A radical Father’s Day proposal.

Several weeks ago I outlined the way modern conservative Christian leaders avoid confronting feminism by pretending that something mysterious has happened to men.  This is something that is easy to prove and yet is a surprisingly well kept secret.  Nearly all conservative Christians are in denial regarding this fact, as the whole exercise is one of denial to avoid something terrifying.  Non Christians  and even liberal Christians are generally not aware of this either, because the reality goes against the stereotype of conservative Christians as patriarchal throwbacks.

For this reason, most would be quite surprised to learn that Father’s Day is generally viewed very differently by conservative Christian culture than by secular culture.  Secular culture generally accepts Father’s Day for what it is, a day to honor fathers.  There is of course a recurring theme of a few single mothers arguing that like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day should be all about them, but this is greeted with a surprising degree of pushback from feminists.  For the most part, in the secular world Father’s Day is about honoring fathers.

Unfortunately it isn’t so simple for conservative Christians.  Instead of setting Father’s Day aside as a day to honor fathers, it has traditionally been used as a day to tear Christian fathers down in front of their families.  As Sunshine Thiry’s pastor explained (emphasis mine):

…Father’s Day is one of the worst days that dads can ever choose to go to church.  Because often it’s the only time churches feel like they’re going to have the ears of dads and so what they do is they plan to beat them up royally for all they’re not doing right.  Ever been to one of those Father’s Day services?  Oh man, I have…

Thiry’s pastor decided to try a different approach on Father’s Day, and try to encourage all of the terrible dads in the congregation to be better instead of beating them up:

We don’t do that anymore.  What we want this to be is an encouragement to you, we want this to lift you up…

What makes the conservative Christian aversion to honoring fathers so striking is that honoring fathers (and mothers) is one of the ten commandments.  If anything, conservative Christians should be the gold standard for honoring fathers.

This brings us to a relatively new movement among conservative Christians to do something simple but truly radical.  They propose that Christians honor fathers on Father’s Day:

Imagine the national and global impact if every family, organization, and church were sharing the same message this Father’s Day: s for children, young and old, to Honor Your Father.

Again, in secular culture such an initiative would seem pointless.  This is what Father’s Day is for, after all.  But in conservative Christian culture this is a break from tradition, and such an initiative is badly needed.  The group is called Honor Your Father Today.  They explain on their About page why they want to break with conservative Christian tradition on Father’s Day and instead use the day to honor fathers (emphasis mine):

Helping Dads from the “Bottom Up”

Traditionally, churches, organizations, and social or government groups try to tackle the problem of fatherhood “top down” by teaching, encouraging, and often begging fathers to step up to become better dads. But what if we approached it from the “bottom up” by encouraging children, both young and old, to honor their fathers in some small way? One of the strongest motivators for men are their children. If anything can move a dad, even one who’s disengaged, it’s their child reaching out and honoring him with a word, video, or a letter of thanks.

Note that even here the tone is one of how terrible Christian fathers are.  Honoring fathers, an act that is simple to everyone else, is an enigma to conservative Christians.  Honoring fathers can’t simply be about honoring fathers because God commands it, or even about a means to receive the blessing God promises for those who obey.  It has to be a means to a different end, honor begrudgingly offered to fathers in an effort to move them to be better.  As with Thiry’s pastor, this group founded on the simple idea of honoring fathers on Father’s Day ends up landing instead on encouraging fathers to be better.  If anything can encourage fathers to finally straighten up, surely this new movement will.

This isn’t a problem conservative Christians have regarding Mother’s Day.  Honoring mothers, even single mothers by choice, is natural and easy to conservative Christians.  It is honoring fathers that is deeply uncomfortable, especially honoring married Christian fathers.  Mitch Temple, Executive Director of the Fatherhood Comission, discusses the unique discomfort Pastors have with honoring fathers in the opening of his message to pastors about his radical idea of honoring fathers on Father’s Day (emphasis mine):

Hey Pastor this is Mitch Temple, Executive Director of the Fatherhood Comission.  As a pastor for over twenty years I used to get very nervous after Mother’s Day because, I always wonder now what, we’ve only got a few weeks, what are we going to do with Father’s Day?

