Maggie: Will We Bridge the Gender Divide?

Back in the year 2000, in the old new marriage conversation, we said in The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles (a statement I helped to draft):

“Marriage is a universal human institution, the way in which every known society conspires to obtain for each child the love, attention and resources of a mother and father.”

This year, the Institute for American Values released a call for a new marriage conversation, which says instead:  “because marriage is the main institution governing the link between the spousal association and the parent-child association, marriage is society’s most pro-child institution.”

That is the difference gay marriage makes in how we converse about marriage.

Back in the year 2000, we who signed The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principlesunderstood that we were arguing with people who said that family structure doesn’t matter, that the only thing that counts is family process.

For those who embrace gay marriage, that rift is healed.  Because with gay marriage, the old debate between family structure and family process conceptually collapses, either partially or wholly.

In whatever ways we believe marriage matters, in this new conversation, it is explicitly not because there is one kind of “natural” family structure that is best for children.

Two parents may be better than one, but the meaning of parent now is, “anyone who lives in a commitment with a biological parent and wants to be the parent.”

With gay marriage, marriage is no longer a vehicle for stabilizing a certain kind of family structure, rooted in deep and enduring human realities.  Marriage becomes a kind of instrumental vehicle for expressing adults’ and society’s longing for important goods like commitment, stability and love–things that may be achieved elsewhere, but are undoubtedly more likely to be achieved in marriage, statistically speaking.

Well, love, stability, and commitment are all good things, including for children.

David Blankenhorn set out 25 years ago to rescue marriage from the sterile and angry culture wars, to create a new consensus that commitment to children and marriage were social goods.  With A Call to A New Conversation on Marriage, he and the Institute for American Values now seek to do so once again adapting, as the Marines say, to realities they did not create but embrace as the conditions of the current fight.

It’s always possible to do things a little better or a little worse.  So on Valentine’s Day, I participated in a symposium on the new marriage conversation.  I posted on Family Scholarsblog an essay pointing to the three great questions I believe Americans in the post-gay marriage world would need to answer in order to rebuild marriage as the normal, usual, and generally reliable way to raise children across the class divide:

First, how do we bridge the gender divide? In particular, how do we create young men who women want to marry and who want to marry women?

Second, will the creative class make room for the procreative class?  The norms and institutions that undergird family life are distinct from the norms and institutions that govern the market or government–the two dominant institutions in our society.  How well will we, as a society, understand the differences between the norms and institutions which spur and encourage creativity generally, and those which are necessary to support and sustain procreativity?  Will the post-familist model of social life dominate?

Thirdly, how much are we willing to tolerate religion? Of all the institutions that support and reinforce familism, religion is the largest and most visible candidate for supporting a renewal of marriage and family.   And of all the things that are becoming clearer, it is that acceptance of gay marriage is creating substantial new pressures to exclude and marginalize traditional religious beliefs, believers, and our institutions.

In 800 words over at Family Scholars, I was only able to touch briefly on each of these great questions.  That’s one reason I treasure this chance to spend time with you, where you and I can work through at greater depth how to think about and respond to the rapidly unfolding cultural and intellectual developments.

Today, I want to focus on the first question: how do we bridge the gender divide?  (You will hear more from me on the other two questions down the road.)  Of course, the first question is really: do we care to?

Will We Bridge the Gender Divide?

Not long ago I stood on stage with Andrew Sullivan while he said, “The gay and lesbian communities are like oil and water, it takes a great deal of energy to keep them together.”

Men and women are quite different and tend to drift apart unless pulled together by sexual desire. The desire that pulls them together is not enough on its own to keep them together over the lifetime necessary to build an enduring family for children.  The collapse of marriage in the great middle class, as David Lapp’s work on young parents in Ohio shows, is the collapse of the social effort to bridge the gender divide—particularly to find a way to create young men whom women want to marry (and who want to marry the mothers of their children).

Our current project (to sustain a reasonable family life in the midst of genderless sex and family norms) has failed in the crucial task of creating marriageable men–men that women want to marry and who are good for the women they marry.

