Why a fuss over ‘independent mothers’?

December 18, 2012

As part of a discussion about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Saturday morning, one caller used the phrase, “independent mothers.”

That’s something that didn’t sit well with Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald.

Was “single mother” really so stigmatizing? Of course not. It was scrupulously nonjudgmental, having been purged of the unpleasant echo of “marriage” that still hovers around the now-archaic term “unwed mother.” And while the phrase “single mother” may have been value-neutral, the culture around it operated overtime to celebrate the “strong women” who were raising their children solo and to obliterate from public consciousness the males who regrettably still played a role in reproduction. The iron-clad rule in the MSM has been: When writing about single mothers, one must never, ever ask: Where are the fathers of their children? Male parents of poor children have simply been disappeared from mainstream discourse, too irrelevant to even think about.

And then this on being independent, dependency, marriage, patriarchy and feminism:

Someone, somewhere, has decided that another rebranding was in order. If single mothers are “independent,” then married mothers are “dependent.” Marriage is thus a detraction from the ideal feminist state and signifies participation in a compromising, patriarchal institution.

Of course, so-called “independent mothers” are far more likely to be dependent on welfare and other forms of public assistance than married “dependent” mothers, but substituting a government check for a father has never troubled feminists and their supporters in the Democratic party. Biological fathers are of slight importance to the raising of children, after all, and the larger the welfare state, the more employment for crucial members of the Democratic base.

Although perhaps new to Mac Donald, the term “independent mothers” isn’t new. For some, it’s a term meant to differentiate women who embrace or chose to be a single parent rather than those it is imposed upon. For others, the use of “independent mothers” means they are a single parent who have made every effort to avoid becoming “dependent on welfare and other forms of public assistance,” as Mac Donald put it.

What are your thoughts? Does Mac Donald have a legitimate axe to grind?

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