Well, we want to try to help solve that problem for you.  The Fatherhood Comission along with about a hundred and fifty other organizations have come together to really encourage dads.  And one of the things that God lead us to was this idea of doing something around Father’s Day.

In the opening to a different promotional video for the program, Christian filmmaker Stephen Kendrick describes the ease conservative Christians have with honoring mothers, and how different it is when it comes to honoring fathers (emphasis mine):

There is a command in Scripture that comes with a promise.  It says if you honor your father and your mother God will give you a good life and a long life.  Well it’s easy for us to oftentimes to honor our moms, but too often we don’t honor our dads.

Kendrick opens yet another video with the same basic statement:

It’s easy for us to honor our moms, but too oftentimes people don’t honor their fathers.  And so this Father’s Day, and leading up to it, we want to encourage you to honor your father.

Again, the idea of honoring fathers on Father’s Day is so foreign to conservative Christians that the About page and all three of the promotional videos above open by acknowledging this fact!  Even though this is denied, the idea of honoring fathers is so counter-cultural that they can’t broach the topic of honoring fathers on Father’s Day without dealing with how strange, how foreign, this concept is.

I pray that they will be successful in their initiative to have Christians honor fathers on Father’s day, but as they repeatedly acknowledge what they are proposing is a truly radical idea.

Posted in Complementarian, Denial, Disrespecting Respectability, Father's Day, Fatherhood, Honor Your Father Today, Kendrick Brothers, Traditional Conservatives | 138 Comments

This is what a feminist looks like.

I thought I was done with Wonder Woman, but yesterday’s Wonder Woman Op Ed by Jessica Bennett at the NYT is too hilarious not to share.  See the accompanying photo, described as:

Attendees of an all-women screening of “Wonder Woman” at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.
Credit Nicole Craine for The New York Times

The photo shows two women in “Nasty Woman” T shirts wearing paper tiaras, with facial expressions so stunted the woman in the foreground looks like she just soiled herself.

Was the crowd at the theater so incredibly stunted that this was the best photo the Times could run to display the empowerment of the movie?  Or perhaps the professionals at the NYT were crying too hard after watching the film to notice how laughable the photo was:

It was the first fight scene of the movie, and I was trying not to sob.

Maybe they were blinded by a strange feeling of ferociousness:

In fact, I was proud. So were legions of women I know who took daughters, nieces, nephews, mentees or simply went in droves, some of them to women-only screenings — and walked out of theaters with a strange feeling of ferociousness.

Bennett explains that the movie is important because visual images are important:

…visual storytelling — which brain researchers will tell you is processed tens of thousands of times faster than the written word. And yet so much of the messaging we receive about who can do what in the world is subliminal…

Indeed.

Posted in Feminists, Movies, Moxie, Nasty Woman, New York Times, Wonder Woman, You can't make this stuff up | 110 Comments

Being divorced is their essence, but don’t label them.

My own divorce story is woven into many posts usually as part of my commentary at the end of each post. I have, however written a few posts specifically about my journey which I’ve always seen in my mind as a climb up a mountain. When I reach the top I stand up tall, raise my arms to the sky, lift my face up and let the wind blow through my hair. I’m not there yet but I’m getting there.

–Mandy Walker, Divorce and Me

In my last post I introduced Mandy Walker, professional divorcée and gray divorce poster child.  Walker wears many hats.  She is:

  1. A divorce coach.
  2. A divorce mediator.
  3. A host/facillitator of divorce support groups.
  4. A writer about divorce, including her blog Since My Divorce and (formerly) divorce related posts at Huffington Post.

All of this was made possible by, you guessed it, divorcing her husband. Divorce changed her life and gave her her new identity.  And yet, Walker is deeply troubled that her doctor would ask about her marital status.  Walker asks Huffington Post readers to join her in refusing to answer this question in Why I Refuse To Give My Marital Status:

Asking about marital status is an anachronism. It no longer serves a purpose and is irrelevant. Won’t you join me in boycotting this question?

Walker has made her divorce the defining moment of her life;  she literally can’t shut up about it.  Yet she is uncomfortable identifying herself as a divorcée to her own doctor.  Why?

