Monday, December 04, 2006

more ranty on singleness

I wanted to draw attention to a comment I just received from the proprietor of a blog against singleness about my review of a Debbie Maken article a few months ago.

Here's the text of the comment, for context:

"Actually, the problem is not so much "singleness" per se, as protracted singleness.
If we continue down the road we are going, with so much faulty teaching about the ridiculous contemporary idea of a "gift" of singleness, then you may feel differently in - what? - 10 years time? 20 years time? Maybe if you end up facing the future as a single woman who has passed her child-bearing years, you may wish you hadn't disrespected Maken, but actually took her common sense, Biblical approach far more seriously.
God's will is not just a rubber stamp on our collective actions, meaning that all who experience lifelong singleness have been "gifted" for it, when quite plainly our faulty teaching is causing it."

Now, maybe this whole discourse is railing against another small discourse that says it is best for christians to all be unmarried, but I still find it intensely problematic. As though being 43 and childless would make me so miserable I would change my mind about the problems with gender essentialism and valorizing marriage to young people who then enter unwise marriages in their rush to couple-up and procreate because they so fear spinsterhood.

Why can't the church be the one place you don't feel bad about being single?

On a related but tangential note, I've been considering this hypothesis lately: all of Focus on the Family's cultural and political positions are based in gender essentialism.

18 comments:

jimmy said...

First, I think you're mistaken if you think the "MARRY AND POP BABIES OUT NOW!" crowd is at all interested in making church a comfortable place for you, or for anyone else who doesn't fit their narrow conception of the acceptable lifestyle. Obviously, you shouldn't be permitted to be content while you're all alone in this world without a man and babies to keep you company; as we all know, idle hands are the devil's workplace, and you might out of boredom start doing ungodly things like teaching or being in authority over a man, or having a fulfilling career.

Second, I think the irony of the commenter criticizing you for disrespecting Maken's "thoughts" (such as they are) while showing absolutely no respect for you as a person, nor (given his/her blog) for anyone who has a different understanding of life than him/her, is oh so delicious.

Third, about the commenter's thoughts themselves: It is beyond disrespectful to the God-designed human to believe that nobody is complete without a mate and offspring. The number of people I know whose lives are plenty complete without one or both of those notwithstanding, the fact is that theologically singleness, marriage, and everything in between are all valued. There is no "right path" that will work for every person, and to expect that there is leads to many kinds of abuses. People get into relationships for the sake of getting into relationships, and end up even worse off than they were before; those who can't get into a relationship through no fault of their own end up feeling not only the psychological pain of whatever lonesomeness they may feel, but additional trauma from the theological abuse they continually suffer at the hands of the commenter and his/her ilk. This kind of abuse and hatred would be completely unacceptable in "the world"; how much more should it be for us as Christians, whose entire faith is based on the life and death of a man (who remained single and had no offspring, I should note) typified by his immense love for others?

Finally, I really hope "Captain Sensible" has the cojones (or non-gendered equivalent thereof) to stick around and debate this, rather than leaving a hit-and-run comment on a ten-month-old blog post and hoping nobody would notice. This discussion is going to get pretty boring if nobody disagrees, and since nobody I know of has told her she needs to "pull a Ruth" and get a Godly man to lead her to marriage, I'm inclined to think her friends and family will be on her side on this one.

Ron Rienstra said...

Bethany,

"On a related but tangential note, I've been considering this hypothesis lately: all of Focus on the Family's cultural and political positions are based in gender essentialism."

Uh, yeah.

gortexgrrl said...

Bethany,

I think part of what raised the ire of that commentator was that you seemed to be drawing your conclusions about Maken's ideas from the Boundless article alone, without the larger perspective that Maken's book provides. For one, if you read her book, you'd find a few things, such as the fact that Maken does acknowledge the worthiness of celibacy "for the sake of the kingdom" and the role that celibate service played in the formation of the early church.

Your contemptuous reference to the "blog against singleness" reveals quite a superficial understanding of it. It's against "the gift" of singleness, not singleness per se, which has become the no-fault default for many believers who have become immobilized by some really twisted church teachings. She's trying to help people get unstuck.

