise young men to rely on themselves, and it’s a strategy that works. It will (and does) work just as well for young women.

    I’m all for birth control in the schools for utilitarian reasons—most teens attend high school. There are all kinds of cities that don’t have a Planned Parenthood outlet. If everyone went to church, I’d recommend putting birth control outlets in the churches! It’s just a matter of reaching the most people in the easiest way. If most parents were adult about their sexually-active teens, this wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion. Birth control would be used, condoms would be considered an essential element of sex, and young women who used birth control (translation: planned in advance to have sex) wouldn’t be regarded as “slutty”. They’d be regarded as “sensible”.

    Poor choices. *snort* Here’s some scenarios, you tell me the percentage of blame you would accord the perpetrator, and what percentage of blame you would accord the person harmed by the actions of the perpetrator? Ready?

    1. A person who did not drink and drive, who was struck and severly injured by a drunk driver. What percentage blame does the non-drunk driver own, as compared to the drunk driver? Does the percentage change if the non-drunk driver admits to driving along a route where there are taverns? Does the percentage change if the non-drunk driver admits to not only driving along a road where there are taverns, but also on a Friday night? How about after 9:00PM?

    2. A person who is mugged at gunpoint. What percentage of blame should be assigned to the mugged person, as opposed to the mugger? What if the mugged person was wearing expensive clothing? Visible jewelry? Does the percentage of blame for the mugged person go down if he or she was wearing old, worn blue jeans and cruddy sneakers?

    3. A shopowner who has his or her shop robbed. What percentage of blame should the shopowner carry for displaying goods in public, knowing full well this is a temptation to thieves?

    4. An interracial couple who move into a “white” neighborhood and have their house vandalized by racist thugs. What percentage of blame should the interracial couple own up to, considering that moving into a “white” neighborhood could be viewed as a provocative act?

    5. A person who throws a well-attended party, who later discovers that some personal belongings are missing after the party is over. Is this person partially to blame for not locking up all of his or her belongings that require only one person to conceal and carry? Or is it more a matter of not keeping a watchful eye on all of the guests at all times, such as following them to the bathroom door, etc.?

    My take? All scenarios, all circumstances—100% the fault of the person who did the wrongdoing.

    I’m not interested in perpetuating a “victim” mentality at all—that’s not where I’m coming from. I’m coming from a “shit happens” mentality—when things don’t go according to plan, perform the immediate damage control necessary and move on from there—don’t dwell on it, but don’t repeat it. See, if a man knowingly fathers a child, and he’s a stand-up guy, he doesn’t have to be hounded, cajoled, pestered, or lectured about being a father to that child. He’ll just do it, because it’s the right thing to do. Personal integrity is something a person can only decide to have for themselves. I don’t want to give a break to deadbeats (of either sex) any more than you do, Ron F, but this notion of giving folks multiple chances, over years to be responsible for their child is not doing anything positive. In most cases, the “parents” aren’t contributing anything but an on-again, off-again “parenting” style that encourages the children involved to become emotionally attached to persons that are theoretically supposed to care about them, but don’t. This isn’t good from a mental health or developmental perspective. The intent was to shame these people into parenthood. It didn’t work.

    Yes, there are women who have made poor choices. But see, those poor choices weren’t and aren’t made in a vacuum. There is a prevailing sexist backdrop to these poor choices. Very few single mothers have multiple children by different fathers. Some do. Why? Because they are trying to follow the “traditional” path! They are trying to “fix” their single mother status by hooking up with another man. And the vicious circle turns. I advocate breaking the sexist pattern—realizing that singleness isn’t the trait that needs fixing, that the material vulnerability that the lack of education and options engenders, and the emotional vulnerability that can come from continuing to believe in sexist myths is what needs fixing.

    ‘Nother words, the very women you have the least respect for, the very women who you regard as being the most to blame, are (not so) paradoxically the women most likely to consider themselves as “traditional” women, and the most desirous of the “traditional” (translation: traditional white middle class) female path. Neat, huh?

