Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bad for Kids

Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, a biologist and proponent of evolutionary theory, not so long ago embarked on a new venture; a series of videos where he openly attacked religion. Called The Root of All Evil, Dawkins claims in these films that religion is inherently evil because it is not rational and, further, claims religion is responsible for many, if not most, ills of society. He calls teaching children religion a form of child abuse and obviously wants to ban it in ‘the best interests of children’. Let us look beyond the fact that Dawkins admits he knows virtually nothing of theology. Let us ignore the fact that the BBC would blanche at the mere idea of allowing a fiction story portray Catholics or Baptists as being correct and condemning those with differing beliefs as being in a ‘permanent state of infancy’, but have no problem producing and airing an atheist’s blatant attack on all religious believers, everywhere. Let us even overlook how Dawkins’, a self-proclaimed rationalist with advanced degrees in biology and zoology, can be so concerned with overpopulation in face of the evidence that it is not, and never has been, a true concern (see the rest of this blog).

Instead of looking at his hypocrisy (he mocks people whom criticize biology without understanding it, but refuses to study the theology he, in turn, criticizes), his prejudice (his assumption that believers are inherently inferior is quite obvious, and often admitted), or his use of mass media to denigrate a majority of the world. No, let us instead focus on… children. Dawkins claims that it is ‘bad’ to raise children in a religious atmosphere. Let’s do what he would like and – look at the scientific evidence.

There have been a lot of studies into religious people vs. non-religious people. Since it can be really hard to figure out who really has faith and who doesn’t, statisticians (and other researchers) usually use the shorthand of measuring how often a person or family attends church, synagogue, or temple and calling people who go at least once a week ‘religious’. Sure, this may not be perfect, but statistically it seems accurate. What do these studies show? Are religious people, as Dawkins claims, infantilized by their beliefs?

Overwhelmingly, being religious is good for you. Regular church attendance leads to lower blood pressure, less anxiety and depression, a stronger immune system, and are less likely to commit suicide, all contributing to religious people having a mortality rate about 25% lower than people who do not attend worship regularly with the end result that religious people outlive the non-religious by, on average, seven years. Not only do religious people live longer, they are healthier and happier, leading to a higher quality of life! Indeed, the correlation of church attendance and happiness is pretty strong, and diverse. People who regularly attend church are more likely to have strong, lasting marriages where both members are happy.

Scientific research seems to point toward a result that surprises religious people not at all; they are healthier, happier, and live longer than non-religious people. Heck, religious people make more money and the sex is better, too! It should be obvious, then, that a rational person, looking only at the scientific literature, should advocate for more religion in peoples’ lives. Not only is it good for them as individuals and families, it is good for society as a whole – after all, healthier, happier, wealthier people need less of the services governments provide these days.

But I was speaking pretty specifically about kids, wasn’t I? And while we hope each and every child grows up to be an adult (and also, we hope, benefit from the advantages of being religious), they are kids first. Does religion affect kids, too? Yes, it does.

Research shows that even low levels of religious life make adolescents less likely to use alcohol, drugs, tobacco, engage in criminal activity, become suspended from school, run away from home, engage in sexual activity, or require emotional counseling. Religious children (again, even at low levels of church attendance) are less likely to drive drunk or engage in casual vandalism. Church attendance improves school attendance, work activity, and homework completion. It even improves their chances of escaping childhood poverty. As religious faith and participation increases, the positive effect on children also increases. At the other end, just having a mother that attends church regularly also improves the odds of adolescents not engaging in self-destructive behavior. Religious children grow up to have more education.

To sum up; scientific research shows that religious people are healthier, happier, wealthier, and live longer. Religious children are happier, less prone to depression, more likely to get an education and escape poverty, and better at avoiding self-destructive behavior. These things are all positives for children. For Dawkins to oppose religion as ‘child abuse’ is to place his prejudices above the actual welfare of children.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Advancing the Aims of the Patriarchy

As my frequent readers know (Hi, mom!) I am a devout Catholic with four sons at home, and my wife, Deeper Thought (a stay-at-home mom), and I want 2-4 more children. Thus, I am the Patriarchy, and I am proud of it. Well, today I received confirmation that the socialization of my home-schooled sons is going just fine when my second-oldest came in from playing and announced,

“I am mad! My brothers won’t play ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ with me!”

