There’s a lot of talk about divorce stats these days, usually in despondent tones with much handwringing about the breakdown of the American family and the economy making it impossible for men to support families and feminism making women all uppity and men-not-needing and so on. One of my favorite academics laid it out in the NYT this weekend: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/opinion/sunday/the-new-instability.html?_r=1
In other quarters, the relatively high rate of marriage dissolution is attributed to immorality and to the ease of no-fault divorce.
What all the arguments have in common is the assumption that more married people = more better and that divorce or failure to marry in the first place is inherently problematic for the society at large. It’s hard to argue against that view, since here in 21st century USA, both divorce and non-marriage tend to be associated with poverty, if children are involved, and most people do have children.
But as I see it, the problem is poverty, not being or becoming unmarried.
We have structured our society around the married heterosexual couple, preferably with a male breadwinner and a female caregiver, and so families that conform to that model tend to do better than others. That doesn’t mean it is superior or more moral; it is just the behavior that is rewarded by the system as it exists.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that family model. It’s just not the only way to do it.
The whole discussion reminds me of the argument that women can’t do certain jobs because they can’t physically manage the equipment. You know, the equipment that was specifically designed for male bodies. Design more universal equipment and just like magic, women can use it.
Design a political and economic system that doesn’t punish families that don’t look like the Cleavers and suddenly getting divorced or not getting married will not mean a quick trip to the poorhouse.
I must sound rather defensive, given that I’m in the middle of a divorce, and I guess I am. This is not the post I intended to write this morning but it’s the one that fell out of my fingertips.
Someone told me that there would be times when I would feel like the world’s biggest jerk for disrupting my family members’ lives this way. And sometimes I do. But mostly I don’t, because staying married would not really be best for any of us, no matter what the cultural ethos tries to tell me.