  27. 127
    La Lubu says:

    Getting married puts men on the forefront of opportunities for career advancement? How so?

    Like this. You’ve probably noticed a similar dynamic throughout the course of your career—I certainly have. Married men tend to be viewed more positively by employers than single men, but the same does not hold true for women (all the more reason to encourage young single mothers to postpone marriage until after getting an education and a career. Employers tend to have a more positive view of single mothers than married mothers. If you’re a married mother, you have to fight the assumption that you’re not serious about your work. If you’re a single mother, your employer is more likely to believe you intend to stay employed).

  28. 128
    Robert says:

    Interesting article. Perhaps I missed it in my skim, but it seemed that they didn’t consider the possibility of changed behavior on the part of the married men.

    I started working a lot harder when I got married, and a lot more than that when our baby was born.

  29. 129
    La Lubu says:

    Robert, that is one possible explanation. Another is prevailing cultural attitudes about married men—in other words, the “halo effect”. If it was all about “working harder” once a person was married or had a family, the same dynamic would be true for women. The prevailing attitude would be that once a woman gets married and starts a family, that she is more likely to work harder in order to support that family. That dynamic doesn’t exist because of sexism.

    There haven’t been a lot of studies conducted on the topic, because it isn’t deemed important. Again, we have the “Avis approach” handed out to women—y’know, just try harder. Work within the template of the preexisting sexism, and show that you’re the “exception to the rule”. So, what we end up with is a vast majority of women who are “exceptions to the rule” rather than being the rule!! Can’t you see how frustrating that can be to someone who gets to spend a lifetime dealing with it?

    For how this dynamic works in the trades, I highly recommend Susan Eisenberg’s book, “We’ll Call You If We Need You”, a comprehensive tome on women in the trades. The trades aren’t really an exception to the rule on how men are assumed to be more interested and able in advancement; if anything, I would argue that a woman who completed her apprenticeship ought to be assumed to have the same staying power on the job as the men. It could be argued “more so”, because often she has done so without the social network and mentoring that the men received. It ought to be enough to prove that she doesn’t intend to leave work.

    Well hell. I don’t want to get too far off topic. Suffice it to say that women still have strikes against us in the workplace. As long as folks still encourage women to hitch their star to the backside of a man (as evidenced in this thread), this attitude will prevail.

  30. 130
    RonF says:

    And that’s just bullshit. Look. Single parenting isn’t “hard”—it’s busy.

    Busy is hard. It’s a lot harder to help your kid with his homework or spend a 1/2 hour arguing with them about how late they get to stay out when you’ve got all the housework to do yet and you’re tired. There’s only so many hours in the day, and if there’s someone around you can share the mundane and the parenting (or split it anyway you want). Plus, two heads are better than one when you have to figure out a problem. There’s also the resource problem. Your kid has a math quiz. If there’s only one of you, and your math is no good, the kid’s stuck. But if you have a spouse, maybe they are good at math, but suck at English where you’re good.

    You seem to think that programs that encourage and assist teen mothers at staying in school and furthering their education is somehow encouraging young women to get pregnant.

    Are you talking to me? Where did I say this?

    Yes, marriage increases the odds of having a stable family income—but not as much as having your own education, and your own career.

    Absolutely. I’m not recommending women marry on the basis of “you need a man to support you.” Also, that way you don’t end up having to stay in an abusive marriage, or end up having insufficient resources if something should happen to your husband’s earning ability (injury, death, disease, economic downturn, drugs).

    Very few single mothers have multiple children by different fathers. Some do. Why? Because they are trying to follow the “traditional” path! They are trying to “fix” their single mother status by hooking up with another man.

    The documentation I’ve seen has said that many single mothers have children because they want someone that will unconditionally love them and because their peers are doing it. Not a lot of mention about them wanting to try to tie the father into a relationship.

    My take? All scenarios, all circumstances—100% the fault of the person who did the wrongdoing.

    Quite true. Now, let’s take a look at this scenario:

    A woman has sex with a man soon after meeting him in a casual fashion, knowing little about him. Neither one uses birth control. She gets pregnant. Who’s guilty of wrongdoing?