There are many statistics I could offer in proof of this proposition but let me start by highlighting  this one: Nearly one out of four white high school senior boys with college-educated parents is illiterate, more than 3 times the rate of girls, according to Prof. Judith Kleinfeld.

Hat tip to Christina Hoff Sommers for putting me in touch with Kleinfeld’s work: “at the end of high school, 23 percent of these boys scored ‘below basic,’ compared with 7 percent of their female counterparts.  ’This means that almost one in four boys who have college-educated parents cannot read a newspaper with understanding,’ Kleinfeld writes.”

This shocking statistic, which really tells us all we need to know about how we are failing boys (given that in one fell swoop it controls for both race and class), is really just the tip of a very large iceberg. As Prof. Kleinfeld summarizes:

“American boys are suffering serious problems. In education, these center in the areas of far lower literacy, lower school grades, lower engagement in school, higher dropout from school, higher rates of repeating a grade, higher placement in special education, higher rates of suspensions and expulsions, and lower rates of postsecondary enrollment and graduation.  In each of these domains, Black boys and young men are doing far worse than Black girls and young women.

Young men are far less prepared than young women to succeed in the current knowledge-based economy, are more likely to suffer from substantial declines in real income, and are far more vulnerable to unemployment in times of economic recession. Less-educated young men participate less in civic and political activities, are less likely to marry, and are less attractive mates to increasingly high-achieving, well-educated young women.”

Yes, in math and the sciences, at the very top, more men than women excel.  But outside of the rarified air of MIT and Cal Tech, the gender gap has grown into a chasm created by a society that does not succeed in motivating young men to succeed–in family life, at school, or on the job.

And the worst part is that we don’t really appear to care. As Prof. Kleinfeld points out, “While the educational problems of girls have led to numerous policy efforts . . . the problems of boys have been largely ignored by federal agencies, foundations, and school districts.”

Hanna Rosin’s new book The End of Men is largely a journalistic exploration of the same phenomena Prof. Kleinfeld noticed:  America’s more gender-neutral, egalitarian culture is producing some very gendered results.   Men and women are responding very differently to the unfolding gender-neutral economic, educational, and status signals–a key hint that motivating men and women is not a genderless activity.

Rosin writes:

“Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.”

Young women are hustling to educate and improve themselves to provide for their children.  Young men are increasingly tuning out in school, in the job market, and in the home.

And yet, even at community colleges, young men appear hesitant to enter the brave new economy.

“I recall one guy who was really smart,” a counselor at a Kansas City community college told Rosin. “But he was reading at a sixth-grade level and felt embarrassed in front of the women. He had to hide his books from his friends, who would tease him when he studied. Then came the excuses. ‘It’s spring, gotta play ball.’ ‘It’s winter, too cold.’ He didn’t make it.”

In 2005 Jacqueline King, of the American Council on Education, conducted a survey of lower-income adults in college.

“Men, it turned out, had a harder time committing to school, even when they desperately needed to retool. They tended to start out behind academically, and many felt intimidated by the schoolwork. They reported feeling isolated and were much worse at seeking out fellow students, study groups, or counselors to help them,” writes Rosin.

Kleinfeld found much the same thing in her provocative study “No Map to Manhood,” based on interviews with 99 high school seniors preparing to go to college.

Both high school girls and boys perceive boys and girls to be profoundly different: girls are organized and committed.  Boys are “lazy” and easily distracted.

Only 29% of males from working class families saw college as a vital educational investment, compared to 70% of their female counterparts, says Kleinfeld.

This is not because the boys saw solid, blue-collar jobs available to them.  Just 13% of the young men had plans to pursue technical training after graduation.

“High school counselors said that many high school boys were not interested in the skilled trades and would not fill out applications even if the counselors encouraged them and handed them the application forms.”

On the other hand, “Virtually every working class young man could name a person who had made big bucks without a college degree.”

“Many of the young men expressed interest in implausible ‘dream jobs,’ such as designing videogames, owning a recording studio, directing movies, or becoming music stars,” reports Kleinfeld.

How badly are schools failing in creating a learning environment suited to young males?

“When asked if they liked going to school, 54% of the young women expressed strong enjoyment compared to just 21% of the young men, while 26% of the young men expressed strong dislike of school compared to only 8% of the young women.”

