October 13, 2005

Female autonomy: Does it frighten you?

Women without men who want children: Must they find a man first? Must they behave so indirectly in the pursuit of what they want?
On the Internet, ... hundreds of pregnant single women trad[e] notes....

"Five years ago you never heard about this," said Ms. Carr, who had the insemination procedure performed last month. "Now you can talk about it, and it's O.K."

...Sperm banks, which once catered largely to infertile and lesbian couples, are seeing a surge in business from single women, as are obstetricians who perform artificial inseminations.

The groundswell of single women deliberately having babies reflects their increased ability to support a family. It helps, too, that the Internet has done away with the need to leave the house to find a donor. A woman can now select the father of her child from her living room and have his sperm sent directly to her doctor. It is faster and cheaper than adoption, and allows women to bear their own genetic offspring.

Single women have always found adoption rules more restrictive than they are even for gay couples. Many hesitate to simply have a sexual fling or use a "known donor" for fear that the father may someday stake a claim to the child. But thousands are now gravitating to sperm bank Web sites, where donor profiles can be sorted by medical history, ethnic background and a wide range of physical characteristics. Like an online dating service where no one ever dates, written answers are given to questions like "What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you?" Some women screen for men with no cancer in their family. Some look for signs of high I.Q. Some search for a man who might have been their soul mate. Others are more pragmatic.

"You're paying for it, so you kind of want the best of the best," said Anna Aiello, 38, of Moriches, N.Y., on Long Island, the mother of 1-year-old twins, who saw her ability to select a 6-foot-2 blond, blue-eyed, genetic-disease-free donor as some consolation for not getting to fall in love with someone who would most likely have been more flawed.
Economic independence and the ability to leap over one's immediate environment through the internet have accelerated this social change. Many will tsk and try to shame women who do this, but now they find their allies and escape the traditional means of constraint:
"I had one psychologist friend actually suggest that I 'channel' my (neurotic?) need to parent into volunteer work in a children's hospital," wrote one mother on a support group Web site. "Can you say 'condescending'??"

179 comments:

bearing said...

Kids need dads.

Ann Althouse said...

For the kids we're talking about, the alternative is nonexistence. Are you saying that 38-year-old women who can't find suitable matches should not have children? Or that they should make dads out of unsuitable men? Talk about the real world, not just your ideal.

Pete said...

“For the kids we’re talking about, the alternative is nonexistence.” Wow, Ann, that’s some kind of statement. Are you saying these women have a duty to bring these children into existence? That if they didn’t do it, no one would? Kinda strange way to look at things, if you ask me.

Should 38 year old women who can’t find suitable matches not have children? Um, yeah. Same thing for 38 year old men who can’t find suitable matches. I’m with Bearing, kids need dads. True, they don’t always get them but these women are going into motherhood with their eyes wide open, making clear choices. Why anyone would plan to inflict single parenthood on a child is beyond me. Parenting is hard enough with two. Why put additional obstacles in your child’s way?

Of course women shouldn’t make dads out of unsuitable men. That’s irresponsible. Look, some circumstances demand that single parenthood is superior to having another parent around. That doesn’t seem to be the case in the story you link to. It’s a fine line between having the power to make choices and acting selfishly.

Selesai said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Selesai said...

I don't think single parenthood should be a conscious choice. Single parents can be good parents, and I have no problems with single parents when that is really their only option, or their only happy option. But I think women who choose to have their own children (rather than, even, adopting a child that needs someone, anyone) demonstrates a selfishness and lack of understanding.
Pete, good point re: the nonexistence comment.

peter hoh said...

When the children conceived by donor insemination grow up, will we listen to their perspective on this practice?

Also -- is it okay to create children for single men who wish to be parents? Should they (the single men) and their desire to have children without a mother be given the same consideration that we give the women in this article?

Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: By traditional means of constraint, I did not mean husbands, I meant the chiding and disapproval and pressure put on women who are thinking of going it alone. These women today find support on the web. Telling a woman she's "neurotic" to want a child is a typical example of the traditional pressure put on women. If she finds a husband, she doesn't have the problem under discussion.

But I can see that people will find it disturbing that the normal desire for a child doesn't stay part of the pressure on women to make matches with men. This is hard on men, but maybe it will put a good pressure on them to become better husband material.

