05 Jun Who Killed The American Family?
If you could put your finger on the leading cause of the deterioration of the American family what would that cause be?
There are many things that go into the breakdown of traditional nuclear families here in America. Feminists, judges, political leaders, college professors, courses, etc. All of these things may seem minor in its own sense but throughout the years it has added up and has created an equation of destruction for the traditional family as we know it. Let us dive into just one of these factors: Feminism.
1920 proved to be a major win for women all around the US, but was it enough? For the feminists it wasn’t. Shortly after the 19th amendment was ratified to include the right of women to be able to vote, Alice Paul, a suffragist leader, drafted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Many arguments of pro-ERA advocates revolved around women having equal rights in a manner that demands equal outcomes – not equal opportunity. The ERA only increased the tension of the already growing feminist movement at that time.
Many advocates against the ERA focused on traditional roles of women and that being able to be on equal terms with all men would mean sacrificing certain benefits. It would have dictated, not complementarity, but “sameness” of men and women. The ERA would have eliminated the men-only draft requirement; it would have decreased the tendency of mothers to gain custody of their children, and would repeal protective laws such as alimony.
During the 1970s, one of the most influential opponents to the ERA and feminism in general, was Phyllis Schlafly who was a traditional Republican activist from Illinois who persistently stood for traditional gender roles. She started what has been known as the “The 10 Year War” (1972-1982)—during this time Phyllis Schlafly led the pro-family movement to victory over the principal legislative goal of the radical feminists.
By 1973, 30 states had ratified the ERA. However, once the campaign of Schlafly started, the number of states ratifying began to slow. Support for the ERA in the states that had not yet ratified dropped down below 50%. Critchlow and Stachecki argue that public opinion in key states shifted against the ERA as opponents—operating on the local and state levels—won over the public. Legislators in battleground states followed public opinion in rejecting the ERA.
What does this have to do with the deterioration of the traditional family?
In the 1970’s Phyllis Schlafly said, “If the Equal Rights Amendment were ratified, we’d have homosexual marriages, women in combat, and unisex bathrooms.” Although the ERA was never ratified (by the way, the ERA continues to be reintroduced in congress to this day), we have seen America adopt many of these ideas and that is what we are seeing today.
When Schlafly had made the predictions above she was scorned and ridiculed by feminists all over and some even wanted to ‘burn her at the stake.’ The most prevalent of her predictions turned fact being gay marriage and the redefining marriage storm that is racing all over the country. The Feminists, whether they wanted to or not, planted this seed and now it is growing out of control.
Today we are seeing parallels to Schlafly’s time. The redefining of marriage to include gay couples may be the most controversial issue in America today. I believe that even if the redefinition of marriage does not happen America WILL adopt these ideas and the country will drastically change. It already has begun. Ryan Anderson wrote an article that you can find here that explains the consequences of marriage redefinition. Some of these consequences include distancing marriage from the needs of children, diminishing social pressure for husbands to stay with their wives and kids, marginalizing those with traditional views and the erosion of religious liberty. He also mentions that:
If marriage were just intense emotional regard, marital norms would make no sense as a principled matter. There is no reason of principle that requires an emotional union to be permanent. Or limited to two persons. Or sexual, much less sexually exclusive (as opposed to “open”). Or inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands.
In other words, if sexual complementarity is optional for marriage, then almost every other norm that sets marriage apart is optional.
Now, I am all for women having equal rights. I believe that feminism brought forth a lot of good things for women – like the right to vote and enabling them to enter the workforce. I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with a woman choosing to go to work outside the home in order to help her husband support their family. Feminists are responsible for resisting and opposing movements made by equitable parenting groups attempting to restrict biased law courts which further separate family members, particularly children and their fathers. Feminism has turned men and women against each other rather than helping them turn towards each other for support.
What can we do about it?
This is my favorite section to write! Going back to what was written earlier ‘Critchlow and Stachecki argue that public opinion in key states shifted against the ERA as opponents, operating on the local and state levels, won over the public.’ Schlafly was able to stop the pro-ERA feminists in their tracks by working hard and appealing to the local and state levels. This is also where we should start. Advocating on the local and state levels will help us make our efforts more personable and we will have a greater desire to do it. Starting on these levels enable us to create roots that can grow into the branches of the government where permanent change can be made.
We will never be able to defeat the ideology of feminism but we can stand for what we know to be true and right and take it one battle at a time. I believe that men and women were created equal and have roles that are divinely appointed to complement one another. There are certain things that men and women bring to the table to further develop society, to raise children, and to have stronger marriages. Coming together with these differences is the answer.
Chris Baccile is a senior at Brigham Young University- Idaho studying Marriage and Family. He has been in the leadership of BYU-Idaho’s Child and Family Advocacy Society and has presented many research topics at professional conferences. He plans on furthering his education through Master and PhD programs.
Donald T. Critchlow, Cynthia L. Stachecki. The Equal Rights Amendment Reconsidered: Politics, Policy, and Social Mobilization in a Democracy. Journal of Policy History. Vol. 20, Num. 1, 2008, pp.157-176.
Ryan T. Anderson, “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2775, March 11, 2013.