Our civilization is failing boys massively to the detriment of both sexes, and yet we cannot (because we are committed to genderless norms) even name the problem, much less begin to brainstorm on how to address it.

Step back for a minute and recognize how shockingly unusual our modern project on sex is.

Most human societies for most of human history have devoted enormous energy to giving social meanings to gender–nurturing in each sex a profound need for the other.  And creating a culture of marriage which attempts at least to bridge the gender divide in the interests of creating a next generation of children that has the love and care of their mother and father.

We are engaged in the reverse process of attempting to raise men and women who do not need one another, and I fear we are succeeding.

Let me leave you with one last request, because it makes the reality of these abstract gendered needs so vivid:  Go and watch this video in which Prof. Robert Oscar Lopez explains what it was like to grow up without a father and with two mothers.

Prof. Lopez notices in his own life two powerful themes already familiar to those of us who have followed the challenges divorce and other forms of family fragmentation pose for children:

The first is the child’s longing for a father, to know what male love feels like.

The second is the loyalty conflicts created for the child when his mother and father do not share one home and one family.

Children love their mothers, including their divorced, unmarried, or lesbian mothers.

One of the emerging challenges for at least some of these children with two mothers, Prof. Lopez points out, is the way in which within same-sex families, the child’s longing for an opposite-sex parent is treated as disloyalty to the family of choice created for him.

The tension between the biological parent and the social or legal parent (something common in stepfamilies) is another theme he pulls out from his own experience.

Some children and some parents rise above these loyalty conflicts and longings better than others–it’s important to recognize that.

But when adults or civilizations do not attach meaning to gender, the longing for maleness or femaleness does not go away; the burden is left to young adults to work out on their own–what being a man means . . . or being a woman.

We face a crisis in masculinity that stems from our stubborn unwillingness to recognize that gender matters to more than gay people.  Young males need a civilized vision of masculinity if they are to shape their sexuality in ways that turn them into husband material–men who are good for women, and whom women want to marry.

A society that fails to even attempt to make boys into men–good family men–hurts both men and women–and children.  The gender roles of the 1950s were clearly in need of reform, but genderlessness as a social and legal ideal is a blindfold keeping us from seeking out new paths to serve an ancient and enduring need.

Re-reading The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles in preparation for writing on the new marriage conversation was, for me, heartbreaking in a way:  Oh, to be back in the year 2000, the moment when we had won the debate about whether marriage mattered, whether children suffered when men and women did not make their marriages succeed.  Oh, to be back in the year when the divorce rate was declining.  When the out-of-wedlock childbearing rate’s relentless climb appeared to level off, or at least to pause.

The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles was filled with real and grounded optimism that we could make a difference: “the decline of marriage is not inevitable. Social recovery is possible, as the recent encouraging turnaround in the divorce rate affirms. The goal of our movement is not perfection, but progress; not to eliminate divorce or unwed childbearing, but to reduce it further; not to make every marriage last, but to help more marriages succeed.”

Gay marriage advocates contested that consensus—children need a mother and father–on behalf of their vision of equality.  They have succeeded in disrupting that fragile and emerging consensus, putting the shared vision of marriage we had in 2000 back deep into the culture wars.

Some people will respond to this powerful new cultural movement by giving up on marriage, but I cannot: it is too important to children, and to men and women, for us to do that.

The task before us is going to be increasingly focused on this question: How do we build a culture–or subculture–that sustains civilized masculinity and marriage in the face of the ongoing hostility of the mass of credentialed culture-creators to the very idea of this project?

These are urgent times, but as John Paul the Great used to tell us, “Be not afraid!”  “Urgent” is nothing new.  The collapse of civilized norms is not a new thing in human history–it offers a challenge and an opportunity as well as a crisis.  To re-think and re-create what is necessary to sustain the true, the good, and the beautiful is a privilege as well as a cause for a certain understandable anxiety.

Thank you again for spending this time with me–I treasure the chance to think things through with you and for you.  And I welcome your comments at MaggieGallagher.com.