As for the children, I'll say it again. Those who are born to these women would simply not have been born otherwise. Are you telling me that it's better not to be born than to be born into this situation?

TheRosicrucian said...

I think idealism may inhabit the minds of women that would want to raise a child in monadic existence where only mentors and coaches and those passing by of the opposite sex are role models, never to be bonded with. The right of the unborn to be born is on equal footing with the right of parents to enact a retroactive abortion.

Ron said...

I still think you're setting up a false dichotomy. Of course we want children in the world, rather than not. But we also want there to be two parents, and we strive mightily to create and support that situation. We accept how circumstances create situations where there is only one parent, but that single parent gets both some degree of pity and some degree of support and respect for doing something difficult. But we don't want people to actively choose single parenthood, and that applies to men and women both. There may be some fear of female autonomy here, but we also believe strongly that this is not good for the child. A woman (or a man) may have a desire for a child, but we don't consider just that desire enough justification for having and raising a child.

JodyTresidder said...

"What you "unconstrained" women are, really, is unable to attract and hold even a modestly desirable man. Convinced that no man is worthy of your perfection, (not that anybody's asking, of course)you desire children as ornaments in your empty, unconstrained lives."
Sippican's comment above is a masterpiece of quaint sexism. It makes kids the proof of completeness solely in terms of a woman being sought and "won" by a man.

Meade said...
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Shanti said...

Ann, this is almost treating children like pets. Let's see, I am really bored being by myself and need someone or something to love and to keep me occupied, so I will get pregnant.

As for men choosing to be better husband material, I am not really convinced it is all mens' fault these women are unmarried or mate-less.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Children aren't objects to be owned and possessed, or wantonly discarded. I see a connection with this to abortion. It boils down to self-centeredness on the part of the women. "A baby isn't convenient for me now" [the reason behind a majority of abortions today]. The converse: "I want a baby NOW!" It reminds me of that brat Veruca Salt in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". As a woman who became a late-in-life mother, I can say how GRATEFUL I am every day for a husband who's also a great dad. It's worth the wait.And, yes, that might mean "not at all".

Pastor_Jeff said...

Media and culture feed us impossible fantasies which shape our expectations for life and fuel narcissistic egotism. Life is neither a Nora Ephron movie nor an endless Bud commercial, and anybody who demands a Tom Hanks or the Swedish bikini team is going to be disappointed. And when our selfish expectations aren't met, the solutions are designer babies and internet porn.

Meade said...

Female autonomy: Does it frighten me?

Well, inasmuch as I've spent the last twenty-five years of my life actively encouraging the female people close to me to be strong and free and independent, no, their autonomy doesn't frighten me and neither does this.

Although they need me less and less, the females close to me do seem to still want me and so I try to remain useful, desirable, and responsible largely because I enjoy being with them.

Incidentally, I place a high value on my genetic heritage and strongly prefer that the proliferation of my DNA comes to an end rather than to have my semen distributed willy-nilly. That may have something to do with an inherent distrust of middlemen.

Recommended listening: Take Time to Know Her - Percy Sledge

peter hoh said...

Ann wrote: As for the children, I'll say it again. Those who are born to these women would simply not have been born otherwise. Are you telling me that it's better not to be born than to be born into this situation?

I know someone who was conceived as the result of a rape. Without the rape, this person would not have been born. Perhaps I will be attacked for creating a false analogy, but I am not equating rape with donor insemination. I am trying to get at the question of not being born vs. being born into a less-than-ideal situation.

Birth does not affirm that the conception was morally sound. I think we can debate the morality of a certain conception without negating the reality of those who are born of it.

Joan said...

I, too, think that Ann's "alternative is nonexistence" comment, while obviously true, is a non-starter. There are so many children born today to parents who don't want them or can't keep them, there is no shortage of parenting opportunities.

I agree with the assessment that women who willingly choose to become single mothers are using children to accessorize their lives. I know women like this. It is distressing how they expect their children to complement their lives and fit seamlessly into their schedules. It's completely unrealistic. And when the baby arrives and doesn't conform to Mama's expectations, family and friends pick up the support tasks that normally would be Dad's. It's particularly interesting to note how the new baby's cousins feel about his existence, especially if they're old enough to understand reproduction.

