- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Marriage Movement received dispiriting news when the Census Bureau released a report showing American single-adult households for the first time now outnumber traditional families. [www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/censr-24.pdf]

The Census Bureau report came along with the continued attack on fatherhood. Just read the loony opinion handed down by the California Supreme Court which concludes, “We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women.”

Now both liberals and conservatives are insisting that if we hope to save families, we need to rally around fathers. On the Right, critiques of how government welfare worsens the plight of fathers have appeared in the American Conservative, National Review Online, and elsewhere. Eagle Forum head Phyllis Schlafly has penned several hard-hitting commentaries. Last month Rachel Alexander, co-editor of the Intellectual Conservative Web site, released a column provocatively titled, “Child custody: Where men hit a glass ceiling.”

On the Left, former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton spoke at last summer’s legislative conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, urging far more attention to the plight of young urban black men. William Raspberry, a columnist for The Washington Post, devoted a weekly column to the issue, complaining, “Fatherless families are America’s single largest source of poverty.”

But one voice is conspicuously absent in the campaign to save fatherhood — the Marriage Movement. Sadly and inexplicably, the movement has largely turned its back on men.

Yes, there are a few exceptions, such as last year’s excellent report from the Rutgers National Marriage Project, probing why many men are reluctant to marry. Some marriage-enrichment programs like the Secrets of Married Men are sympathetic to the challenges guys face [www.secretsofmarriedmen.com].

But a segment of the Marriage Movement is all too quick to lapse into habitually reviling men. Those images focus on two salacious gender stereotypes: men as abusers and as sexual predators. Social research findings are consistent and incontrovertible: Women are as likely as men to engage in domestic violence, and men suffer a third of all DV-related injuries [www.mediaradar.org/media_fact_sheet.php].

Some marriage advocates blissfully ignore that. The Web page of the well-known marriage group, SmartMarriages.com, has a domestic violence section, featuring a report, “MEN EXPLODE: A special report on men and rage.”

And a major conservative policy institute’s report says, “Marriage dramatically reduces the risk that mothers will suffer from domestic abuse” [www.heritage.org/Research/Family/BG1535.cfm]. That is misleading. It would have been reasonable to say, “Marriage dramatically reduces the risk that both mothers and fathers will suffer from domestic abuse.”

Another persistent stereotype is the male as the ever-lurking sexual predator. A quick run to the local mall reveals hordes of scantily clad young females aggressively advertising their sexual charms. And on cohabitation, marriage advocates fall back on the old motif of male aggressors ravishing innocent virgins.

For example, University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite’s article on “The negative effects of cohabitation” mentions only the negative impact on women [https://chronicle.uchicago.edu/000302/cohabit.shtml]. Does Dr. Waite really believe that, in the event of an unexpected pregnancy, 18 years of child support is a mere trifle to the dad?

More regrettable is that some in the Marriage Movement are openly dismissive of men and fathers. One such leader has repeatedly and incorrectly claimed the main cause of fatherlessness is paternal “abandonment” [www.lewrockwell.com/orig2/baskerville5.html].

There is no more important cause in America than strengthening traditional families. As its advocates are quick to note, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. But if the Marriage Movement means to reverse the disquieting trends of the Census report, it must start heeding the legitimate concerns of single men, husbands and fathers.

CAREY ROBERTS

A Washington-area writer.

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