bondage

by rantywoman

On one hand I have had my frustrations with men who won’t commit, on the other hand, as a single person, I’ve been able to live in different locales, take up numerous hobbies, and follow my whims in ways that have been quite self-enhancing, and I’ve been scared to commit to children myself due to the unstable job market.

From Bella DePaulo’s blog post on an article by David Brooks:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201211/david-brooks-nuclear-family-scold-cries-uncle

Now here comes the rationale for writing discrimination against singles and adults with no children into our laws:

“The surest way to people bind themselves is through family. As a practical matter, the traditional family is an effective way to induce people to care about others, become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind. Therefore, our laws and attitudes should be biased toward family formation and fertility, including child tax credits, generous family leave policies and the like.”

It is interesting that Brooks uses the language of bondage in describing links to marriage and family, but I won’t linger on that one. The “induce” word is eyebrow-raising, too: In Brooks’ view, people need to be arm-twisted into caring about others or their communities or their nation or “their kind” (another somewhat disturbing phrase), and families, to him, are the best arm-twisters of them all. Not any kind of family, of course – just the two-parent version…

I promised in the title of this piece that David Brooks would cry uncle. Here’s what that sounds like:

“But the two-parent family is obviously not the only way people bind themselves. We are inevitably entering a world in which more people search for different ways to attach. Before jumping to the conclusion that the world is going to hell, it’s probably a good idea to investigate these emerging commitment devices.”

So maybe we have David Brooks’ blessing to be committed to our close friends and other important people in our lives who are not our children or legal sex partners. Maybe we also get to be committed to passions such as the pursuit of social justice. (Not that I think we need his nod.)

You didn’t think Brooks was going to end there, did you, with that wisp of open-mindedness? Here’s his actual parting paragraph:

“The problem is not necessarily a changing family structure. It’s people who go through adulthood perpetually trying to keep their options open.”

At a time when few jobs are totally secure, and when even the secure jobs sometimes require retraining, it seems odd to cast attempts to keep your options open as a bad thing. At a time of unprecedented choices (Brooks’s “age of possibility”), when we can try new things and follow fresh interests instead of remaining the same stagnant person for our entire adult lives, it seems misguided to decry those who avail themselves of opportunities to learn and grow.

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