Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


Family diversity and its children: the next equality debate

Changes in marriage and family life result in inequality for children.

by Jennifer Johnson

This article was first published March 14, 2017, at Mercatornet.com.

Marriage, family and sexual equality are subjects that have all been extensively aired. Ironically, the discussion is often led by people who are creating another form of inequality, that foisted upon the children of new versions of the family.

In a special report for the Ruth Institute, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality … for Children, Jennifer Johnson describes her own experience of the inequality of a broken home, and challenges society to face the injustice that children suffer when only adult desires are taken into account. The following are slightly edited excerpts from her essay.

* * * *

I was not raised with my own married parents. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos.

Reflecting on this experience in the light of the “marriage equality” debate I have come to understand better one of the fundamental flaws in the argument for same-sex marriage, and at the same time the flawed arguments for divorce, donor conception, surrogacy and other departures from natural marriage: the inequality these create for children.

I define “natural marriage” as life-long marriage between one man and one woman who are open to procreating their own children through their lovemaking.

Diagrammatically I represent these relationships as an inverted triangle, with the couple’s child or children at the third point of the triangle. This triad, I argue, in line with social science evidence, is the family structure that best ensures equality for children – equality of love, belonging, identity and security.

That’s a type of equality that people don’t talk about so much, but it is real. And there are other equalities that flow out of that one. When the family breaks down or doesn’t form according to the triad, the inequalities for children multiply. Here are three ways this happens.


Two half-time dads do not equal one full dad

When I was growing up, my parents were divorced, so I spent my entire childhood doing the back-and-forth thing between “two homes.” They also both remarried. So in each of those places, I had a male father figure. So I had two half-time dads, a dad and a step-dad.

I was about twelve when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though me being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad.

But it was not.

I am not 100 percent sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day. I also remember feeling terrible about the messed-up nature of my family, how alone I was in it, and how it was never going to change.

Perhaps I came to this realization because I was an eye-witness to what an intact family and a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom and my step-dad. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two very different things.

In each home, I was required to pretend that my other parent (and that parents’ family) did not exist. So while in my mother’s home, I had to pretend that my father and his family did not exist, and while in my father’s home I had to pretend that my mother and her family did not exist.

Family photos of other people’s whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Group family photos were taken and hung on the walls, but I wasn’t in them.

I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. I’ve seen this referred to as “Two Christmases,” or “Two birthdays” in some divorce literature. These are euphemisms. My dad wasn’t welcome on Christmas morning, and my mom wasn’t welcome on Christmas Eve. I don’t think either of them would have come, had they been invited. They were too busy with their new families. And when I got a little older and my parents lived further apart, I traveled alone during the holidays to see each of them. Nobody else traveled alone during the holidays to see ex-family members.

Just to show the reality of this, recently my dad’s sister met my step-dad’s brother. Quite innocently, he remarked, “I didn’t know Jim (my dad) had a sister.” Of course. How would he know? My dad had three sisters, but I never talked about them. I think my aunt felt a little slighted, but I had to explain to her that we just never talked about them.

While all of this was going on, I acknowledged everybody’s mother AND father and their whole families.

Missing donor dads and moms

I know there will be some who are tempted to think that my experience is unique to me, but it is not. It is the dynamic of what happens when genetic parents reject each other.

Something similar happens in other non-triad arrangements.

Kids who are conceived from anonymous sperm, or anonymous eggs – as in a single-mom-by-choice household or gay household -- have to pretend that half of who they are does not exist.

If the parents were raised inside the intact triad, then there is an inequality between the parents and the children. There are two different standards being applied. The child must pretend that half of himself does not exist, while the child’s parents don’t have to do the same. The child acknowledges those parents, the grandparents, their aunts and uncles, but one half of that child’s genetic family has been discarded, and is not acknowledged by those same people.

When full family acceptance is a two-way street, that is equality. The parents are treating the kids the same way that the kids treat the parents. Everybody’s full families are acknowledged.

When full family acceptance is a one-way street, that is inequality between the generations. The older generation gets preferential treatment. The younger generation just has to accept whatever acceptance of that other family that the adults “choose” to give, which is zero.

Social bias towards adults’ happiness creates injustice

Not only does the inequality happen on the level of the family, it happens in the wider culture. The child lives under a burden and is not allowed to feel anything negative about the particular family form that was chosen for him. If he feels grief about missing half of himself, it is “disenfranchised grief,” grief that is not acceptable to the wider culture.