    My answer; both of them. And the fact that the guy was dead wrong for what he did doesn’t change the fact that so was she. Both made poor choices. Both are responsible for the consequences. The fact is that she’s more likely to have to deal with the consequences than he is if he’s an asshole and wants to duck out of his side of the deal.

    If a fully loaded semi and a Toyota Corolla both blow through a 4-way stop and collide in an intersection, both are equally responsible. Who’s going to suffer the worse consequences?

    La Lubu said:

    You’ve probably noticed a similar dynamic throughout the course of your career—I certainly have.

    Interesting that you’re making an assumption about me here that’s in fact not valid; that I started my career before I got married. In fact, I got married between my junior and senior years of undergraduate study (we are still married for what will soon be 33 years). I have never had a full-time or “career” type job while unmarried. So I’ve not noted any such thing, since my marital status has never changed from unmarried to married while employed. And I got paid the same as the women and the gay guys working there.

    Poor bastard. “I had such a good time last night I can’t sit down” sounded funny back then. He died of AIDS. I counted him a friend.

    The proposition in that identical twin study that marriage is a causal effect for higher wages is, as the study itself says, still merely suggestive not conclusive. After all, there must be some difference between the twins, or they’d both be married. That difference could be what is causing the salary difference. I note that there’s no discussion of differences in what kind of jobs the twins had in such cases. Perhaps the personality traits that caused the non-married twin to either not wish to get married or to not attract a woman to not marry them is also expressed in their attitudes towards employment and attainment.

  31. 131
    CJ says:

    Lubu :You seem to think that programs that encourage and assist teen mothers at staying in school and furthering their education is somehow encouraging young women to get pregnant.

    Your message to teenage girls seems to be: Don’t get pregnant, because if you do you’ll get financial aid, free day care, and a guarantee that society will make any sacrifice necessary to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your career plans.

    If I were a teenager who wanted a a child right away that would encourage me, not put me off. Where is the “bad” that future young women can be educated to recognize and avoid?

  32. 132
    CJ says:

    Lubu: The prevailing attitude would be that once a woman gets married and starts a family, that she is more likely to work harder in order to support that family. That dynamic doesn’t exist because of sexism.

  33. 133
    CJ says:

    Lubu, the attributes that employers value should not be our yardstick for social development. Employers value those they can get the most labor out of for the longest time for the least money. Married men were once the best possible (legal)choice because they had no choice. Provide for your family or your family starves.

    No one expects women to be sole providors, no one expects women to stay in jobs that make them unhappy, and social assistance for the unemployed is better than ever. Married women will never be ‘valued’ if you can call it that, like married men once were. Married men aren’t valued that way anymore either. It’s a bygone age, or almost bygone.

  34. 134
    La Lubu says:

    Your message to teenage girls seems to be

    Just stop right there. If you’ve been reading my posts, you would know that my message to teenage women is “if you choose to have sex, use birth control, so you can focus on yourself and your future before having children, and thus be in a better position from which to raise those children—financially, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, socially, in every way.” Realistically, considering our sexist society, considering that so many young women are still raised to belief their only path to success lies with finding the right young man, considering that many of our young women still don’t feel they have the personal authority to insist on condom usage, or feel that using birth control is “proof” that they’re sluts (because “good girls” may fuck in the “heat of passion”, but only if they haven’t planned to first), because so many young women are still raised to believe that college (or tech school, or apprenticeship, or owning their own business, etc.) is an unrealistic option for them, because so many young women grow up in completely dysfunctional homes (many of which, may I remind you, consist of two married parents), because birth control has been known to fail—-

    YES, I think that programs that encourage and give these young women the tools to succeed in life WORK. First off, teens who are not parents don’t need the “free day care”, as you put it. Second, I know of no program for teen mothers that guarantees any kind of college scholarship. What these programs do is give the young women the assistance they need to continue their high school education, introduce them to older women (some of whom were teen mothers themselves) who have achieved some degree of success in their lives—to be role models, advocates, and (sometimes) confidantes to these young women, and they give the (here’s a concept for you) cultural capital to these young women that they need to negotiate the (for the most part) foreign path of college—from “how to apply” to “what do I expect when I get there” to “how do I organize my time for classes, work-study, and mothering” to……you name it.

