Sunday, August 21, 2005

the only truly traditional family values are greed, manipulation and self-interest

Just a cut&paste, but an article I thought worth sharing.

Mother's surviving tra-la-la
Leading the glamorous life...

SUSAN MAUSHART - the Australian
Marital decomposition

August 20, 2005


I always feel slightly queasy whenever people preach about "preserving family values" - as if the nuclear family were a decomposing body or a punnet of overripe plums.As a single mother, I resent the implication that our family unit is "broken" just because there's no man who presides over us. (Broke? You betcha. But broken? Never.) And anyhow, show me the family that hasn't been slightly chipped and cracked and I'll show you one that's been in the box too long.

The best defence against those who would preserve the hetero-normative family at any cost is an understanding of the social history of marriage. According to sociologist Stephanie Coontz, "marriage" has been evolving continuously since hunter-gatherer times. And the quote-unquote traditional values we associate with it are as sturdy and enduring as your average edible G-string.

For thousands of years, Coontz observes in her new book, Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, marriage was about "acquiring in-laws, jockeying for political and economic advantage and building the family labour force". Which, from an historical perspective, means the only truly traditional family values are greed, manipulation and self-interest.

By comparison, the ideal of a lifelong, monogamous union based primarily on love, let alone that crazy thing called intimacy, is a breathless evolutionary arriviste - and anyone who tries to tell you differently can just get consummated.

As for those who wield the concept of traditional values as a stick to beat innocent women and children with - and me and my kids, too - and then defend their stance as pro-Christian, well, happily, salvation is at hand. In fact, the divorce rates of evangelical Christians are exactly the same as those of agnostics and atheists. And in the United States Bible belt, where the marriage-minded buckle up for safety early, divorce rates are the highest in the country.
Pro-marriage proselytes who insist that all human groups practise some form of marriage (presumably in the hope that they'll get it right one day) are also misinformed. Notes Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, "In many cultures, all a woman needs to do is hang her hammock next to that of a man and the resident anthropologist is busily noting her 'marriage'" - even in cases where, to "end the 'marriage', all she has to do is take her hammock back to her mother's hut - or to another man's."


Now that's what I call family law reform.

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