May 22, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I like Brad Wilcox, who’s now a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. I liked the video he put up recently and did a piece on it here. So his article here in The Federalist comes as a disappointment (The Federalist, 5/19/16).
His video was a brief exercise in explaining how marriage is good for men and society. Data support the conclusions that married men work harder, longer and smarter than their unmarried peers. They’re less likely to engage in crime, drug or alcohol abuse and other anti-social activities. The list of benefits goes on and Wilcox did a good, succinct job of demonstrating how marriage tends to transform men into the responsible adults every society wants them to be.
But, as I said in my piece on that video, divorce too can transform men. Overnight, the hard-working, line-toeing, child-loving, child-guiding, church-going, responsible, monogamous married man can be transformed into persona non grata. He can become a visitor in the life of the child who depends on him, loves him and whom he loves. That house and all those assets he earned the lion’s share of the income to buy all of a sudden aren’t his anymore and in fact they’re off limits to him. Having lost the majority of those assets, he’s still not through paying the woman who loathes the sight of him and will do anything in her power to continue hurting him. Alimony and child support may well take most of what he earns, shoving him into a small, poorly-furnished apartment.
And that’s the good news. If he loses his job, he may find himself in jail, only to get out further behind on his child support and alimony payments than ever. With interest tacked on he may be looking at a lifetime of paying a woman he wants no part of. But worst of all is the loss of his child. Mom can easily marginalize him even further than the court did simply by making his meager visitation time as difficult as possible.
Men change dramatically when they become fathers and form attachments with their kids. Above all, they come to see fatherhood as the most important role of their lives. Their self-image and sense of self-worth become bound up in their paternal role. That’s why the suicide rate for divorced fathers is so high. They’ve put all their emotional/psychological eggs in that basket only to see it stolen by their ex with the enthusiastic support of the family court. It’s not just the loss of their children, but the unjust loss of them that’s so devastating.
The very transformation that Wilcox rightly lauds ends up destroying men when they find themselves divorced for any reason or no reason.
What Wilcox fails to understand is that the data on men about which he’s so enthusiastic is, as he says, on married men. Divorced men? They don’t fare so well.
The main point in my earlier piece was that a public policy that makes marriage a bad bet for men is insane. Society wants and needs men to behave in the very way married men tend to. So it makes no sense to encourage women to divorce. Sensible public policy would encourage marriage and discourage divorce in every way it can. Ours does the opposite and we’ve inherited the wind.
Unsurprisingly, as his Federalist article reveals, Wilcox got a lot of pushback on his video from various men who characterize themselves as Men Going Their Own Way. Much of what they said echoed my response to the effect that, however right Wilcox is, he’s missing the fact that declining marriage rates may simply be a rational response to an irrational policy.
Sadly, he’s still missing it. Here’s what one man wrote to Wilcox:
“[T]alk to the men in MGTOW who have had their wallets ripped out their a** in family court. Go to the graves of men who killed themselves after they were unemployed and couldn’t afford child support and faced jail. Talk to those men about how wonderful marriage was… Ask them about the hundreds of hours they work extra each year to avoid going to prison because they owe so much child support or alimony that they gotta move in with their parents.”
That’s about as passionate and telling an indictment of contemporary marriage as you’re likely to see in a few words, but somehow Wilcox still didn’t get the point which is why take the risk? Almost half of first marriages end in divorce and second marriages fare even worse. Yes, a long-term, stable marriage may work wonders for a man involved in it, but which man can be sure his marriage will be one of those? And whether it is or isn’t, isn’t up to him. He can be the best provider, the most loving husband and father, and lose it all anyway.
What’s Wilcox’s response?
Lots of men out there harbor a deeply misogynistic view of the opposite sex, an unremittingly negative view of love and commitment, and a complete lack of faith in marriage to deliver on their deepest dreams and desires.
Marriage often ends with the man losing primary custody of his kids, a substantial share of his assets, and control of a large fraction of his income.
Some of this, it seems, is about a kind of Peter Pan syndrome, where guys don’t want to grow up and settle down. Some of it is about a kind of individualistic hedonism, where guys don’t want to forego the opportunity to set their own work hours, hang out with their friends on their own terms, and score as much with the ladies as they can.
We’ve heard that all before and know it’s nothing but a dodge. According to Wilcox, if you’re wary of marriage, you either hate women or you’re a perpetual child who just can’t handle manly duties.
Bunk. Look objectively and rationally at the risk marriage poses for men. Again, the decision to forego all that is a rational response to an obviously dangerous situation. Sure, a lot of men take the plunge anyway and plenty of them don’t suffer the slings and arrows of divorce and the loss of beloved children. I happen to be one of those. But I’ll never call a man who takes a different route a woman-hater or a child. Wilcox shouldn’t either. He should listen to what these men are saying and respect it.
Finally though, he does notice a bit of what his respondents are getting at.
But a lot of this negativity toward marriage is about divorce. The stories and the invective I’ve heard in response to my video make clear that a lot of the MGTOWers think marriage is a bad bet for men. It often ends with the man losing primary custody of his kids, a substantial share of his assets, and control of a large fraction of his income…
It’s this experience of divorce, or the expectation of divorce, that leaves many men reluctant to tie the knot.
But having written the words, Wilcox remains in the dark. Quickly enough, he’s back calling these men’s viewpoints the “Maxim Masculinity view of love.” Wrong. Again, it’s a rational response to an irrational situation. Until Wilcox grasps that fundamental point, his response to the sensible arguments these men make will always boil down to insults like “misogynist,” “Peter Pan,” “Maxim Masculinity.” Until he sees that the villain of the play isn’t men who avoid marriage but a public policy that makes the prospect of marriage so uninviting, he’ll always be throwing his rotten fruit at the wrong player.
The biggest tragedy of all is that many of these men will end up having sons who end up just as disconnected from women, marriage, and family life as their MGTOW fathers.
No. The biggest tragedy is that we have lawmakers and judges who believe that we can go merrily on our way making men pay in their blood, sweat and tears for doing exactly what Wilcox wants them to do and then ridicule the others who refuse to pay the price. We’ll never change that most destructive of all public policies until people like Wilcox, who see where we need to go, admit that it’s not hateful or childish men who put us where we are, but policy makers and intellectual elites like him.
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