    See, teenage mothers come from all walks of life. But middle-class teen mothers have a distinct advantage not only in financial resources or social-network resources, but cultural capital as well. They frankly do just as well as any other mother, when all is said and done. It’s different for working class and poor young women. They need that extra boost, that extra “oomph!” of someone believing in them, to get them over that admittedly harder path of providing for their own future while also being a mother to their child.

    You ask me where is the “bad”, where is the discouragement for these young women to avoid pregnancy in the first place. For most of them, that discouragement is already there—they don’t want to get pregnant to begin with. Let’s look at history, shall we? How well did the old system of kicking them out of high school work, huh? (Remember, the young men who got them pregnant were not kicked out of school.) It didn’t work at all. It didn’t discourage anyone from having sex (remember, teens tend to think that “shit happens” means “to everyone else”, not to them), so all it basically did was prevent that young women from rebuilding her life. Which is great if your only intention is to slut-bash, but not so great if you actually give a damn about other human beings.

    Ahem.

    It’s not that young women don’t know the pitfalls of early parenthood, particularly when the young man who swore he’d love her forever flies the coop. It’s just that they believe (you know, like adults do) that it isn’t going to happen to them.

    Lubu, the attributes that employers value should not be our yardstick for social development.

    Care to develop this statement? I have no idea where you’re coming from with this, and since I come from the practical standpoint of thinking that for most of us, for at least a damn good part of our lives, our being able to provide for ourselves and our family is contigent upon our working for other people—-our “yardstick for social development” is inherently enmeshed with what employers value!

    No one expects women to be sole providors

    Huh? I was raised just the opposite—-that if you were a single woman, it was your responsibility to provide for yourself, and that if you were married, it was profoundly stupid, if not financial suicide, not to continue to hold down your job. And I’m an old broad—so if anything, I think that message is amplified today.

    no one expects women to stay in jobs that make them unhappy,

    WTF? Where did you hear this one?! Shee-it, where I come from, your job is practically supposed to make you unhappy!! And to quit a job before having another one lined up to take its place is dumb, dumb, dumb. Yeah, ’round here, everyone expects women to keep shitty jobs, just like the men do. Go tell ‘em that at the unemployment office sometime—”But…..I’m a woman! The job made me unhappy, so I quit!” Maaaaan, they’ll be rolling on the floor. They’ll be tellin’ that story for twenty years!

    social assistance for the unemployed is better than ever

    No, it isn’t (‘least, not in Illinois). Unemployment checks haven’t been given a raise in years, but the cost of living has continued to climb. Also, unemployment only lasts six months. *sigh* Folks don’t want unemployment checks; they want jobs. Besides, did you even follow that link up above? Married men may be taking some hits now too, in the overall shitty economy, but they still have a strong advantage over women in that employers still think we’re just in it for “the pin money” or “until we can find a husband.”

  35. 135
    CJ says:

    I give an enormous damn about human beings, but society does not exist just to serve our needs; any structure composed of human beings, a family, a team, a workforce, a nation, is only stable when the giving and taking adds up to a net positive. Single parenting is always a loss, and must be discouraged as much as possible. Insofar as the loss must be made up by the sacrifices of others, I think it’s appropriate that they get flak for it.

    You ask me where is the “bad”, where is the discouragement for these young women to avoid pregnancy in the first place. For most of them, that discouragement is already there—they don’t want to get pregnant to begin with.

    Were you talking about girls who didn’t want to get pregnant? Well, then I agree with you, overall. Save that discussion for the ‘Premarital sex, good or bad?’ debate.