You wrote: Now, maybe this whole discourse is railing against another small discourse that says it is best for Christians to all be unmarried..." Yuh HA!!! And this "discourse" is NOT small: it has its roots in 70's Gothardism, running straight through to Don Raunikar who wrote that before you try to figure out who to marry, you must first find out from God if He wants you to marry at all-- even though nowhere in the Bible are we implored to do such a thing (actually the Bible speaks of mate finding almost entirely in the practical terms of human intentionality and volition). Look through the 40-odd books about singleness that have come out in the past 20 years and you will see that there have been horrible things taught to young Christian people. Things that make them wonder if they are committing some kind of sin if they want to pursue marriage. Or lull them into thinking that if they find contentment in their "season of singleness" and do nothing to find a mate then God will send them someone "in His time" (as likely as being sent a job or a home without seeking). Even if you balk at certain aspects of the marriage mandate position (as I do), these messages still must be challenged.

If you are still in your early 20's, I wouldn't blame you at all for wanting to savour your singleness. But be aware that the age of first marriage has been steadily increasing, with "gen x" women already finding it even harder to find mates than their older baby boomer sisters-- and facing increased rates of infertility, the pain of which you cannot imagine in the abstract. Church-going Christian single females have the added burden of a gender imbalance that rapidly worsens as the age cohort increases.

I mean, do you really think all these surplus women are "gifted" by God to be "single for the sake of the kingdom" as one writer said? Or perhaps has something has gone terribly wrong? What will conditions be like for you, if/when you reach an age where decide that you do want to get married and have a family of your own? And why should anything improve without some generational willingness to sacrifice something?

Sorry to rain on your parade of youthful hubris, but these conditions are not getting better, THEY'RE GETTING WORSE. At this time, you may have the luxury of not having to think about these issues, but some of us who are more aware of the history (and the implications for the future) know that solutions are often bitter pills to swallow. Talk "gender essentialism" all you want-- just know that time and tide stand still for no man, or woman. Nature will have its way with you.

bethany said...

gortexgrrl: thanks for responding. I enjoy spirited discussion.

first a few details: when I wrote the original post, Maken's book wasn't released. Presumably an article should also make valid arguments, yes? I was critiquing an article, and a position, not a person.

I can grant that Maken, and apparently you, are trying to offer an alternative to another problematic christian line of thinking, but I don't think it's the only or best alternative availible.

I think you overlook my main argument. Part of the reason childlessness, and singleness, is so heartbreaking is because the church makes people feel like they cannot be truly adult, involved, and fulfilled until they are married and parents. Especially women. Indeed, the assumption I recall from Maken's article is that women cannot be happy outside of wife-mother roles. I think this is deeply problematic. I'm not anti-family, but I'm also pro- a lot of things that can happen with our without a traditional family. Like community, dialogue, service, art, and... Worship.

Maybe christian young people, and older people, should be finding ways to serve God in their circumstance. You don't have to see singleness as a "gift" - everyone knows loneliness is hard. But let's not pressure people to find "the one" faster; let's find other ways for them to be an engaged and valued part of the body of christ.

gortexgrrl said...

Bethany,

First detail: Maken's book was released about a month before your February 23th article. Nevertheless, as one who also enjoys spirited discussion, you are indeed a well-spoken advocate for the rights of single people! And certainly, I have experienced some of those irksome intrusions into my personal life that have been mentioned here.

No doubt about it, we all walk a different path, a different pace...and there's got to be some breathing space for people to live their lives without every busybody in the church meddling into their love lives. And speaking of busybodies, there are probably more biblical admonishments to put them in their place (ie. 2 Thess 3:11, 1 Tim 5:13) that for those languishing in their singleness. But then again, that's a comparison being made devoid of historical context-- people who wanted to get married in Paul's day weren't afforded the luxury of being able to take their time with it, as we do today, as a result of artificial modern innovations. As it is, we simply don't know what kind of letter Paul would write to us, if he were to address our current (non)marriage patterns. In this regard, I think Maken (who, despite accusations to the contrary, stops short of calling all singleness a sin) has a point when she says that the Bible condones singleness for the sake of kingdom work-- but doesn't necessarily legitimize all singleness.