As adults, we all have to face the fact that there a lot of things we want that we can't have. The decision to create a child, knowing you will raise that child as a single parent from the get-go, demonstrates a pathological level of selfishness.

This is another frontier in which technology could use some ethical restraint. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.

bearing said...

Are you saying that 38-year-old women who can't find suitable matches should not have children? Or that they should make dads out of unsuitable men? Talk about the real world, not just your ideal.

Using a sperm donor to get pregnant is making a dad out of an unsuitable man.

Perhaps in some idealized world, fatherless children thrive. In the real world, kids need dads.

MD said...
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MD said...

And yes, yes, the child is the most important, which is why I don't think this is a good idea in the real world, but oh, the tone of some of these comments.

JBlog said...

Wow, the convenience of selecting a suitable sperm donor from the comfort of your own livingroom.

How wonderfully...antiseptic.

Too bad life isn't like that. And that goes double for having and raising kids too.

I suspect the convenience and luxury of it all will wear off the first time a kid gets sick, or needs to get to Karate practice, or asks for help with homework, or wants dinner, and there's no one to share those responsbilities with.

Based on the single parents I know, I'd say the glamour of single-parenthood is highly overrated.

If you don't believe me, ask them. I suspect most of them would give anything to have someone to share the joys and responsibilities of parenthood with.

Kids needs Dads AND Moms.

tcd said...

Ruth Ann Adams,
Congratulations that things worked out so well for you in life. The choices you made were the right choices for you. It does not mean that your path in life is the one and only path in life. Life is not one size fits all. And just because some women make different choices than you, they are selfish? Do you know every woman and every motive they have? A little judgmental, I'd say.

Richard Fagin said...

Prof Althouse: There is ample sociological data to suggest, in particular, that male children born to single women are on average less well socialized than their counterparts in two-parent households, or at least where a male participates in the boy's upbringing. Some of the cause of the lesser socialization is undoubtedly that the boys studied are from households where the single mother is clearly less able to provide for her child(ren) as well as the mothers under discussion here, not to mention some pretty self-destructuve behavior on the part of the studied mothers. If the mothers in question were crack addicts, I don't think there'd be a whole lot of disagreement about the answer. We've just moved the sociological indicators a bit (a lot?) because of the believed better circumstances of internet sperm recipients. Even when controlled for differing circumstances, sociological data still show poorer socialization of children of single mothers. Keep in mind that I am NOT making a blanket statement that single motherhood will ALWAYS produce poorer results. This is another one of those "bell curve" problems, where kids born to single mothers, whatever the circumstances, turn out fantastic, horrible and everything inbetween. The data suggest that IN THE MAIN chidren raised by single mothers do not do as well as those in two-adult households.

So, the answer to your question is likely to be, in the aggregate, yes nonexistence would in fact be better.

"Kids need dads" is not merely a value judgment. It is a conclusion supported by a lot of evidence.

anselm said...

NYT article - more on the same woman who felt condescended to:

Ms. Carr said she found herself waiting impatiently through the beginnings of relationships, acutely aware of her biological deadline. "What a difference dating is when you don't need them for that," she said. Ms. Carr's mother was initially skeptical: "It's not like a puppy; you can't give it back," Mary Gordon told her daughter, reminding Ms. Carr of the dog she had deposited at her parents' house after graduating from college.

"Mom," said Ms. Carr, who has long owned another dog, "I have a home and two cars. I know what I'm doing."


I empathize with her impatience, but also find it to reveal a self-centered personality who has a long way to go to be "ready".

No one is actually fully prepared to raise a child. It's something you just have to do. And autonomy is not the key on parenting. Neither is wealth. There is plenty of evidence of this, and I imagine the next generation will yield more. You have to negotiate literally a million things that go into relationships with others, and, where parenting is concerned, when the chips are down, you have to be there. And for the single parent more than anyone, the chips are practically always down. Has Ms. Carr ever had not had the luxury of saying "I'd rather not."...? Some evidence that she had would go a small, significant step toward changing my mind.

That these single parents are more financially cushioned and doing it voluntarily doesn't make it right. My objection is emphatically NOT that women like Ms. Carr haven't been "won" by a man. It's that they haven't been willing or able to negotiate the uncertain and imperfect situations that are not only the biological but emotional and psychological precursors to parenting ability.

