Re: THE PATHOLOGY OF THE FEMALE-HEADED FAMILY
VI THE CUSTODY TRAP
"For many women," says feminist Dr. Alice Rossi, "the personal outcome of experience in the parent role is not a higher level of maturation but the negative outcome of a depressed sense of self- worth, if not actual personality deterioration." "The heart of woman's oppression," says Shulamith Firestone, "is her childbearing and childrearing roles." The predicament of these mothers is trebly pitiable when they are single heads of families. Single mothers complain especially of poverty--theirs and that of the children they drag into the Custody Trap to keep them company and give them a "role." They aver that the patriarchal family is a prison for the mother; but the mother is far more restricted, impoverished and miserable in a female-headed family, with reduced income and no partner to share responsibilities with. There exists a medium sized library of books with titles like Women and Children Last, Poor Women, Poor Families, and Working Your Way to the Bottom: The Feminization of Poverty, whose message is that society must do something to rescue single mothers. The overriding concern of this literature is the need for more money for Mom, so that her mother-love may have the wherewithal required for its proper functioning. No question, the poverty is a problem. According to Betty Friedan, "Statistics indicate that a child in a family now in poverty, headed by a man, has a fifty-fifty chance of getting out of poverty by his or her maturity--but that a child in a poverty family headed by a woman has no chance." Divorced women, according to MS. magazine, have the lowest household incomes of any group of women. "Worldwide," according to Kathleen Newland, "between one-quarter and one-third of all families are supported by women; and worldwide, these families are leading candidates for poverty and hardship."
But poverty is not the only problem, or the worst. 80 percent of children in psychiatric clinics come from female-headed homes. Single women family heads have the highest rate of disease compared to all other women, far higher than the never married. They report "less satisfaction with their lives than Americans in any other marital status, including widows and women who had never married."
Writing of the problems of female heads of families, Barbara Gelpi, Nancy Hartsock, Clare Novak and Myra Strober say, "Associated with such extreme hardship is the high incidence both of health problems and of troubles with older children among these families." The same point is made by Deborah K. Zinn and Rosemary Sarri:
Women also encountered a variety of serious problems with their older children. More than one-third were called to school in l982 for special conferences, and 21 percent reported that their children had been suspended at least once. A small number of children had been expelled, referred to the juvenile court, committed to institutions, and/or victimized by crime. The numbers, although small, exceeded those one would expect to observe in an average family.
Girls in female-headed homes have more problems in sex role and personality development and in handling aggression. Father- deprived sons frequently exhibit aggressive behavior, lack of social responsibility, a variety of intellectual defects, high delinquency potential, tendencies toward homosexuality, difficulties in interpersonal relations and low need for achievement. More than one third of the children from female- headed homes drop out of school.
Divorce researchers Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly were struck with the pervasive sadness they encountered among 6-to-8- year-olds in female-headed families--a sadness not seldom transformed into rage at the mothers. E. Mavis Hetherington found that mothers in father-absent homes have more psychiatric symptoms than mothers in intact homes. According to Patricia Paskowicz, one-third of children of divorce living with their fathers seem pleased with their situation, compared with only one- tenth of those living with their mothers. Women heads of families are less marriageable. "I am a nice- looking, 28-year-old divorced woman," one of them writes to Dear Abby. "I have no trouble getting dates, but my problem is that every man I date runs to the nearest exit when I tell him I have three kids....The last four men I dated seemed interested in me-- until I told them I had three children. After that I never heard from them again." A child living in a female-headed home is ten times more likely to be beaten or murdered. According to USA Today, while working married women have the best health of any group of women, single mothers, working or unemployed, have the poorest. According to Irma Moilanen and Paula Rantakallio, fatherless children are much more likely to develop psychiatric problems--boys three times as likely, girls four times. According to Sara McLanahan and Larry Bumpass, Women who were raised in female-headed families are 53 percent likelier to have teenage marriages, lll percent likelier to have teenage births, l64 percent likelier to have premarital births, 92 percent likelier to experience marital disruptions.
The catalogue of miseries associated with female-headed families could be extended without limit. (See the Annex to Chapter I.) Mother-custody has been the choice of divorce courts for a century. It is, as the foregoing paragraphs show, a tried-and- failed arrangement. It does not benefit women. It drags them into poverty and depression. It does not benefit children. It drags them into the same poverty and into a greater likelihood of educational failure and delinquency. It devastates men by depriving them of their children and their role. Dr. Lenore Weitzman's assertion that divorce bestows upon men a standard of living 42 percent higher than they enjoyed while married is a puerile falsehood which is not made less absurd by repetition.
Betty Friedan believes that society asks "little" of women. The little refers most importantly to the obligation of wives to bear legitimate children. A wife's reneging on this obligation ought to forfeit her right to subsidization and social approval. The primary reason for marriage, formerly made explicit in the priest's instructions to the groom and bride in the marriage ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer, is the procreation of children. Men undertake the responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood primarily for the purpose of procreating these children, who are properly called "legitimate" by reason of having a father and because society, in order that it may not be burdened with the social costs described in the foregoing paragraphs, recognizes the importance of their having a father. The social crisis indicated by the title of the present book and the social pathology indicated in Chapter I have resulted from the failure of the legal system to safeguard the Legitimacy Principle.