Sources

Call For A New Marriage Conversation: An Appeal from Seventy-Four American Leaders, 2013. Institute for American Values. http://www.americanvalues.org/marriage-a-new-conversation/

D’Vera Cohn, 2013, “Love and Marriage” Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends, Feb. 13, 2013. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/02/13/love-and-marriage/

Maggie Gallagher, 2013. “Three Questions for the New Marriage Movement,” Family Scholars, Feb 14, 2013. http://familyscholars.org/2013/02/14/advice-for-a-new-conversation-on-marriage-maggie-gallagher/

Judith Kleinfeld,  2009, “The State of American Boyhood,” Gender Issues 26(2): 113-129. http://www.thedadshow.net/library/stateofboyhood.pdf

Judith Kleinfeld, 2009. “No Map to Manhood: Male and Female Mindsets Behind the College Gender Gap,” Gender Issues, 26, (3-4)  171-182. http://www.boysproject.net/papers/nomaptomanhood.pdf

David and Amber Lapp, 2012. “A New Normal for the American Family: Having Children Outside of Marriage,” The Atlantic, March 16 2012.  http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/03/a-new-normal-for-the-american-family-kids-outside-of-marriage/254280/

The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles, 2000.  Institute for American Values: http://www.americanvalues.org/pdfs/marriagemovement.pdf

Hanna Rosin, 2010. “The End of Men,” The Atlantic, July/August 2010.  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/308135/

Anne-Marie Slaughter, 2013. “Don’t Rule Out Having Children Because You Want to Have a Career.”
The Atlantic, Feb 14, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/02/dont-rule-out-having-children-because-you-want-to-have-a-career/273154/

Christina Hoff Sommers, 2013. “The Boys at the Back,” The New York Times, Feb. 2 2013.   http://www.uts.edu/read-more-trends-marriage-and-family/474-the-boys-at-the-back.html

21 thoughts on “Maggie: Will We Bridge the Gender Divide?

  1. Am I summarizing your arguments correctly
    1-In the old days we taught boys how to be boys and girls how to be girls (not mentioned is that the boys made the money and the girls made less money and had fewer opportunities in life)
    2- Boys, who used to be dominate in the working world are now in decline. Girls are now outpacing boys in educational desire, educational results and employment positions
    3- Boys are no longer marriage material because they get bad grades, and don’t peruse higher education or even “the trades”.
    4- Girls are not attracted to those boys who are layabouts and they don’t really need a husband any more anyway, since they have achieved so much better on their own anyway.

    Because of 1 – 4 Marriage is in decline for the and lower income straight class. Up until this point we do not talk about sexual minorities. We will now tie that into the layabout straight men discussion that straight women don’t want to marry.

    When 2 lesbains raise a boy together there is no father to properly model to the child what a “good marriageable man” looks like. Boys grow up confused, not knowing how to be a “marriageable man”.

    To demonstrate this “I never learned how to be a man (male gender)) an anecdotal video of Robert Oscar Lopez is offered as an example of boys growing up not knowing how to be a man because his mother and father split up, his father was absent, and then his mother turned into a lesbian which really sealed his fate of never learning how to be a man.

    Close by saying gender matters, we need to prohibit Civil Marriage for Sexual Minorities because that promotes genderless marriage even more.

    I would appreciate it if Maggie you would correct or tweak my summary. I want to start my argument from a place of mutual understanding of your position.

  2. No you are not correctly summarizing my views; these are your own views of what people like me think! Feel free to try again, or to knock down your straw men, as you choose.

    Maggie

    • Darn! I really thought I had it right. Can you at least give me a hint of which ones I got wrong? I have most of it numbered. Thank you.

  3. Congratulations on a very powerful presentation. Unfortunately your first responder just shows how difficult even facing the basic facts will be. It is amazing that we have gone so far in accepting the idea that government must provide every solution that your reader assumes you will force everyone to conform to your (presumed) views. May we at least discuss publically what seems to be a serious problem for straight young men (and women and children) that might even be able to be ameliorated without forcing the minority to do anything other than being exposed to an argument he or she might disagree with? I will run your article on my website too, although I am afraid its length will daunt a large portion of our readers. Please try to place it in a hard copy magazine also so thoughtful folks with a bit more time may ponder its implications. It is a very important matter that demands wide discussion.

