Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Latter Day Protestors

West Los Angeles is not burning, but as of about 2pm today, the exits from Century City (where I work) slowed to a crawl as protests at the Mormon temple nearby swelled blocking the major streets. Anger, passion, and anti-Mormon feelings were flooding out. I threaded my way back to the office around the protests after lunch today.

Where were we last week? Where was all this passion last week? Why has it ground itself out in bitter anti-Mormon anger now? Somehow, it took defeat to finally energize us. And it has taken many unpleasant forms.

Goethe wrote that only they who struggle for it every day deserve their freedom. On Monday, Barack Obama recited the line that power concedes nothing without a fight. We were handed gay marriage by the courts, unexpectedly, as a gift. We did not fight for it. I did not fight for it. The anger directed at the Mormons is somewhat displaced. We should be angry at ourselves too. I didn't phonebank against prop 8. Nobody asked me too, either. My current level of passion far exceeds my pre-election level, and that is true of very many. That is backwards.

Proposition 8 was about marriage, but in the end it had nothing to do with 18,000 marriages. It was a simple question put to the people of California: are gay people members of the community or outsiders? Led by Mormon money and African-American voters - ironically driven by the Obama candidacy - our fellow Californians said "no." It was a close vote, but it happened. And those excluded are not just gay people, but all those who believed that California was a free state for all its people that would show the way for the rest of the nation.

Next time, we will win the fight, because next time we will act the way we should have. And the demonstrations near the Mormon temple will be massive, much more dignified, full of hope rather than bitterness, and above all, before the election. Next time we will take on the African-American community, and the whole of California, and demand a vote for inclusion, not exclusion. Yes, we can.

The gay marriage votes isn't about marriage, tolerance, or even respect. It is about what it means to be a Californian, what it means to be an American. That is why the hurt of rejection was so jarring, even shocking, after the election of Barack Obama. In one moment, we rejoiced that America belonged to all of us, not just a country for Republicans and right-wing white males. It really stunned much of the world too. In the next moment, the hard reality of division, privilege, and exclusivity flooded back in. Make no mistake about it: the struggle for gay rights is absolutely a civil rights struggle because it is about who "We" are. In the long run, this is a struggle that none of us -- gay, straight, male, female, black, white, Christian, Muslim, Latino, Jew, disabled, elderly, young, single, married, rich, or poor -- can afford to lose.


Spotted Handfish said...

20/20 hindsight is always an easier way of viewing things. I certainly was not concerned before the vote; I share your frustration afterward. Be thankful that at least California has considered voting on the issue: I am envy you that you have that chance.

Raised By Republicans said...

The LDS is the most nefarious force for theocracy in this country and they need to be opposed! I'm glad that they are now under siege on Pico Blvd! I too wish this had happened a month ago though.

Mormons Raus!

Raised By Republicans said...

Sorry, "under siege on Santa Monica Blvd" I got mixed up in my anti-theocratic rage. ;-)

Dr. Strangelove said...

Hear, hear, LTG! Too many people sat on the sidelines during this fight. Next time--and there will be a next time--we all have to pull together. And I think we'll have some big names too. Dianne Feinstein was the only major figure to make a strong, public push against this measure--and I'm honored she did. She will always have my vote now.

USwest said...

Mormon money changed the nature of the debate. Now, people will oppose Prop 8 just because they resent those from Utah mixing in our affairs, especially Mormons who, as RBR pointed out, hide their pedophiliac polygamists in the sands of Monument Valley.

Not a fan of Mormons. Never have been. It's the one point of discrimination I'll own up to, and I have good cause. They systematically put self-interest before the whole and I object that.

As RBR says, gay marriage isn't about me or my boyfriend. And it isn't about the Mormon Church. So ironically enough, this view of Gay marriage may prevail in the end just because the Mormons got involved.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Madonna expressed the situation very succinctly last night at a concert. She told her fans she was very sorry about Prop 8.

"But we will never give up the fight... If we can get an African-American into the White House, we can have gay marriages."

Anonymous said...

All "No" voters and believers underestimated the amount of minority groups who couldn't see beyond their own prejudices.

The No on 8 campaign should have focused more on the civil right aspect. They started to more towards the end...but they really should have hit it home right from the get go.

We should have seen commercials where a latino family is denied getting their 5 year old child enrolled into a public school, cut to the sad latino child's face with a voice over saying, "Think it won't can, just vote Yes to Prop 8, so the rights which you think are constitutionally secure can be put up to a popular vote.

How about a commercial of a woman applying for a job, with a white man across the desk just laughing at her before telling her to go home and milk a cow, cut to her confused and hurt look and the same voice-over above.