The high correlation between crime and fatherless families is indisputable. According to the Los Angeles Times,
The nation's prison population jumped by a record 46,004 inmates in the first six months of 1989, for a total of 673,565 men and women behind bars, the Bureau of Justice Statistics said. The increase broke the record not only for half-year increases but also was higher than any annual increase recorded during the 64 years the government has counted prisoners, the bureau said. The 7.3% surge in prison population during the first half of 1989 was brought about by increases of 7% in the number of men imprisoned and 13% in the number of women, the bureau said. Since 1980, the number of state and federal prisoners serving sentences of more than one year--known as sentenced prisoners--more then doubled from
Not much can be done now about the damaged lives of the mostly fatherless children who grow up to become these incarcerated prisoners, or the less damaged lives of the larger numbers who avoid incarceration. These less-damaged people survive the high- crime ages, 14-to-24, and enter middle age as underachieving, confused, unhappy adults, permanent semi-casualties with weakened families of their own. What needs to be done is to stop the flow of messed-up kids through the pipeline running from the divorce courts and into female-headed families, through pathological childhoods into disruptive adolescence and demoralized adulthood--the process now in full swing and programmed to continue into the next Garbage Generation in the 21st century.
The failure of the judges and policymakers responsible for most of these female-headed families to understand their responsibility for them and for the disruption, crime, demoralization and illegitimacy they produce derives from the disastrous but natural mistake of supposing that because the female-headed family form is biologically based, whereas the father-headed family form is merely a social creation, society ought to support the biologically based form by choosing Mom for custodian of the children in case of divorce. They cannot grasp the idea that the reproductive pattern found among lower animals is unsuitable for humans.
The fact is that the family, like the civilization it makes possible, is an artificial creation. Civilization is artificial. And fragile. Patriarchal civilization came into existence when men became equal sharers in human reproduction. The biological marginality of the male required that this sharing should be buttressed by artificial social supports, the most important being society's recognition of fathers as heads of families. The present destruction of the father-headed family is felt to be justified by the sacredness of motherhood, which causes judges and lawmakers to acquiesce when women demand that their marriages be terminated and that they be made heads of families. Female headship of families is disastrous. Mom, whose role is a biological fact, doesn't need society's props; Dad, whose role is a social creation, does. Society must use the strength of the mother-infant tie not as a lever for wrecking the two-parent family, but as a prop for preserving it--by guaranteeing to the father the headship of his family and the custody of his children. Then mothers, knowing that divorce will separate them from their children and from Dad's paycheck, will reconcile themselves to accepting the patriarchal, two-parent family arrangement. Marriage will be stabilized. There will be no feminization of poverty, no general acceptance of the female-headed family and its social pathology. By society's guarantee of father custody the roles of both spouses are re-affirmed, children are brought up in two-parent families, and society can hope for the kind of stability, creativity and productivity found in societies with stable families, societies such as that of the Victorian age and contemporary Japan. When Margaret Mead speaks of the female role as a biological fact she refers to the mammalian female role. The female role in patriarchal, civilized society is every bit as artificial as the male role. "What is now called the nature of women," wrote John Stuart Mill in l869, is an eminently artificial thing." He meant the nature of patriarchally socialized women. What is called the nature of man is, in patriarchal society, equally artificial. Mill himself was an artificial thing--if he hadn't been, his books wouldn't be worth reading. Civilization is an artificial thing, something men and women chafe under, as Freud explained in Civilization and Its Discontents, because civilization is built on repression and frustration--and the toleration of frustration, a toleration motivated by the sexual law-and-order of family living which ties sexuality to long-term goals, to the past and the future, to ancestors and descendants, to home and children. There is no way to motivate males to accept the coercion- imposed frustration feminists and the divorce courts want to inflict on them by compelling them to subsidize ex-families, and that is the reason why, in the words of Louis Roussel,
What we have seen between 1965 and the present, among the billion or so people who inhabit the industrialized nations, is...a general upheaval in the whole set of demographic indicators.
In barely twenty years, the birth rate and the marriage
rate have tumbled, while divorces and illegitimate births have increased rapidly. All these changes have been substantial, with increases or decreases of more than fifty percent. They have also been sudden, since the process of change has only lasted about fifteen years. And they have been general, because all industrialized countries have been affected beginning around 1965.
This is why, in other words, we have a Garbage Generation growing up in female-headed households. The feminist-sexual revolution is an attempt to get back to the pre-patriarchal pattern of the Stone Age, to mobilize and unleash the discontents resulting from civilization's demand that women accept sexual law-and-order. (Civilization makes even more onerous demands upon men, as men's 7 or 8 year shorter life-span shows. For all of which, women and men both live longer under patriarchy than under matriliny.)