There seems to be an idea that where you haven't been able to work with another person over the long haul yet, you can just start "from scratch" with a brand new child. A child who won't demand that you compromise, soften your edges, make sacrifices the way a romantic partner would. This flips the experience (and, yes, the progression) of partnership, marriage, and children on its ear.

It might work for some, who step up to the multifarious demands of parenting. But a child's entrance into, and growth within, the world is not made stable just by money, a team of child-care professionals, and "I want".

MD said...

JBlog,

The convenience and luxury of it will all wear off with the first ear infection, huh? None of the single moms I know think like that: it's hard but they are so overjoyed at finally having a child that it's small beer, these problems. Granted, they are well-to-do, have nannies, etc. And no, I am not saying this is ideal and I wouldn't want to go to a sperm bank for the father of a child, I just wouldn't do that, it would be hard on the child I think, but the automatic assumption that these women are just dilettantes who won't try to be good mothers is something else. The automatic assumption that it is all narcissm and ego is something else. So, a man who is proud of having a son, is what? A narcissist? I think he is just expressing a normal emotion, myself.

Once again, don't think it's a good idea. But I also don't think it's a given that these women will be bad mothers.

Henry said...

"Kids need dads"

Kids need money, too. I assume that's rarely a problem in these cases.


this is almost treating children like pets. Let's see, I am really bored being by myself and need someone or something to love and to keep me occupied, so I will get pregnant.


Is this really the mindset? How do you know? Is the mindset of couples who have children so incredibly noble in contrast? "Let's see, do we want kids? I dunno. But everyone's bugging us so I guess we better."

"There are so many children born today to parents who don't want them or can't keep them, there is no shortage of parenting opportunities."

Oh good grief. I was expecting this. The message is that it's bad for women to become single moms unless they're engaged in some sort of Florence Nightingalish rescue operation. What about couples? Why are they exempt from such judgemental altruism?

And frankly, if we're talking the need for a replacement population, any couple not having two kids isn't doing their job! These women are helping out.

Kudos to them. Some kids get moms and dads who are together. Some kids get moms and dads who are divorced. Some kids get a single mom who will be really invested in them. Some kids will have two moms; some with two dads. These kids may or may not be adopted. So it goes and most kids turn out fine.

Returning to the first point, all the child-risk statistics about single parents are pertinent, but unless you're willing to run them against child-risk statistics for income, you don't have much of an argument against these women doing what they want to do.

Sean said...

I find it very troubling that these women who are unable to form a lasting relationship with another adult human being think themselves qualified to assume the power of life and death (which is basically what being a parent entails) over a totally helpless human being. I'm very glad I wasn't born to a mother so vain, so self-centered and so unable to form relationships with adults that she had to look to me for the meaning in her life. It would be really frightening to be raised like that, like living in a country ruled by a mad dictator.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

TCD-
Certainly I would not say these women have a corner on the "selfishness" market. I fight that human nature every day myself, while still striving for a better ideal. What I am saying is that out of selfishness we often make poor choices that affect the lives of others.

It's o.k. in my book to be judgmental in the sense of "making good judgments" as opposed to "casting unnecessary aspersions" without knowing facts. I know I fall shy of the ideal more often than I'd care to admit. Most people do.

peter hoh said...

I reject the line of thinking that assigns selfish motives to these women who wish to have children. Among other things, it assumes that children created in a marriage are somehow never the result of selfish motives.

The motivation to reproduce is strong, and it can be construed as selfish if we want to construe it that way. Traditional marriage creates a shield -- people won't question your desire to have children, unless you have to go to lengths to conceive them, or do something else that is perceived to be out of the ordinary.

When there is a strong gender component to an issue, I like to run a thought experiment in which the genders are reversed. Would it sound acceptable for a man of some means to decide that he'd like a child without the hassle of having to find a woman who'd like to make a baby with him?

Perhaps he's seen too many of his friends end up paying child support for a kid they see every other weekend. Going solo creates fatherhood in which such a scenario is inconceivable. Are we comfortable with the idea of men exercising their right to purchase/acquire a donor egg and the services of a surrogate gestational carrier?

After the article about this trend runs in the NYT, can we expect a blogger to head the post like this:
Male autonomy: Does it frighten you?

