Yesterday, I wrote at Slate about how conservatives aren’t going to let little things like evidence stand in the way of blaming crime on women living without male supervision. For a long time now, conservatives have blamed single motherhood for high crime rates. This claim contains within it a prediction: That rising rates of single motherhood, which the claim was a weak attempt to prevent through scare-mongering, would cause increased rates of crime. Indeed, I suspect most conservatives actually think crime rates are rising, because believing the world is going to hell is a sacrament of conservatism. And while Kay Hymowitz throws a lot of words around to confuse people, what she was defending was the routine conservative claim that, to quote Rick Santorum, “moms raising children in single-parent households simply breeding more criminals”. This is a prediction that offers a simple equation: More single moms=more criminals.
Hymowitz tried and failed to confuse the issue here, which is that prediction wildly failed and thus, if you’re actually interested in evidence, has to be scrapped for another theory, even if it makes you sad to give up telling single mothers that their children are destined for prison.
Of course, what happens when you discuss this issue is that you’re inevitably accused of claiming that you disbelieve that two parents are better than one. (I do wonder if the people who spout this truism actually believe that unmarried women are capable of parthenogenesis. In my experience, the quote-unquote “fatherless” children that conservatives claim to fear/be concerned about usually do have fathers. They don’t just evaporate when they stop being with your mother, and those that do pull a disappearing act usually have themselves to blame.) It makes me bananas, because primly claiming “two parents are better than one” contains within it an assumption. A really idiotic assumption: that single mothers had opportunities to be in happy, loving marriages but took a pass.
Or not! There’s also the possibility that they’re saying that being with a man who you don’t get along with or even being with a man who abuses you is better than being single. But when you ask them if that’s what they mean, they deny it.
Because, otherwise, why say “two parents are better than one”, with the caveat that you only mean when all other things are equal? It’s like reading a story about a woman who is trying to raise kids despite her health problems and primly saying, “All other things being equal, it’s better for a mother to be well than sick.” Dropping no-shit-Sherlock observations like that is just a way of passive-aggressively accusing the person of having a choice, in this case, to be well but choosing—after all, all other things were equal!—to be sick. We’d all recognize the asshole who said that for the moron that he is. So why do we breeze right by it when someone says, as if it’s some great pearl of wisdom, that it’s easier to raise a kid with a partner than without?
So, I have one simple request: For anyone who has a desire to bash single mothers and accuse them of, as Mitt Romney did, of not having a man in their life due to being too stupid to know that’s what you do, please produce these single mothers. I want to meet them, these scads of single mothers who had an opportunity to marry a great guy they loved dearly, but thought, “Fuck it. I want to try to make it on one income because FEMINISM, so go away, great guy I love who wants to stay with me forever!” Your entire argument about “personal responsibility” rests on the belief that single mothers had a chance at happy marriages and took a pass, and I know this, because if I ask if women should marry men that are bad for them or that they don’t love in order to not be single, you blanch and say that you didn’t mean that. Considering conservative opposition to affordable contraception and legal abortion, delaying pregnancy until you’re more sure of your relationship is also not under the umbrella of “personal responsibility”. Indeed, contrary to conservative scare-mongering with the term “fatherless”, most single mothers didn’t trot down to the sperm bank or have an anonymous encounter to get pregnant. Most of them were actually following the Romney plan of being partnered first, and it just didn’t work out. Marriages end. So do live-in relationships. Not all boyfriends produce an engagement ring when you discover you’re pregnant. That’s the reality.
That’s not the story right wingers tell, of course. The story they tell is one where women have plenty of totally viable options for happy marriages, but instead they shun men to raise their children with government as a “surrogate husband“, because FEMINISM. They claim that women are shunning great guys who love them because they, to quote Ann Coulter, want government “to be their husbands”. They claim, as Jennifer Rubin did, that women reject the legions of sweet guys who love changing diapers and taking out the trash without being nagged because liberals have instructed them to: “I would briefly note the irony of the liberal feminists’ idealized single woman: no husband and utterly dependent on government.”
Okay, so this is the theory: Single mothers have plenty of loving men they also adore who are begging for their hands in marriage, but single mothers are choosing “government dependency” (on what, I have no idea, since actual government aid is not enough to live on, if you can get any of it at all) because of their devotion to a mysterious feminist ideology that I have not actually heard any feminists propose. Got it.
Please produce these single mothers. That is all. I want to meet them. They sound like interesting people! I want to ask them about the awesome would-be husbands they rejected. I want to know what mysterious government offices they know about where they can get enough benefits to replace the salary of the great guys they rejected. (Does the government ask you to produce a pay stub from Romeo and agree to match it?) I want to hear about the feminist theorists they read that encouraged them to reject these loving relationships, and I want to know why they found these theorists so much more convincing than other feminists like myself that think that relationships that work for you are awesome. Since these women are, according to conservatives, the reason for the high rates of single motherhood in our country, they should be easy to find.
Because, if you can’t produce these women, I’m forced to believe that you are lying when you say that you don’t want to strand women in dependent relationships with men that are bad for them, because you want to create a society where every man is entitled to a woman to pick up his socks, no matter how he treats her. And that you’re willing to bully, starve, and abuse women until they accept relationships with men they don’t like, don’t love, or find repulsive.
But hey, that’s a terrible thing to think, so I’m ready to meet these women who rejected great relationships with men they love because they were that into obscure feminist theorists I haven’t heard of. Prove me wrong. It’s not that hard, if these women are as common as you claim.