  4. If you would like my own view of my own main thesis, it is this: “Genderless norms and ideals produce gendered consequences because men and women respond to the genderless norms and ideals differently. As a society, we are increasingly failing to produce men who want to marry and whom women want to marry. (In fact I provide evidence that young men are failing to attach to school, to work, or to family—video games, beer and porn are the obvious alternatives).”

    Addressing this problem will require recognizing that it exists, i.e. “recognizing that gender matters to more than gay people.” (That’s my favorite single sentence in the essay).

    I do not prescribe any solutions, because before one can come up with solutions, one has to name the problem. This is a first attempt at naming a key problem in our marriage culture: we are not producing marriageable men in sufficient quantities, in part because we have decided it is unacceptable to have gendered norms, and genderless norms are failing. The first part is pretty uncontestable in my view; the second is controversial and by no means “proven” by what I have laid out here.

    The longing for maleness and femaleness (experienced in different ways by children of both genders) and for a shared social understanding of that longing, is similarly by no means proven. Feel free to disagree, although I think the evidence of it is surprisingly present and I find it resonates across ideological boundaries, when not cut off by ideological commitments.

    Marriage is a two-sex problem. You have to produce men who women want to marry, and vice versa. Male domination is not, therefore, the answer in my view.

    Prof. Lopez’s testimony is not provided as proof beyond a doubt, but simply as interesting expression or evidence of one part of the problem.

    Does this help? Appreciate your effort to communicate across our differences. I am not proposing going back, but rather looking at how to move forward, in reality.

    Maggie

  5. Thank you for the cliff notes version, that helps :)
    You seem concerned that younger generations are not developing according to old cultural norms of men and women. You gave examples of this, women are moving ahead and men are dropping back.

    Because of this, marriage is tanking in the middle class and lower class. Not enough good men for the women in these classes who are increasingly doing well.

    Here is where I think you are making a real weak point. You lay the groundwork about the changes to straight men and women and then you try and shoehorn in the idea that sexual minorities marrying exacerbates the problem of a decline in middle and lower class straight marriage participation because sexual minorities change marriage from man/ woman to any two people regardless of gender. I think that is a heck of a stretch.

    What you are saying is that sexual minorities have changed marriage so drastically, that it IS impacting straights from participating. Participation by sexual minorities in Civil Marriage I don’t think has much impact on straight people at all. I do not think straight people even give that a second thought when they are thinking or contemplating marrying a particular person.

    I thought it was in appropriate to show as an example Robert Oscar Lopez’s video which is basically an anti gay marriage POV. I have read all of Dr. Lopez’s writings and I rather think the fact that his mother was a raging alcoholic (his words) had more to do with his childhood difficulties than the fact that he claims she was a lesbian. It is to much of a coincidence to me that his mother is conveniently dead and none of his brothers or sisters substantiate his story. He is not that much younger than his brothers and sisters so they lived in the same household yet they are not coming forward claiming damage. Maggie beware, you are buying ROL story hook line and sinker. Search at Karen Ocams LGBT POV blog, search for his writings there.

    Lopezz is saying (and I personally do not believe him) that not having a father around caused him gender confusion. Well I don’t think we can apply this “opinion” across the board as there are not a much higher percentage of gay men who are of color. The black father is absent in high numbers in black families, yet we do not see corresponding high percentages of black gay men. I think it is far far far fetched that the absence of a father or mother turns you gay. Or as Lopez is claiming, makes you confused about if you are gay or not. There are a lot of black fathers in prison yet their son’s know if they are straight or gay. An alcoholic mother who likes to fight with a machete with missing front teeth (Lopez’s description of his mother) I think can play with a child’s head. Notice how he never talks abut his mother’s alcoholism any more, now he has identified *all his problems* based on the fact that his mother was a lesbian. Maggie mark my words, if you keep holding up Lopez as an example you are going to live to regret it. There is no better way to put this, he’s a fame wh*re Maggie, you are going to get burned.