An African American tries to get on a bus and has the door closed on him....

A Jewish person is told they can't celebrate Hanukkah...

People were looking at the "Gay" issue and not the 'civil right' issue. If the Proposition said something to the effect of : Eliminate the rights of Gay marriage, therefore opening the door to have your constitutional rights eliminated by a majority vote based on your race, creed, skin color, beliefs, sex, sexual orientation....etc" , we wouldn't be in this mess because only white Christian-based males might have voted Yes.

The motto of No on 8 should have been:

Don't tolerate the ability to have your established constitutional rights be put to a popular vote.

Yes on 8 = YES I'm next!

Again, hindsight is 20/20...but now we know how to approach this issue in the future.

Anonymous said...

Is there a way we can get this message to the California Supreme Court:

Please do not tolerate the ability to have ANYONE'S established constitutional rights be put to a popular vote. Doing so not only sets California back, but America back as a whole. Tolerating prop 8 puts everyone at risk by supporting fear and discrimination....we are not that California - we are not that Country.

Yes on 8 = YES: Who's next?

Pombat said...

Well, if you feel that protesting outside the Mormon church, whilst reasonably satisfying and totally deserved, isn't quite satiating your anger, how about getting their tax exempt status revoked?

This link explains how to complain to the IRS about the LDS, along with the blogger's thoughts on why this is necessary, and how it might prevent churches from getting involved in this kind of campaigning in the future. Pass it on...

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

I was at that protest yesterday! LA is a neat city, btw.

USwest said...

Yes, I thought of this yesterday . . . how can LDS claim tax exempt status after funding such a huge campaign?

Good luck appealing to the IRS. When it comes finance, business, and the military, Mormons are everywhere. They have a saying at Harvad Business school : the 3 M s. Mormons, Military, McKinsey. Talk about a cabal!

The Law Talking Guy said...

I don't get it, but I'm sure the LDS will avoid having its tax exempt status revoked. There's a clear double standard that allows conservative churches to act as an arm of the Republican party but bars liberal churches from even speaking against war from the pulpit. I hope Obama will change this. The Mormon church really does need to have its tax-exempt status yanked, or at least told that it will lose it unless it refrains from such activities in connection with the "Repeal Prop 8" campaign that is underway.

Pombat said...

Thing is, the more people that complain to the IRS about this, the more likely the Mormons will at least get their wrists slapped - the only reason they and others like them are getting away with things is because no-one's bothering to stand up to them, so they're the powerful majority. If a whole load of people start objecting to their behaviours, then they stop being the majority, stop being so powerful, and can be reined in. So get on with it!!!

Raised By Republicans said...

The Mormon Church is too powerful. There are several Mormons in the Senate from both parties for example. They donate HUGE sums of money to the Republican party.

I agree with Pombat though that we should complain. I will follow the link.

The Law Talking Guy said...

We do have to remember that Mormons are also members of the California community, and our justified anger at the actions of the LDS Institution and many of the membership should not become an excuse to exclude the group from legitimate participation and membrership in our California community.

There is a lot of anti-Mormon prejudice out there, and we really have to be careful to separate criticism of the church and the actions of its members from actions and words targeted at people who just happen to be Mormons.

So we should avoid the fitting revenge of a ballot proposition declaring marriages performed at Mormon Temple ceremonies to be not valid and not recognized in this state. But I do wish I could force any Mormon who supported prop 8 to think about what it would mean if such a proposition were passed.

Anonymous said...

I believe the distinction in the IRS rules is that somehow, a religious institution can lobby against a particular law or amendment, but cannot actually endorse candidates. Asinine, yes. Legal, probably. Remember, the LDS Church lobbied quite effectively against the ERA in the 1970s without losing its tax exempt status.

I admit I was a little scared to see "No on Prop 8" signs outside of a very well-known Episcopal church since the current administration seems fond of going after liberal denominations for alleged advocacy.

For our non-LA readers, I'd like to point out that the Mormon temple in LA is spitting distance from West Hollywood (which someone on a liberal Mormon blog referred to as Homo Provo).

Some of the Helen Lovejoys in the local parent's newsgroup have their knickers in a twist over the fact that the protest went by a Catholic elementary school and some of the protesters were less than super-friendly.

Me, I'm just trying to find a long-sleeved onesie that says, "Another Baby for Gay Marriage."

-Seventh Sister

The Law Talking Guy said...

In fact, the Mormons were planting "Yes on 8" signs up and down Santa Monica boulevard right outside West Hollywood, and they were being routinely dug up (they were unlawfully on public property).

