Col­lat­eral dam­age from sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion

Amer­ica lit­tered with sin­gle moms, ir­re­spon­si­ble dads and needy chil­dren

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Suzanne Fields

You don’t have to be an el­derly Aunt Agatha to re­mem­ber when fem­i­nism was about equal rights and equal pay. In those heady days of right­eous­ness un­bound, not all women cheered the rev­o­lu­tion, but most did. Our moth­ers and grand­moth­ers who en­joyed the free­dom of be­ing full-time moms, home for the chil­dren af­ter school, nev­er­the­less be­lieved that pay scales de­prived women of what was rightly theirs.

But soon women of the gen­er­a­tion of stay-at-home moms felt the sting of con­de­scen­sion, of be­ing tar­gets of the pi­o­neer­ing women they first cheered. They had be­come the en­emy in a new war, women ver­sus women. The mom­mies lost that war, and their daugh­ters went on to full-time ca­reers. To­day, women are the ma­jor­ity in col­lege and grad­u­ate school, in­clud­ing the schools of law and medicine.

The sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion brought free­dom — and priv­i­lege — to women that an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion never dreamed of. Alas, like most rev­o­lu­tions, the fem­i­nist rev­o­lu­tion, for all of its earnest and ide­al­is­tic be­gin­nings, has been blighted by un­in­tended con­se­quences. A new class of vic­tim, the sin­gle mom, has been aban­doned by men to raise chil­dren alone. Not so long ago, a man who fa­thered a child with a woman he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) marry suf­fered stigma and re­proach, per­haps from men more than women. That was be­fore “il­le­git­i­macy” be­came the “new nor­mal.” Now more than half of ba­bies born to moth­ers un­der 30 are born out­side mar­riage. The trend ac­cel­er­ates.

These sin­gle moms are not the col­lege-ed­u­cated ca­reer women who have climbed the lad­der of rank and pros­per­ity. “Mar­riage has be­come a lux­ury good,” so­ci­ol­o­gist Frank F. Fursten­berg Jr. of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia tells the New York Times. Fully 90 per­cent of col­lege-ed­u­cated women who be­come moth­ers are mar­ried. They dis­cov­ered some­thing be­sides book learn­ing be­hind the ivy-cov­ered walls. The big losers are women with­out the ad­van­tages of pros­per­ity. The racial break­down of un­wed moth­ers is stark and dra­matic: 73 per­cent of black chil­dren, 53 per­cent of Latino chil­dren and 29 per­cent of white chil­dren are born to sin­gle moth­ers.

These are more than sta­tis­tics. Any of us can re­cite the li­tany of dis­ad­van­tages in­her­ited by chil­dren raised with­out fa­thers. They are more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence poverty, to do poorly in school, to wind up on the wrong side of the law and to re­peat the grim cy­cle in their own gen­er­a­tion.

Few in Washington dis­cuss this be­cause it’s first a cul­tural prob­lem, and Washington only wants to talk about prob­lems that can be re­duced to pol­i­tics. Cul­ture doesn’t fit com­fort­ably into po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions. When Bill Clin­ton was pres­i­dent and re­luc­tantly sup­ported wel­fare re­form, wel­fare was widely thought to en­cour­age il­le­git­i­macy. The gov­ern­ment played Big Daddy and picked up the check. Many women who had lived on wel­fare learned that get­ting off the dole and find­ing work felt good. They found work, but not dad­dies for their ba­bies. The rev­o­lu­tion freed women to take charge of their lives, and men were happy to get out of their way.

What’s be­ing ig­nored in the con­tro­versy over gov­ern­ment-man­dated con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age is the way men have aban­doned their re­spon­si­bil­ity to share the role for birth con­trol. There’s no one in the de­bate to say this. Nei­ther Mitt Rom­ney nor Newt Gin­grich is ea­ger to join the de­bate, and Rick San­to­rum only dreams of the day when con­tra­cep­tion will be for­bid­den. The celi­bate bish­ops in their gowns have more to say about sex­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity than the men who have ren­dered them­selves ir­rel­e­vant.

It’s a lit­tle cheeky of fem­i­nists to mount high horses to ob­ject to the rude­ness of be­ing called “sluts,” it seems to me, be­cause they’ve or­ga­nized “Slut Walks” to as­sert their right to dress like hook­ers with­out suf­fer­ing the leers of men. The idea was to de­prive the word of its sting in the way ho­mo­sex­u­als have tried to de­prive the word “queer” of its power to wound. It hasn’t quite worked. The dis­sem­bling of San­dra Fluke, who brought Rush Lim­baugh low, is easy to see through, too. She knows very well that col­lege-ed­u­cated women do not de­pend on gov­ern­ment man­dates to pay for their birth con­trol. Women are no longer the sec­ond sex.

The birth-con­trol con­tro­versy has been cast as po­lit­i­cal — Re­pub­li­can ver­sus Demo­crat, con­ser­va­tive ver­sus lib­eral — when it’s clearly about whether the re­li­gious folk can be re­quired by the gov­ern­ment to pay for some­thing of­fen­sive to their faith. It’s also about the fun­da­men­tal change in the male-fe­male re­la­tion­ship. As women gained equal­ity with men, men lost their iden­tity as providers and pro­tec­tors.

If mar­riage once was re­quired as a sex­ual-eco­nomic com­pro­mise that do­mes­ti­cated men for fam­ily life, it is no longer. Men have fled fatherhood as well as the re­spon­si­bil­ity for pre­vent­ing un­wanted fatherhood. Man has been un­manned.


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