I think Deeper thought is still laughing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Tides of Time

Let us look to history and see what we can learn about the Catholic Church, its struggles and stumbles, its enemies, and the results.

The Roman Empire opposed Christianity and attempted to suppress it many times, most famously under Nero. Christianity was illegal from the time of Nero until the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome. In the end, the greatest empire on Earth became Christian, rather than wiping it out.

The Nazi’s and Italian Fascists opposed the Catholic Church. Both regimes fell in just a few short decades.

The Soviet Union and other Communist States all opposed the Church, often strongly and with tactics that may seem oddly – contemporary. Despite these attacks, the Catholic Church prevailed and was a direct participant in the overthrow of the Soviet Union and its client states.

The French Revolution attempted to suppress the Church and even it calendar. Attempts to suppress the Church were common in many new Republics of Europe at that time, some of which continued into the 20th Century.

As can be seen from this short list, the opponents of the Church include some of the greatest empires that have ever exited; nations with seemingly-unstoppable military might, political power, and the will to annihilate the Catholic Church. In each case the Church triumphed over or outlived their opponent, or both.

There has been some noise for a few decades that the Second Vatican Council marked a huge change for the Catholic Church; that if the Church survives the modern era, Vatican II will forever alter its nature in such a way that it will a completely new entity. You can hear this from the Right and the Left within the Church. Of course, there were a few other ecumenical councils that resulted in turbulence; the Church survived all of these other councils and, after a generation or two, continued on, dogma unchanged. While it is important that Catholic remain faithful to the Magisterium and uphold orthodoxy of worship, the doctrines of the Church, and Tradition, we must remember – we aren’t the first to deal with issues such as these.

From heretics like the Arians and Gnostics, political foes like the Soviet Union, military foes like the Caliphate, ideological foes like Dawkins, and even internal dissent and schism, the Church has already seen it. Seen it, weathered it, and persevered. The tides of time may ebb and flow, but the Rock shall always remain.


As is usual, I did not write over the holiday weekend. While I plan for this to be the last weekend that I go on hiatus for a holiday, it was still a fact. So today I will post a short, incomplete list of those things that I am thankful for:

My Faith – I came to the Catholic Church relatively late in life. God is now the pivot of my life and my faith and His Church its foundation.

My Family – My wife and children are the greatest gifts I will ever receive. What I do in life, I do for them and my parents.

My Gifts – I have certain talents. Limited as they are, I am glad to have them and to be able to use them.

My Freedom – I have been in countries where you are not free to speak, or travel, or worship as you wish. I know people that have lived under conditions ranging from censorship to dictatorship. I am profoundly thankful to live in a free nation.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Is SNL Getting Funny again?


H/T to Hot Air

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Those Who Cannot Look in the Mirror

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to write about population and demographics from time to time. I am not alone, of course; there are a number of Conservative and Moderate people discussing birth rates and such out there. There is also a strain of commentary on Liberal blogs - especially Feminist blogs, mainly mocking Conservatives that want kids.

I have noted again and again that these Feminists seem to think that Conservatives are racists. I have covered many of the ways that the facts of racial violence show that these stereotypes are wrong, but this lumping of “Conservatives are racist” and “wanting large families is about racial supremacy” stuff is getting so ludicrous that I figured I’d take a look.

First, we find that our erstwhile source of all things Feminist - as long as they are radical things - Amanda at Pandagon points out that not only are people who want large families racist… they are genocidal (actually, see ascribes a genocidal motive to all those who oppose abortion, but we‘ll help her out by focusing on just proponents of large families). Reading the comments on Amanda’s post will reveal an echo-chamber of people more than willing to proclaim that all who want large families are racist, genocidal, and (by strong implication) fascist. They also refer to a commenter who posted that he was interested in ‘preserving his own culture’ as a ‘racist misogynist’ whom the moderator called on the others to ignore. Now, far be it from me to claim that Liberals/Feminists must act a certain way, but - isn’t this commenter right to value his own culture?