That sort of reminds you what the struggle was all about. Religious groups trying to run the government based on their religious beliefs. I am happy that 48% of Californians said "no" to all this.

Pombat said...

There's two views being put forwards by Mormons/other religious types that irritate me here:

1. They voted yes on Prop 8 to protect the church from being told what to believe by the State. Bollocks. Yes on Prop 8 was all about forcing their beliefs onto other people (as LTG mentioned just above). No on 8 was all about letting everyone have the same rights, and allowing everyone to believe what they wanted (no-one was going to force Mormons into gay marriage after all). The example I've used elsewhere is, predictably for me, a food one: let's say I believe that eating pork is wrong (I picked pork because more than one religion do think this). I've been asking people putting forwards the "protect the church's beliefs" view if it would therefore be fair for me to stop them eating pork, even if they didn't see anything wrong with it, and actually quite enjoyed bacon sandwiches.

2. That marriage is all about having children. Soooo many issues with this one - there's the very long, sparking up the feminist in me, one that I shan't go into in depth here of patriarchal religions wanting to keep women as 'just' baby machines etc; but to stay relevant - why then are infertile couples, post-menopausal women, and straight couples who have no intention of bearing children allowed to get married? And why are couples who thought they were fertile, but have since been found to be infertile, allowed to remain married?

Unsurprisingly, I haven't received satisfactory, or in fact any, responses to either of those sets of questions from any Mormon as yet.

Raised By Republicans said...

I agree with you 100% Pombat!

I really think we should try to put a measure on the ballot legislatively annulling all marriages in which one or more members of the couple are infertile for any reason (age, illness, deformity, surgery etc). It would certainly be crushed at the ballot box but it would make obvious the real motives for Prop 8 and similar measures.

Oh, and the whole "children need a mother and father" thing that motivated propositions like the one that passed in Arkansas...The state should confiscate all children of all single parents - widows, widowers, divorcees, etc. The children could be raised in state run orphanages where they will be instilled with the doctrine of public service. Boys will join the military at age 18, girls will become school teachers - assuming they haven't already married one of the young soldiers.

Come on folks, that's the vision of American society these people have! Let's put it to a vote!

The Law Talking Guy said...

Many children lack two parents for all kinds of reasons. Many children lack both a mother and father for many reasons. Many children would be grateful for two parents of any gender, or even one. However, I am troubled by a decision, however, to deliberately bring a child into this world without any chance of having both a mother and a father. Now that I'm a father, I realize that having a mother is a special thing that we should try to give to all children.

This means that I have trouble with surrogacy for gay couples, lesbian couples who choose to have an anonymous father, or single mothers choosing to have pregnancy via a spermbank.

I do not believe it is right to legislate these views, but I have the right to express them.

Yet this has very little to do with marriage. The connection between marriage and procreation is very loose. Marriage is not a prerequisite for procreation, and the desire to procreate is not a prerequisite for marriage. Banning gay marriage will do nothing to ensure that children are brought into this world with a good chance of having a mother and a father.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think, LTG, that you have a very troubling view on this. I also think that assuming that participating in a family with a traditional structure gives you special insight into other types of families is rather arrogant (sorry to use such strong language but that's how I see it). I certainly think you have no right to judge the child rearing abilities of entire categories of family structures based solely on personal experience.

There are a range of reasons for why you can't make that judgement. First, you don't have enough data. Anecdotes (especially in small numbers, 1?) are insufficient evidence for this kind of thing. Do we have any professionally done (i.e. not sponsored by religious organizations which cannot be trusted on these issues) studies of child rearing success based on family type, income etc.

Second, the efficacy of family child rearing is far more complex than any explanations based on the gender or even the number of the adults involved can allow for. Think about families with aloof or distant members? Imagine the "traditional" workaholic father who is never around. Imagine the new form of family where both parents work and the child spends large chunks of time with surrogate guardians. An example of the complexity of this issue: I bet I could show that having rich parents is by far the most significant advantage children can have. By your logic, we should place restrictions on poor people's ability to have and raise children.

Third, you say that a "mother is a special thing that we should try to give to all children." What about abusive mothers? Is an abusive mother better than no mother at all? Is a family based on a loveless marriage but which contains a male and a female adult, automatically preferable to a loving family in which both adults are of the same gender?

Similarly, what about siblings? As an only child I have heard many people seriously suggest that only children are disadvantaged in some way by their lack of siblings. There are wide range of stereotypes involving emotional development, ability to share, etc. I disagree about the unambiguous superiority of multi-child families but even if we concede for the sake of the argument should the the state get involved in encouraging - or mandating - multiple children?