As a matter of fact, no culture in history has ever given carte blanche approval to all singleness! With the exception of North America and Western Europe, you will find in all parts of the world that there is some expectation that people find their way to timely marriage-- for the sake of continuity and support of family and society. Protracted singleness inevitably, especially in men, raises questions about maturity, adequacy and sexual acting out, which obviously makes things regrettably more difficult for those uncertain of their sexual orientation, or those struggling with things that handicap their pursuit of a spouse (ie. disability, disfigurement, etc). But those cultures understand that there's a limit to how far you must go to make the exceptional feel comfortable. I'm talking about pro-creative mores that exist for organic reasons.

It is true that some single people in the church get the message (overtly or covertly) that they cannot be truly adult, involved, and fulfilled until they are married and parents. And I do think we need to revisit Paul's words about "busybodies", but there will never a time or place when protracted singleness will not be regarded with some suspicion, or at least, concern. And that's the problem with 20th century feminist notions that everything is a social construction. Complaints of things like "gender essentialism" and "otherness" only blind you to the hard, cold, unsavory facts about sex and nature that drive curiousity about how other people are doing with their love lives. Today's celebrity gossip machine, which ironically grew concurrently with the emergence of orthodox feminism, is a testament to this fact.

As an old crone speaking here, may I say please, don't walk, but run from any feminist theorist that carries on about "gender essentialism" and "social constructionism. There are more intelligent feminists out there who have actually cracked open a biology text or two-- and have some respect for the majesty of our world religions: Germaine Greer (her newer stuff), Camille Paglia (even if her libertine views on porn are a bit much), and of course that classic voice Simone DeBeauvoir.

bethany said...

Gortexgrrl:
thanks for your carefully reasoned response. I think our fundamental source of disagreement may be our understanding of and/or agreement with arguments against gender essentialism.

I object to any discourse that understands women only or primarily as wives and mothers, or that suggests there are certain virtues that are feminine/masculine. Why should we bifurcate virtue? Why can't we understand all people as human and focus on the activities we all do. Focusing on parenthood inherently excludes those younger and older than childbearing age, and undervalues other important activities that even parents do outside of the family, like service in the community, work for justice, etc. I understand that the experience of pregnancy and birthing is feminine, and anatomy does matter, but I think we make too much of those implications, if only by defining ourselves by our sex organs instead of one of many other important aspects of humanity. For people who are married and parents as well as singles.

I also think rhetoric about "guiding women safely into marriage" and "protecting" them is harmful. It makes women seem like property or helpless children.

relatedly, what makes you think the culture at Paul's time was any less artificial than the one we have now?

I (now) understand that you, and Maken, are trying to argue against discourse that makes marriage seem like a negative option, and singleness God's plan. I still have a lot of respect for the monastic tradition, and that's one reason I'm not ready to go quite so far the other way. I also think that Maken's article, if not her book, makes it seem like people who are, say, in their mid-twenties and still single are somehow at fault. Even if Maken doesn't call that sinful, it still seems very negative. Many of these people (like me and many of my friends) have been building important relationships, learning about themselves and the world, and looking, if not searching, for a partner. I think this leads to getting married without 1) knowing your own identity 2) knowing your spouce and find themselves years later in a loveless marriage and without personal identity or goals beyond making babies. And with current life expectancy, raising kids doesn't take up a good chunk of a lifetime anymore. Maybe Maken addresses these problems in her book, but I think her rhetoric goes to far.

Thanks for coming back - I am happy to have a real debate about this with someone who is willing to engage.

gortexgrrl said...

"I object to any discourse that understands women only or primarily as wives and mothers...I understand that the experience of pregnancy and birthing is feminine, and anatomy does matter, but I think we make too much of those implications"

OK, but do you realize that the standard message to Christian singles for the past 30 years has been "singleness and marriage are gifts of equal value", meaning that there will be no consequence to believers if they marry or if you don't? (cause the latter will be compensated by things like "community" and "dialogue", right? This hasn't happened, Bethany.)

It's not about whether or not certain VIRTUES are the exclusive domain of one gender or another (and is anyone arguing that there's no such thing as individual differences?), it's about honestly looking at the CONSEQUENCES (good and bad) of inorganic changes that have led to protracted singleness. We're talking 20-25% (and rising) of all women in the west not having children-- and the overwhelming majority of those women WANTED to have them! The invalidated feelings of a few people who never wanted families pales in comparison to that kind of collective grief.