I visited a number of quiver full sites online. You can see many of them for yourself and a search can find you more. I searched pretty carefully and I found that these sites have quite a bit in common; they tend to advocate large families (no surprise), they love kids (no surprise), and they don’t talk about race. At all. The only reference I found at all related to race was one mention of a speech by Teddy Roosevelt when Teddy, not the author, spoke of declining fertility in White women in the early 1900’s. That’s it. I do admit, if you google ‘+quiver full +supremacy’ and look at the religious/quiver full sites that result, there is a discussion of supremacy. But it is the Supremacy of Christ, not a race.

Some of the “Progressive” sites you find, though, do speak of race. An article in The Nation(not the most Right-leaning of papers, of course) speaks of the quiver full movement and, as it does so, mentions race twice; first by claiming that “race suicide” is a subtext to the quiver full movement (with no citation, naturally); and, once again, a reference to a quote by Teddy Roosevelt about White birth rates over a century ago. From this article you get the Pandagon bit, mentioned above, and a few related posts from the Left side of the blogs, all claiming having many children for religious reasons is racist, almost all pointing to the Nation article or to Amanda’s post. Some even claim being pro-large families at all is evil. There is also a Newsweek article on the quiver full movement, but it makes no leaps as far as racial motivations.

The quiver full movement almost completely dismisses the Leftist claims that they are racist, only pausing occasionally to point out that Christianity has a lot of non-White members and that the quiver full movement calls on all Christians to have children as a blessing of God.

While we have some fairly prominent Feminist bloggers making the charge that wanting a large family is racist, even genocidal, the movement they point to this time is pretty obviously race-blind. Pandagon and the other Feminist blogs like to paint the Catholic Church as racist, but of course, the Church is very multi-ethnic and always has been. So where is this hateful accusation coming from? Well, I have a theory.

It is, in short, projection. The Left, always quick to dodge reality when it suits them, is projecting their own biases onto their ideological opponents. I’ve already gone into detail about how people in the North and West deride Southerners as racist bigots when, in fact, the North and West have much higher rates of race-motivated crime. I have also discussed how Liberals denounce Conservatives as racist and discriminatory despite the fact that studies show Conservatives to be race-blind while Liberals favor Whites over minorities. In both cases, Liberals accuse others of the actions that Liberals, themselves, exhibit. They cling to these notions of how ‘the other’ acts despite the evidence to the contrary. So why is Amanda of Pandagon and her comrades so eager to point to the Right and claim that people who refuse to use contraception are genocidal? That’s a rather simple one, really.

Its because the origins of modern contraception use, especially the founding of Planned Parenthood and the development of the birth control pill, were covertly and overtly racist and genocidal, with a strong underpinning of elitism thrown in. The founder of Planned Parenthood and primary source of funds for the research that culminated in the birth control pill was Margaret Sanger. Ms. Sanger’s support of eugenics is widely known, as are the many statements she made disparaging the mentally ill, the retarded, and the ‘unfit’, Of course, she also said the same things about Blacks and the poor, too. While some try to distance Ms. Sanger from the horrors of Nazi Germany, they have great trouble doing so since her support of Fascists was fairly evident. Her defenders are in the rather uncomfortable position of admitting that she worked closely with, supported, and was supported by racists and fascists, she made a lot of comments that might seem racist or fascist, but you can’t pin her down to a definitively racist or fascist quote. That’s pretty shaky. She hoped that incentives would work to reduce the population of ‘undesirables’, but advocated coercion and force if incentives failed. Showing that she certainly believed that she and other experts knew what was best for everyone and was willing to use force to impose it.

“OK,” you say, “Sanger was a eugenicists and, possibly, a racist and, maybe, a support of fascism. So what? That was years ago!”