Frankly, LTG, I find your argument about single mothers and sperm banks somewhat offensive and bigoted and I'm sure there are others who visit this blog who are probably even more offended that I am.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I am not a father, but I would like to be a father someday. I think my husband and I would be good parents, and I am saddened to read that LTG thinks we could not be. I know of no evidence showing that children born to parents of only one gender are any worse off than other children for that fact.

Of course, that is not precisely what LTG wrote. LTG wrote only that he is "troubled" by the thought of parent(s) of only one gender deciding to, "bring a child into this world." I think LTG may not realize what he wrote was equivalent to saying he thinks a child born to same-sex parents or to a single mother might have been better off not having been born at all.

It is important to remember that when a same-sex couple has a child, they do not deny that child the chance of having a "normal" life with heterosexual parents: That child simply would not have existed otherwise. Children are not waiting to be "brought into this world." A giant claw does not descend into a pool of souls and select this child for one set of parents instead of letting it go to another set more worthy.

Pombat said...

Dr.S - I must admit I'm giggling somewhat at the vision of one of those fairground toy claw machines crammed with clamouring little people, seemingly all bratty nine-year-olds in my head. And I must say I'm shocked, absolutely shocked that RbR and I completely agree on something. At least one of us must be ill... ;-p

'k, LTG: yes a mother is a special thing. My mother was certainly "special". So was my step-mother for that matter. I say "was" because it's been so long since I spoke to either of them I wouldn't know what they're like now. I guess what I'm saying is I agree with RbR (again?!) - some mothers are special things that children should have, others are wingnuts that should be kept away from children (and mine weren't even at the worst end of the wingnut scale).

As you say, you have the right to express your views about parenting, and that's fine. I'm still going to try and change them though. Firstly, why is it so troubling to you that a child could be born into a family other than 1father/1mother? I think I need to understand this more before I can really discuss the point with you, because I just don't get it right now. Is it simply because it is different to the way you & Seventh Sister are raising Law Talking Baby? That old thing of difference seeming threatening, even if only on a subconscious level? Or is it something about your own parental situation as you were growing up? I can't comment on that directly, and forgive me if that's too personal - obviously I'm familiar with your parental set-up now.

Personally, I know that I have views on parenting thanks to my parents. I know that I never want my children to see a divorce (ditto my friends' children). I know that I never want them to feel unloved, or anything less than the most important people in my life (and ditto my friends' children, some of whom I feel incredibly protective towards). I know that I want them to witness, every day, a template of a good, loving, solid relationship, so that they grow up knowing that it's possible, and not settling for less than good. And I know that I want them to have two parents around, actually around, involved in their lives, not just sleeping in the same house. I'm pretty damned sure that if the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was the same sex as me, all those feelings would be exactly as I've just stated.

Dr.S (again, but serious this time): for what it's worth, I think you & Mr.S would be good parents. If nothing else, you'd have to go through a lot more to end up with children than the average hetero couple, so your child(ren) would never be in doubt that you definitely, definitely wanted them. Because that, after all, is the only thing children really need - to know they are loved and wanted.

Raised By Republicans said...

Pombat, I did get my flu shot the other day. Maybe I'm having a reaction to it. ;-)

The Law Talking Guy said...

RBR's call for data is not appropriate: my objections here are not based on data of poor child outcomes. I am a little unnerved that anytime RBR doesn't agree, he is horribly offended.

Nor am I saying that I think gay parents or single mothers can't be good parents. I am quite sure many are great parents, and certainly at no significantly different rate than other types of families.

My perspective on this issue that comes entirely out of the idea of what a child's rights should be. I am troubled about the idea of deliberately create a child who, by design, lacks either a mother and father. Is that a right thing to do? If gay or lesbian couples produce a child by surrogacy but intend to permit the child to maintain some relationship with the birth mother/father, I am a lot less troubled. And I know very well that mothers and fathers can turn out to be horrible or die. But I think the question of whether it is right for a child to be created as deliberately fatherless or motherless is a valid moral question. The parent(s)' desire to procreate should not be the only moral concern here, should it? I feel like that's the only question anyone else here cares about.

Notice I use the word, "troubled." This is deliberate. It bothers. I have not come to definite conclusions one way or another. But I'm not, for the sake of political correctness, going to pretend that I have no problem with any procreative choice that any person wants to make.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr.S., I did not have the "giant claw" image in mind - I was just using an old phrase. I am now using the word "created" because that fits my mental image that the child is created ex nihilo.

