Mona Charen’s recent article in National Review takes up the “problem of the decline in marriageable males[,]” and places the blame on women for their role in the sexual revolution. Women, she writes, have “conspired in their own disempowerment not because they love their sexual freedom (though a few may), but because people like Gloria Steinem . . . convinced them that the old sexual mores, along with marriage and children, were oppressive to women.”
While I am less confident than Charen that most women make the choices she describes out of feminist self-assertion rather than personal weakness and conformity with the prevailing social expectation, she is right about the results. Human conduct, however, does not take place in a vacuum. Yes, human beings of both sexes are responsible for their personal choices. Nevertheless, we are conventional creatures. In the aggregate, upbringing, politics and the social environment play a tremendous role in the choices people make.
When college dorms went co-ed, relatively few irate parents sent their tuition money elsewhere. While I do not mean to judge individual parents who permit their children to choose a college based on any number of considerations, it is safe to say that the change in living arrangements caused little consternation overall. When Sex and the City debuted, unless the ratings lie, relatively few people turned the TV off. Public funds routinely pay for free contraceptives in the schools. And the list goes on.
Another article looks at the problem from a slightly different angle. Blogger Heartiste partially concurs with Charen, arguing that women choose unreliable men in their “zeal to delay marriage until their careers have been established . . . .” He also cites what he terms “misandrist divorce laws.” When one gets past the sarcasm and apparent rancor (which is considerable), one finds that he makes an interesting case. Surely he is right in implying that we should reconsider aspects of family law, including no-fault divorce. Heartiste does not mention, at least in this particular posting, the fact that the culture as a whole tends to denigrate men’s role in the household. Cartoons and TV shows, for example, often depict husbands and fathers as useless oafs—think of Homer Simpson.
Heartiste places the blame on women for their predicament, but he also mulls over how the family law, commerce and religion affect social mores. He is right to do so, because these things have tremendous impact. If we want to improve the marriage prospects for our daughters (and let’s face it, for our sons as well), our chances are considerably better if we create a legal and social environment conducive to marriage. So, everybody, how do we go about doing that?