The New York Times covers research showing that marital happiness increases when the kids leave home. Contrary to popular opinion, which has suggested that parents — particularly moms — suffer depression from “empty nest syndrome”, research published in November in Psychological Science found that “marital satisfaction actually improves” when the kids leave home.
But if you read closely, you realize that the research shows marital satisfaction increasing not among “parents” generally, but among women specifically — presumably, women in a heterosexual marriage. Apparently, it’s not about increasing the amount of time the couple spends together; the couples spend the same amount of time together during and after the kids. “But they said the quality of that time was better.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that “the quality of time” might have something to do with this:
The arrival of children also puts a disproportionate burden of household duties on women, a common source of marital conflict. After children, housework increases three times as much for women as for men, according to studies from the Center on Population, Gender and Social Equality at the University of Maryland.
This just in from AP: Mildred Jeter Loving, of Loving v. Virginia, passed away on Friday 5/2.
A longer obit from the NYT. “Mildred’s mother was part Rappahannock Indian, and her father was part Cherokee. She preferred to think of herself as Indian rather than black.” I can’t tell if that was throughout her life, or just at the time of Loving?
“Mrs. Loving stopped giving interviews, but last year issued a statement on the 40th anniversary of the announcement of the Supreme Court ruling, urging that gay men and lesbians be allowed to marry.” (NYT). A longer statement is available at balkinization.
[Warren] Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage with an older cousin.
I’m sick of these quotes that just talk about “marriage” and accept the use of that word.
If you are “forced” into “marriage” you are not married: you have been kidnapped (restrained against your will) and forced to engage in a marriage ceremony, but your marriage is not lawful and valid because there was no consent.
Will the defenders of marriage against homosexuals please stand up and take back your frickin’ word against these people who want to define it to include nonconsensual behaviors like kidnapping and rape?
This sentence or one like it was widely quoted in the media. One source is wtop, which has the new information that a large number of the teenage women/girls in the compound were currently pregnant or had previously given birth. I have no idea any more where I got this link from.
In case all this is not completely, crystal-clear, note the caption on the picture of Warren Jeffs’ father, Rulon Jeffs: “FLDS founding patriarch Rulon Jeffs with his last two wives — sisters Edna and Mary Fischer — on their wedding day. He received the pair as a 90th birthday present.” (emphasis added)
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
The NYT had the germ of an interesting idea today: What I’d Be Talking About if I Were Still Running, op-eds from presidential candidates who have dropped out. It was only a germ because it turned out that the op-eds were only very short, virtually substance-less talking point-level comments. Now if the NYT followed this up with, say, articles doing journalism that examined the current candidates’ positions on these issues, comparing rhetoric to record, we might have something.
Anyway, I was browsing through these and — I should have known better but I clicked on Sam Brownback’s “A Family Crisis”. He had very little of interest to say — more of the tired “marriage is in a crisis” bullshit — but he did this nice little rhetorical dance that I thought was worth noting. He says:
Children brought up with a mom and dad bonded in marriage are, on average, far more likely to succeed in school, avoid crime and live happier and healthier lives.
Now, words like “more” or “less” are comparative terms. Good grammar requires we include the concepts being compared. Political rhetoric, apparently, permits leaving these things unvoiced. Politicians say the positive, and leave the negative for the readers’ minds to fill in. Grammatical deniability.
These children are “on average far more likely to succeed in school, avoid crime and live happier and healthier lives.” More likely than whom? The unmarried parents discussed in the editorial, sure, but also this clearly suggests same-sex parents. The “on average” lends it a bit of scientific gloss, and ties it into the false and misleading reports of research that are frequently circulated by rightwingers like Brownback.
Pretty slick way to politick.
In last night’s Democratic candidate debate about The Gays, Clinton explained that she’s not anti-gay marriage: “I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil unions.”
As Michele (my Massachusetts spouse) said: “If she’s so positive, why doesn’t *she* get one.”