Really? Who is the primary focus of Planned Parenthood today? The same groups Sanger targeted - minorities and the poor. Analysts noted in the 1980’s that Planned Parenthood focused its efforts on poor urban minority areas, resulting in 33% of abortions being performed on minority women who made up less than 20% of the total population. Contemporary advocates of contraception and abortion continue to see these two things as means of eliminating the poor, the ignorant and the unhealthy - and these same advocates are intimately involved in groups that advocate policies of government-promoted and funded contraception and abortion. A list of proponents of eugenics reveals a broad group, to be sure, but a group with a bias toward the Left with some rather prominent names as large boosters of contraception and family planning

The end result is that we see that the birth of the ‘family planning’ movement was in the midst of Liberal eugenicists. Planned Parenthood and related groups flourished under the umbrella of eugenics and ‘racial improvement’. Abortion was as much a part of the eugenicists’ arsenal as forced sterilization (and, often, more prominent). To this day groups that advocate ‘family planning’ specifically target the poor and minorities, resulting in a much higher incidence of abortions in those same groups. Call it what you will, but the end result of contemporary family planning is virtually identical to the planned results of the eugenics movements of the pre-WWII era.

Access to abortion and contraception combined with the attitude that children are a financial burden has resulted in plummeting birthrates in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and North Africa with indicators that the rest of Africa will rapidly join in. In a number of countries abortion is being used to eliminate women before they are even born. All these facts reveal why Feminists must denigrate women who want large families. For if they were to admit the possibility of merit in large families, they must examine the consequences of their own attitudes and actions. Such an examination would reveal that, regardless of their stated motives, the end results of Feminists’ advocacy for ‘family planning’ are indistinguishable from the hopes and dreams of the ‘racial hygienists’ of the late 1800’s.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Endorsed by the Left

The Progressives of the blogosphere at the Daily Kos are, it seems, in agreement that America is a horrible, horrible place to live because it is a fascist theocracy. There is, however, a wonderful land of equity, justice, Leftist politics, and peace – The actual fascist theocracy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I hear that Kos may get an invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Khomeini Memorial Peaceful Nuclear Research Facility for Hastening the Destruction of Israel™.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Newest Phase of Feminism

Making fun of little girls.

My personal favorite is the repeated assertions by the bloggers and many of their commenters that mocking a crying 8-year old child is OK because she is dressed funny, carries a doll, and has a Conservative father is not only acceptable, but actively funny. The internal inconsistencies just keep coming.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I am an American!

Anchoress brought up a subject that I have touched on before – American Culture. I talk about American culture fairly often, a trait begun by a chance encounter in 1985. A friend of a friend invited me to dinner with a small group. This was a pleasant gesture, since they were all mid-20’s grad students and I was an 18 year-old soldier. We had a nice afternoon of seafood with more people joining the circle as the evening went on, including the boyfriend of the girl who had invited me, a Frenchman in his mid-30’s who taught at the college the others attended. It was only a few minutes after he arrived that I heard his reply to a statement I had not heard,

“Of course, there is no such thing as American culture, let alone cuisine.”

This elicited a chorus of nods and muttered agreement from the students – and my ire. I immediately interrupted,

“What about baseball and football?” I asked.

“You cannot win cricket or soccer, so you play easier games.”

“Baked beans, scrapple, corn bread, and hush puppies are certainly American!” I argued.

“And no civilized person can eat any of them.”

“OK, you made me do it – jazz!” I said.

He shut up. I had met this man before, but that time he had been complaining about Europe – how expensive everything was, how hard it was to get a good job, the cars were small, taxes were high, etc. Yet he was more than willing to criticize the nation that he found warm, welcoming, and fruitful. Infuriatingly, the other Americans with me had just sat there, agreeing with him. Including a woman pursuing a master’s in American History!

Since then, I have been a proponent of the simple fact that America does have a unique culture and it does have unique, if obscure, cuisine. Anchoress points to a very clear element of American culture; cartoons. Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and the like are very much a part of the American psyche. This is largely because of the American media culture; America produces a vast number of feature-length films each year and Hollywood has dominated world cinema since the 1920’s. Some people even claim that it is wrong to call American movies ‘foreign films’ in any English-speaking market, since they are the dominant films in all such areas. American films also dominate most non-English markets. Even in nations with a strong local cinema, like Italy or France, film makers are relying on government subsidies (sometimes large ones) to make films and use quotas to limit the number of American productions that can be seen in theaters or on television, yet are still seeing American movies strip away hundreds of millions of euros in revenue from their local markets. Despite the sneers you sometimes hear that Americans only like explosions, not real film, it appears the rest of the world trusts our opinions; films that do well in America are eagerly anticipated overseas because they trust our taste in movies.