"relatedly, what makes you think the culture at Paul's time was any less artificial than the one we have now?" Uhhhhh...In three words or less? Modern birth control, for one (and the extended life expectancy mentioned by you--also a consequence of modern civilization). And no, I'm not preaching against it. Again, I'm arguing for the importance of being HONEST and taking stock of the past few decades of profound and unprecedented technological and social change, and the resultant consequences-- good and bad. And what we really are capable of (and not capable of changing).

In a politically incorrect nutshell, here's our predicament: thanks to modern science, women can now control their fertility and support themselves (yay!), something we thought would break the cycle of pre-mature marriage-dependency-abuse, and we'd all have more time for things like justice work and shopping. But this is what actually happened: with this newfound control, women didn't have to settle down and have ordinary lives with ordinary blokes right away. Instead they could take their time "finding themselves" (men call it "sow your wild oats") with the most masculine, intelligent powerful guys, who, btw, are the most likely to get away with being either abusive or uncommitted (due to the high value of their sex appeal, for a while at least, and then the guy can move on since they have so many options)-- or, as many good Christian girls have done: wait endlessly for a "good guy" with a good career that also has this appeal. And so there are an awful lot of ordinary young guys--who haven't yet accomplished much in a world that requires more and more credentials-- having a hard time finding partners! But of course, all this changes when the women enter into their late 20's and 30's wanting families. But by then, many of the "good guys" are either taken or dealing with the consequences of "if you can't beat 'em join 'em".

So, the "new man" predicted in the 70's has not really appeared, at least not in great numbers. Women have changed, but men haven't-- there's been no real incentive for them to do so. Despite the best intentions of modern feminism, there now are MORE hazards in our way to finding "Mr. Right". I'm not advocating a return to arranged marriages, but this is why they existed in the past (and in other cultures today, that surprisingly seem to have lower divorce rates without "knowing their identity", esp. since the family is better at find out what the other person is about): left up to their own devices, young women (and men too) will either get swept away by romance and make bad marital choices or wittle away realistic chances until it's too late. So the old language of being protected and guided into "the safe haven of marriage" is no more harmful than the "bitches and ho's" language from rap music that we've come to be such sports about. Dontcha think?

Seriously, I don't begrudge anyone a tenure of singleness for the sake of getting to know themselves and any potential partner--it's the way it is nowadays, right? But for how long? We have made an unprecedented exchange: our control of fertility at the expense of control of the mating process, which has now become indefinite. But like Michael Caine said in "Educating Rita", we haven't found a better song to sing, only a different one.

bethany said...

Gortexgrrl: sorry I'm slow to respond, I've been caught up in end-of-semester. I hope you come back.
I'm skeptical of your assertion that the "the standard message to Christian singles for the past 30 years has been "singleness and marriage are gifts of equal value"" granted, I've only been paying attention for about 15 of those years, but I think the opposite is true. That may be the verbal message, but especially given the rise of groups like Focus on the Family, it seems to me that the only way to be truly adult and/or happy is through marriage and children. Now, this is certainly a good and blessed life path, but I think the degree to which we emphasize it is dangerous, and leads to rash marriages because of fear of singleness.

Not that this message only comes through the church, although it surely does with the emphasis on coupling up and the church structured around families. It also comes from the culture. You can point to media like Mary Tyler Moore and Sex in the City as romanticizing singleness, although I'm not certain that's a fair read of those shows, but the far greater percentage is about family, coupling, weddings, etc. Even Sex in the City had several weddings.

I should add that I am arguing from both from experience and as a scholar. I'm single, but in a relationship, and i sense that God's call is to my career first, as does my boyfriend. I might even be ok with you labeling my autobiography as the exception, but I don't really want to talk about me, I want to talk about everyone (that sounds arrogant, but I mean to say there is more at stake here than my own white picket fence and babies).

another question: don't you think cultures with arranged marriages at least partly have a lower divorce rate because of the more horrible consequences of divorce? I suspect that many women stay in abusive or unhappy marriages because there is no better alternative for them. I do not see this as an improvement over "protracted singleness." In the old testament, the israelites really did need a system that produced a lot of babies - life was hard, medicine was primative, a lot of people died young. Today, that is not the case. If anything, our population is already taxing our ecosystem in ways that lower our quality of life. I'm not suggesting that no one have children, that would be extreme as well, but those who don't feel called to shouldn't feel pressured to. There isn't the biological urgency anymore.