I really can’t stand it when politicians engage in cheap & sleazy grandstanding, knowing that what they’re doing is actually irrelevant. I’m speaking of Mitt Romney’s “lawsuit” to get the Mass. courts to step in to force the Mass. legislature to vote on an anti-same-sex-marriage amendment. [nyt 11/25]
Cheap & sleazy political grandstanding may be characterized by (a) someone making a gesture that appears potentially functional, but (b) is actually known to be ineffective, and (c) is undertaken for purposes of making a point.
I have no objection to Romney just making the frickin’ point, already. He could, and should, decry the legislature for not voting on the amendment. Sure, it’s tedious, hateful, and boring, but it’s to the point.
On the other hand, filing an obviously meritless lawsuit, rather than just making speeches, wastes government resources. I honestly think Romney and his co-litigants should be sanctioned for filing frivolous litigation.
Not only is this lawsuit legally frivolous, but it’s stupid: Even if he did force a vote, he doesn’t have the votes!
Thanksgiving weekend research questions: (1) Does Massachusetts have a political question doctrine to get this thing done with quickly; and (2) what are the possible sanctions for filing frivolous litigation.
Update 10 minutes later:
Surprise, having kids and a husband* make it less likely that women will get tenure-track positions or achieve tenure. See the “Marriage and Baby Blues: Re-defining Gender Equity” report (PDF) by Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden (2003).
Thanks to my partner (a postdoc) who sent me this illustrative graphic from the report.
* I say “husband” instead of “spouse” because I suspect this report, while in theory about “marriage”, most likely included only or primarily heterosexual partnership/marriages. This report and many others show that academic men do better with wives than without, while this report shows that academic women do better without husbands than with. The rather personal question it raises for me is, what about lesbian professional/academic couples? Does the penalty for “marriage” apply?
Also, does the parenting penalty apply only to the birth-mom or the stay-at-home mom, or does it apply regardless based on choices that most moms make to prioritize their children, regardless of the presence or absence of gender of their partner? The data showed that single moms did better than married-to-a-man moms, so I suspect that the problem for academic moms is not motherhood, per se, but persistent sexism in academic moms’ heterosexual relationships. Is there a better way to understand this data?
The NJ Supreme Court is releasing its SSM decision today @ 3pm. [available at NJSC website]
Will they help us out but energize the Republicans and lead to queers being blamed if the Dems don’t take the House or Senate? or will they fuck us over leaving everyone, but us, happy?
(And if I’m writing to a general audience comprised mostly of non-queers, should I really use the pronoun “us”? I’m doing it anyway—learn to read as The Other.)
update: A winnah!
NY’s Court of Appeals just handed down its no-same-sex-marriage decision, holding that denying marriage licenses on the basis of gender to same-sex partners does not violate New York’s Constitution. In my opinion, this is a big setback for equal protection and individual autonomy. We had a certain momentum going forward in terms of courts accepting the logic, and this decision slows that down. The decision is also remarkably retrograde in some of its reasoning.
* Alas (a blog) has deemed Father’s Day “queer sex day” for very good reasons.
* Jon Stewart points out the obvious to Bill Bennett’s proffered state rationale for recognizing only male-female marriages:
Divorce doesn’t occur because 50% of marriages end in gayness.
* New York’s highest court (the confusingly named “Court of Appeals”) heard arguments in Hernandez v. Robles on Wed 5/31:
Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said the court would have to decide the constitutional questions, ”whether we do it frontally or whether we do it in some more subversive way,” like changing language about gender.
To which Terence Kindlon, a lawyer for same-sex couples in Albany, replied, ”Subversive is one of the words I’ve liked all my life, your honor.”