    • Dear Grandma, this is just a hypothesis, but please indulge me for a moment. At least in the lower economic classes (and especially in black communities where there is now epidemic fatherlessness), dads have been replaced by gangs … and while gangs do have a “familial” element to them, I dare say it is not an element beneficial to the society as a whole. That said, I also doubt that issues with gender identity (whatever that is) are not dealt with in any manner that could remotely be considered gentile; hence, young men in that setting who find themselves attracted to persons of the same sex are not allowed to express themselves … or worse. In my humble opinion, that is why you don’t see a correlation in lower economic strata communities (again, especially low income black communities) between fatherlessness and homosexuality. (P.s. my basis for this hypothesis is my brother-in-law, who is currently paying his debt to society due to activities he participated in while associated with a gang)

  6. Maggie, I think that the last 5 years of high school, grades 8 through 12 need an apprenticeship component. It would be academic in the mornings and out on the job with a tradesman in the afternoons. In Campbell River, BC we have this arrangement for kids who are committing to competitive skiing in a program called Podium of Life. The kids are motivated to complete their regular school work in half a day and then take rigorous skiing instruction in the other half. Regards, Bob

  7. “we are not producing marriageable men in sufficient quantities, in part because we have decided it is unacceptable to have gendered norms, and genderless norms are failing.”

    Can you please give me an example of a gendered norm?
    Maybe we do have gendered norms (but I am waiting for an example to be sure I know what you are talking about) maybe we do have gendered norms but the guys in the middle and lower class are just not living up to the norm.

    Your theory that we have thrown out gendered norms kinda fails because college educated people are getting married and staying married. That seems to indicate that it must not be gendered norms that are changing, because if that were true it has then changed for the college educated man also.

    Much more likely culprit, lack of family supporting factory jobs. Used to be that unions fought for decent wages, then they shipped all the jobs overseas. Factory jobs used to provide wages enough to support a wife and two kids if the wife worked also.

    I think a much more likely culprit of the decline in marriage participation by the lower class and middle class is jobs and employment, and little if anything to do with gender norms.

  8. Jobs and employment affect both sexes. Why are we creating schools where women are twice as likely to say they enjoy them and men are three times as likely to say they hate them? I understand wny you want to point away from the facts, as I’ve presented them. But think about them!

  9. I did think about your facts, I really did. But I don’t see the connection to gender norms that you do. Why boys are not doing as well. I think we should have a better understanding between us of what you think gender norms are. That would probably help the discussion.

    You suspect that the erosion of gender norms is having bad effects on boys. If you can provide a few of what you consider gender norms to be that would help me understand your supposition.

  10. Hi, Maggie. You write:

    “For those who embrace gay marriage, that rift [over family structure] is healed. Because with gay marriage, the old debate between family structure and family process conceptually collapses, either partially or wholly. In whatever ways we believe marriage matters, in this new conversation, it is explicitly not because there is one kind of “natural” family structure that is best for children.”

    I don’t think that statement is as fair as you might want it to be, and let me say why. First, it simply isn’t true that the “new conversation” ignores or downplays issues of family structure. If you go to our website (www.americanvalues.org) you’ll see, if you look at the topics our forthcoming “new conversation” series, that a great deal of serious attention is devoted specifically to issues of family structure. Look at the topics; look at the speakers; it’s real and serious, I think you will agree.

    Second, if you and your readers look at our recent conversation on “Why Marriage Matters,” which was chaired by Jonathan Rauch, a gay leader and writer, you will see that the panel specifically discusses the issue of “the family structure that is best for children,” and all four panelists, Rauch included, agree and flatly state that the best family structure, in terms of child outcomes, is the biological mother married to the biological father. It’s right there; there is absolutely no mistaking what they say!

    Finally here is a slogan from the “new conversation”:

    “Don’t have children unless you are married.”

    Now, if we bracket the gay issue for a moment, and think of the 95-96 percent of Americans who are heterosexual, could you, Maggie, or anyone, please tell me what is remiss here, what is left unsaid in some harmful way, when I and Rauch and everyone else in the new conversation says to America:

    “Don’t have children unless you are married.”