I will qadd that the phrase "brought into this world" does reflect an experience many have upon meeting their child for the first time, that the child is something of a stranger. We find ourselves saying to our baby "where did you come from?" without any hint of irony (even though we know exactly where she came from) because it is a shock to observe such a strong and distinct personality in something/someone you created.

Raised By Republicans said...

I'm not "horribly offended" whenever I disagree with someone. For example when Dr. S. talks about the possibility of non-partisan institutions, I'm baffled but not offended. And in any case, saying I'm "horribly" offended over states my reaction a touch. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is how I would react to a hug and a free beer and 10 is how I would react to a punch in the mouth, I'd give my response to your statement a 6 or a 7 (most everything Sarah Palin says gets a 9).

But I am troubled by the fact that you are troubled. I did not see any support for your view in your latest post either. I merely saw a restatement of position. Why is a call for data inappropriate here? If you can't show that there are systematic disadvantages to having different kinds of family structures, that would serve address some of your concerns, wouldn't it?

I don't follow your "who's going to think of the children" tack either. As Dr. S pointed out, a child raised by a single parent (like say, our President elect), really doesn't know any different. I'm sure, if asked, most would say their parent did/do a wonderful job and that they love them. Correct me if I am wrong, but what you seem to b presuming is that if we could ask children - before they were born - what kind of family they would prefer, they would not chose single parents or homosexual parents. Or are you presuming that some kinds of families are just obviously and objectively superior to others? If the latter, then I reiterate my call for data.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Now LTG has truly confused me.

LTG writes that he has no evidence of "poor child outcomes" for same-sex/single parents. Indeed, LTG does not even think such data is needed: he is "quite sure" that same/sex single parents are just as likely to be good parents as any other type of family.

So then what's the problem, LTG? If the children of same-sex/single parents are just as happy and well-adjusted as any others... Then how have these children's rights in any way been violated? Surely the right is to have good parents rather than a specific set of parents?

Yes, two fathers or one mother constitute a different family arrangement. And they might not give a child exactly what one mother and one father could give (although LTG seems unable to articulate what that might be). But since apparently they all prove to be equally good parents, perhaps there is something unique that two fathers--or one mother--can give their child that a mother and father cannot. We don't know. All we know is that the children are happy. And shouldn't the welfare of the children be what really matters?

The Law Talking Guy said...

As usual, I probably shouldn't have opened my mouth.

I am generally of the mind that having a mother or a father is a unique experience that a child should be entitled to. Maybe I need to rethink how important this is. Perhaps, like letting a child taste an apricot or see snow, having one parent of each gender is just a neat experience, but not more important than that. I think a child is entitled to love, as a birthright, and perhaps we all agree on that. Is there more a child is entitled to? Is maternal or paternal love something distinct to which a child may be entitled? Every parent wants the best for his or her child. Does "the best" include trying to have a parent of the opposite gender available? I don't think these questions are nasty or bigoted.

Btw, it's not like my wife and I have a particularly traditional family, other than the fact that it consists of one parent of each gender.

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG asks, "Every parent wants the best for his or her child. Does 'the best' include trying to have a parent of the opposite gender available?"

Based on LTG's own premises, the answer to this question is clearly NO. The logic is not hard to follow: Same-sex parents are just as likely to make a good set of parents as opposite-sex parents, therefore having a parent of the opposite gender is not better.

LTG asks, "Is maternal or paternal love something distinct to which a child may be entitled?"

Let's flip this around. One could just as well argue that having the love of two fathers, or the love of two mothers, or the love of a single parent alone, are also unique experiences--ones that your beautiful daughter will never know. The issue is that you assume those to be inherently lesser experiences than what you and your wife can give your daughter--even though all evidence suggests there is no difference in quality. So you might want to give that assumption more thought.

Pombat said...

Just a quick add: is maternal love something every woman can provide / paternal love something every man can provide, in a consistent enough manner that you can group them thus? What I mean is, there are so many different types of women / men, who don't fit the traditional gender roles attributed to them (I, for example, was a tomboy who hated pink as a child, and am now not what could be considered 'girly' as an adult - still don't like pink!), that it's probably not possible to have "maternal" or "paternal" love as two distinct entities - everyone will have different styles, different ways of expressing their love, with the common "parental love" being that urge to protect your child from all harm.

LTG - thank you for stating your view here though - it's started a good debate! And I totally agree that children should be entitled to love as a birthright.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It is a little weird how quickly we genderize children. Babies have to wear pink or blue, and no variation is permitted. This can extend quickly into the sorts of toys that are bought, or patterns (flowers or baseballs, cars or dolls). Even for babies.

