Marriage is good for men, women, children--and society. Because of this simple fact, I am working with several organizations in the community to promote healthy marriages. Despite demonstrated evidence in every major social policy area of the need to rebuild a strong and healthy culture of marriage, we still have those who are opposed to life by the extreme wing of feminism that sees no good in marriage or in unity between men and women, and between mothers and fathers.
Moderate, mainstream feminists have long rejected this animus against marriage; the vast majority of such feminists either are married or intend to marry. Mainstream feminists are focused on a worthy concern: removing obstacles to the advancement of women in all walks of life.
Radical feminists, however, while embracing this mainstream goal--even hiding behind it--go much further: They seek to undermine the nuclear family of married father, mother, and children, which they label the "patriarchal family." As feminist leader Betty Friedan has warned, this anti-marriage agenda places radical feminists profoundly at odds with the family aspirations of mainstream feminists and most other American women.
Are these feminists unhappy with men? Perhaps they are angry at the man because they have been abused.
Anyway, radical feminists are opposed to healthy families and marriages because their differences are rooted in a long-term philosophical hostility to the institution of marriage itself. Decision-makers in Lansing should not allow the badly needed initiative to strengthen healthy marriage to be blocked by organizations, such as the NOW or any other feminist crap, that are still wedded to the "tired ideology" of the radical feminist past.
State lawmakers in Lansing should review these radical feminist views on marriage, reject their influence, and uphold legislation that seeks to increase stable, healthy marriage--a better solution for men and women who are parents of children. Lansing should never forget that it is children who suffer most when an anti-marriage agenda triumphs.
What most people do not know that in its initial stages American feminism was not hostile to marriage. True, in her magnum opus, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan did describe the traditional homes where wives were not employed as "comfortable concentration camps. But Friedan's criticism was focused primarily on the role of the non-employed housewife. Her goal seems to have been to increase the employment of wives and mothers rather than to attack marriage itself. Thus, Friedan's criticism of marriage was limited; she never called on women to abandon the institution.
However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a new wave of radical feminism emerged that quickly moved beyond the positions espoused by Friedan and others. This new feminism was overtly hostile to the institution of marriage itself. Among the key figures in this new, more radical feminism were:
- Kate Millett, who wrote the 1969 best-seller, Sexual Politics;
- Germaine Greer, author of The Female Eunuch (1970), an Australian who was educated at Cambridge, England, and taught at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and the University of Tulsa in the United States;
- Marilyn French, Harvard fellow, best-known for her 1977 novel, The Women's Room;
- Jessie Bernard, author of The Future of Marriage (1972) and influential Pennsylvania State University sociologist who "converted" to radical feminism toward the end of her academic career and in whose name the American Sociological Association gives an annual award for feminist sociology; and
- Shulamith Firestone, author of The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970) and founder of Radical Women, the first feminist collective.
In the late 1960s, attacks against marriage mounted swiftly, one upon the other. In 1968, radical feminists Beverly Jones and Judith Brown wrote the influential pamphlet "Toward a Female Liberation Movement." It proclaimed: "The married woman knows that love is, at its best, an inadequate reward for her unnecessary and bizarre heritage of oppression." In 1969, radical feminist Marlene Dixon, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago, declared: "The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women; it is through the role of wife that the subjugation of women is maintained. In a very real way the role of wife has been the genesis of women's rebellion throughout history.
In 1990, the organization Radical Women issued a group manifesto affirming that the traditional family was "founded on the open or concealed domestic slavery of the wife." The manifesto celebrated the growth of single-parent families and serial cohabitation in low-income communities as a positive step toward the liberation of women.
Now I understand why Black women like to be single in mass numbers in our community. It has nothing to do with me or any other man. It has something to do with re-defining who they are as women. Our women desire to be single not because they cannot find a good, intelligent,spirit-filled, hard working, responsible Black man. We know we exist in our community. It is because feminism has slowly crept into our community and into our homes.