    Maggie, I know that you don’t agree with everything we are doing; and I deeply respect you and your reasons, as I think you know; but I think you could have stated this issue a bit more fairly, and not suggested (wrongly, in my view) that we over at the new conversation corner have simply thrown in the towell on the family structure issue (we demonstrably have not) or that we are not able to speak normatively to (at least the vast majority of) Americans on the relationship of marriage to biological offspring.

  11. what exactly do todays young men see. male failures. pop culture and media glorify irresponsible male. tv males in homes-fathers- are depicted as total idiots or generally clueless. women/girls make it clear men are not needed. public education promotes all the above. even my own boys all grew up seeing, knowing, interacting, with responsible committed men/fathers in home and church and family but they consider the world they live in and feel unappreciated/overlooked and all the messages in culture tell them their honor does not give merit.

  12. David,

    I always feel, when we converse, like I’m speaking to a beloved older brother. Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. Insofar as you read me as “describing” incorrectly what you intend, my apologies. I am describing what I think a card-carrying member of the conceptual frameworkers union should understand marriage, gay marriage and family structure as–not imputing your views, but describing my own.

    Your own response though, recapitulates the problem I’m describing. Marriage will affect family structure as a utilitarian rule: don’t have children unless you are married—but for new and different (and in my view, less persuasive) reasons, because of what marriage now means: a commitment between any two people to forge their life together.

    That you, or Jonathan, can still say the ideal for a child is the biological mother and father is heartening. I wish you well.

    But the overarching conceptual reality is marriage means something different.

    Nonetheless, the reason I participated in IAV’s symposium (of which this letter is an elaboration) is that it may be possible in ways I cannot now see to help strengthen marriage, after gay marriage.

    I see gay marriage as a decision that many other things are more important than the reality that we need to bring male and female together to make and raise the next generation.

    If we really believed strongly in the latter we would shrug off gay marriage politely. Accepting it, by contrast, is a decision that many other goods—or at least one big good—are more important.

    That decision, conceptually and morally, will continue to have consequences.

    Maggie

  13. David, “Second, if you and your readers look at our recent conversation on “Why Marriage Matters,” which was chaired by Jonathan Rauch, a gay leader and writer, you will see that the panel specifically discusses the issue of “the family structure that is best for children,” and all four panelists, Rauch included, agree and flatly state that the best family structure, in terms of child outcomes, is the biological mother married to the biological father. It’s right there; there is absolutely no mistaking what they say! ”

    David if you could provide a link to the article that says that children do best with biological mother and father over at the New Conversations area I would appreciate that.

    David is there any qualification to your statement? In other words do the words “For children with heterosexual parents” precede the statement that children do best with bio mother and bio father? OR are you including ALL families, including families with same gendered parents, in the statement?

    If the statement *only* refers to opposite sex families then I would say that Maggie is correctly framing the issue, that being, -
    “For those who embrace gay marriage, that rift [over family structure] is healed. Because with gay marriage, the old debate between family structure and family process conceptually collapses, either partially or wholly. In whatever ways we believe marriage matters, in this new conversation, it is explicitly not because there is one kind of “natural” family structure that is best for children.”

    If you are including families headed by same sex parents and still claiming that the Gold Standard is bio mother and bio father, then Maggie IS NOT framing *her view* of the “New Conversation” correctly.

    Maggie is essentially saying that in the “New Conversation” *Family Structure* does NOT matter.

    You (may) be saying in the “New Conversation” “Yes it matters, and bio mother and bio father are best”.

    David it would be best to clarify if the Gold Standard about Family Structure is only for Hetro families or if it also includes Gay Families.

    David, if you say that for *all children* the best family structure for them is bio mother and father, then on what scientific basis are you drawing for this? I am not aware of any scientifically valid research that says that children with same gender parents do worse that children with straight parents.

    Back to Maggies article and my previously unanswered request. Maggie could you kindly provide some examples of Gender Norms that you feel are diminishing. You suspect Gender Norms are diminishing and this is causing boys to grow up to be less successful and less “marriageable”. If you can give me a few concrete examples of Gender Norms it will be easier for me to understand your point.

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