But there are reasons for it beyond just gender stereotypes. Babies look alike, and parents want to signal the gender to the world. It's irksome to say "he looks so sweet" to a parent about their baby, only to find out it's a girl. Also, the gender is about the only thing a parent knows about his child with any certainty at the time of birth. And the child speaks no English. So, parents talk name and gender alot. That's all we've got.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

"Babies have to wear pink or blue, and no variation is permitted."

Both of my children wear only black, play with neutrally colored and toned shapeless orbs for toys and are named "Pat".

We expect great things from them.

Raised By Republicans said...


I'm so glad Pat the Younger enjoyed that charcoal grey orb I sent for "Generic Winter Solstice Fest." I was thinking of getting the beige orb but it just didn't say "Pat" to me the way the grey one did.

Pombat said...

-giggling at Bert-

LTG: I'm not talking about the gender of your child - my point wasn't about whether LTB spends every day head to toe in pink (although I shall return to this), it was about your gender roles (that's a your-plural, for you and Seventh Sister. I do sometimes wish we had distinct you pronouns, a la French, German, Italian etc).

Are you fulfilling a stereotypical "male" role for LTB to witness? Will she grow up knowing that men do not express their emotions, they do go out to work (and always earn more than those rare women who work), that they're good at all DIY tasks and have an irrational fondness for their sheds? Equally, will Seventh Sister be demonstrating that women don't tend to work (although if they do, cooking and nursing are excellent careers), women are bad at maths and science, all mothers are perfect housewives and cooks, and can be relied upon to produce freshly baked cookies and cakes every day, as well as keeping the house looking oh so nice for her husband?

I very much doubt it. And I very much doubt that those are the strict gender roles that you would want her to witness.

Now, coming back to the genderisation of babies. You rightly say that the gender of the baby is one of very few things you know about them, since you can't communicate for a while (I've always assumed this is why parents discuss weight, height/length etc so much too - not much more to say when their chief hobby is gurgling). But why is it so important to broadcast that? Answer: because we have set stereotypes that can be easily applied to each gender. Which I'm sure irks a whole lot of feminists (who should really be labelled equalists or similar, but anyway).

The way the world is going now though, people are realising that those stereotypes are not that rigid. Granted, the majority of men have better spatial awareness than the majority of women, just as the majority of women have better multi-tasking skills than the majority of men; both due to physiological factors more than anything. This doesn't say anything about the characters or personalities of any of those people though; their likes and dislikes; interests etc. Equally, the stereotypes a lot of people seem to hold about the sexuality behavioural sets - that gay men, lesbians, hetero men and hetero women behave in distinct ways (I'll keep it to the four for simplicity) - are not correct in every case. There are big, gruff, alpha male type bikers who happen to be gay, just as there are very effiminate seeming men who are hetero, and so on.

Which means that providing a 'mother' and a 'father' to a child is actually a lot more complicated a question than simply checking that their two parents have two different sets of 'bits', since you could have a man and a woman who are both very alpha, 'male' type personalities, or vice versa. In fact, it leads me to question what providing a 'mother' and a 'father' to every child really means?...

Pombat said...

Oh, and getting around the whole getting-the-baby's-gender-wrong thing is easy: just talk to the baby, even if they're asleep. I just say something like "oh, aren't you gorgeous?!" in that gushing tone new parents like (yes, sometimes - usually when presented with Churchill #3 - I am lying; however sometimes it's true, LTB for example was very cute), possibly whilst touching/reaching out to little fingers or whatever (baby hands are cute, it's gotta be said), then look up to the parent and say "how old?..." in a quiet-ish, 'I'm too distracted by your baby' tone, as you look back to the little one. They'll then use either he or she, and you're set... :-)

Dr. Strangelove said...

Pombat makes an excellent point that the gender of the parent is not the same as the gender-role of that parent. I had not thought of that.

Pombat said...

Actually Dr.S, I was nudging more towards gender roles being a bunch of, um, manure shall we say? (I think I've used 'bollocks' in this thread already). These days anyone can be pretty much anything - a little boy can grow up to be a ballerina or an astronaut, just like a little girl can - so why should the roles of the parents be defined by their genders? In fact, in many couples now, the roles are much more mixed - you find either/both parents working, either/both taking care of the kid(s), both abandoning child & other half at home (with an ok!) whilst they go out for some me-adult-time...