[NYT 6/1 ... oral arguments webcast]
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts finally issued its ruling on out-of-state residents marrying in Massachusetts, upholding a previously moribund statute that had been dusted off especially for same-sex marriages. [nyt 3/30; Cote-Whiteacre v. Mass. Dept. of Public Health, SJC-09436 (Mass. SJC 2006/3/30)]
A couple of blogs [Matthew Yglesias, Volokh Conspiracy 1 and 2] have been running long comment-thread arguments about US women changing their names on marriage. Most comments fall into one of a few categories:
- Rationalizing / defensive about the decision w/in their marriage for the woman to change her last name to the man’s: “It wasn’t a big deal for her to change her name … She liked his name better … She didn’t really care about her name ” [Seen mostly on Volokh 1 and Yglesias]
Wow. That so many literate folk could completely ignore the effect of socialization and sexist traditions is rather astonishing, but there you have it, the same old lines: “I got breast enlargements because they make me happier.” Almost none of these people up-front said, “It’s a silly and sexist tradition but I think there’s an independent value in following traditions anyway,” “I did it without much examination because it seemed like the thing to do, and you’re right, that was a result of sexist social pressure (but I don’t care / I regret it),” or any other response that would have indicated consciousness of themselves as individuals within a larger social framework. No, these were all free individuals, no social pressures here, move it along. Can there be individual situations and individual reasons for going with the convention? Sure, of course. But for so many people to claim the convention had nothing to do with their decision, and yet their decisions all followed the convention, is classic lack of political self-awareness.
- Rationalizing and silly. “We did it for the children; think of the children!” (Variants: Well, we couldn’t hyphenate; what would happen when our children wanted to marry some other hyphenated children?)[Seen mostly on Volokh 1]
Think of the children? What? Numerous people asserted that children were better off if their parents had the same name as each other; or if the children had the same name as the parents. Where is this coming from? I’ll tell you: This kind of statement is just the most obvious recitation of a belief described as a reason. Not once did anyone even pretend to cite to some sociological data showing, I don’t know, family unity, family happiness, divorce rates, child identification with parents, or any other piece of admittedly subjective and silly data to support these arguments.
I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt when I say that they can’t really think that children are better off objectively, because after all many of them seemed aware that there are numerous different naming traditions in different cultures and times. So they must just think that children are better off because other children in this culture have that experience. The same reasoning of course explains why some folks continue to have unnecessary genital surgery on male infants and why people used to stay locked together in unhappy marriages: “Little Johnny will be so unhappy if he’s the only one with divorced parents / uncircumsed penis / different name than his parent!” It’s a reason, but I have trouble respecting it.
(As for hyphenating: What a silly argument. It almost pains me to have to point out that (1) Your patrilineally single-named children may marry some hyphenated-name child and have to deal with the issue anyway, and (2) Let them figure it out when they grow up. If they have a hyphenated name, they have more names & syllables to play with as they devise their own family name and figure out how to name their children.)
- Dismissive: “Does this matter any more? … Feminism has moved on … Name changes are irrelevant …” (plus sarcastic variants of this) [Seen on both Volokh blog entries and Yglesias]
These people are socio-politically naive. Are non-legally-mandatory name changes for adult women on marriage the biggest issue that human rights people ought to be dealing with? No, it ranks well below female genital mutilation, reproductive rights, equal employment rights, etc. But the existence of a gender-based tradition that came from, co-exists with, and supports sexism is different from a hypothetical gender-based tradition that has nothing to do with sexism.
- Here’s our great compromise: She uses both our names! (mostly on Yglesias)
I’m not sure whether the “She kept her name as her middle name” and “She kept her name as her first last name, i.e., Paula Jones Smith” fall into category 1 or 2. In the modern US-Anglo tradition, without hyphenation, only “Smith” is treated as the family name / surname. So this is some sort of compromise which tries to fit into both traditions. B for effort, I guess. Was she the only one or did he do it too? Do they really use both names? Might be interesting to know how that works out for people.
- Self-congratulatory: “She kept her name … We’re a great liberal couple.” (mostly on Yglesias)
Right. And yet so many of these people, both in these blog comments and among folks I know, give their children the man’s last name. Apparently without much consideration.