Will such a post create comments like this:
Kids need moms.
Kids should come from a relationship -- not a lab.

And will such comments be perceived as sexist?

bearing said...

Ann's question does raise an interesting philosophical conundrum. I blogged about it here some time ago in response to an article in my local paper about a bunch of kids fathered by "Donor 1047."

The question: Is it, in fact, possible to violate a right that does not yet exist, by an act that brings about the existence of those rights?

Interesting side note: When I posted pieces of the original article on my blog and commented on it, the women (married women in this case) posted comments. (They didn't like my opinion.) But, if you're interested, you can see what they had to say to me in the comments here.

Second interesting side note: To this day the number one search term bringing visitors to my site is "donor 1047."

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann,

Are you somewhat surprised at the tone and fever of these comments? Just curious because they seem fairly "right wing" here, and I expect a fairly balanced audience on your blog.

Not saying that I don't agree with most of them, because I do. But then, I admit to being a little right of center.

MD said...

Sean, should we take away the children from divorced folk since they can't seem to form long term commitments or relationships?

Jeez. I am totally creeped out by using a sperm donor for a father, and further creeped out by many of these comments.

sblue9 said...

I find it very troubling that these women who are unable to form a lasting relationship with another adult human being ... You assume that there is only one type of relationship worth forming with other adult human beings--marriage. The tone of these comments makes me sad ... and makes me want to stay single.

JodyTresidder said...

Goodness, this subject does seem to be bringing out the dinosaurs. From Sippican's view that having babies the "normal" way at least confirms you were once cute enough to attract a fella; to Ruth Anne's strange annoyance that some women are now factoring additional convenience into their choice when to be a mother.

And where's all the assumption about implicit "selfishness" coming from? It seems to me such women might tend to be more clear-eyed - not less - about the path they've chosen.

Whenever I see finger-wagging comments like "life isn't like that", I wonder if there's still an unhealthy need in society for a "fallen women" category, to be viewed with both a little pity and little more scorn.

MD said...

General commenter question - can you edit your own comment after you've posted on blogger? Just curious, thanks :)

Goesh said...

- with tears in the eyes the young child plaintively asks mommy why the test tube never calls or sends him birthday cards or christmas presents - HA HA - if it weren't for black humor, I don't know what I would do with my life - apologies for being warped, MS. Ann

anselm said...

sblue9, jody, md, and anyone else indignant at the aspersions being cast on voluntary single moms:

Raising a concern based on a generalization doesn't mean there aren't strong, stable, empathetic women who would be good single moms. And jody's "fallen women" straw horse is off base. At least personally, it's about farsighted pragamtism, not moral pigeonholing.

But the primary way of developing and proving parenting skills is through relationships. Not necessarily straight relationships, not necessarily marriage, but more necessarily, intimate. What you give in a an intimate relationship is a shadow of what you give in parenthood, and if you can't give that, then there are better hobbies for you than parenting.

But that's an if - many of the women who do this will be capable and have solid motivations. But instead of testing people's motivations and capability, the only requirements are money and desire. This reflects a troubling social trend that absolutely(!) extends to all of society, including married couples with children, absent or delinquent dads, and everyone else. That doesn't minimize the risk here though.

Where the predominant commitment testing ground of marriage (or equivalent) has simply been skipped, big questions loom. That doesn't amount to a blanket condemnation of this form of parenthood. But the growing pains of creating natural-social standards of human competency are potentially very great.

Sean said...

md, people who know that they are going to get divorced shouldn't have children; is that so hard? People who are considering divorce should consider that it will probably have detrimental effects on their children; is that so hard?

What's strange to me is that the same people who denounce social science statistics in this context would generally be the first to condemn smokers for exposing their children to second hand smoke.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goesh said...

you betcha' - a fat bank account and a passive nanny can go a long ways these days when it comes to shaping children's minds...

Pete said...

JodyTresidder,

I’m not quite sure I see where you make the leap that these women are actually being more clear-eyed in their decision and less selfish. By not troubling themselves to find a suitable father for their children, I think they’re being selfish by going ahead with their plan for single-parenthood when they can choose not to. (I will concede that there is some degree of selfishness when two people plan to become parents but at least they manage to subvert some of that selfishness by going through the “constraining” process of courtship. So I’ll boldly state that these couples are selfish to a lesser degree.)

