Disclaimer: I approach this issue as a woman who has experienced discrimination first hand; more than once. I have two daughters, but no sons; however, I do have several very fine nephews. Most of my family is middle class or lower middle class, and some are poor. I am well educated, highly driven, fair-minded, hard-working, and take responsibility for my actions. I am also a Christian. All these things necessarily shape my world view. Even so, I try very hard to see things from both sides which is the moral obligation of intelligent human beings (in my humble opinion.)
And in case anyone cares, I also think abstinence is best, but I’m not certain how realistic it is given the evolution of our culture from the Agricultural Age to the Information Age.
That said, I was recently reading a blog that discussed the importance of teaching/mentoring children to delay sex until marriage. The blog touched on entitlement, instant gratification, and how a child born out-of-wedlock is more likely to live in poverty. It did not, unfortunately, address the fact that women in poverty are more likely to have children out-of-wedlock and it completely ignored biological drives which are at odds with how long men and women are delaying starting families (the latter I will not address in this post as it will require further research and space.)
Is it important to make the distinction between “have a child out of wedlock and your child will more likely live in poverty” and “if you live in poverty you are more likely to have a child out-of-wedlock”? I think so. The first mindset suggests that if women stop getting pregnant before marriage, we will eliminate or greatly reduce poverty for children. While that may be so, this argument assumes that you can stop poor women from having sex outside of marriage strictly by showing them how “hard” it will be (or how hard politicians can make it) for their potential children. Despite the fact that this argument has not worked in places on the planet with much graver poverty issues than in the U.S., or even in the most privileged American families, it completely ignores the role that boys and men play in the equation.
Most of what I read or hear from self-described conservatives is that the problem of too many single family households is one that has been caused by the sexual revolution (women’s lib/liberalism) via entities like Planned Parenthood. Again, focusing on these components assigns too much of the blame and responsibility to women; even if that is not the intent. So, why do we ignore the role that poverty, race, gender bias, privilege, power, education and discrimination has on our family crisis? I believe it is because doing so would force the blame to be shared across society; men, women, church, state, media, capitalism, liberals, and yes, even conservatives.
I think the omission of boys and men from the equation perpetuates the myth of the convenient straw-(wo)man as the cause and cure for the problem of children living in single parent households (in poverty and presumably on welfare). Further, I think it has helped to create the generation of Peter Pans which many are bemoaning as having been tossed aside by both the liberal education system and radical feminists in what they believe has been a misguided effort to build up girls and women.
But getting back, for the moment, to single family households, I stumbled across this from the Annie E. Casey foundation which indicates that 35% of children live in single-parent households. Standing out in the statistics is the fact that Asian Americans have a much lower rate of children living in single parent homes than all other ethnic groups, including Caucasians; 17% vs. 25%. It also occurred to me that during a recent study on standardized test scores, I discovered that Asian Americans score significantly higher on these tests. Could there be a parallel influence at work here?
Do Asian Americans, in fact, have a secret weapon against out-of-wedlock births? They just might, and it is not what I expected, and I suspect it may not be what many of you want to hear. Asian Americans have been labeled the “model minority” because, despite the hardships they faced upon immigrating to the U.S., they have managed to out-perform other Americans academically, they have a higher than average family income, and overall, they do not ask the taxpayer for anything.
But let’s look at a few other statistics. While the Asian American community is considered “conservative”, especially when it comes to things like pre-marital sex, experts agree that Asian Americans overwhelmingly voted for President Obama in the last election; by a margin of of 3:1, in fact. So, does which political party you support necessarily determine how many out-of-wedlock births will occur? Not in this case.
Next, only 42% of Asian Americans identify themselves as Christians compared to 75% of Americans in general who say they are Christians. So, does teaching Christian values ensure that your children will not have their own children out-of-wedlock? The evidence does not support that hypothesis either.
And here is where the statistics get uncomfortable: “As support for abortion has risen, so has the rate at which Asian-American women undergo the procedure. In 2000, about 35 percent of Asian-American pregnancies ended in abortion, the second highest rate for all racial and ethnic groups behind blacks, and almost double the 18 percent rate for whites. In 2007, the most recent year statistics were available, 13,488 Asian Americans went to Planned Parenthood for abortions nationwide, and 5,494 did so in California alone.” Source: (http://newamericamedia.org/2010/09/asian-american-women-who-accept-abortion-as-a-way-out.php.)
This is despite the fact that Asian American women have huge amounts of pressure from their families to abstain from sex before marriage. This is despite the fact that Asian American women are some of the most academically successful (educated) women in the U.S. And, lastly, this is despite the fact that Asian American women delay having sex longer than typical American women. When asked “why”, Asian American women point to the fact that even though they are taught not to have sex they are not taught about sex or how to not get pregnant (other than abstinence.) While I find this hard to believe, Asian American women are apparently very naive when it comes to the biology of procreation; or at least non-procreation.