Here is my argument then: you, and others with more declarative, less reasonable rhetoric, present a false dichotomy. Surely there is a middle ground between "singleness is great, just sit around even if you WANT to be married!" and "marriage is the only way to be happy. Why are you still single? get on it!" Why must we chastize those who aren't in a relationship or pursuing one? Many of them already feel bad because of rejection or heartbreak or perceived unattractiveness. Can't we affirm the beauty of a loving, christian marriage, and also affirm serving God wherever we are? Can't we make an atmosphere where singleness IS a place to explore your gifts and God's will for you as an individual instead of a holding-pattern before marriage?

as a side note, I agree that "bitches and hos" language is no better, in fact probably worse, than the condescending "safe harbor" language of Maken and of old. But I think few feminists tolerate those messages either. The reason I rail against THIS language, though, is that it comes from MY culture and MY values. I don't approve of the abusive language of some popular music, either, I just find criticizing it less productive. It's so clearly demeaning, where this is more complex and (as you have proven) arguable.

gortexgrrl said...

"I'm skeptical of your assertion that the "the standard message to Christian singles for the past 30 years has been 'singleness and marriage are gifts of equal value'". It's a phrase that appears in Al Hsu's "Singles at the Crossroads", words to the same effect have been said by Elisabeth Elliot, John Piper, and Carolyn McCulley, and, ironically, many other "Focus on the Family" types (see my reviews on Amazon). It is astounding how they carry on about "family values" while hard-peddling "the gift of singleness".

"Even Sex in the City had several weddings." WEDDINGS??? UGH!!!

"I should add that I am arguing from both from experience and as a scholar." Uh, me too. And I repeat: I begrudge no one their tenure of singleness, my objection is that it's become oh-so politically incorrect to talk about the consequences of WIDESPREAD protracted singleness.

I prefer also that there'd be some middle ground whereby we don't chastize or be "busybodies" as I said in my first post, but there's not much that can be done about the "dangerous emphasis" on marriage in society that you're complaining about, since, as you've noted, it exists also in the secular world. And assuming you could, how would removing this emphasis (any more than it has been already) would make things any better for anyone?

If you think we have a problem with a "population that is taxing the ecosystem", look again at who's having the babies and who's not. The birth rate in Europe (and most of the west) is at a crisis low, while their large Muslim immigrant populations are booming, with 4-5 births per woman. And yes, I would reckon that there's a lot of suffering those women endure, arranged marriages notwithstanding. But let's get beyond the cost to self for a moment and look at the larger reality: perhaps THEY are the meek who will inherit the earth, rendering irrelevant a culture comprised of those (me included) who had the luxury of pursuing individual goals indefinitely, believing, for some strange reason, that it's what God wanted us to do.

Kathryn the Evil Twin said...

SURPLUS WOMEN? LANGUISHING IN SINGLENESS? CRACK A BIOLOGY TEXTBOOK?

OK, so I appear to be breaching some politeness standard here but I'm just so flabbergasted that some people actually think this that I think Bethany should excuse me anyway.

Goretex, if you would crack a biology text, you would find out a lot about DNA and phyla and natural selection, but you would find nothing about how women need to get married by the decree of God. You would find equal amounts of nothing on how children are necessary to be happy or how there is a surplus of women or how brown Muslim babies are scary scary scary.

Are you suggesting that we breed lots of white Christian babies for the fatherland so we don't get wiped out by the brown hordes? Possibly that if God has given me brains and a strong desire for a career coupled with no maternal instice, this clearly means I should GO HAVE BABIES NOW because otherwise I won't be meek enough? Why do you see childbearing as subjugation?

Gender is different from sex. Sex is what you will find in a biology textbook. Gender is what you learn. Sex is chromosomes, which usually come with matching genitalia. (sex is also a verb, but is not here used as such). Gender is a complex set of LEARNED behaviors that a person picks up starting at birth.

