Monday, June 23, 2008
NPR and Fox News commentator Juan Williams asked Where Are the Fathers? in his column for Father's Day. The statistics he presents are shocking. One can only ask if this is yet another sad manifestation of the 1960s sex and feminist revolution. It would seem that the sexual revolution has left fathers off scot free, while women, as always is the case, must take care of the children no matter what.
The feminist drive to eliminate the division of labor between men and women in the family, hurl women into the work place, and inculcate the myth of the "independent woman" has also contributed to a condition in which it is normal for a woman to have a child out of wedlock and be left holding the bag--willingly or not. Our society seems to condone a man's irresponsibility and accept the woman's illusion that she can raise children without the father's help. The erosion of the idea of having a family as a necessary goal in life has created a vacuum in which irresponsibility on the part of both men and women can flourish.
Statistics show that single motherhood rises as the income decreases. This is a self-perpetuating spiral, since single mothers, having only one income stream, will tend to drop into the lower rungs of the economy. Hollywood, however, pushes single motherhood at every opportunity as a model for women of all classes.
Conception out of wedlock is not new in America. Both my grandmother and great-grandmother, I have discovered, were pregnant when they married, and they were middle class. In colonial times, according to A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, when a woman was pregnant out of wedlock and had not divulged the identity of the father, the midwife would ask her to identify him when she was in the throes of labor. Although the man would not be compelled to marry the woman, he was held responsible by the community to contribute to the financial support of the child.
Ultimately, it seems to me that the notions that fostered family formation--duty, honor, adult responsibility--are becoming passe in a society that puts the onus on unconstrained individual freedom, or rather, individual gratification. Taking responsibility for the consequences of one's actions was tossed out the window with Roe vs. Wade, and now we have a presidential candidate who says he would not want his daughters "punished" by an unwanted pregnancy.
I do not know how these trends may be reversed or mitigated. One thing is for sure: many babies, toddlers, little children, youngsters, and teenagers are all paying the price.