    I was referring to teenagers who want to get pregnant young and who may choose to view these programs and the lack of stigmatization as incentives. I don’t see any mechanism in your POV that serves to actually prevent such a girl from going ahead with the idea, apart from telling her you really think she shouldn’t, and even if they do wait, you clearly aren’t encouraging her to create a mutually supporting family through marriage. “Hitch your star to a man’s butt”, “employers tend to favor single mothers over married women” Yeah, you’re really selling it there.

    Lubu, the attributes that employers value should not be our yardstick for social development.

    Care to develop this statement? I have no idea where you’re coming from with this

    Employers want high productivity and low maintenance in every aspect of their business, including their employees. Even the most sympathetic of feminist employers may find it impossible to afford to provide flexible hours, free weekends, and indefinite periods of absenteeism on short-notice so a single parent can remain attentive to their children’s needs. To be attractive to employers, to be considered promotion material, particularly for the ‘power’ jobs above the glass ceiling, your obligations as a parent must take the back seat to your career.

    No one expects women to be sole providors

    Huh? I was raised just the opposite—-

    I was referring to married women. Husbands are assumed to be gainfully employed (or at least employable).

    no one expects women to stay in jobs that make them unhappy,

    WTF? Where did you hear this one?!

    Right here. An employer is required to respect the mental health of their employees, are they not? In the old days it was “Don’t like it? GTFO.”

    social assistance for the unemployed is better than ever

    No, it isn’t.

    It’s not unlimited naturally, but as a percentage of our GNP it pushes the envelope.

  36. 136
    La Lubu says:

    Unemployment insurance “pushes the envelope” as a percentage of our GNP? You do know that unemployment benefits represent less than 0.0026 percent of the GNP, right? Pushing the envelope? Please. Frankly, if so many family-wage jobs weren’t being outsourced, it wouldn’t need to be this high.

    Single parenting is always a loss

    And if people really, truly believed this, children would be removed from the homes of widows and widowers. After all, widows and widowers are every bit as single as divorced or never married folks.

    I don’t see any mechanism in your POV that serves to actually prevent such a girl from going ahead with the idea, apart from telling her you really think she shouldn’t,

    Again, you haven’t been reading. The discouragement is inherent in the fact that once you have a child, your time is not your own anymore. You have added responsibilities. If you do not already have a career, there will be an even greater demand on your time as even more of your hours are spoken for—you have to work towards your career goal (usually by some combination of work and study—how the balance works out depends on which career you choose) in addition to the demands already placed on your time by parenthood.

    In the grand scheme of things, there are few teen women who specifically seek to be parents. Of those that do, they tend to have an unrealistic picture of parenthood, and an even more unrealistic picture of relationships. For one thing, they tend to believe that having a child will solidify a relationship—when that simply isn’t the case. This flawed thinking is not limited to teens; plenty of adults share it.

    And again, I am not hostile towards marriage, or towards men. I merely think that young women should take the same steps toward self-sufficiency that young men are trained to do; to wit: having their own (decently paid) full-time job! Why is that viewed as a negative, or incompatible with a healthy marriage? If anything, it contributes to the health of a marriage.

    As for your line on employers and what they want, let me remind you again that it is distinctly gendered. It isn’t just an issue for single mothers, but all mothers. Let’s not kid ourselves about those “high powered” or “promotion” jobs, ok? From the standard way the argument is presented (“if you have kids but don’t have a stay-at-home spouse, how could you possibly commit to a career with responsibilities”), you’d think that no one ever went on vacation, for crying out loud. Especially in this day and age of wireless laptops, Blackberries, and cell phones. Yes, occasionally I have to leave work to take care of my sick child. It tends to happen twice a year. That still makes me hover around the bottom of the “absentee” list, as I’m not taking time off for hunting, fishing, gun shows, golf games, brown-bottle-flu, Sturgis, Daytona, Indy, etc.

  37. 137
    CJ says:

    Lubu: And if people really, truly believed this, children would be removed from the homes of widows and widowers. After all, widows and widowers are every bit as single as divorced or never married folks.

    And it is every bit as hard on them as divorced or never-married folks. The difference is they got into their situation by accident, not by choice. They at least have life insurance income, one would hope. And I would encourage them to re-marry if they have small children, and I don’t object to financial aid if necessary.