So the various regional identities of America (Northeast, Mid-West, South, California) are tied together with movies and TV; and this obviously viable culture (witness the popularity of not just our films but our TV overseas) means that non-Americans find it rich and valuable, too.

Our music is also a world-wide constant, with everything from jazz, rock, and rap being the obvious choices. But American music like Gospel, the Blues, Country, and even various forms of Folk music are widely heard and often wildly popular overseas. I’ve heard Australian Country (pretty good) and South African Country (also pretty good), French Rap (didn’t care for it) and Hebrew Rap (not too bad), and who can forget the Red Elvises?

Popular fashion is also often dominated by American trends, especially on the street. American clothes, especially American trademarks, are immensely popular everywhere, and the American ‘urban style’ is widely copied in Europe. Nikes, hoodies, and such are everywhere, but so are cowboy boots.

Of course, American cuisine is rich, varied, subtle – and ignored outside America. Heck, its ignored in American commercial cooking – you know, McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s, etc. The traditional American foods, like sweet potato pie and fritters, are only cooked at home, usually. The mainstream commercial kitchens produce things that, while American, lack the richness and subtlety of things like key lime pie (the real stuff) or seasoned collards with a plate of hoppin’ john. The commercial food of America is burgers, hot dogs, French fries, and milk shakes. Although good, these are rather blunt dishes. They are despised by others… yet, they are also stunningly popular with a new McDonald’s opening all the time – in France. American fast food is coming to dominate French daily casual lunches in urban areas, and American fast food is also beginning to spread in England, Russia, and Brazil and already dominates the casual daily food market of a stunning number of countries. Overall, McDonald’s are present in over 100 countries. Interestingly, Thomas Friedman has pointed out in his Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention that no two nations with McDonald’s have gone to war with each other. Anthropologists have pointed out that the culture imported by McDonald’s in Asia has led to a number of improvements in food service ranging from faster service to cleaner bathrooms.

I will do no more than mention (and link) the world’s favorite soft-drink, Coca-Cola.

So American television, movies, music, clothing, and food are everywhere, found in virtually every nation on Earth, popular in the majority of them, and dominating in many, especially in Western and Asian nations. So it seems that not only does America have a culture, but it has a culture that is being adopted by non-Americans at an amazing rate. Some say at a frightening rate. While many decry the ‘Americanization’ of the globe, there is an element of this spread I haven’t mentioned yet. The spread of the English language.

There are some who call the spread of English language hegemony and liken it to the loss of identity of people who adopt it, regardless of their reasons. The French are well-known (well, to me and other wonks like me, at least) for trying to strictly limit the use of English in an attempt to stop the spread of the language. Despite their sometimes-extreme opposition to English, the language continues to spread.

So far from having no culture, America has a rich, vibrant, varied culture. The world flocks to our movies and televisions, listens to and sings our music, wears our fashions, and speaks our language, all because they find it rich, welcoming, and valuable. So the next time you hear someone, especially an American, say ‘there is no such thing as American culture’, ask them these simple questions,

“Which is your favorite, Coke or Pepsi? Hot dogs or hamburgers?” Rock or rap? Star Wars or Star Trek?”

I’m sure you can think of your own.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Those Who Will Not See

I have been reading Bitch PhD for, oh, about 2 years now, almost since she started blogging. Someone mentioned that she had posted about a letter issued by the Vatican and I dropped by. I disagree with a fair amount of what she argues for, and admittedly just don’t understand why she is so darn angry about some things, so is one of a group of leftist/feminist/gay blogs that I drop in on once a week or so to make sure I am not soley reading opinions that match mine.

Dr. B, as she is sometimes called, is in many ways a fairly standard feminist blogger. She acknowledges that children are so much a part of life as to be inevitable and, thus, kids and parents need societal support. This is a nice contrast to some who feel that kids are solely a choice and, well, too bad if you need help, sucker! She is married and has a child. She has tried to avoid the mommy wars, but not always in what I consider the right direction as it were.