What's in it for women? Stable marriage and its economic and status advantages. The task of the patriarchy is (l) to convince women that these advantages are the quid pro quo they get for participation in the patriarchal system (acceptance of sexual law- and-order, sharing their reproductive lives with men) and are not otherwise obtainable; (2) to convince lawmakers and judges that they must support the patriarchal family rather than trying to create a divorce-alternative to it.
This divorce-alternative, this disastrous idea now held by the legal system (and of course by feminists) that divorce ought to provide ex-wives with the same benefits that marriage provides to wives, is the chief underminer of patriarchy. "The idea of compensatory payment," says Mary Ann Glendon in discussing the French synonym for alimony,
is to remedy "so far as possible" the disparity which the termination of marriage may create in the respective living conditions of the spouses....It depends on the establishment of the fact of a disparity between the situations of the ex- spouses, and its aim is to enable both of them to live under approximately equivalent material conditions.
The idea of the "compensatory payment" is to transfer money from the possession of the male who earns it to the possession of a female who does not earn it and who has no claim to it other than her status as a Mutilated Beggar. "Compensatory" for what? For the withdrawal of the services which during marriage justified her enjoyment of a 73 percent higher standard of living? Why doesn't her withdrawal of services justify the husband in withdrawing his services? Why should they both live "under approximately equivalent material conditions"? Why should there not be a "disparity" in their incomes, since the ex-husband earns his income and the ex-wife does nothing which entitles her to share his earnings? Vive la disparite! This "disparity" is the principal reason she married him. Patriarchal civilization is built on this disparity. The male devotes the greater part of his energies to creating this disparity, believing that it will make him attractive to females and that by offering it to one of them he can induce her to share her reproductive life with him and thereby enable him to create a family and procreate legitimate and inalienable children who will benefit from this disparity by having a higher standard of living and by receiving the patriarchal socialization which will civilize them--make them stable and law- abiding and educationally successful. It is thus that patriarchal society puts sex to work to motivate males to create wealth and social stability--the wealth and stability which feminists and the legal system are undermining in order to liberate women and return society to matriliny. The disparity which feminists and the courts want to get rid of is virtually synonymous with the wealth of society which they want to latch onto. They imagine that eliminating the disparity means raising the standard of living of women rather than lowering the standard of living of everybody. There exists no such disparity in ghettos and on Indian reservations because the males in ghettos and on Indian reservations have no bargaining power and no motivation to acquire it by work and self-discipline. They lack the frustration- tolerance which sexual law-and-order and dedication to family living make endurable. They are willing to accept the one-night stands and the stud-status which their women are willing to offer them. And so, alas, are increasing numbers of males in the larger society. And policy-makers, lawmakers and judges are willing to re-order society to make it conform to this matrilineal pattern which makes men studs instead of fathers. And this is why there is a Garbage Generation.
Dr. Glendon tells us that French law
authorized compensation (sometimes very substantial) for such harms allegedly resulting from the divorce as the loss of esteem suffered by a divorced person, loneliness, or the loss of social position by one who has become accustomed to a high standard of living.
The divorced person referred to is the female. She is deprived of her high standard of living. But the ex-husband is equally deprived of his ex-wife's reciprocal services, presumed to be of equal value to the high standard of living he bestowed on her--or else why was she entitled to the high standard of living? If each is deprived, and if the deprivations are of equal value, why is the woman entitled to compensation and the man not?
In West Germany things are much the same: support of the ex- wife "is to be determined with reference to the marital standard of living." In other words: (1) the ex-husband is penalized by the ex-wife's withdrawal of her services; (2) the ex-wife is rewarded (at the ex-husband's expense) for withdrawing them. Compensation for services rendered is replaced by compensation for services withdrawn. If the woman is to be liberated, the man must be doubly penalized. This is the upshot of the feminist movement which a generation ago told the American housewife to stop taking a free ride on her husband's back, to give up her parasitism, to be independent, to stand on her own feet and face life's challenges on her own without "special privileges because of her sex...without sexual privilege or excuse."
The woman is said to be entitled to compensation because she suffers from divorce. She should suffer from divorce. The man suffers more, because judges discriminate massively against him in order to ease the suffering of the woman. "In terms of mental and physical disease and life expectancy," says George Gilder, "divorce damages the man far more than the woman." To say that divorce hurts women is to say that marriage benefits women. Marriage should and must benefit women. This is what gives men bargaining power and therefore motivation. This is why they are willing to toil to create their families' (and society's) wealth, why their energies and talents can be directed into useful channels rather than disrupting society as they do where families are headed by women. The feminist/legal program to supply women with comparable benefits from divorce is destroying the whole patriarchal system, which works by encouraging men to earn money so that they have something to offer women in exchange for their accepting sexual of law-and-order. Men must have something which will induce women to live in patriarchal, two-parent families--that something being the disparity between men's and women's earnings. Patriarchy makes this disparity the great bulwark of family stability. The feminist/legal program wants to convert this disparity into a means whereby the patriarchal two-parent family may be destroyed.