I read with great interest two columns in the Wall Street Journal, each answering the question: Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women?
, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a consulting editor to Policy Review says no. Ann Patchett
is the author of six novels, including the best-selling "State of Wonder" and "Bel Canto" says yes. So who is right?
Both women are well educated, both are successful and both have benefitted from living in America, a nation that respects women’s rights and provides women with equal justice under the law.
May I suggest that both are right and both are wrong?
Mary approaches the question from an analysis of the politics (the war on women) and outcomes; Ann approaches it emotionally and as an ongoing utopian opportunity with serious wrinkles.
Mary states, “The sexual revolution has transformed economics, culture and law...What we know as the "social issues"—abortion, gay marriage and the rest—are here to stay, and we'll be dealing with them for generations to come. In fact, one might even predict that these vexing issues will outlast almost every other controversy burning today."
Mary points out, “Families are smaller, birthrates have dropped, divorce and out-of-wedlock births have soared. Demography has now even started to work against the modern welfare state, which has become harder to sustain as fewer children have been produced to replace aging parents.”
Ann writes, “Here's the thing about revolutions—there is no taking them back...If you feel that the sexual revolution destroyed the American family by giving women power over their reproductive choices, and that power turned daughters and wives, by and large, into a bunch of wanton hussies, well, stew over your feelings all you want, but you might as well give up thinking that it is possible to herd us up and drive us back into the kitchen—which, depending on how many revolutions have offended you, might be a kitchen with a washboard and cake of soap or a smoke house featuring a picture of King George."
Mary suggests that this discussion will not go away, whereas Ann wants it to go away. Ann wants us all move on to the more important issue of creating a greater utopian society.
Ann writes, “When everyone is good and ready, let's supply them [women] with birth control that allows them to decide when and if they want to have children together and, as an extra bonus, protects them from sexually transmitted diseases. We all have our utopian ideals and that's mine."
But who is we and who is responsible to supply “them” with birth control? That is the fundamental question. Is birth control good or bad for society?
Who is responsible for having a baby, the man, the woman, both together as a family or someone else? I raise this question because not having a baby brings with it no emotional, social or financial burden. This is not to say that aborting a baby does not have serious negative demographic consequences for society as Ann points out.
The family has evolved over the centuries as the best structure for the protection of its members. The family is the most effective way of protecting cultures from extinction. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Great Britain, expressed it best by writing, “The family is the building block of society. It is a nursery, a school, a hospital, a leisure center, a place of refuge and a place of rest. It encompasses the whole of the society. It fashions our beliefs; it is the preparation for the rest of our life.”
Both Mary and Ann recognize this. Ann states, “There are plenty of things that people call progress which I believe are destroying the fabric of the American family: social networking, for example." So what is Ann’s solution to this problem? “Let me tell you how I deal with aspects of progress that are personally distasteful to me: I do not participate in them," writes Ann.
One of the other things that Ann does not participate in is having a family.
Mary writes, “Why do so many accomplished women simply give up these days and decide to have children on their own, sometimes using anonymous sperm donors, thus creating the world's first purposely fatherless children? What of the fact, widely reported earlier this week, that 26% of American women are on some kind of mental-health medication for anxiety and depression and related problems?" [My emphasis]
Can our uniquely American society and culture survive without the family? I believe that is the proper question to ask ourselves. I believe the answer to that question, from a male perspective, is a resounding NO!