Let me be very clear at the beginning; I find Dr. B to be morally reprehensible. This is not hyperbole, I am not exaggerating to be snarky. Her narcissistic demands coupled with her insistence that all her troubles can be laid at the feet of ‘patriarchal society’ are not just distasteful, they are evidence that her life, her words, and her ideology are perfect examples of the damage “mainstream” feminism is doing to men, women, and society.

As her blog reveals, she has been pursuing a career in academe for some time while her husband stayed home to raise their child. She spent a fair amount of time insisting that this mutual decision of her and her husband was agreeable to both and that it was best for them. OK, I know a fair number of people online with a similar arrangement, and members of my own extended family were doing similar things in the ‘70’s. I thought it was a bit ironic of her to refer as often as she did to the housework she used to do, years back, but what the heck.

In a recent post this is revealed to be, well, not as clearly a mutual decision as she may have portrayed. She makes it very clear that she refused her husband’s proposal for some time. Was she unsure if she loved him? No, that doesn’t seem to be the reason. Was she unsure that he was the ‘right guy’? That’s a bit more unclear, but it doesn’t seem to have been the reason she delayed accepting his proposal and then insisted on cohabitating before marriage. No, her stated reason for deferring accepting her husband’s proposal and for living together before marriage are to… make sure she could ‘have it all’ – a career, a marriage, kids, the freedom to do whatever she wanted, etc.

She also insisted that her fiancé formally promise to support her in getting her PhD, no matter what. She insisted that he quit his (well-loved) job if he wanted children. She insisted that, if he wanted kids, he must be the primary caregiver/full-time parent. And if he wanted to keep their kids out of daycare (which she knew he did) he must be the one to stay home.

She also insists this wasn’t extortion. A casual reading of her blog will reveal that if she heard of a man making such demands of a potential wife, she would label it patriarchal sexism, and inherently oppressive. But just as some people will always view White men as oppressors and Black men as oppressed, regardless of the facts, it seems that making absolute demands of your spouse is a mutual agreement if you are a woman, and oppression if you are a man.

[Yes, I am not only aware that marriages usually have absolute demands from both spouses, I have given and received them. I just don’t call them ‘mutual agreements’ or ‘oppression’. I call them ‘marriage’ and ‘living with your spouse, who is, after all, different’].

So, her husband agreed to her demands, abandoned his well-loved career, and settled in as a house-husband. The post I linked above goes into detail, but the short version is – beginning-track academics don’t make very much money (which was not, I hope, a surprise to anyone involved). Her husband worked very hard to be frugal, was not quite the housekeeper he hoped, and she was irritated and upset about these things. Making him resentful. The big surprise was, of course, that while she had made all of these absolute demands that she be allowed to get a PhD, and that he follow her career wherever it might lead, in the end… she didn’t like the demands her career made of her.

That’s right. She carefully considered what her husband must be willing to do, clearly set forth what she expected him to do in the form of absolute statements, and proceeded to move their life down the path that her demands placed before her family – without being sure that she was willing to do the very things she demanded of her husband and child. Eventually, she decided she and her husband would look for work. She was a starting academic, he has a decade of specialized experience. To no one’s surprise (I hope) he got a new job first, and it pays well. She has now moved into the role of full-time mom.

As a stay-at-home mom, she is quickly discovering just how important stay-at-home moms actually are. She now realizes that a ‘professional mother’ is everything from teacher to medical aide. That stay-at-home moms support schools, are the driving force of charities, care for the sick and elderly, are the backbone of many grassroots political actions, etc., etc. In short, she is being forced to realize how valuable and critical stay-at-home mothers really are.

Don’t worry, though. I see no growing admiration of how hard her husband worked when he was in her shoes, just a smoldering resentment that he doesn’t do more around the house (just like she resented him not doing everything when he was the stay-at-home parent and she was busy working). She is very quick to insist that she is not a ‘lady-who-lunches’ - and then tacitly admits that the existence of social groups like ladies’ clubs, bridge clubs, and such make social networking more efficient, allowing women to do all of those roles with better communication. And never mind the recreation and social aspects of these support groups she disdains!