If it makes you feel better, I’d have the same view if we were talking about men exercising their autonomy to purposely become a single parent. Though Ann started this discussion with gender, I don’t see where gender really comes to play. It’s a poor choice for either male or female to inflict single parenthood on a child when it’s merely inconvenient to find a suitable partner.

MD said...

Uh, I said I didn't think this was a good idea multiple times, in every comment I've made, so we are in some agreement Sean. I am the woman I am today largely because of my father, who means everything to me. What I didn't like was the automatic assumption that the desire (and I'm talking about the initial desire itself, not the carrying out of the desire) to have a child in these women was pure narcissm, selfishness, inability to hold a man, inability to form relationships, etc, etc. And at least you are being consistent if you say that divorced parents are in the same boat in terms of being less than ideal parents. I think that is what you are trying to say, right?

I still think being raised by a single mom is better than the alternative in the example of, say, girls adopted from China. Less than ideal, but the whole situation is less than ideal to begin with.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

Has anyone actually been criticizing the desire of these women to have children? Seems to me that we dinosaurs are mainly down on their decision to do so despite the compelling reasons why they shouldn't.There are lots and lots of desires out there which are perfectly natural but nonetheless should not be acted on.

anselm said...

Some of Ursula LeGuin's writing is great material for opening up your imagination on these social gender construct issues, including parenting. This discussion reminds me of The Matter of Seggri, a short story in the collection "The Birthday of the World".

Bruce Hayden said...

MD

I think you can delete but not edit the comments. Look for the trash can by your own posts.

I don't even think that Ann can edit your comments, just, again, delete, though she can obviously change her original post.

MD said...

Okay, fair enough Paul. But many of the comments automatically were, shall we say, less than gallant or chivalrous.

How about: yes, I understand the powerful motivation to be a mother, however I don't think it's a good idea for the child, ultimately. No, what we got was: these women can't form relationships, are selfish, are narcissitic, etc, etc. Maybe they are for going through with something that is less than ideal for the child. But in very few of these comments did I see any understanding, or, patience, or empathy for the desire to be a mother. Sorry, I'm a woman and I understand it very well. We are just hardwired to want this in many instances, so even if I don't agree with the choice, there is a part of me that understands the motivation. That is the point I was trying to make. I understand the deep longing, even as I understand denying that longing. Get it, boys :)

Bruce Hayden said...

Isn't one of those women having twin boys? That is really scary. I don't think that she has thought that through at all.

Can you envision a 40+ year old woman trying to keep up with two hellions every day? Instead of the parents being able to tag team the kids, they will do it to her.

I had my daughter at about that age, but we had two parents and one girl. And on average, girls are a lot more sedentary than boys are. Frankly, the two boys I sometimes help with exhaust me, as they do their grandmother. But we don't face it day in and day out.

JBlog said...

MD
I'm not suggesting that these women will be bad mothers -- although some of them may be if the approach this with unrealistic expectations.

Most of the single moms I know are good mothers.

What I'm saying is that while parenthood is a joy, it is also a slog, and at its most unglamorous it is best played as a team sport.

It can mean the difference between leaving a sick five-year-old home asleep with your partner while you run to the pharmacy and packing that sick five-year-old into the car at 10 p.m. for that pharmacy run because there is no one to leave him with.

Bruce Hayden said...

One thing that has always worried me about sperm donors is the legality side. Sure, they can insist on a contract with the woman promising them that they won't be legally responsible. But at least some courts seem to ignore any sort of contracts between parents as being in the Best Interests of the Children.

Look, in CA, they seem to be assigning paternity (for the purpose of child support) on the basis of being the one guy served who didn't show up in court. There are cases where a woman will go through the phone book and have all the people legally served who have the same name as the putative genetic father, and the guy who doesn't respond is determined by the court to be "it". (There was a great take off on this in the Day by Day cartoon where one of the female main characters was served this way - she showed she wasn't the father by flashing her breasts at the judge).

So, if courts are willing to almost arbitrarily assert parternity for the purpose of child support, why shouldn't they be just as willing to impose legal paternity on the genetic father?

Gauss said...

