It tells you a lot about an article on divorce in the U.S. that it starts with a study about marriage and divorce in the United Arab Emirates. That was in the first sentence, but you didn’t need to read that far to know the article was off the rails; its headline reads “America Must Stop Blaming Divorce on Women.” Here it is reprinted from Alternet (Salon.com, 1/8/13).
The piece is so wrong-headed, I fear I can’t truly do it justice. For starters it makes no effort to (a) support the claim that “America” blames women for divorce or (b) if it does, why it “must stop.” So it starts with the U.A.E., but immediately veers off into a Huffington Post article here (Huffington Post, 1/2/13). Needless to say, the Alternet writer, Lynne Parramore (interesting name) utterly misrepresents the Huffington Post piece by Laura Doyle.
The Doyle article is simple and inoffensive, but never underestimate the ability of the anti-father, anti-child, pro-divorce crowd to be offended, and so Parramore is. High dudgeon has led many a person to get things wrong, miss obvious points, etc., and Parramore is no exception.
Doyle styles herself as an intimacy expert specializing in women. Briefly stated, her article says that women in relationships with men may not realize how their own behavior contributes to a lack of intimacy, communication or understanding. So she gives them five handy tips for making things better.
She does this after carefully stating that some men, due to various personality problems may not be worth the effort or amenable to change. About those, Doyle says “If your husband is actively addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling, or is physically abusive, or not capable of being faithful, yours is a divorce I endorse. Safety comes first and you’re not safe in those situations because his compulsion will always come before you.” That was supposed to ward off silliness like Parramore’s, but I could have told her it wouldn’t work.
To Parramore, Doyle is showing “a clear tendency to blame women for not keeping their husbands happy.” Doyle’s message would “make an old-school patriarch proud.” She’s “hectoring women for sins.”
In Doyle’s binary universe, wives are tasked with creating intimacy in the home and men are emotionally deficient beings who require their guidance.Nope. Not even close. In fact, all Doyle is trying to do is to acquaint women with the notion that they don’t always know how their behavior affects their husbands/partners and to try some very simple things to improve intimacy. She makes it clear she isn’t blaming women or placing the whole burden of marital felicity on them. She’s just suggesting they do what they can and see if it works.
You might wonder why there’s no article for men explaining what they can do to improve their marriages. Even if there was, you couldn’t make your husband read it or do what it says. You can change yourself, and he will respond to you differently.The onus isn’t on women alone and men aren’t depicted as “emotionally deficient.” Far from it. But Doyle’s modest suggestions, aimed as they are at improving male-female love relationships, threaten Parramore’s worldview in which divorce is a good thing and the more of it the better. So she moves on to the main point of her article.
Parramore is all in favor of divorce herself. For her, the greater the distance between men and women, the better. But she has the uneasy feeling that others may not be so enthusiastic about men’s and women’s estrangement, so she tries her best to explain why we should all laud divorce and why those who criticize women for initiating it, well, they just don’t understand.
Finger-wagging at women usually comes along with the oft-cited statistic that women file for divorce twice as often as men. What we hear less often is straight talk about the social and economic factors that drive the engine of divorce.That may or may not be true, but you won’t get any “straight talk” from Parramore. Most obviously, you can read her whole piece and never get the hint that we really know why women are the ones to seek dissolution of marriage, and it’s got nothing to do with anything Parramore mentions. No, she claims that it’s all about economic factors.
Now, it’s true that the poor tend to divorce more than do the better-to-do, but that clearly explains nothing about why women do the filing. Memo to Parramore: women and men in poor families are about equally poor; women in men in wealthy families are about equally wealthy. And, since single women with kids are much more likely to live in poverty than are single men with kids, it becomes obvious that the economic argument explains nothing about why it’s women who are the ones leaving.
Research Shows Women Seek Divorce Because They Know They’ll Keep the KidsBut researchers Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen long ago explained why women file for 70% of divorces – they know they’ll get the kids. The pair studied every divorce case that occurred in four states in the year 1995. The variable that “swamped all the others” in explaining why it’s women who split is that they know they won’t lose their children when they do. Men, by contrast know they will lose their kids, so they don’t seek a way out of the marriage. Do I have to say that the Brinig/Allen study goes completely unmentioned by Parramore?
By the way, the one study Parramore does cite concludes that it’s external factors like the threat to leave that can ameliorate certain behavior that otherwise might doom a marriage. So, according to the Stevenson/Wolfers study cited by Parramore, the easy availability of divorce tends to reduce the level of suicide in women (by 20%) and domestic violence in marriages generally (by 33%). Those are good things, of course, but what neither Parramore nor Stevenson and Wolfers mention is that divorce has its negative effects as well. Interestingly, those negative effects are on men.
For example, sociologist Augustine Kposowa found in 2003 that divorced men’s rate of suicide is nine times that of divorced women. In the population at large, men’s suicide rate is 3-4 times that of women. So the easy availability of divorce, so lauded by Parramore turns out to not be so great for men. But Parrmore doesn’t mention that inconvenient truth either because it interferes with her happy talk about divorce or because she truly doesn’t care about its deleterious effects on men. In either case, her failure diminishes the force or her argument and our respect for her.
But of course all of this is as nothing compared to divorce’s impact on children and sure enough, the little tykes make no appearance in Parramore’s article. As in every article I’ve ever read extolling the wonders of divorce, single motherhood, etc., in Parramore’s, the subject of child welfare is scrupulously avoided. It’s no mystery as to why. We’ve long known that divorce harms children, sometimes, depending on the age of the child when it happens, for life. Divorce harms children’s ability to form relationships, it increases anti-social and self-destructive behaviors, it impairs academic performance and increases the likelihood of illness, just to name a few.
Now, many of the harms associated with divorce are more accurately understood as stemming from the loss of the father. After all, that’s basically what divorce is for children. One day they’ve got a dad who helps support the family, reads to them, plays with them, teaches them, protects them, advises them, guides them, and the next day they don’t. If they’re lucky, they see him a four days out of a month, but when they do, he’s not the same guy they used to know. Divorce has damaged him, his self-esteem, his identity as a father; he’s had his moral authority taken from him. He’s what sociologist Susan Stewart calls a “Disneyland Dad,” an entertainer, a glorified babysitter.
And that’s if they’re lucky. If they’re not, Mom is busily alienating them from Dad, a process that at least includes denying him his already meager visitation with them. What Parramore never mentions is that divorce, as it’s practiced in all parts of the English-speaking world, results in the loss by children of their fathers. That’s why, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 35% of children have no relationship with their father.
It’s the loss of their father that so damages the children of divorce, and so Parramore can’t mention the realities of the matter. The shocking suicide rates for divorced fathers, the horrible impact on children and the decline in the standard of living for everyone aren’t pretty pictures, so Parramore just leaves them out.
For some reason, we’re still fighting this fight. There are those among us who will stop at nothing to promote the separation of men and women, and children from their fathers. Lynn Parramore is one of them, and their words would disgrace a person of the slightest integrity. But Alternet and Salon.com seem always willing to propagandize for what is surely the worst social trend of modern times – the destruction of the family. For shame.