She moves on to argue that society does stay-at-homes moms a grave disservice; they are not recognized for the vast amounts of unpaid work that they do, and their economic insecurity is ignored. She is right on both counts, of course. The problem is, both of these areas of neglect can be laid at the feet of second-wave feminism. While Dr. B blames “society”, this change is recent. Betty Friedan was very vocal about disparaging the work done by stay-at-home moms and the mommy wars are largely fought between feminists who count the work of stay-at-home moms as valueless and those moms, who know better. The oh-so-despised 1950’s are chock-a-block full of open admissions that the lives of stay-at-home moms were packed with difficult, yet rewarding, work. Remember all those labor-saving devices? The advertisements portraying stay-at-home moms as busy, yet vibrant, as they did the essential work of caring for the family? Sure, the corporations were branding products, but not in a vacuum – the hard work and social contributions of professional mothers was widely accepted and acknowledged as part of society.

Not so any more. Now mothers are told that their work is valueless, primarily because they do not earn a wage. Dr. B wants to fix this by… well, adding them to Social Security [I agree – if we have social security, stay-at-home mothers should be a part of it, and not just because their husbands worked]. And ‘changing society to value stay-at-home mothers’. She rejects the Conservative methods as ‘lip service’, but has no real concrete statement of what she would do.

She explicitly rejects the concepts that being a stay-at-home mother is about creating a better quality of life to the mother and family, or that being a stay-at-home mom can bring a better balance to life. Not because these statements aren’t, or can’t be, true, but because she finds them… too “inward and nuclear”. Never mind that quality of life and life balance are about inner well-being and the well-being of the nuclear family.

She also decries the economic exposure of stay-at-home mothers. They are one divorce or death away from penury, after all. Of course, these issues aren’t new – this has always been true. Society responded with social answers - marriage was seen as a Big Deal and all parties were very careful before they entered into marriage. Marriage was seen as a life-long commitment, reducing a woman’s exposure. The extended family would provide assistance to the widow and orphan. Indeed, most or the elements of ‘patriarchal oppression’ that feminists decry were about ensuring familial stability to protect the most vulnerable members of society – women and children.

She goes on in her posts to claim that she is a victim of a society that has not ‘advanced’ enough. She is, she seems to think, ‘stuck’ at home because society doesn’t… something. Here is a quote:

“Here I am, twenty years later, in a position not unlike [a non-traditional student she knew as an undergrad]. Not because I've married someone like she did; but because whether or not my own personal husband insists on those expectations, my own personal society does. It's okay for me to have a career--as long as my house is clean, I spend a lot of time with my kid, I give up control over where I live, I accept economic dependence (on my husband or on the Bank of America), and I live with the depression that's surely partly the result of all these "choices."

Let’s take a look at this lament, shall we? She is a stay-at-home mom, economically dependent upon her husband. She blames society because ‘society’ requires her to have a clean house (no, that is you and your family), as long as she spends a lot of time with her child (God, what a burden! Society sure is cruel), she gives up control of where she lives (well, that is, based upon her writings, a function of the careers chosen by her and her husband), and she is economically dependent upon her husband (which is why marriage exists, to allow a team of people to raise children). She makes it clear she thinks these decisions were imposed on her by society and she is depressed by this lack of control over her own life.

Pardon me while I fail to agree with this wave of self-pity. I am not sure of Dr. B’s academic discipline, but it obviously isn’t Business, and Engineering branch, etc. When she chose a doctorate in Humanities and a career in academe, she must have known that these freely-chosen paths, made by her alone and stated to her then-boyfriend as imperatives, required that she go where the limited-number of jobs are. And she must have also known, very clearly, that people starting out in academia make very little money for quite some time. Two years of posts by Dr. B paint a picture of society disapproving of her choice in education and career, including the one I linked to above. For her to now claim ‘society forced me to take a career path that I now realize, about 20 years after starting down it, that I don’t like’ is the depths of hypocrisy. Worse, she neglects the sacrifices made for her by her husband and now demeans the work he has taken up to support her by seeing his hard work for her as oppressive! She is so busy pointing her finger in blame at faceless society that she forgets that her own ambitions, her own choices, her own demands, and her own failures are the cause of her being where she is – a stay-at-home mom with a husband providing more economic support for their family than she could while she spends her days with their child.

