FLORIDA, April 26, 2013 — Today, divorce and infidelity rates are disturbingly high. Is this a consequence of feminism or, perhaps, something else?
Over the last several decades, political correctness has made serious inroads. At the same time, it has attracted immense criticism. What impact has this had on gender roles?
In this second part of our discussion, traditionalist social critic Suzanne Venker, author of The Flip Side of Feminism and 7 Myths of Working Mothers, among other titles, shares her answers to these questions.
She also tells us about what inspired her to begin writing about family and gender related issues, as well as her advice for both men and women about the life well lived.
Joseph F. Cotto: Today, divorce and infidelity rates are disturbingly high. In your opinion, is this a consequence of feminism or, perhaps, something else?
Suzanne Venker: I think there are several reasons for the disintegration of the American family. Technology is one. In previous generations, people’s worlds were small. Close-knit communities and family ties, along with the universal moral order (where people generally agreed upon right and wrong), meant Americans were mostly exposed to people who shared their lifestyle. Everyone around them was married with kids and doing essentially the same thing.
That world is gone. Families today are spread out; people are inside, glued to their television sets and computers; and religious life is at an all-time low. Because of this, people’s lifestyles are largely influenced by media—which is a problem, since the media is a bastion of anti-family messages.
Technology also provides people with the “click” factor: when you tire of something, you move on to the next. There’s always something bigger and better around the corner. Marriage doesn’t work that way.
Consumerism is another biggie. The booming economy of the 80s and 90s changed everything. The more things people have, the more their needs get met, the less concerned they become with the needs of those around them. We live in the Me Generation. The values of the Greatest Generation are gone.
All that aside, feminism has still played the largest role in my opinion—because it made a huge (negative) statement about the meaning of life and became part of society’s fabric. The goal has always been the same: to “liberate” women from marriage and motherhood, which feminists consider oppressive. Their first legislative goal was the adoption of easy-to-get divorce. They were behind California’s adoption of unilateral divorce, or no-fault divorce, which ultimately spread across the country.
Cotto: Over the last several decades, political correctness has made serious inroads. At the same time, it has attracted immense criticism. What impact do you think this has had on gender roles?
Venker: Political correctness—the expectation that people shouldn’t say things they know to be true because it might offend somebody somewhere—is, in my opinion, the most insidious problem affecting this nation. It has had an enormous impact on politics, education, health care, terrorism, etc.
The impact is no less great when it comes to gender roles. People want to be able to do what comes naturally, and for most of us that means tapping into our masculinity and femininity. It means creating a life or living a lifestyle that feels right to us.
But the politically correct way to think today is that men and women are essentially the same creatures with different body parts. That men and women come to the table with separate needs, desires and life plans is met with skepticism or derision. For instance, if I were to say that men have an easier time having sex for sex’s sake, that statement would be considered blasphemous.
Women, we are told, are sexually liberated and want sex as much as men so. They can and should be able to have multiple partners or “hook up” with men with no ramifications. That, of course, is biologically false—women are saturated with oxytocin, which is often called the “female bonding hormone.” It gets released whenever women become intimate with men and causes them to attach themselves to the person they’re with. But I’m not supposed to say this in mixed company because it’s not PC.
That women are more nurturing than men and thus wish to take care of babies more than men is another example. That men are more prone to engineering or the military or construction jobs is another. The list goes on and on.
Cotto: What inspired you to begin writing about family and gender related issues?
Venker: Since the time I was very young, I was interested in and very attuned to family dynamics and how they affect people’s lives. When my friends were having problems with their families, I became the go-to counselor. I wanted to help people figure a way out of their situation. I thought about becoming a psychologist. People always say I missed my calling, but in a way I’m doing the same thing—I’m just going about it differently.
My interest in marriage and the family became stronger after I got divorced. I didn’t want my relationship with my ex to be in vain; it represented nine years of my life. He was my life, and so much happened that I couldn’t just say to myself, “Okay, well, that was that. Next, please!”
I needed to do something with my thoughts and feelings on the subject of marriage. I thought about writing a book called “How to Marry the Right Guy” (I’ve been remarried to my second husband for 15 years, and we have two children), but realized that book had already been written. So I redirected my focus, or broadened it, by studying cultural trends and how they affect people’s choices re sex, marriage, work and motherhood.
Cotto: Judging from what you have learned throughout your career, can you give a single bit of advice to both men and women for the life well lived?
Venker: Well, that’s pretty broad, but I’ll try!
I think people need to look inside and ask themselves what it is they really want. What kind of life do you envision? How do you want your days to unfold? Try not to think in such broad terms—such as, “I’d like to be a lawyer.” That’s great, but think about how that goal will fit in to your daily life. Do you want your career (whether you’re male or female) to be the focus? Or do you plan to get married and have a family, too?
If you do plan to get married and have a family, is it more important that you or your spouse is physically and emotionally available to your children? Or is making as much money as possible (with two full-time incomes) more important? It all comes down to how people were raised.
I know people who always felt the sting of never having enough money and thus made that their number-one goal. I know others who felt the sting of divorce and so their goal was to make sure their own kids got what they didn’t: a healthy home life. Our backgrounds shape our goals, and it’s crucial both people think ahead about these matters and talk openly about it with the person they plan to marry if they want to land in a happy place.
The second part of that is not to let the culture sway you in a direction you don’t want to go. When it comes to making good decisions in life, it is absolutely essential that you surround yourself with positive influences. The more you surround yourself with people or messages that support your goal, the more successful you will be in your mission.
And American culture is, sadly, not our friend. You almost have to think of it as the enemy. I hate to say that, but it’s true. In the past, we were a family-oriented culture. Today it’s all about the self and being independent. That’s not helpful to people who want to build families.
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto
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