    On the subject of parental death, exactly how many parents would the child of a single parent have had left, if one had died?

    Again, you haven’t been reading. The discouragement is inherent in the fact that once you have a child, your time is not your own anymore.

    I understand you, but we’re talking about fifteen and sixteen year olds. Suppose they don’t give a damn how hard it is? How would you STOP them?

    Lubu:And again, I am not hostile towards marriage, or towards men.

    “forced to hitch your star to a man’s butt” was good camo for your true feelings.

    I merely think that young women should take the same steps toward self-sufficiency that young men are trained to do; to wit: having their own (decently paid) full-time job! Why is that viewed as a negative, or incompatible with a healthy marriage? If anything, it contributes to the health of a marriage.

    I never said women’s careers were incompatible with marriage, you did with “employers tend to favor single mothers over married women.”

    What I said is a full-time job is incompatible with being a single parent, but that’s because I think there’s more to being a parent than earning a good wage. To respect a parent’s wisdom and share their confidences with them requires trust, and trust requires a bond, and bond requires time. A lot of time. Everyday or nearly every day kind of time, enough time that they know they can reach you and you won’t put them off because you’re busy, the acknowledged state of a single parent, in your own words. I have every confidence that a hard working single father or mother can put food on the table and clothes on his children’s backs. Not so sure he would know if his children were using drugs or considering suicide, or planning to go bowling for columbine.

    As for your line on employers and what they want, let me remind you again that it is distinctly gendered. It isn’t just an issue for single mothers, but all mothers.

    Whatever your solution to that is, don’t forget where we start in life. You needed parents before you needed a career.

    Let’s not kid ourselves about those “high powered” or “promotion” jobs, ok? From the standard way the argument is presented (”if you have kids but don’t have a stay-at-home spouse, how could you possibly commit to a career with responsibilities”), you’d think that no one ever went on vacation, for crying out loud. Especially in this day and age of wireless laptops, Blackberries, and cell phones.

    Technology does not give you more time off work. Laptops and blackberry’s allow work to intrude into home and vacation time. In the employer mindset this is a good thing. It takes enormous confidence to be able to shut the job out completely, and it’s a risk to do so very often.

    Single parenting is always a loss. The absense of en entire parent’s potential contribution through the adolescence of a child and the additional burden on the remaining parent cannot be made up for with an alimony check or a government subsidy towards furthering your education, neither of which is a guarantee in any case. It is a loss we must sometimes tolerate, as in the case of a death, or parents who are incarcerated, or mentaly ill, or disabled, but not by choice.

  38. 138
    La Lubu says:

    CJ, you are saying that single parents are inherently incapable of raising children. If that were actually the case, then as a matter of social policy we would be removing the children of widows and widowers from them and placing those children in foster care with married parents. Your claim that there should be an exception if it wasn’t “by choice”, is immaterial if real damage is being done. I’m merely pointing out the hypocrisy of such a charge. Fact is, since no one is advocating removal of children from widowed or divorced homes, I’m partial to calling bullshit on the idea that growing up in a single parent home is only damaging if it’s the home of an unmarried mother.

    Why on earth would a full-time job be incompatible with being a single parent? You do realize that most married parents have a full-time two-income household, don’t you? See, again, there’s no difference in the time-frame involved. As for Columbine, weren’t the parents of those kids married?

    Single parenting is not always a loss. Sometimes it is a gain. Not having an alcoholic, drug addict, or violent person around is a very good thing. That is a gain to family safety and security. It is a gain for the mental health and social development of the children.

    And yes, I firmly believe that young women should be raised to be just as independent and self-sufficient as young men. Why that should be regarded as threatening or hostile, I have no idea. It’s only sensible.

    As to your question of what would happen to the children of a single parent if that parent died, I’m astonished that you would even have to ask. Perhaps I’m just not aware of how deeply the notion of extended family has been eradicated by the “nuclear family” (the original “broken home”). Do they not have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. where you live?

