Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Et tu, Broadsheet?

Now I know headlines and sub-headlines are written by editors, not the original authors. But when I read Mary Elizabeth Williams’s post, I found that they were pretty close to her original point. From her actual post:

Lindsay Lohan's slow meltdown: It's all about Dad
The actress's painful public drama is a lesson in how hard it can be to grow up without a good man in your life


That's why, awful as the whole shabby spectacle is, we keep watching. We know that girl. We've been that girl. I think of my own daughters, how lucky they are to have a devoted dad who adores them, and how much harder the road was for me because I didn't.


So if you ever need a reminder of the power of a man in a girl's life, if you question whether or not fathers matter, take a good look at the girl with the gun to her head. Because she's everywhere.

Okay, so, you’ll get no argument from me that good parents are a good thing, and bad parents are a bad thing. Tautology: it’s tautological! Williams also argues that, while mothers are often blamed for their children’s screwed-up-ness, bad fathers can also do damage. Again, I’m not exactly arguing for abusive, absent, or otherwise difficult dads here.

But: “The power of a man in a girl’s life”? Seriously?

Newsflash to Mary Elizabeth Williams: there are a lot of un-screwed-up kids out there who grew up without fathers and are doing absolutely fine. Not that she discounts this possibility; she comes up with Barack Obama and Charlize Theron as examples (my two role models?). But note the shift in this typical excerpt:

But the Lohan family drama is, more than anything, a potent and painful example of what can happen to girls without good men in their lives. Michael Lohan, whose most recent stunt was to call police to Lindsay's home for a "welfare check" on her sister Ali, seems to take crappy parenting to a level others can only aspire to.

Again, the latter sentence blames “crappy parenting”—which we can surely all condemn—but the former refers only to, again, “girls without good men in their lives.”

So girls need both a mother and a father, is that right? Hmm... where have I heard this rhetoric before?

Of course, being a single parent is challenging, and children of single, divorced, separated, or otherwise non-normative families may not have perfect childhoods, just like children of heterosexual legally-married couples. But Williams seems to forget a growing group of kids who grow up without a father in the home (or without a mother) and do just fine.

The limited but consistent evidence suggests that children of same-sex parents turn out just as well as children of heterosexual parents, except a little more tolerant. From my personal experience, I feel fortunate that I had a model for a healthy, egalitarian relationship, among the other benefits of having two moms. Every single one of the disadvantages (awkward conversations and legal inconveniences, mostly) can be traced back not to my parents or their parenting, but to a homophobic culture and heterosexist society. I grew up in a state with almost zero protections for same-sex couples, nothing remotely resembling marriage equality, and some very conservative neighbors. And, since Williams is putting forth her fatherless childhood as a relevant example, I’ll do the same: I’m doing great, thanks.

I am so, so tired of this bullshit argument: that the lack of a good man, rather than the lack of good parenting (or the presence of abuse), produces hopelessly dysfunctional kids. This may just be one little post that happened to annoy me, but this very same logic is used again and again to prevent gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents or adopting children—and to deny same-sex couples marriage equality.

I get enough of this nonsense from Focus on the Family, Broadsheet. I expect better from the feminist blogosphere.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way, too. It's like that with boys and girls--"Oh, he didn't have a good male role model, that's why he treats women badly" or "She didn't have a good father and that's why she has daddy issues." What about mom? She has no role? Though I feel like moms get overlooked until they screw up--and then it's all blame for her and no praise.

    There are a lot of issues that I have with Broadsheet, though--I feel like they really like to capture the audience with "fun" stuff about celebrities which I mentioned in a blog post last week.

    Anyway, you're right about how this is annoying enough on Focus on the Family. Shouldn't a feminist site be promoting the influence and responsibility that ANY parent regardless of gender has?