I'm particularly attuned to gender assumptions at the moment because I've recently started work, as an analyst/mathematician/general nerdy type, in a very blokey environment. I've been getting two assumptions a lot:
(1). People who I communicate with via email look at my role, and my admittedly non-feminine name, and assume I'm male (fortunately I am amused by their double take when we then meet in person).
(2). People who meet me in person assume I'm an exec/personal assistant / secretary / admin type.

Dr. Strangelove said...

(Of course, this being a polite blog, we must write m*nure... Just kidding!) That's a better point about gender roles. I presume LTG and 7th Sister will not try to limit their specific love to a specific gender-based type. So other than breastfeeding, what really is the difference?

The Law Talking Guy said...

Breastfeeding is not a small thing. It's really amazing. Of course, not all women can do it, nor can women do it for long, so its not like breastfeeding is what makes motherhood unique. But in our desire to proclaim all parents functionally equal, let's not forget that breastfeeding is a pretty awesome thing if you can manage it.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I want to be very clear. I don't think breastfeeding is what makes a person a mother or any of that. It's just when I read "other than breastfeeding, what's the difference" I feel like the experience of breastfeeding is not being honored. LTB would be perfectly happy and well-raised if she were entirely bottle-fed on formula (no matter what hippie freaks say) but I am so happy that she can suck to her heart's content on mommy. It's part of a shared human experience stretching back into the mists of time that I feel we are very lucky to be able to provide for her. Let's rather to say that breastfeeding, while very special, is not a sufficient reason to require a female parent.

Pombat said...

Breast fed babies also provide a perfect excuse for pop/dad not to have to get up in the middle of the night ;-p

Like you say LTG, breastfeeding is awesome if you can manage it, and is something I hope I can manage if/when I become a mum, simply because it's such a deeply nurturing thing - to be able to feed this little dependent person entirely yourself - amazing. A lot of women can't though, and end up feeling really really bad about this, stressed out, exhausted, passing on the stress to the baby (and helpless father). So breastfeeding can also be really bad. On the flip side, fathers I've spoken to who share bottle feeding duties with the other parent say that it's absolutely fantastic to be able to feed their child, have that moment of real bonding, which a lot of fathers of breastfed babies won't get (although of course mum could express milk for dad to use later).

I don't think Dr.S was trying to imply a lack of 'honor' for breastfeeding, more highlighting the point that breastfeeding is the only bit of parenting that only one gender of parent can do, and only if they're biologically the mother too (I'm thinking adopted babies - bottle fed obviously!). Other than that, there is no task which requires the parent completing it to be a set gender, which I think is a good thing.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I was trying to acknowledge breastfeeding, not marginalize it. But I can see how my comment could seem dismissive, so I apologize. Breastfeeding is important. It is just not relevant to this discussion (as you have noted).

I notice that you have not responded to the two main arguments here. Let me summarize them.

1. You have not yet articulated any significant difference between paternal and maternal love. Indeed, Pombat argues that the distinction between the "paternal" and "maternal" parental roles is little more than an outdated gender stereotype.

2. Whether there is a meaningful distinction or not, you automatically assume that doubling down on "paternal" or "maternal" love is inherently a lesser experience for a child than having one of each... Even though you already conceded that same-sex couples make equally good parents and their children are equally happy.

So my question is: what is it about same-sex/single parenting that really bothers you? You are not alone in this, by the way--I am sure most Americans are troubled by sex/single parenting. That's just the way it is. But I suspect the real reason you feel "troubled" has nothing to do with the notion that a child has some ineffable right to parents of diverse genders... I think it's a gut reaction.

I think same-sex parenting troubles you because it makes you feel uneasy when you see two dads raising kids, and you worry their kids will get picked on at school. I think single parenting bothers you because you do not believe one parent alone can provide enough love or attention. And I think you probably just need some time to get over those.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I'm going to throw in with Pombat on this one to some extent. Perhaps gender roles matter more than biological sex. Okay. There is a difference between how my wife and I interact with LTB, and I think it's nice for the baby to get more than one kind of interaction. To be really crude about it, my wife is the center of the universe for LTB. I am the baby's biggest toy. This might not be so definitive if we were not breastfeeding. Perhaps also just because there are two of us, the baby assigns different roles to us. Believe me, it's not just a parental decision. For example, for about three months, she insisted that I rock her to sleep. Perhaps my assumption was that two mommies or two daddies would be the same kind of parent, and Pombat notes that this may not be so.

As for one parent versus two, that's kind of a no-brainer. Two parents (all else being equal) can offer more than one parent. Not really because the quality of love (or quantity) is different, but because team parenting gives you backup as a parent, so you are less stressed. Less stress on the parent is good for the child. FYI, I think that's the most underappreciated fact of child-rearing.