  39. 139
    mandolin says:

    “As to your question of what would happen to the children of a single parent if that parent died, I’m astonished that you would even have to ask. Perhaps I’m just not aware of how deeply the notion of extended family has been eradicated by the “nuclear family” (the original “broken home”). Do they not have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. where you live? ”

    But what would happen to a child if both parents died? Or perhaps if their whole extended family was wiped out by a series of freak tornadoes?

    Clearly, no child should be raised in a family of less than one thousand healthy individuals, medically tested for vigor, possessed of a lineage guaranteeing a minimal survival rate of at least 105, and scientifically certified in risk avoidance.

    Families of less than one thousand are always a loss.

  40. 140
    RonF says:

    You do realize that most married parents have a full-time two-income household, don’t you?

    Yes, but with two people you have a much better opportunity for flexibility. It’s more likely that with two people, one of them will be able to negotiate with an employer to get some time off to take care of a specific committment. With only one parent, that’s harder.

  41. 141
    Kaethe says:

    I’m coming to this late, but with a certain horrified fascination. Maia, good post; La Lubu, I commend you for a well-reasoned and rational discussion in the face of some rather bizarre statements.

    I have a couple of facts I’d like to point out, that seem to have been unnoticed. Your adolescent child currently has full legal rights to medical privacy from you at 13, and can undertake treatment for STDs, prescriptions for birth control, mental health services, treatment for chemical dependencies, prenatal care, labor and delivery. Parental-notification laws, in fact, are often in direct opposition to other statutes regarding the medical rights to privacy of teens. So if you want to get all in your teen’s sexual business, you’re going to have to do it like any other citizen. Unless you live in one of the states that permits a very low age of marriage with parental approval (in NC there is no age of consent for marriage if one is pregnant or has given birth, but there must be parental consent).

    >It is simply creating a new life without being ready or capable of (or possibly even interested in) caring for it. I would not choose to be born into such a situation, and I’m sure if you had a voice in it, you would not either.

    CJ, it might have escaped your notice, but no one chooses to be born into any situation. Although I would love to see a list some time of the checklist for readiness and capability of caring for new life.

    >Given the value children have and the damage they can suffer if mishandled, parents unwilling to make family seem like bad risks. The spoken vows obligate them to care for each other. Allowing them to have children without vows obligates society to assume responsibility for their interests instead and that simply isn’t possible on a national scale. We need to able to have faith in family. You often make this kind of argument out to be a promotion of a religious belief but the virtues of family exist whether you believe in God or not. An atheist should be as capable of appreciating it as any minister or rabbi.

    As an atheist, I would be happy to put my standards for the value of children up against anyone’s, and “faith in the family” is bullshit. Some will do just fine, but a hell of a lot will not. If our society really valued children it would make sure that everyone had prenatal care, and good follow-up, a good health care, and a safe place to exercise, and a grocery store nearby with healthy food, and paid parental leave, and sufficient licensed day care, and a minimum wage that would actually permit a working adult to support a child, and family housing on college campuses suitable for students (married or not)with children, and paid sick leave for parents looking after kids…my list is very long.

    >Human nature being what it is, some men try to duck this responsibility. And human nature also leads some women to have children without either knowing who the father is, or to choose as a father of their children a man who is unfit to meet his responsibilities. Our society does what it can to discourage this by withholding support for the outcome of such a choice.

    And look how well it works. Because nothing says “we care about all kids” like punishing the kids of women who’ve been raped, or abandoned, or believed a lying son of a bitch. Better to punish all those kids than risk missing some who’ve made choices you don’t like.

    >What level of support does society generally give people who make irresponsible choices, and what level should it give?

    It depends on who the people are. George W. Bush for example, has made seemingly nothing but irresponsible choices in his life, and society has stood by him pretty well.

    >To be attractive to employers, to be considered promotion material, particularly for the ‘power’ jobs above the glass ceiling, your obligations as a parent must take the back seat to your career.

    This would seem to suggest that having two parents really isn’t much help if the only way either of them is ever going to get a promotion is by failing as a parent.