I have now gone on a tangent way above and beyond what I meant to say, which is this. The phrase "surplus women" probably exemplifies the get-married-cause-dobson-says-so crowd more than anything else. Because women are a commodity, right? They are objects to be looked at, evaluated, chosen or passed over, while men get to be the subjects that look, evaluate, and choose. Women do not have agency.

So yeah, I'm trying to languish here, and be all properly depressed and everything but hey, with a great job, a promising academic career, and lots of agency-filled relationships, I'm just not finding it in me. To quote the great poet Tennyson, "Men may come and men may go but I go on forever."
Love,

Kathryn

ps we have enough white babies. White people have never been good for society in the past. People in general are bad for the environment. White people consume multiple times the resources of any other racial group (especially if you start looking outside the United states). So seriously, don't have babies. Because Jesus said to take care of the earth, and we all love Jesus.

gortexgrrl said...

Kathryn,

You said: "Are you suggesting that we breed lots of white Christian babies for the fatherland so we don't get wiped out by the brown hordes?"

By assuming the issue is race, and not religion, you are basically revealing your own bigotry here underneath your deep concern for "the brown hordes" (as if your help is oh-so necessary).

Do you not know that most Christians in the world now are non-white (which by the way, is more than fine with me) AND that the future of the church (if things progress as they have been) is in the southern hemisphere? The meek shall inherit the earth, NOT the self-congratulating yuppies of the west, be they male or female.

"Gender is different from sex... Gender is what you learn.". PUH-LEEZE. Big shot "radical feminists" were tossing around those slogans when I was a student in the 70's, and guess what? Over time we've learned that NATURE was the missing piece that revealed so many of those lofty goals about "re-contructing gender" on a mass scale to be flimsy fantasy. These activists either learned from their failures, wised up and incorporated science into their perspective (ie. Greer and Paglia) or they became irrelevant (like Dworkin and McKinnon).

"The phrase "surplus women" probably exemplifies the get-married-cause-dobson-says-so crowd more than anything else. Because women are a commodity, right?"

Wrong. But it's expected that you would jump to such a conclusion, because it's all about racism and sexism, isn't it? When I say "surplus women", I'm speaking to the fact that women outnumber men in the church by about two to one, which means an inevitable shortage of partners for a generation of women taught that marriage should only happen between those who are "equally yoked".

"...objects to be looked at, evaluated, chosen or passed over, while men get to be the subjects that look, evaluate, and choose. Women do not have agency." If you are making an observation of how things have become for women amid the past couple of decades of
"girl power" that has decayed into "raunch culture", then sadly, I'd have to say you are right. Today, women are objectified more than ever. Sure, more of us have careers today, but late 20th century feminism did little to improve things for women, if anything, it's gotten worse. "Telling" men to treat us differently, while rewarding (ie. with sex) the worst ones for the worst behavior was a strategy doomed to fail-- we must admit this now.

"...if God has given me brains and a strong desire for a career coupled with no maternal instice, this clearly means I should GO HAVE BABIES NOW because otherwise I won't be meek enough? Why do you see childbearing as subjugation?"

First of all, I don't care what you, as an individual, choose to do with your life. And I repeat AGAIN: I begrudge no one their tenure of singleness, my objection is that it's become oh-so politically incorrect to talk about the consequences of WIDESPREAD protracted singleness. All you've done is prove my point.

And as for your suggesting that I see "childbearing as subjugation", that is just priceless! What third-rate "women's studies" icon of the last century are you aping now?

bethany said...

"The birth rate in Europe (and most of the west) is at a crisis low, while their large Muslim immigrant populations are booming, with 4-5 births per woman." This suggests to me that you think we need to keep up with the non-christian babies. Unless you think we deserve our share compared to them. Which I completely disagree with. Otherwise, both my and Kathryn's arguments about taxing the ecosystem stand.

That said, I understand that some people are called to raise children, and I think they should. I suspect that I will myself in the (far off) future. I don't have a problem with people getting married, and I don't have a problem with telling them "if you want to get married, maybe you should do something about it, like, try and date the people you want to marry."