So we come back full circle to the core of the second-wave feminist argument, such as it is. That core is that the work of stay-at-home moms – although critical to society, although central to the family, although beneficial to children – is worthless compared to having A Career. A woman with A Career is complete, they say, a woman who just stays home is not, they say. Men who stay home while their wives work are cool, women who stay home while their husbands work are fools, they say. That self-same husband, working to support his family, is an oppressor, they say.

“But Deep,” you say “While Dr. B is narcissistic and hypocritical, she’s hardly ‘morally reprehensible’. Why did you say something so harsh earlier?”

Dr. B’s morals are well-advertised on her blog, and they are reprehensible. She believes in an open marriage, meaning that she has regular sexual partners other than her husband, and engages in casual sex when available. Her husband (who gave up his career and working life to support her in her education and career) is expected to support her in her escapades. She sometimes takes her young child with her on her overnight-or-longer liaisons with lovers. Why does she do this? Well, the usual excuse of ‘who can have sex with just one person for more than, like, a week?’ is in play. But she also argues that since her husband annoys her (because he is familiar) she can ‘work out’ her issues with her husband by being with other men. That’s right, she doesn’t stop yelling at her husband’s annoying habits through working with him, or compromise, she does it by sleeping around.

This makes me wonder why Dr. B ever married. It isn’t for economic security (she is angered by the very thought), or for an exclusive relationship. It wasn’t for children (she states, quite clearly, that she was fine without them, but her husband wanted them). It wasn’t for family connections (they live far from their families, she kept her maiden name their child has her last name, not his). She wouldn’t compromise on her education goals (she made him agree to support her PhD work, even if it meant living apart) or her career goals, or her demands in regard to having and rearing children. As far as I can tell, for her marriage is a tax break.

Indeed, I worry about her husband. Here is a man who gave up a career he loved for his wife’s ambitions. He worked hard as a stay-at-home dad while his wife made too little and the debt was piling up. He supports his wife’s affairs (and has some of his own, I assume), even when she takes their child. She kept her name, and gave it to their child. When, after 20 years, his wife decided she doesn’t really want the career he gave up so much for, he jumped back into the labor market and is making more than she did. Her reaction is often resentment – she resented that he wasn’t a better housekeeper, she resents that he doesn’t do more housekeeping now (a nice double-standard), she resents that he is supporting her! I assume he reads her blog, so this is probably well known to him.

Yes, she expresses admiration for him on her blog and, yes, I know that any marriage is complex and dynamic. I know that the years of schooling she went through and the beginnings of her career certainly had a dynamic home life swirling around them. All givens. But her extreme focus on what she wants, her career, and her desires are disrespectful of him to a high degree. Her need to be in relationships with others in order to make her relationship with him ‘work’ is devaluing to him. If I were to go to Feministe or Pandagon and describe Dr. B’s relationship with the genders reversed, I am quite confident that those feminists would say that Dr, B’s husband was being oppressed and that he should leave.

Of course, your next question is, why does anyone care? Dr. B’s blog is read by about 3,500 people per day, a healthy number, and she is fairly well-regarded by feminist bloggers, meaning that her ideas have a broad audience. She is generally seen as a ‘moderatefeminist. I just want to point out how very messed up this moderate feminist is, how contradictory her life is, and how profoundly unhappy she obviously is. While feminists point to my wife and call her a ‘house negro’ or a ‘Serena Joy’ for choosing to be a professional mother, this particular feminist is in a tough position; her husband has completely supported her positions on a non-traditional marriage, a non-traditional working arrangement, and her choices of high-education and a career. After all this, she discovered that she wasn’t happy with her career and, due to the various choices her and her husband made over the years, she is now a stay-at-home mom. Despite her realization that stay-at-home moms can have rich, intellectually-demanding lives with a major positive impact on not just their family, but the community and society, she continues to reject it as less-valuable than a career. I have no idea how she can intellectually support this. It is important that we see this, recognize this, and repeat the intellectual bankruptcy of feminism.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Quote of the Month

"For centuries now its been understood that if enough diplomats go to enough parties, everything will come out right in the end."

- from The Brass God by Keith Laumer