February 13, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Apart from the many important realities Brad Wilcox’s numbers conceal about men, marriage and why many don’t want to tie the knot, it is his misandry that screams out loudest from his first words through his last. More subtly, it’s misogynistic as well. Wilcox’s National Review piece is entitled “Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It,” and proceeds to extol the many benefits of marriage to men (National Review, 2/6/17).
Meanwhile, where are the women in all this? Nowhere to be found. Now, as a writer, I fully understand that he’s writing about men and to men, not women; his chosen topic intentionally omits them. I have no quibble with that. After all, every article is about what it’s about and not something else.
At the same time though, when something’s relevant to one’s topic, omitting it invites criticism, as it should. So when Wilcox tells men to “put a ring on it,” he’s assuming a lot, not only about men, but about women as well. Nowhere in his article does Wilcox mention the glaringly obvious fact that it takes two to make a marriage. For wedding bells to chime, there must be an affirmative answer to “Will you marry me?”
The point being that men aren’t solely responsible for our declining marriage rates. Women have an equal say in whether men and women marry, so if rates are going down, it’s likely that women bear at least as much of the blame as do men. But to my knowledge, Wilcox has never addressed such a screed to women, while he’s addressed several to men and men alone. Why not a piece headlined “Ladies and Gents, Walk Down That Aisle!” or some other such schlock?
In passing, Wilcox mentions that “Most divorces are initiated by women,” by which he must mean 70% of divorce cases are filed by women according to Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen. But it never sinks in on him what that means. What it means is that a boatload of single men aren’t single by choice. They did “put a ring on it” and their one and only kept the ring and walked out. Wilcox quotes “Six Pack Craig,” but none of the countless men whose lives have been ruined not by them, but by the woman they married and the system of family courts and laws that routinely bankrupts dads while shoving them out of their children’s lives.
Is it just possible that single men aren’t all like Six Pack Craig, that there are plenty of responsible, hard-working adult males who’ve found out the hard way what putting a ring on it means? There are, as readers of this website know all too well. Wilcox? He’s never heard of them. They appear nowhere in either his NR article or his Prager U. video.
So what about those women? They’re absent too. And yet there are plenty of single women who could benefit from Wilcox’s wisdom on marriage and its many positive aspects. Recall that the three major benefits he cited were money, sex and health, both physical and mental. Do only men reap those benefits from marriage? Of course not. Married women, like married men, are, on average, better to do financially, have more and better sex and are healthier and happier than their single peers. So where’s the message to them? Don’t they deserve one?
After all, if single men don’t have the money married men do, the same is true in spades for single women, particularly those with children. There are about 12 million single mothers in the U.S., and over 40% of them live in poverty according to the Census Bureau. That’s double the rate for single dads. And, since women generally earn less than do men, it’s reasonable to conclude that something similar holds true for childless single adults. So clearly, whatever the financial facts are for single men, they’re worse for single women whether mothers or not.
But somehow, those obvious realities escape Wilcox’s notice. I suspect I know why.
We live at a time in which criticizing women is dangerous to one’s reputation. By contrast, criticizing men is all the rage. It was only a few months ago that the First Lady of the United States took to social media to explain to men that we simply need to “be better.” Naturally, we were all greatly edified to learn how deficient we are. But the fact is that, wherever men and women fall on the spectrum of goodness and evil, particularly when it comes to families and children, this culture permits precious little criticism of the distaff half of the population.
By contrast, much as family courts demonstrate daily, denigrating men is both acceptable and accepted. So, if there’s been a decline in marriage rates, the cultural narrative demands that it be the fault of men that can be solved simply by them putting a ring on it. Again, the notion that women might have a say in whether they get married or not finds no place in Wilcox’s many statements on the issue.
So we come to one of the most standard of all sexist tropes – men are active and women are passive. The finger on which men are supposed to put the ring dangles there passively, waiting for a man to give it purpose. The man and only the man can do such a thing. The woman can only wait and hope. And, needless to say, that finger is attached to a woman who, when asked the all-important question, has but one answer, a gleeful and tearful “Yes!” That of course is because all women want nothing more than to be married, but at the same time, wouldn’t dream of popping the question themselves, because men have agency and women have none.
All of that is the most complete nonsense of course, but it is the underlying assumption of Wilcox’s article. Why else would he confine his message to men, when the benefits of marriage accrue to women at least as much as to men and probably more? How hard would it have been for Wilcox to have simply addressed both sexes? His piece is both misandric and misogynistic.
Brad Wilcox probably means well. He sees the decline in marriage rates, knows that married couples are far more beneficial to children, themselves and society generally than any other family arrangement and wants to do his bit to stem the tide of non-marriage. Fine. But his isn’t the way to do that. Denigrating half the population isn’t a good bet to convince them to heed the important message you send. Denigrating both halves stands even less of a chance.
Next time, Brad, let’s hear you take on perhaps the worst aspect of our culture that keeps men from marrying and that tears them from their families and children, i.e. family courts. Let’s see you quote some of those men with the empathy they so richly deserve. Let’s see your jeremiad against the laws and courts that incentivize men to stay single and women to divorce. Until you do that and a lot more, not many people will take what you say seriously. And for good reason.
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