Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Demographic Winter (part II)

First sentence of the SRB Documentary, LLC mission statement – “Of all the causes we have in the world today, many of which particularly capture the time and space of the media and academia, it is singularly peculiar that the disintegration of an institution as important as the human family should want for attention.  Perhaps it is because the family is made up of individual people, and we have become a society obsessed with a focus on the self.”  Hmm.  It continues, “ [This documentary] seeks to reawaken society to the importance of the stable, intact family …”
So, wait a minute – instead of gathering data and considering what it might mean, their first priority is to start with a set of values and go looking for data to support those values?  (sarcasm) Well THAT sounds like a fantastic idea.  (/sarcasm)  On top of that, right in their mission statement they diagnose the problem – “we have become a society obsessed with a focus on the self.”  What fantastic mindreaders they must be!
So, when they depict all cohabiting couples as disappointed women who look on while the men play video games and ignore them (selfish people!), surely this is based on data, right?  Not so much.  Such is the desperation to advertise traditional values that they need to put the worst possible face on something like cohabitation.  No consideration of the fact that the quality of cohabiting relationships is as wide and varied as the individuals engaged in them.  Not unlike that marriage thing which is so widely promoted by social conservatives. 
Oh but surely the trend of delayed marriage and childbearing is caused by selfishness, no?
May I point out that most young people don’t feel ready for marriage?  Not because they are selfish, but because they are aware of and frightened by the enormity of the commitment involved in marriage and having kids.  Plus, most people are not in a financial position to marry young.  You know those college degrees?  The ones that let us earn enough money to actually support a family?  Yup, the very same.  Guess what?  Those things are EXPENSIVE.  We spend a LOT more time than our parents did getting our financial footing.  Who in their right mind is going to choose to marry and have a baby when they are young?
The documentary also astutely points out that after women entered the workforce, the opportunity cost for women to have children increased dramatically – e.g., foregone income, foregone career advancement, etc.  As a result, women choose to have fewer kids.  And that’s a bad thing?  This is probably the one area where I think they have their causes and effects in order.  But they neglect to mention, of course, that if there weren’t so many men who continue to abdicate responsibility as the breadwinner, and in fact abuse the powerful status they have in relationships as the breadwinner, not as many women would be so driven to have a back-up plan.  If my first husband hadn’t decided for me that I didn’t need a place to live … in the winter … in interior Alaska … with a baby … well, you get the picture.  If none of that had happened I myself would probably be a stay-at-home mom with a handful of kids.  I would have finished my degree, but I would have been a stay-at-home mom.  As it is, I am the breadwinner in my family.  Which reminds me – the stay-at-home parent is now a gender-neutral position.  If a woman’s opportunity cost is too high, it is an option for the husband to stay home.  So why the single-minded focus on a woman’s  opportunity cost?  Almost as if they want to pin the blame for all of this on women.  Remember the neglectful live-in boyfriend above?  It’s her fault.  Because she didn’t follow 1950’s relationship conventions.  /eyeroll
Discussion of “the way it ought to be” in part III ….

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