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Jewish World Review April 6, 2000/1 Nissan, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates --
SOMETIMES you don't have to work very hard to come up with a clutch-your-throat, spit-out-your-coffee subject for a column. Sometimes just the facts will do.

Did you know that half of all babies born in the United States in 1998 were born to unwed mothers?

Choking yet?

What was once a rarity -- a mistake made by the ignorant or the immoral -- has become a cultural trend. These days we even celebrate unwed motherhood as though we've managed to do something remarkable rather than something unforgivably selfish.

We're especially rewarded when a famous person behaves infamously. Madonna and Jodie Foster come to mind. Who can forget the People magazine cover a few years ago that featured a pregnant Foster and the breathless headline: "And Baby Makes Two!"

Now nearly half the women in U.S. maternity wards are following the stars. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 1.29 million babies were born to single women in 1998. Donna Shalala, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, called the trend "troubling."

In my tribe, "troubling" is what we say when the crab grass is taking over the yard. When half the babies in America are being born outside of wedlock, we use words like "outrageous" and "tragic."

These aren't teen moms. In fact, teens are behaving better than grown-ups these days. The teen birth rate is down. It's twenty- and thirtysome- things who are making stray dogs blush.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a private research group, reminds us that unwed motherhood doesn't necessarily mean "no dad." Many women are living with a "partner," according to a spokesperson for the institute.

Ah, "Mommy and Partner." So generic. So open-ended. So millennium.

The growth of mommies 'n partners as a family substitute is being attributed to two cultural trends: Women in their child-bearing years aren't willing to rewind their bio-clocks while waiting for the right dude to darken their door, and the more relaxed attitudes toward unwed mothers.

Who's relaxed? I'm almost hysterical. As a mother of sons, I wonder whether my boys will find a woman willing to marry and raise a family.

Remember when guys suffered Fear of Commitment? Today, young women suffer Contempt for Commitment. Gloria Steinem's maxim springs to mind: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."

It is almost axiomatic in such a culture that if a woman doesn't need a man, her children don't need a dad. Oh, the occasional superfeminist might concede that children need a "father figure," but few see the superior value of a wedded family over a partnering arrangement. Divorce, after all, is almost inevitable. And then what?

Maybe this: male abstinence. Don't laugh. Dr. Gerald Rowles, a family consultant and psychologist, is suggesting that on his pro-family Web site ( In a spinoff of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If," Rowles has created a new male credo: If you aspire to be a man, father, husband, he writes, then you must exercise a man's freedom of choice -- abstinence.

Rowles calls abstinence a man's "most powerful victory in the 'gender wars' -- the conquest of his own body." In a world in which women devalue men and fathers, where women hold the high cards in divorce and family-making decisions, it may have been inevitable that men would begin guarding their bodies and that which is uniquely their own.

Just like women once did.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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