There’s a lot of baby angst going around these days. The concern is that women no longer feel compelled to have kids, and growing numbers are deciding not to. The purveyors of panic believe that America is doomed if this continues. That’s not my exaggerated gloss. They really do say that women’s decisions not to procreate “may spell disaster for the country.”
Previously, I pointed to the critics who used data to show that the sky is not actually falling. Then I dissected the approaches the panic-perpetrators used to try to coax women to do their baby-making duty. (Mocking, shaming, threatening, and bribing were the primary tactics.)
Here I want to address a different question that seems to have gotten lost in all of the discussion of the so-called fertility crisis that is part of a global post-familialism. Supposed those who are urging women to go forth and multiply actually succeed?
Did you see the media headlines this past week proclaiming the superiority of married couples over singles? On Valentine’s Day, the Huffington Post featured a story under this heading: “Married couples healthier than single people, study finds.” This headline was totally, completely, flat-out false, and it wasn’t only the Huffington Post that published something like that.
In Ireland, single people are getting some respect. The Irish Times recently published a lengthy article on singles. “The single thing,” by Laura Slattery, recognizes that there are people who are single at heart. It acknowledges and explores singlism and matrimania. And, it has attitude.
Occasionally, a specific policy proposal will get people thinking, and their critiques will slip the bounds of the particular issue in question to get to something much bigger and more sweeping. That’s what’s happening now in the UK.
The policy, called “the bedroom tax,” was proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron and “involves nothing more than cutting some welfare benefits for people in under-occupied homes – those with spare bedrooms.” The focused critiques underscore the ways in which the proposed tax would hit the most vulnerable the hardest, including, for example, “the disabled, foster parents and divorced couples who share the care of their kids.”
At the Guardian, Priyamvada Gopal took the boarder, more encompassing view, and asked, “Is compulsory coupling really the best way to live?” In her article, she reminded us of some of the most important challenges to the common mythology about the supposed superiority of the coupled.
Bella’s intro: Every year around this time, just about every media outlet publishes its obligatory Valentine’s Day feature. So it is hard to find anything that hasn’t already been said. Elliott Lewis, though, is great at creative thinking and writing, and I thank him for this guest post.]
Have you seen the headlines about the “Singles in America” survey? Match.com is oh-so-proud of it. The company boasts of the intellectual firepower behind their study. The survey is touted as “comprehensive” and the Match.com CEO brags that, “Since its inception, Singles in America has proven to be an unprecedented source of insight into the ideologies and lifestyle choices of today’s singles.”
Of course, the fact that the survey comes from Match.com should set off our scientific alarm bells. But Match.com points to their scholars in charge, and notes that the results are based on a representative sample of 5,000 American singles and 1,000 married people. Plus, sadly enough, many media outlets take the findings reported in the press release and run with them, as though they were ferrying precious cargo. So I think it is important to take a close look from a scientific perspective, and offer a less credulous perspective than you might find elsewhere.
My first objection to the survey is that it caricatures and diminishes people who are single, reducing them to little more than an array of penises, vaginas, and online profiles. To read Match.com’s description of the survey topics is to be treated to still another example of the myth that what single people want, more than anything else, is to become unsingle.
Journalist, author, and award-winning filmmaker David France cares deeply about fairness and social justice. He has won a GLAAD Media Award and an Excellence in Mental Health Journalism award. He is the sort of person who has likely done a lot of good for the world.
David France has also written one of the most cruel, heartless, and craven singlist statements I have ever read. It appeared in the prestigious New York Magazine.
As gays and lesbians score more and more victories in their quest for marriage equality, the arc of the moral universe is indeed bending more toward their vision of justice, but our culture is just getting more and more bland. When gays and lesbians want the same thing that many straight people seek, instead of pursuing a more imaginative and creative way of living and thinking, we are all stuck with a much more boring culture than we had before.
That’s the theme of Pamela Haag’s post at Big Think, “The Unqueered World: Take a Walk on the Mild Side.” Haag is sympathetic to the observation of filmmaker John Waters: “I thought the whole point of being gay was that you don’t have to get married, have kids, or join the army.”