I DO have a problem with telling this tale of "protracted singleness" to people from teenagers on. You end up with people like me and others I know when we were 19 wondering why we aren't even dating yet and how we are ever going to be married. I was fortunate to have more ambitions for my life than child-rearing, but I worry about people who are so focused on marriage that they have NO OTHER goals. Marriage should be something you choose because you want it, not because you are afraid of the alternative.

My problem, then, with people (like you, gortex) arguing against "protracted singleness" is not so much considering what happens to people who reach their 30s and 40s without marrying because of inattentiveness. My problem is that it instills unneccesary terror in young people, especially women, who, as you have said repeatedly, need a "tenure of singleness" to understand themselves and someone else.

I also think that focusing on dating marriage and couples all the time makes people think they are nothing but a relationship, and that is bad for everyone, including those in relationships, and especially for women who have a greater tendency toward this attitude. We want our married people, and our single people, to be complete people, with healthy families, friendships, vocations. The emphasis on marriage and family that comes from a lot of things makes it hard for us to imagine ourselves in another role. I think that is sad.

gortexgrrl said...

"The birth rate in Europe (and most of the west) is at a crisis low, while their large Muslim immigrant populations are booming, with 4-5 births per woman." This suggests to me that you think we need to keep up with the non-christian babies."

Bethany, we all love the environment, equality, multi-culturalism (I'm Canadian- our "mosaic" could teach your "melting pot" a thing or two), world peace, etc. etc. But there are more issues in the world than racism-sexism-homophobia, racism-sexism-homophobia, racism-sexism-homophobia...blah, blah, blah. If Muslims in Europe (and North America) continue to have children at a much greater rate than Christians, what do you think that will do to the world where we live? Do you think it would be more happily "multi-cultural" or less? Less sexist or more sexist? More freedom or less freedom as far as "goals" are concerned? You do the math. And any concerns you may have about population and the ecosystem-- don't tell it to barren spinsters like me, go to Iran or Saudi Arabia where they have daycares in the high schools. I'm sure they'd love to hear all about it.

"I DO have a problem with telling this tale of "protracted singleness" to people from teenagers on. You end up with people like me and others I know when we were 19 wondering why we aren't even dating yet and how we are ever going to be married. I was fortunate to have more ambitions for my life than child-rearing, but I worry about people who are so focused on marriage that they have NO OTHER goals."

So we should only share information that soothes young people's feelings? Why should any of you be spared the facts of this situation? And why be "worried" about people who have no other goals than marriage? Isn't THAT a bit judgmental towards people of other classes and cultures that don't give a rip about career life?

Far be it from me to push any individual into a role they don't want, but it's a myth of western modernity that one "needs" (a word I didn't use) an extended tenure of singleness to "understand themselves" as a prerequisite to healthy marriage. As Danielle Crittenden aptly pointed out, the only thing singleness prepares you for is more singleness. Again--sigh!- I'm not judging individuals who opt for time to try on various roles. I just don't buy that it's necessary. History and anthropology has shown otherwise.

bethany said...

It's unfair to suggest that more muslims in the world would lead to more ultra-conservative muslim hegemony. Indeed, 500 years ago christians were as bad or worse. And I don't think the US has solved the problems of racism-sexism-homophobia (or heterosexism) - far from it. which is why I think we need to keep talking about it, even if you seem to think it's tired.

When I say goals I mean more than just career. If someone doesn't have huge career goals, that's fine. I do think people should have SOMETHING larger in mind than their own marriage and children. This could be a variety of things, including volunteerism, which you point out many married people do.

I'm not saying you need to "soothe young people's feelings." But only offering visions of a happy life that includes marriage, and blaming-without-blaming those who haven't managed to work that out yet doesn't allow them to imagine alternatives and think about their identity, in and out of a couple. I'm not even saying that's neccesary, that's fuzzy, but I am saying it's BETTER. Especially given long life expectency, which means children grow up and stay-at-home moms need to find something to do after.

You keep repeating that you don't begrudge individuals time or careers. Good. But I think the discourse you're defending does implicitly, or at least makes those people feel marginalized. And, my experience suggests, so does the church.

gortexgrrl said...

"It's unfair to suggest that more muslims in the world would lead to more ultra-conservative muslim hegemony" If Muslims outnumbered Christians and everyone else (as they will inevitably in Europe, unless they increase immigration from other cultures that have large families as the norm- but who???) then you would indeed have a Muslim hegemony, conservative or not. To think otherwise is to underrate them, which would be patronizing (ie. just another kind of racism).