Let’s provisionally take the NYT article at face value, and see where it goes. (I’m a physicist, I like lists.)

1. Single motherhood through donors (or SMTD – I also like cryptic acronyms) is not completely socially acceptable. Usage of phrases such as “Veteran ‘choice moms’”, “did not want them to feel sorry for her”, and “pretended to have had a chance sexual encounter.”

2. SMTD is not completely desirable, even to them. “It's not necessarily Plan B anymore, it's just the plan.”, "It means there's a lot less desperation as a whole in the group.", “Even so, the decision was bittersweet.”, “I was so sad because I didn't want to have to do it this way, but in the same breath I was so happy that I had the choice.”

3. Hostility to SMTD by society. “Many single women still find the choice to get pregnant met with incomprehension or even hostility from friends, family and some strangers. The most common accusation is that they are selfish, because of the widely held belief that two-parent homes are best for children.”

4. Unavailability of qualified men plays a factor in SMTD. “They are not willing to settle for ‘Mr. Almost Right’ to have a baby.”, “You're looking to date an equal, and men are looking down, not across.”

Even simply taking the article at face value, we can easily construct a narrative of bright, intelligent, financially secure women who, for some reason, are unable to find a suitable partner. Since they cannot, they resort (yes, resort – the article clearly implies that this is a less-desirable alternative) to sperm donors to have children, rather than settle for a childless life, or marrying a sub-par person, despite the reservations society, and to some extent, themselves, still have about this path.

The all-but-stated conclusion is: They are simply taking making the best of their lives. Generally speaking, they would have preferred some happily-married two-parent life, but a rational analysis of their remaining social opportunities and procreative viability dictates SMTD as their best option for a fulfilling life.

downtownlad said...

I have tons of friends who were raised by crappy parents. Parents who just had kids because that was what society expected them to do, but they didn't have the first clue as to how to actually raise children.

If a single mother WANTS to have kids, despite all of the pressure from society not to, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that they'll do a better job of raising kids than many married couples do.

I know a couple of single, straight, successful women who have done this, and their kids appear to be extremely well adjusted.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

How about: yes, I understand the powerful motivation to be a mother, however I don't think it's a good idea for the child, ultimately. No, what we got was: these women can't form relationships, are selfish, are narcissitic, etc, etc.

But are these two responses incompatible? What the hardcore dinosaurs believe, and what I mostly believe, is that single parenthood is not simply not a good idea for the child, but is so obviously not a good idea for the child that the decision to put a child in that position anyway can only be explained in terms of selfishness, etc. (The only reason I don't go all the way with the hardcore dinosaurs is that I see the word "obviously" as a weak link in the chain of inference. There's no telling what obvious things will be non-obvious to some people!) If you'll forgive an exaggerated for clarity analogy: the desire for more money is one I not only understand but actually share. Nonetheless, you won't hear me mention it much when talking about Nigerian e-mail scammers.

Sean said...

Well, downtownlad, you could also be willing to bet a lot of money, based on the people you know, that smokers are healthier than non-smokers. What a shame that actual statistical evidence doesn't support your point. (And how fortunate that no one can actually take your bet.)

jennymack5 said...

Women are pushed to have a child on their own because they are afraid if they wait until they have Mr. Right before having a child, it may be too late. But times are changing and now women can hold on to the opportunity of having children till later in life when they have found a suitable husband or dad by freezing their eggs. I recently had my eggs frozen by Extend Fertility (www.extendfertility.com) and I'm so excited to spread the word.

PatCA said...

I don't know why this newfound autonomy--here defined as the ability to mother a child without a present father--would "frighten" anyone. Do other women choose marriage and then family only becuase they have to? I don't think so.

Establishing a stable, loving family is different than conceiving a child. A woman I know who went the sperm donor way 15 years ago now has a child who yearns for a father figure and needs one desperately, IMO. She has the same issues with the child as she did with the men she has rejected over the years and with her family of origin.

So, I say it's not a good idea unless you have a close and supportive family and, additionally, if you have really looked at your own part in the inability-to-form-relationships department.

Ann Althouse said...

On the subject of editing comments: You can't. For good reason: it would make the thread incoherent. If you don't like your comment, you can delete it. Then just write a new one. I can't edit my own comments. I recommend using the preview and thinking about the lack of an editing function before hitting publish.

