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“Strengthen the family” just means “get your ass back into the kitchen, woman”

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, February 17, 2011 22:27 EDT
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I mean, we all knew that, since the people most likely to blather on about “strengthening the family” are also the least likely to support those things that actually strengthen the family, such as delaying marriage and childbirth with the help of contraception and sex education, expanding educational opportunities, and expanding the middle class. But it’s nice to get a straightforward reminder that conservative talk about “family” is strictly about restricting women’s freedom and opportunities. In Frederick County, Maryland, the Board of County Commissioners is slashing funding for Head Start and the reason is that women need to get back in the kitchen.

COMMISSIONER C. PAUL SMITH (R): I think its very significant that we did make this marriage week announcement today, because that is the best long-term way to help our children, as marriage is strengthened in our community. As many of you know, I had a lot of kids, and my wife stayed home, at significant sacrifice, during those early years, because she knew she had to be with those kids at that critical age. I know everybody isn’t able to survive doing that, but clearly, as we can strengthen marriage we can decrease the children that we have to reach.

COMMISSIONER KIRBY DELAUTER (R): My wife, college educated, could go out and get a very good job. She gave that up for 18 years so she could stay home with our kids, we had to give up a lot to do that. I agree again with Commissioner Smith, you know, the marriage thing is very important. I mean, education of your kids starts at home, okay? I never relied on anyone else to guarantee the education of my kids.

I particularly like how Delauter characterizes his wife as being literally no one. To say “I never relied on anyone else”, when in fact you relied on your wife, i.e. the woman who gave birth to those children? That’s some ballsy erasing of women’s contributions right there, fuckwit.

I enjoy this peek into the workday wingnut version of “logic”. Staying at home is a sacrifice, and therefore women should be forced into it. I thought sacrifices were, by definition, something you gave up willingly. But more than that, it’s clear that they’re saying women choosing to work somehow weakens the family. Like divorce is generally a matter of men saying, “That’s it! I can’t stand that you have a job and our family is better off financially than if I was the sole source of support. I’d rather eat dirt than have a wife who works every day.” Maybe back in the 50s, but things have changed dramatically. And even if some men are still like this, the people weakening the family are those making the inhumane, stupid demands, not those who refuse to comply with them.

But obviously, this isn’t about “strengthening the family”. This is about having a single, very narrow model of what constitutes an acceptable family, one built around female subservience and dependence. And making sure that anyone who veers from that path is punished severely. Even—and especially, I’d say—in cases where they don’t have a choice, which is true of most working mothers who need the income, full stop. Republicans, as those who didn’t realize before are quickly learning, really enjoy the idea of adding more burdens to the already burdened to punish them for the sin of not being rich.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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