As absurd as this sounds, there is a good reason for it.  For women, divorce involves a huge loss of status if it isn’t quickly followed by remarriage.  Checking the box “Divorced” is a painful admission of profound failure.

It isn’t just Walker who is haunted by her status as a divorcée.  Fellow professional divorcée, divorce blogger, and Huffington Post Divorce author Rosemond (Rosie) Perdue Cranner is also deeply troubled by the post divorce status double standard.  Rosie explains in I’m a Divorcee? But what do you call a man who’s divorced?

…it is telling that the world needs a word to describe a woman’s previous marital status but society doesn’t feel the need to label a man’s track record. Why? No one really cares if a man’s been married before but a woman? It’s a mark.

…nobody cares if a man has been married before, but for a woman there is still a bit of old world stink. A slight stench of previously used goods. I think that the literal translation of Divorcee is, “someone’s been in my vagina already, so move along.”

Rosie is wrong on one part, and right on the other.  There already is a word for a man who is divorced.  The word is divorcé.  But she is absolutely right about the different status implications for divorced men and women.  This is one of those intractable problems that feminists simply can’t solve, because it comes down to the heart of the differences between men and women.  Feminists can try to change the language all they like, but they won’t be able to change the way both men and women think about these things.  The same goes for the terms frigid, slut and coward, and the different perception of single mothers vs single fathers.

For example, on another post Rosie warns divorced women over forty to avoid dating never married childless men over 40:

Don’t waste your time dating a man over 40 who’s never been married and had kids.

Rosie, who elsewhere argues that men should face the same stigma women do for being divorced, argues that women should shun never married men and seek out divorced men:

Here’s my advice.  Want a real shot at happiness? Find yourself a man who’s been married before. Find a man who’s had kids. Someone who knows what its like to drive carpool. To hold his wife’s hand in the hospital. Someone who’s got battle scars and loss. Find a real man, not a self involved 40 something man child.

Laughably, Rosie tries to claim that having broken a solemn vow is more moral than not having made the vow at all:

4. Being married before means you are brave enough to make a commitment. 

Yes, we’ve been married and our marriages failed but at least we had the courage to say I Do.

Maybe we failed miserably but we took the walk down the aisle, threw the wedding bouquet and put ourselves in debt to have a kick ass party. At least we tried. Men who’ve made it to 40 and can’t commit? Let them go.

See Also:  Haunted by a number

Posted in Aging Feminists, Can't keep a man, Divorce, Grey Divorce, Having it all, Hold my beer and watch this, Marriage, selling divorce, Status of marriage, You can't make this stuff up | 118 Comments

Suckers

As I explained in A long term commitment to selling divorce, the media has been selling “gray divorce” as empowerment to boomer women for nearly a decade, using a highly misleading narrative. Fortunately few women (statistically) are actually taken in by this message;  despite the hype late life divorce is statistically rare, as most women intuitively understand the reality of Rollo’s Chart.

But limited success hasn’t discouraged those who are selling gray divorce, and even limited success still can translate to large numbers of men, women, and children being harmed.  For an example of the constant barrage selling gray divorce to boomer women, see the 2010 article in the Denver Post Women getting feet under them after “gray divorce”.   As the title suggests, the article is about the empowerment late life divorce offers to women.  The poster child for the article is then 52 year old Mandy Walker, who is shown standing confidently next to a step-stool, the very picture of divorce empowerment.

Not surprisingly, the text of the article is selling the same message as the headline and the image.  Older women are ditching their boring loyal dudes and opting for an  empowering new life!  This is an exciting new trend!

Women in long-standing marriages tend to want to move on more…

Unlike their mothers and grandmothers, who may have stayed married out of economic dependency, boomer wives are more likely to be financially independent, having carved out successful careers.

…when boomer women aren’t happy in a relationship, they seek change for fulfillment…

More so than men, women begin to look back on their lives and think about what their interests and passions were before marriage…

The article then quotes Mandy Walker, the confident woman with the step-stool:

The biggest thing was knowing I was approaching 50 and thinking I didn’t want to live the rest of my life married to someone I no longer loved…

Over the years, you give up a part of your life for your children, a part for your husband and a part for your work…

You are left wondering, ‘Where is the part that’s left for me?’