Our culture is profoundly concerned about adults and their happiness in their marital, sexual and reproductive choices. But we fail to understand that when we redefine all of those things to expand those choices, the children must live under structural inequalities, double standards and unreciprocated demands.

Adults’ happiness with their family structure choices as adults is more important than their happiness as children regarding those same things.

All of this is going on, even in the face of all the social science data saying that kids fare best with their own married parents.

It is a strange sort of “win-win” for people to be raised with their own married mother and father, then grow up to champion unequal family structures for the next generation, including for their own children.

Our grief about these injustices is not acknowledged, since the injustice itself is not acknowledged. But those of us who experienced it deserve to be healed of our pain, just like everybody else who has pain.

Part of that healing is having the freedom to talk about it without being judged, free to develop language and concepts to understand it better, and free to advocate for policies that will prevent it from happening to others in the future.

That is a kind of equality that we are now denied. While it is true that we can go to therapy for our issues, the entertainment complex, the legal community, and the business community are actually going in the opposite direction. Increasing forms of “family structure diversity,” really means “entrenched disregard for natural marriage and the family founded upon it.”

You can decide who to listen to, but I suggest taking into account those who have actually lived it, as children. Be sure to listen very carefully to what they say.

Jennifer Johnson is Associate Director of the Ruth Institute, a California-based marriage advocacy organization. Marriage and Equality is available in paperback and as a Kindle e-book.


The Half-Made Bed and the More Excellent Way

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first posted at Crisis Magazine on May 2, 2017.

wyethandrew_master bedroom 1965

 

“The Personal is Political” was a slogan engineered by Marxist feminists of the 1960s and 1970s. Few people realized at the time exactly what that slogan entailed. “The personal is political” should have telegraphed loud and clear that these women intended to politicize every aspect of our personal lives.

Many people dismissed extreme feminism as irrational and crazy and therefore unworthy of serious consideration. Others excused feminism because they had some worthy goals, such as outlawing the firing of women when they got married or pregnant. I know I swung back and forth between these responses. I reasoned that I was just trying to live my life.

What I didn’t realize was how much baggage I had acquired from feminism. This baggage made it difficult to “just live my life,” even though I was never more than a skeptical feminist.

I thought it was important to “assert myself,” to not be a doormat, to demand respect from my husband. I thought it was important to keep separate bank accounts and divide our expenses equally. I thought we should avoid gender stereotypical divisions of labor. Even if he was manifestly better at something, I should try to “do my share” of whatever mechanical project he might have in mind.

Most importantly, of course, he should do his share of household chores, even if a particular chore didn’t even register on his radar screen. He should do his half of everything I thought was important. And, he should do it to my satisfaction. In the interest of fairness and equality.

 


 

It was all quite exhausting.

I did eventually learn that nagging my helpers for not doing things my way was a good way to lose my helpers. But notice: this is a purely pragmatic consideration. I still was not questioning the basic rightness of my overall approach. I thought I had a right to achieve my goals, and other people were there to help me achieve them.

Just to be sure I’m making myself clear here, let me repeat for emphasis: I had a right to achieve my goals, and other people were there to help me.

I was still operating within the Equality Paradigm, created by those whose stated objective was to politicize my personal life. Only after my reversion to Catholicism, did I realize that there was a “More Excellent Way,” as St. Paul would put it: The Way of Love (1 Cor. 12:31).

Instead of asking myself whether he did his fair share, I can ask myself: What does love require of me, in any given situation?

Let’s say I want the bed made in the morning. I don’t take it for granted that all my readers accept this as a lofty goal. So be it. I want the bed made each morning. Sometimes, my husband and I make it together.

The problem is: my idea of “making the bed” is not universally shared. I know this for a fact, since my husband’s idea of “making the bed” is not the same as mine. How smooth must the sheets and covers be? Do we have to pull the covers down evenly on each side of the mattress? The most frequent difference of opinion is over the correct location of the covers, in relation to the pillows: under or over the pillows?

My husband made the bed this morning.

I’ve got a few choices here. Correct him? Tell him he did it wrong? “Here is the correct way to do it.” I know from experience that, as a non-push-over himself, my husband doesn’t appreciate being treated like a child. (Imagine that.)

Or worse, I could scold him. “I’ve told you a million times how to do this. You are doing it wrong just to spite me. I have to do everything around here.”