I guess my base fear, not quite expressed on this blog, is that the child may feel hurt and ask the parent, "I know some kids don't have a mommy/daddy, but why didn't you ever want me to have a mommy/daddy? What's wrong with me?" I guess that thought pains me and I don't think the child deserves, in return, a lecture about equal rights. Hey, this is an anonymous blog (sort of) so I feel like I should be able to express these things without being walloped for it.

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG: Who here has walloped you for your views? I don't think I have done so, nor do I think Pombat has. Are you talking about RbR?

As for one-parent vs. two, that is only a no-brainer if you don't stop to think about it. Here are some possible reasons why it is not nearly so clear cut. For one thing, the attention of the single parent is not divided between spouse and child. For another, there are no fights in the household between the spouses to stress out the parents or stress out the child. Furthermore, the game of playing one parent off the other does not even make sense: the child is presented with a single, consistent set of values. It is a mistake to assume parental love is simply additive (I mean, would three parents be better still?) especially when the children end up equally happy and well-adjusted. It strikes me that you keep coming out with arguments that somehow same-sex or single-sex parenting is not as good for a child, even though you have already conceded that is not the case.

Finally, I really have to call you to task for your bizarre hypothetical question from a child: "I know some kids don't have a mommy/daddy, but why didn't you ever want me to have a mommy/daddy? What's wrong with me?"

I honestly cannot imagine any child asking such a convoluted question! Not only does it invoke the "giant claw" fallacy (if I may name it thus) but it then leaps to the anachronistic notion that the child would somehow feel responsible for a decision made by his or her parent(s) before he or she was even conceived!

In actuality, the likely questions from the child are much simpler. A child of a single mother will probably wonder sometime why his father abandoned him or her. A child of same-sex parents, stung by the taunting of his peers, might well demand of his or her parents, "Why are we different from other families?" Or perhaps more poignantly, "Why did you have to be gay?!"

Of course, exactly the same argument continues to be made in certain circles that children of mixed-race parents would be ashamed of their parentage too--perhaps even ashamed of their own mixed skin color. I presume you are not queasy about that, though.

Pombat said...

Re walloping, I'm with Dr.S - I hoped I was making it clear that I was merely questioning, not walloping. If that wasn't clear - I'm not walloping, honest! (I am enjoying using 'walloping' so much though - good word)

I'm half and half as far as agreement with the last two comments goes, in that I think there's merit to views expressed in both. As far as single parenting goes, I agree with LTG that two parents are better than one, with the caveat that the two must be a happy stable twosome, simply because that way each of them can have a break now and then. Regardless of how much you love your child, and your partner, sometimes you just need time without them. Also, there is a risk with a single parent family, especially when there's more than one child, of the eldest child becoming parent no.2 for the younger ones, which is bad for that elder child. Obviously I think that one stable loving parent is better than two hateful warring ones though. Dr.S has raised some good points about the bad side of two parents, hence my stability caveat, although with the arguing one - if the parents are 'good' arguers, in that they argue just about the point in contention, and resolve the argument effectively, respecting each others' views throughout, then that can be a very good lesson for the child to witness.

There are times however that two parents must effectively be one, to best parent the child - Dr.S has mentioned children playing parents off against one another, and this is especially an issue with discipline & boundaries. Kids desperately need boundaries, the reason they push against them is to test exactly where they are, so that they know. Set boundaries provide stability, no boundaries cause brats. So, in the case of discipline, a child needs one parent, regardless of how many bodies that parent has (if you see what I mean).

Now, on to the "why didn't you ever want me to have a mommy/daddy" question. I'm sorry, but no child is ever going to ask a question such as that. As Dr.S said, they might ask "why are we different" or even "why are you gay", they might have concerns about coming out as straight to their parents (now *there's* a flip!), depending on how they've seen their parents treated by straight people. If they're biologically related to one of their parents they might put enough biological two and twos together to ask why their daddy (lesbian couples) or their mommy (gay couples) doesn't want to spend time with them; if adopted they might ask why their biological parents didn't want them. But I honestly cannot see them coming out with such a thought as blaming their parents for not letting them have a different kind of parent. Just doesn't compute in my head. Children don't get hurt about hypothetical people - they get hurt by not feeling like their immediate family loves them. And if raised in an open manner, with the explanation of, e.g., obviously you know that daddy and I couldn't make a baby together, so a very very loving woman said that she'd help us make you, and we're so very happy that she did that for all of us, I think the love the child felt would be cemented, not lessened.