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.


Dear Heterosexual Community: Your Kids Are Hurting, Part 2

by Jennifer Johnson, Associate Director

How savvy are you about step-families? Do you understand the structural similarity between step-families and same-sex marriage? Take the Step-Family Quiz to test your knowledge.I created this quiz as an engaging way to help defenders of marriage understand the cultural blind-spot that we have about step-families. Of course anybody is welcome to take it. But it is geared towards those who believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. By the end it should become apparent why I have focused on marriage defenders. There are five questions and their answers, plus a bonus question at the end.

1. Which group was the first to claim there is “no difference” between the intact family founded on natural marriage and other family structures?

  • a. Heterosexuals
  • b. Homosexuals

2. When was that claim first made, and what form did it take?


3. You may recognize the following photo as being from a famous TV show:

brady bunch

If you do, set that aside for a moment and pretend you are a casual observer. You notice this family at church, at a restaurant, or at a sporting event. Can you tell if this was an intact family, or a step-family? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.

4. One of these families is an intact family. The other is a step-family. Which is which? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.

step family

Bush Family

5. One of these families is an intact family. The other is a step-family. Which is which? Name the visual clues that helped you make that determination.

blended family huffpo-b

My Family c 1969

Here are the answers:

1. Heterosexuals.

2. Early 1970s with the TV show, “The Brady Bunch.”

3. It is a step-family. There are no visual clues to help the casual observer discern that this is a step-family.

4. In the first photo, we see two men as the parents. Since two men cannot procreate together, that is the visual clue that this is a step-family. The taller man is the natural/legal father of both children. I believe the girl was adopted during his marriage to the boy’s mother. The other family is an intact family.

5. We see a man and a woman in each photo. Since men and women can procreate together, it is harder for a casual observer to discern which is which. The first is the step-family. The second is the intact family. (Yours truly is the child in the second photo–that’s my first family.) In the first photo, all of the children are the woman’s from a prior marriage.

Bonus Question:

6. From the child’s point of view, what is the structural difference between the two step families shown in questions 4 and 5? Most marriage defenders argue against the former quite vehemently and are largely silent about the latter. But from the point of view of the child, how different are they? Here are the photos again:

step family

blended family huffpo-b

Answer: from the child’s point of view, they are not as different as might be imagined. Consider these similarities:

  • In both cases, we see three “positions” in the family: 1) the natural parent, 2) that parent’s children, 3) a new marriage partner who is not the children’s other natural parent.
  • In both cases, the children do not have a single full-time home, but the adults do.
  • In both cases, the child’s other natural parent has been “photoshopped” out of that half of the child’s life and somebody new was “photoshopped” in.
  • In both cases, the children have two male figures (the bio father and the step-father), neither of whom are full-time fathers for the children.
  • Reverse the idea: If the first photo showed a lesbian marriage, and if the second photo showed a man with his kids and his new wife, then in both cases the children have two female figures (the bio mother and the step-mother), neither of whom are full time mothers for the children.

Might these similarities explain why the younger generation favors same-sex marriage? Perhaps their experiences (or the experiences of their friends) do not match our rhetoric. By not embracing arguments that defend the rights and legitimate entitlements of children, are we missing an opportunity to reach the younger generation? Given that 1,000,000 kids annually experience their parent's divorce, I think so.

How did you do? Thanks for taking the quiz!

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Upcoming installments:

I may continue to address the cultural blind spot we have in regards to step-families. Have not decided. If I do, then this will be the next installment.

Either way, after that we will examine the actual structure of step-families, with diagrams. This will make it clear that they are not remotely same as intact families.

After that, we will explore how the widespread acceptance of the step-family structure has weakened our ideas of “mother and father,” how it has weakened the idea of “two” parents for children, and the way these dovetail with the structural changes required to embrace same-sex couples into the institution of marriage.

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Dear Heterosexual Community: Your Kids Are Hurting, Part 1

 

her scars are on the inside by Jennifer Johnson, Associate Director for the Ruth Institute

I am pleased to see that the community of natural marriage defenders is taking notice of kids in gay households:

Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting

Wonderful! But what if I told you that it’s only a start?

Consider this: kids in gay households are often there due to a prior divorce and later remarriage, or a prior divorce and later cohabitation. These structural issues are not being adequately addressed within the larger context of same-sex marriage, and this has created a logical gap in our arguments.


Filling this gap is our opportunity to reach the younger generation.

Largely, the younger generation favors same-sex marriage. But if we addressed the family structure problems first created by heterosexuals, this may help us persuade the younger generation:

  • that we care about their family structure inequalities and the pain caused by them
  • that gay marriage adds to the structural inequalities children face
  • that we are being fair in our assessments–we’re targeting all adults who are the impetus of structural inequalities for children under their care.

Here is why I am hopeful about this line of thought. The author of the above post retracted her support of same-sex marriage because she realized something important:

By replacing an opposite sex parent with a same sex parent, gay marriage creates a structural inequality for children.

Admittedly, she does not use the phrase “structural inequality,” but this is the thrust of her argument. Read the post and see if you agree.

We can’t just hammer on the gays. That’s not fair and the younger generation knows it. We must paint with a wider brush: we must address the structural inequalities among children that were created by heterosexuals.

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Here are the upcoming installments:

In Part Two, we will address why the gap in our argument exists. Culturally, we have a blind spot here and it’s important to understand why so that we can overcome it. This part may be two posts. I have not decided yet.

In Part Three, we will examine the step-family structure and see how, from the children’s point of view, it is not the same as the intact triad of the natural family, founded on natural marriage. There seems to be a cultural myth that the two types are the same, or if they are not exactly the same, they are not very different. These beliefs are false and harmful. I aim to debunk them.

In Part Four, we will explore how the widespread acceptance of the step-family structure has weakened our ideas of “mother and father,” how it has contributed to our acceptance of multiple parents for young children, and how these dovetail quite well with the push for same-sex marriage.

This post first appeared on Ricochet on March 20, 2015.

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