So, if you apply extreme cultural pressure to succeed -a success that will not be achieved if one has a child out-of-wedlock – and at the same time teach only abstinence (do not provide birth control opportunities), even well-educated, well-off girls from homes with strict moral values will eventually have sex and, thus, will have a high rate of abortions; especially if the boys are not expected to accept any of the responsibility.
So, did I get off point talking about Asian American women, birth control, and sex education? I don’t think so. It does not go unnoticed by me that Asian American women are not the target of conservative pundits (even though they are having a LOT of abortions) because they are not asking for money from the government. Most of what I read is aimed at other groups; specifically women, and especially non-Christian, liberal and African American women, on welfare.
As I see it, the commonalities among single parent families is, first, poverty/lack of quality education and, second, a history of discrimination. So, like the Asian Americans who have a “culture” that reduces the likelihood of children being born to single moms, African Americans, Native American Indians and Hispanics live in a culture that increases the likelihood that children will be born to single moms.
The African American community has the highest number of children living in single parent homes (67%). Therefore, most of the children living in single parent homes not only live in poverty but were born into poverty. Although there have been many studies trying to pinpoint why this phenomenon exists, there is no denying that poverty and the “invisible” or “checked-out” fathers are common factors.
While the African American community has lost fathers to violent crime, incarceration and a lack of decent (legal) employment opportunities, Caucasians are now losing fathers because they are invisible in a different way. Should we be concerned? I answer with a resounding, YES!
You are probably wondering what I mean by invisible. Well, I think society gives boys a free pass. It places NO responsibility on them for their part in this particular problem or any problem, for that matter. When a girl gets pregnant out-of-wedlock, she is promiscuous and if she decides to get an abortion (often with the support of the boy and his and her family), she is a promiscuous murderer. The boys who supplied half the chromosomes for this new life, on the other hand, are…well…invisible.
They do not have to forgo college. They do not get called bad names by Rush Limbaugh. And they do not have whole groups of politicians trying to enact legislation that is meant to punish them further for their bad choices. They get to slink away and forget it ever happened without having to wear a Scarlet A that marks them as a drain on society, a sinner, and a slut. And, sadly, I think certain groups believe that is the natural order of things.
But it does not stop there, others are also being blamed for the fact that boys are not performing up to their potential in school, are not going to or graduating from college, are not getting into the college of their choice, and even that they do not know how to act with and toward women….the list goes on and on. The blame is placed on the liberal education machine, radical feminism, Affirmative Action, the media, TV and Hollywood.
I see things from a different perspective, however; the perspective of a member in one of the groups being blamed. I also see things my friends on the other side apparently do not see; like the fact that the liberal education machine has set up classrooms (at least at the elementary level) by-and-large to accommodate boys and how boys supposedly learn best. When my daughter was attending elementary school, I observed constant movement and kinetic energy in the classroom because boys “do not learn well if they are required to sit still.” There are manipulatives and games and centers because boys “are hands on learners.” The old way, the way created by men for boys (before girls were even getting educations), somehow was determined to be too “feminine” and designed just for “girls”. Huh?
Couldn’t the problem just be that as things became “more equal”, boys experienced more competition for limited resources and without the decks stacked in their favor (on purpose) they necessarily did not receive the same sized piece of the pie? That is called sharing.
Instead of embracing that reality, making the boys aware of it, and advising them that they needed to work that much harder, society has tried to tell them that they are being unfairly “held back”. At the same time, when boys make bad choices and are, in fact, made to accept responsibility (i.e., Steubenville), society still finds a way to blame girls and tries to marginalize the offense.
When I asked my 24-year-old daughter what she thought the problem with boys was, this is what she had to say:
“…if there is, in fact, a problem, I would say it is pressure. The pressure that girls are under to look, think, and behave a certain way exists for boys, too. Parents want certain things for their children; peers have certain expectations; the media bombards boys and young men with messages and imagery that reinforces those expectations. If boys want to stand a fighting chance, they need to have a sense of self-esteem and self-respect that, unfortunately, not everyone gets. If that isn’t there, rather than stand up to it, people will tune it out and become apathetic.”
I think she is onto something. Isn’t it possible that the problem with boys is a society that is not ready to accept what “equality” actually looks like? Is society telling boys that they “should” be doing better in school than girls, they “should” graduate more men from college than women, and they “should” have higher paying jobs than women because that is what things “should” look like according to a Darwinian or theological mindset? And the only thing that is keeping that from happening is that girls are artificially “propped up”. Isn’t that a defeatest attitude? Does that give boys self-esteem or self-respect? Does that affect girls’ and women’s self-esteem? Does it cause boys and men to disrespect and/or harbor animus toward girls and women? I think it is something that every person needs to ask themselves with an open mind.
I must admit, and without apology, that as it relates to children born into single family households, equality makes the most sense…to me. I believe that if you want to decrease promiscuity and out-of-wedlock births, then make boys shoulder half the responsibility and shame. It benefits them, it benefits children, and, ultimately, it benefits society. Pretty simple.