Or I could ignore it until he leaves the house and remake the bed to my satisfaction. Sometimes, this is what I do. I like seeing the bed a certain way. So, I do it my own way, for my own reasons.

When I take this path, I strive to do it without judgment of him. I try to put these thoughts in my mind: “He does a lot for us. He can handle effortlessly things I can’t do, and would not even know where to begin.” In other words, I try to praise him, even when he is not around.

I can also install in my mind some course corrections on the significance of the chore itself. “It is just the bed. It is not that important in the grand scheme of things.” Best of all, “Never mind. With any luck, we are just going to mess it up again soon,” with a grin in my heart.

I notice that I still have to shut down some of those Way of Equality scripts running in my head. I feel quite certain I am not the only woman who thinks this way. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t female readers tut-tutting me at this very moment. “He is a grown man: he should know how to make his bed by now.” “He is counting on you to keep his home nice.” And so on.

But those scripts are not the Way of Love. Love means being grateful to and for one another, in all our differences, with all our quirks and insecurities. There are lots of possible Ways of Love in every situation. In all cases, the Way of Love teaches us to see the person as more important than the chore. In fact, the person is more important than pretty much anything else.

The feminists with their Way of Equality, gave us an unlimited supply of justifications for nagging our husbands, for feeling superior to our husbands, and for being just plain selfish. Do you suppose this is relevant to the high rates of family breakdown in our culture? Dismissing this topic as unworthy of thoughtful political commentary underestimates the gravity of what the sexual revolutionaries have been doing to us all this time. They have been driving wedges between men and women, husbands and wives, and even between mothers and babies.

While our brothers in the conservative movement were holding conferences on the American Founding, and symposia on free market economics, the sexual revolutionaries moved into our homes. Sexual revolutionary rhetoric is speaking to us from across our kitchen tables, from the back seat of our mini-vans, and from the other side of our beds. The revolutionaries have entered the minds of our family members, our spouses, children, and grandchildren.

All the while, powerful people have accumulated even more power over our personal lives, which have indeed become extensions of our political lives. Big Government expands to fill the voids created by family breakdown. Big Business makes money selling us stuff we wouldn’t need if we were content with our family lives. Big Media makes money keeping us overstimulated, while we scarcely know how to have face-to-face conversations. Perhaps this explains why feminists who support the Sexual Revolution get far more legal, financial, and media support than any other group of women who try to wear the feminist label.

So here we are in 2017, with record numbers of young people afraid to get married and millions of children born without both parents living with them. We Christians have a humane alternative sitting right under our noses: The Way of Love. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Fully, freely, faithfully, fruitfully, love one another to the end.

I mentioned that my husband made the bed. Did I mention that he did it without my prompting, asking or nagging? When I see the half-made bed (or the bed I consider “half-made”), I can say, “Thank you, honey, for making the bed. I smile when I see it. I appreciate you so much.” Almighty God put this man in the center of my life. No matter what is going on, I know God wants me to love my husband.

That is St. Paul’s “More Excellent Way.” The sexual revolutionaries have nothing that can compete with it. Let us say so, and live so, without apology.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from “Master Bedroom” painted by Andrew Wyeth in 1965.

 


Change Your Marriage For The Better Today

This review was first posted at Tampa Mediations on December 16, 2016.

You can start to change your own marriage today, simply by making a decision to be more generous: by being the first to forgive; by making allowances; by admitting you were wrong. These are an antidote to self-righteousness, the belief that “it’s not my fault”. There are other strategies, such as never using phrases such as “You always” or “You never” in disputes; being prepared to give way on unimportant issues; persevering in keeping the peace whenever possible.

Go out and get this book, “101 Tips for a Happier Marriage”. It is full of sage advice that would have been obvious to previous generations but, like the art of home cooking, seems to have fallen by the wayside in modern society.

Notice that the authors put God before “each other” in the subtitle. The book’s emphasis is on what the person who reads it can do to make a difference for the marital relationship. Growing closer to God will inevitably follow. If we tend to the ways in which God calls us, we will grow closer to Him. Once we’ve said our marriage vows and entered the sacrament of marriage, we can be pretty sure that God is telling us to work on our commitments.

Do not buy this book to change your spouse. Do not give it to your spouse to work on. The tips are effective only when applied to oneself. If you change, your marriage will change. This book is also not for anyone dealing with domestic violence or addictions of any kind. It cannot replace specialized professional assistance.

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