In her 1996 book In the Name of the Family: Rethinking Family Values in the Postmodern Age, Judith Stacey, Professor of Gender Studies and Sociology at the University of Southern California, consigned traditional marriage to the dustbin of history. Stacey contended that "Inequity and coercion...always lay at the vortex of that supposedly voluntary `compassionate marriage' of the traditional nuclear family." She welcomed the fact that traditional married-couple families (which she terms "The Family") are being replaced by single-mother families (which she terms the postmodern "family of woman"):
Perhaps the postmodern "family of woman" will take the lead in burying The Family at long last. The [married nuclear] Family is a concept derived from faulty theoretical premises and an imperialistic logic, which even at its height never served the best interests of women, their children, or even many men.... The [nuclear married] family is dead. Long live our families!
Stacey urged policymakers to abandon their concern with restoring marital commitment between mothers and fathers and instead "move forward toward the postmodern family regime," characterized by single parenthood and transitory relationships.
As their influence grew over three decades, radical feminists' sentiments increasingly found their way into college textbooks and whole college courses on feminist studies, consistently expressing opposition to the natural family and to marriage. These courses are under "WOMEN STUDIES." Over the years, these writings have exercised considerable detrimental influence on the intellectual formation of millions of college students, not only in many overtly hostile feminist studies courses, but even in the more mainstream family studies courses.
Many current college textbooks on the family rely heavily on sociologist Jessie Bernard's erroneous arguments, now long contradicted by subsequent research, that marriage has harmful effects on women's mental health.
For decades, radical feminists depicted marriage as an oppressive institution that was injurious to women and children. In reality, facts show exactly the opposite: In general, marriage has profoundly beneficial effects on women, children, and men.
Foremost is the positive impact of marriage in alleviating poverty among mothers and children. On average, a mother who gives birth and raises a child outside of marriage is seven times more likely to live in poverty than is a mother who raises her children within a stable married family. Over 80 percent of long-term child poverty in the United States (where a child is poor for more than half of his or her life) occurs in never-married or broken households. Moreover, the economic benefits of marriage are not limited to the middle class; some 70 percent of never-married mothers would be able to escape poverty if they were married to the father of their children.
The erosion of marriage is also a principal factor behind the growth of the current welfare state. A child born and raised outside marriage is six times more likely to receive welfare aid than is a child raised in an intact, married family. Each year, federal and state governments spend over $200 billion on means-tested aid for low-income families with children through programs such as food stamps, public housing, the earned income tax credit, and Medicaid. Of this total, some 75 percent ($150 billion) goes to single-parent families.
Marriage has profound positive effects on the well-being of children. Children raised by single mothers are 20 times more likely to suffer serious physical abuse than children raised in intact, married families. Children raised in single-parent homes are much more likely to be depressed and to have developmental, behavioral, and emotional problems; such children are more likely to fail in school, use drugs, and engage in early sexual activity. They are also more likely to become involved in crime and to end up in jail as adults. I see this every day at work.
A woman cannot be a man and a woman when raising their children. Their sons cannot be their little "man." It takes a man to raise a boy. I cannot raise a girl to be a woman. What makes a woman think that they can raise a boy to be a full grown man?
While radical feminists condemn marriage as an institution that foments domestic violence against women, in fact, the opposite is true. Domestic violence is most common in the transitory, free-form, cohabitational relationships that feminists have long celebrated as replacements for traditional marriage. Specifically, never-married mothers are more than twice as likely to suffer from domestic violence than mothers who are or have been married.
One can summarize the multiple fields of research that have investigated the effects of marriage and say that for all concerned--men, women, and children, as well as communities at large--marriage leads to:
- Greater health and longevity;
- Greater mental health;
- More happiness;
- More education;
- More income;
- Less abuse of adult women;
- Less abuse, including less sexual abuse, of boys and girls;
- Less poverty;
- Less crime;
- Less addiction;
- Less depression and anxiety; and
- Less violence and abuse.
Feminist groups, predictably, oppose any form of marriage except same sex marriages.While this opposition is usually framed in narrow technical terms, there can be no doubt that it is rooted in "tired ideology" of radical feminism. State Lawmakers in Lansing should not be swayed by this tired ideology; instead, they should reaffirm the importance of healthy marriage.
American children, especially Black children in particular, need a culture of stable, healthy marriage. The children of our poor need it most; they have consistently suffered the greatest damage from the erosion of marriage over the past 30 years. For the sake of all children, but most especially for the children of the poor, Lansing Lawmakers should join with us, as family advocates, in the task of rebuilding a culture of stable, healthy marriages.
Like I always said, women need to stop being fearful of a strong man who wants to take responsibility.