The article explains that divorce empowered Walker to follow her dream of being a writer.  Walker went back to school to get a masters degree in journalism.  Now Walker writes… about divorce.

professionaldivorceevenn

Given that seven years have passed since Walker posed as the poster child for gray divorce, I thought I would see what living the dream looks like.  While her short stint writing about divorce for Huffington Post seems to have ended in 2013, Walker still hosts a blog called Since My Divorce where she continues to write about divorce.  The blog is heavily monitized* with advertisements and guest posts from divorce related service providers and links to the full range of divorce related services Walker herself sells.

My goal is to support you through the end of your relationship and beyond, with compassion and without judgment, while sharing tons of valuable insights and practical guidance.

One of her offerings is a free course to help women decide if they should divorce their husbands, titled Is Divorce The Answer?

Every marriage has its ups and downs, right?

Right.

So how do you know when you’ve crossed that invisible line, when you’ve reached the point of no return, when your relationship is truly beyond repair?

If after taking her free course you decide that divorce is the answer, Walker will then assist you with paid coaching time, or for those on a budget My Divorce Pal, an online self paced program Walker sells for $167.

But what about after the divorce?  What does Walker offer divorcées who have completed their empowering gray (or otherwise) divorce and have come out on the other side?  Walker has them covered on her site as well, with articles like the current guest post, How To Overcome Unfairness In Divorce:

It happens to the best of us. We navigate divorce, trying our hardest to be logical and rise about the drama and pettiness of our former partners, but every once in a while, the feeling hits.

Fairness. Unfairness. The feeling like we’ve been screwed over during divorce.

The guest post is written by fellow Divorce Coach Martha Bodyfelt who, like Walker, has her own website and offers her own services:

Martha Bodyfelt is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps readers gain clarity and get their confidence back so they can move on with their lives. For your free Divorce Goddess Recovery guide, stop by http://survivingyoursplit.com/ or say hello at martha@survivingyoursplit.com.

Bodyfelt elaborates, knowing precisely what her audience has experienced after the intoxicating promise of empowerment has faded and reality has finally set in:

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Do any of the following sound like things you have said or thought?

“It’s not fair that my ex has already moved on and I’m stuck here with nothing.”

“It’s not fair that he’s out having a great time with his new girlfriend while I’m here heartbroken.”

“It’s not fair that my adult children are going to be in my ex’s wedding, and they don’t understand what I’m going through.

“It’s not fair that they’re taking the kids to Disneyland and I don’t even have money for a haircut.”

“It’s not fair that I will have to work for another 10 years instead of retiring next year.”

Many of us have stewed in the injustice of it all, thinking that our ex should be punished…

See Also:

*The blog also appears to be a ghost town, with almost no reader comments on recent articles.  For the articles I found that did have reader comments, roughly half of the comments were made by the author or host.

Posted in Aging Feminists, Divorce, Fantasy vs Reality, Grey Divorce, Hold my beer and watch this, Post Marital Spinsterhood, Professional Divorcee, Rebellion, selling divorce, Ugly Feminists, You can't make this stuff up | 51 Comments

A long term commitment to selling divorce.

A recent MarketWatch article on “gray divorce” made me want to revisit the topic.  Interestinly while the article itself doesn’t seem to have changed since it was first published in March, the spin the title places on the article has changed twice.  Here are three different snapshots of the article with the respective titles:

  1. Your failing marriage is about to make the retirement crisis worse
  2. This is why baby boomers are divorcing at a stunning rate
  3. The good news behind why baby boomers are divorcing at a stunning rate

Regardless of the title, the opening message in all of the versions of the article is the same;  older women are fed up with their long marriages and have decided en masse to divorce their boring loyal dude husbands.  Underneath an image of women deciding if they should let their men out of jail or abandon them, all three open with:

Looking ahead to the next phase of life can seem pretty dreadful if you can’t stand the person who you’ll be spending it with.

