the girls that done gone and went

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 27, 2005

I've decided to stop cooking and let the kids nuke potpies for dinner.

You go, girl!

I made my husband clean the whole house.

You go, girl!

I stopped dating losers and got myself inseminated.

You go, girl -- and here's a groundbreaking study to prove you're doing the little shaver a world of good!

The Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan has an amusingly scathing review of the latest of a series of books by which selfish choices are transvalued -- to the satisfaction of the chooser -- into acts of revolutionary consciousness raising:

There is nothing a woman can do that is so fundamentally self-centered that it won't be met with a cackle of "You go, girl!" from a female somewhere on the planet. It's a way of transforming an essentially selfish act into one of liberation, and thereby protecting it from male criticism.

The review in question (sub required) deals with Peggy Drexler, Ph.D's Raising Boys Without Men, which sets out to flatter single mothers and lesbians who find themselves raising sons -- sons sometimes regrettably obtuse in responding to feminist social theory.

It turns out that boys raised by women without men are actually better off than boys raised by mothers and fathers. They may **** you up, your mum and dad, but two mums can make a "head-and-heart boy" out of you.

Drexler asserts that the most important element in predicting how a child turns out is not the number or gender of his parents but their economic status. Since most maverick moms are relatively affluent and highly educated, their sons are less likely to end up in trouble -- legal, educational, or emotional -- than are those of the general population. This essential truth trumps almost all arguments against gay and single-by-choice parenthood. What's left are religious objections and distaste for a lifestyle, and those are hardly the basis for public policy.

Prescinding from the "religious" objections, I'm puzzled why Drexler doesn't see that the socio-economic factor undercuts her argument rather than corroborates it: it's a variable that the researcher needs to correct for in order to isolate the effect of double-mom parenthood. But clearly her audience is out for comfort rather than insight.

Like Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty, maverick moms affect a jaded familiarity with male behavior, but the little rascals succeed in shocking their delicate mothers time and again. One mother gives her son a toy hair dryer for Christmas and then is horrified when he pretends it's a gun instead of a styling aid. Two brothers are so full of aggro that they desperately gnaw their toast into guns and start shooting. Occasionally, male problem-solving techniques give the moms a happy surprise. One son gave a broken washing machine a hard kick (a prelude to gnawing it into a rocket launcher?) and -- shazam! -- the thing cut back on and has been working ever since. Like boys the world over, these ones tend to brood silently over baseball cards and ball games. Of course, nothing makes a woman go bananas like a man who won't talk, so the poor kids have to yak, yak, yak about their feelings or they'll never get to see the bottom of the ninth.

Those who remember Anna Quindlen's celebrated "guilt cookies" (kiddie treats provided by absentee professional moms) will not be surprised that Drexler offers an anesthetic -- to the mother -- against occasional twinges of dadlessness:

The boys in the study pine for their fathers. Drexler notes that they share a peculiarly intense fascination with father-son athletes from the world of professional sports, and that they have an outsize interest in superheroes. Those who have ongoing relationships with their "seed daddies" mourn piteously when the men fail to take a fatherly interest in them. A humane assessment of these impulses would be that boys want fathers, but when the world does not mete them out (because of either tragedy or maternal intention), good mothers can ease the pain and do what widows and abandoned women have done throughout time: raise their sons as best they can, often with great success.

But this is "You go, girl!" territory, and no quarter can be given to any fact that might suggest the women are slighting their children. None of these boys is exhibiting "father hunger," Drexler reports; it's only natural "to long for what you don't have." Not having a father is a bit like not having a skateboard -- kind of a bummer, but at least you don't have to worry about head injuries.

As we've seen with other massively destructive social experiments, Drexler moves the goalposts so as to score the innovation as a success. Of course it looks like failure at first glance, but only according to an out-moded standard of value. The fact that the "lab rats" in this experiment are human beings with no choice in the matter does not seem to worry the researchers. As Flanagan has shown, the point is not that the children prosper, but that their care-givers are affirmed.

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