    >On the subject of parental death, exactly how many parents would the child of a single parent have had left, if one had died?

    Exactly the same number that a child with two parents will have when both of them die in a car accident.

    >Single parenting is always a loss. The absence of en entire parent’s potential contribution through the adolescence of a child and the additional burden on the remaining parent cannot be made up for with an alimony check or a government subsidy towards furthering your education, neither of which is a guarantee in any case. It is a loss we must sometimes tolerate, as in the case of a death, or parents who are incarcerated, or mentally ill, or disabled, but not by choice.

    I wonder if the fact that my mother lives with me would make up for the tragic loss of a father to my kids? What if his parents came to live with me? Maybe I could just take in a gay couple?

    >It’s more likely that with two people, one of them will be able to negotiate with an employer to get some time off to take care of a specific commitment. With only one parent, that’s harder.

    Since employees have generally got no negotiating leverage with their employers, how about just making it at law that people get some paid time off?

  42. 142
    CJ says:

    Well reasoned, Kaethe? Choosing single parenting is reasonable because if you were to choose to marry, he might turn out to be a layabout, an abuser, or die?

    You know that in any capacity one person cannot do as good a job as two. Corners will be cut, like non-essential medicines, healthy meals, and family time. If not in therse things, then in the taxation of the parent’s own physical and mental health.

    This would seem to suggest that having two parents really isn’t much help if the only way either of them is ever going to get a promotion is by failing as a parent.

    I gathered it was our opinion that a man who insisted it was his right to advance as far as he wanted in his career without being impeded by his family was wrong, and we were trying to evolve in a positive direction here. Is not a woman with the same ethic just as wrong? And single mothers even more wrong, if their absence is not even mitigated by a stay-at-home companion?

    I wonder if the fact that my mother lives with me would make up for the tragic loss of a father to my kids? What if his parents came to live with me? Maybe I could just take in a gay couple?

    If the father isn’t required to look after his children neither is any other relative, so please don’t casually promise women considering single parenting that they can draw on the extended family.

    I am NOT saying we should leave children in poverty, and certainly not to punish anyone, but there are risks in single parenting. You recognize these risks; all of your suggestions are some variation of shifting resources from somewhere else to mitigate them. Then you call it a balanced equation and act like it’s perfectly okay, but it isn’t. If it were balanced, everyone could be a single parent, everyone should be a single parent.

  43. 143
    CJ says:

    Lubu: CJ, you are saying that single parents are inherently incapable of raising children.

    No, only less able to meet all needs.

    Lubu: Single parenting is not always a loss. Sometimes it is a gain. Not having an alcoholic, drug addict, or violent person around is a very good thing. That is a gain to family safety and security. It is a gain for the mental health and social development of the children.

    Losing a liability isn’t a gain. What if your children become drug addicted, violent or alcoholic? The same arguments for cutting them loose could apply to them, and you would gain just as much by it.

    The difference is that in this example you regard your children as family, and don’t regard their father as family. I would only want you to only have children with a man that you DO regard as family, one whom you would go the same distance to save as any other one of your relations, or how can you expect the same loyalty from him?

    Kaethe: CJ, it might have escaped your notice, but no one chooses to be born into any situation. Although I would love to see a list some time of the checklist for readiness and capability of caring for new life.

    I was speaking for future generations as well as I could. As far as a checklist goes, perhaps we could start with each parent promising to ‘love, honor and cherish each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health’. I feel that would give us as good an idea of their readiness and capability.

  44. 144
    curiousgyrl says:

    I’m totally busted if my brother reads this but:

    I for one, think the standard should be stable, relatively wealthy 4 parent families. That’s how I was raised, so naturally I think its best. More resources in case one parent dies (one of mine did) and every other weekend off neems to me necessary for development of a good marriage.

    Of course, I recognize that the cookie doesnt always crumble that way. So I propose income support and paid vacation with child care for all those harried, overworked, double and single parent families.

    CJ–yeah, I’m willing to take the risk on reducing the national security budget by a few percent. And rolling back the tax cuts.