That may be what some boomers are facing. Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

The problem, according to the article, is that we live much longer now, and “we” (women) are now too enlightened to see marriage as a lifetime commitment.  Therefore, the boring loyal dudes must go (emphasis mine):

Statistically speaking we’re healthier and probably going to be living a lot longer — possibly 30 years longer — than average retirees once did. The surge in late-in-life — or “gray” — divorce is one possibly unintended consequence of this so-called longevity bonus.

“What’s pushing gray divorce is people are living longer and they feel more entitled to living fully. They’ve contributed to raising children, they want an emotional journey, it’s their time now,” says Lili Vasileff, a certified financial planner and president of Divorce and Money Matters, which specializes in divorce financial planning. “They may have (decades) ahead and don’t want to be unhappy anymore.”

This article and the Pew study it cites are part of a long running pattern in the media.  The 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) found that divorce rates for Americans over 50 had increased substantially compared with the same statistic from 1990. This lead to a barrage of breathless media stories about an “explosion” or “surge” in divorce rates as long married couples got older, with a generation of empowered Boomer wives deciding life was too short to remain married to their boring loyal dudes.  As the Market Watch story demonstrates, the pattern continues today.  Nearly ten years later, we are still getting news stories about this empowering new trend.

And yet, it is all a sham!  For starters, the breathless headlines about this new trend are highly misleading.  The Pew research report is titled Led by Baby Boomers, divorce rates climb for America’s 50+ population.  After two paragraphs explaining this “new” trend, the report finally spills the beans;  divorce rates for couples over 50 have remained steady for nearly a decade (perhaps longer):

While the divorce rate for adults 50 and older has risen sharply over the past 25 years, it has remained relatively steady for this age group since 2008, when the Census Bureau began collecting divorce data yearly as part of its American Community Survey.

The change occurred some time between 1990 and 2008.  Since then it has remained “relatively steady”.  Yet here we are, nearly 10 years later, and Pew is reporting a change that happened between 1990 and 2008 as if it were something new!

But the misinformation campaign is even worse, because even from the beginning the message has been the opposite of reality.  While it was true that late life divorce rates had increased significantly from 1990, and it was also true that older women (just like younger women) initiate the vast majority of divorces, the narrative being sold was and is nonsense. There has been no “surge” or “explosion” in Boomer divorce rates as couples aged.  In fact, the exact opposite occurred.  As Boomers aged, their divorce rates dropped dramatically.  As the data in this NCFMR report shows, this was the case for every cohort of Boomers, just like the Silents before them:

boomerdivorcechart

What the 2008 and subsequent ACS surveys measured was the fact that Boomers were continuing their life long trend of divorcing at higher rates than the generations that preceded and followed.*

The simple fact is that divorce rates don’t increase late in life.  The exact opposite is the case, as divorce rates decline dramatically as the age of the wife increases:

45plusremarriagerates1960to2010

There is an obvious explanation for this, as divorce rates are driven by women, and women’s options drop dramatically as they get older:

45plusremarriagerates1960to2010

The reality is even bleaker than the chart above would suggest for older women in the Sexual Market Place (SMP) and Marriage Market Place (MMP).  Older men’s higher remarriage rates come at a time of SMP strength, as Rolo’s chart predicts.  Most of them don’t need to remarry to be successful in the SMP.  Older women on the other hand tend to end up terribly alone if they don’t remarry, as the 2004 AARP survey on late life divorce discovered (emphasis mine):

Almost 9 in 10 men (87%) dated after their divorce, compared to 8 in 10 women (79%)…  Among those who dated after the divorce, more than half of men (54%) but fewer women remarried (39%).

Many women, especially those who have not remarried
(69%), do not touch or hug at all sexually.
An even larger majority of women who have not remarried do not engage in sexual intercourse (77% saying not at all), in comparison with about half of men (49%) who have not remarried.

The AARP survey painted a truly bleak picture for women who divorce late in life, showing that nearly 70% of the women didn’t remarry, and failing to remarry for women meant living in a sexual desert, not even getting hugs!  And yet, fitting with the media narrative, the AARP survey chose a cover image of a lonely old man devastated by divorce.

See Also: 

*This chart using ONS data demonstrates this same pattern in the UK.  See this post for more on how the chart was created.

Posted in Aging Feminists, Data, Divorce, Grey Divorce, selling divorce, Whispers | 74 Comments