"...only offering visions of a happy life that includes marriage, and blaming-without-blaming those who haven't managed to work that out yet doesn't allow them to imagine alternatives and think about their identity, in and out of a couple. I'm not even saying that's neccesary, that's fuzzy, but I am saying it's BETTER"

Well, ultimately yeah, I would agree with you, it's preferable-- I'd be a hypocrite to say otherwise. Although as far as "blaming-without-blaming", do you realize that more feminism (and less "gender essentialism") doesn't mean less marginalization for singles? Even hard-core radical feminists want an attractive, intelligent partner that reflects well on them, and the absence of one suggests a lack of success in some life area, even in their supposedly egalitarian peer culture, communicated via pity, less interest, etc. It's those irksome darwinian realities, isn't it? More so than the busybodies in the church. And you can hardly blame "the discourse" for that.

Kathryn said...

Over time we've learned that NATURE was the missing piece that revealed so many of those lofty goals about "re-contructing gender" on a mass scale to be flimsy fantasy. These activists either learned from their failures, wised up and incorporated science into their perspective (ie. Greer and Paglia) or they became irrelevant (like Dworkin and McKinnon).

Wow, I must have missed that memo. If you can point out good (replicable, measurable, controlled-variable) science in the work of Greer and Paglia, then you win; unfortunatly, you won't be able to, because they didn't use any. And if you can point out the point at which this elusive 'we' discovered NATURE was THE MISSING PIECE, then you win again. Being part of the scientific community, I'd be really surprised if I missed this one, but if you can cite it and no solid counter-study exists, I'll believe you.

Check out the Boundless article on the subject of 'surplus women' and you'll find that Christian women do not outnumber Christian men by a significant amount, which makes my conclusion a reasonable one to come to, assuming you'd done your research (although maybe this is too much of an assumption).

You said: "perhaps THEY [Muslim immigrant women who have lots of babies] are the meek who will inherit the earth, rendering irrelevant a culture comprised of those (me included) who had the luxury of pursuing individual goals indefinitely". This is where I got the idea that you think childbearing is subjugation-- 'Meek' is defined as: "1. humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.
2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame." Childbearing=meek=docile&submissive. Not really that hard of a conclusion to come to, from what you said.

Perhaps you may want to have a conversation with George Allen (ex-senator from Virginia) about use of words such as "aping" when speaking to a person of unknown race. Once again, let's chalk it up to ignorance and in light of that, I think I'll ignore your opening comments as well.

gortexgrrl said...
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gortexgrrl said...

Kathryn,

As far as the nature piece is concerned, Paglia and Greer are not scientists but they have respect for them and don't go beyond their level of understanding, which you certainly do when you declare that gender is oh-so different from sex, and make ridiculously black and white statements like, "Gender is what you learn...sex is chromosomes". If anyone should be demanded to pony up the "replicable, measurable, controlled-variable" science here, it should be you.

I mean, I don't know what scientific community you are part of, but it can't be much of one if you were impressed by that Boundless article, which by the way, wasn't taken seriously anywhere within the Christian media, which now accepts that there is indeed a shortage of Christian men at all age levels. And of course, after crunching and spinning, Candice Watters did have to admit that there is a shortage of young single Christian men IN OUR CHURCHES, which is after all, the most relevant measure, since young Christian women are still given that as a strong chriterion for being "equally yoked".

As as for "the meek shall inherit the earth", I was referring to meekness in the context of world politics and POVERTY--the kind at least partially caused by western imperialism and decadence, lower birthrates characteristically co-occurring with the latter, eventually conceding to the no-longer "meek" masses (fair enough), which then become the new dominant force, for better or for worse, like it or not. As for your explanation of how you made the Childbearing=meek=docile&submissiveassumption, well whatever...thanks to your bias and the blinders that come with it-- you didn't get it.

And as for the George Allen reference, you might want to consider the nationality of who you're speaking to, before delving into the melodrama that characterizes American domestic politics. Are you ignorant to the fact that some of your neighbours, having moved far beyond such nonsense, really don't care?