IMO, an adult woman choosing to take her adult male spouse’s last name in accordance with an admittedly sexist tradition is, you know, whatever. I wouldn’t do it, and I don’t like the outcome on a society-wide basis when some large percentage of women do it — but whatever. They’re grown women, with their own names, and they can change them if they want to.
Frankly, I get much more annoyed by the continued patrilineal naming of children.
What didn’t I see? Nobody, not one person on any of the comment trails (when I saw them, although admittedly I scanned quickly because it was just such an annoying set of threads), brought up same-sex couples. Very few people brought up blended families. And non-marital families were brought up only, so far as I could see, in the context of sarcastic “Well why don’t you get rid of all the traditions and just not get married, Mr. Modern Feminist” type comments. And non-Anglo/US naming traditions were brought up only to demonstrate the point that other cultures have different naming traditions. Only one comment seemed to notice that there are non-Anglo naming traditions present here in the US today! All of these are groups of people dealing with the name issue and what it means to other folks right here in the US, and how to deal with a dominant naming tradition.
So little light, and not even much interesting heat. This just confirms my suspicion that blog comments are really not interesting ways to have a discussion. There’s no threading; there’s no individual responses to individual comments. Blog comments do seem interesting when someone adds information. Volokh’s original post was a query, and many of the responses came was answers; the whole entry + responses therefore acted as an informal survey, which was interesting use of comments. But the discussion value was poor, poor, poor. Yglesias’ blog discussion was no better. Pfah. Maybe it will improve as the technology improves.
on may 17th, it will have been a whole year since Mass. started providing same-sex marriage licenses, and i’m still waiting for the quick and appropriate heavenly response. maybe the very cold weather here in mass., which seems unseasonable to me, is the heavenly response? my same-sex semi-lawfully wed spouse & i will keep a close eye out tomorrow for further developments.
update: 5/19: nope, no apocalypse / heavenly wrath yet.
Canada’s Supreme Court has given its official advisory opinion re: same-sex marriage, basically giving the green light to federal legislation to authorize same-sex marriage nation-wide. The Yukon Territory and six of ten provinces have already struck down opposite-sex-only marriage requirements, allowing couples to marry regardless of gender. [cite - from ping]
— News | canada.com network
11/29 update: not surprising but the Supreme Court denied a cert petition to overturn the Mass marriage ruling. [cnn 11/29]
The Christian Right and the Sanctity of Marriage
As we all know, the Christian Right has now made defense of the institution of marriage, as defined as a union of a man and woman, not only its top political priority, but the very touchstone of Christian moral responsibility.
I’ve always found this rather ironic, since the Protestant Reformation, to which most Christian Right leaders continue to swear fealty, made one of its own touchstones the derogation of marriage as a purely religious, as opposed to civic, obligation. Virtually all of the leaders of the Reformation denounced the idea of marriage as a scripturally-sanctioned church sacrament, holding that baptism and the Eucharist were the only valid sacraments. Luther called marriage “a secular and outward thing,”which he did not mean as a compliment. Calvin treated marriage as a “union of pious persons,” and while he did consider marriage a “covenant,” he used the same term for virtually every significant human relationship.
More tellingly, throughout Protestant Europe, from the earliest days, one of the most common “reforms” was the liberalization of divorce laws. And even today, in America, conservative Protestants have the highest divorce rates of any faith community, or un-faith community.
My point is not to accuse today’s conservative Christians of hypocrisy, though there’s room for that; it’s that the Christian Right has made a habit of confusing secular cultural conservatism–the simple and understandable impulse to resist unsettling change–with fidelity to their own religious traditions. “Defending marriage” is far down the list of concerns, historically, of the Reformation tradition, and indeed, that tradition has done far more to loosen the bonds of matrimony, for good or for ill, and to “de-sanctify” the institution, than all the gays and lesbians who have ever lived.
— NewDonkey.com 11/19 [link from mike]