On the substance of this thread: It really hit a nerve, didn't it! I just got email from someone who said: "You know, I'm 55 years old. I'm glad that I won't be living that much longer. I don't want to live in the same world as you. What a monster you are. Discussing anything of any substance with a woman of such complete moral and spiritual emptiness would be a mistake. So, I won't. I hope that you succeed in creating the insane world of your dreams. That would be about what you deserve."

So the answer to the question in my title really is, for a lot of people: yes. Why get so upset about what these women are doing? They are at the end of their fertility and have not been able to find a mate. They want to love and care for a child, as much as or maybe more than a married couple. They will have to be altruistic and unselfish to take care of a child, so it's not fair to label this selfish. And the assumption that they can easily adopt, as the article points out, is wrong.

MD said...

I've got to stop, this, but:

Paul, you are right. The dinosaurs (and I think that is sort of a cute term,isn't it, in the context of this comment thread?) They are not incompatible, not at all. I suppose I responded viscerally and emotionally to the tone of some of the comments. So, you got a visceral and emotional comment :)

PS: I think the desire for a child is something very different from the desire for money, something much more primal, for lack of a better word. Once again, this is a visceral and emotional response. Please take it as such......

HaloJonesFan said...

Personally, I think that the reaction may be due to the presentation of the article. It isn't being shown as "nearly at the end of fertility and wanting to have my child, instead of a child that someone else didn't want." It's being presented as more "fish-needs-a-bicycle" silliness.

This leaves out the issue that in women over thirty, the ovaries have started to degrade, and the eggs produced have a greater likelihood of miscarriage or chromosomal disorders in the child. There are medical reasons why a woman older than thirty should not use her own eggs if she wants to conceive a child (although, of course, donor eggs are a possibility.)

anselm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
L. Ron Halfelven said...

I don't know whather it's the same thing you're getting at with "primal", MD, but I have to admit that most of us see an inherent praiseworthiness in the desire for motherhood that only a hardened Randroid would find in the desire for money. I can just barely imagine a politician praising apple pie, the flag, and acquisitiveness, but I'd be pretty sure he was being deliberately provocative. So while I stand by the point I was trying to make, I have to admit that it probably can't be made by way of analogy-- there isn't any human desire that's enough like that for motherhood to serve the purpose.

Henry said...

What a shame that actual statistical evidence doesn't support your point.

Sean, the statistical evidence doesn't support yours, either. A committed single parent with plenty of resources is simply not the average "single mother with messed-up child" that you seem to be referencing.

I think downtownlad is totally on the money. Why stigmatize women who are willing to commit their time and resources to raising a child, rather than hunting down bad nuclear-family parents and stigmatizing them? Statistically, it shouldn't be hard to find some indicators that would damn just about any man out there. Charles Murray could do it, I bet.

I'd rather live in a society that does neither.

anselm said...

Ann:

The single motherhood=autonomy equation is wrong, and in some cases perverse. Any type of parenthood entails loads of dependence, and the critics on this thread have been vocal in pointing out that that the lines of dependence in a single mom-child situation are not of the (typically) strongest, broadest, most reliable, and most lasting kind - family.

Autonomy is an ideal - it can be sought, but never fully achieved. Taken to its logical conclusion is just isolation. Whereas, parenthood is practice and anathema to autonomy/isolation.

To implicitly label as cultural reactionaries those who are startled by the elevation of individual autonomy to a parenting virtue, strikes me as snarky and logically skewed.

The skeptical comments on this thread do not necessarily constitute a "yes" answer to the title question.

Sloanasaurus said...

I am mixed about this topic. I think that women should be able to take advantage of these technologies. What is the difference than a woman trying to get pregnant on a one night stand, or someone getting pregnant with "a friend."

However, at the same time, I think society should continue to look down on these types of practices (just as society should continue to disapprove, in general, of divorce). I think purposely creating one parent familes creates more risk for society in general because it is more risky to raise a child with a single parent.

Social pressures are the glue that holds our civilization together. If we start abandoning them, we essentially lose our civilization.

However, in contrast, and along the lines of what Althouse was saying, consider what effects having less kids would have on society. I heard one report a few weeks ago by a French commentator about what would happen if a French city was flooded out in the future like New Orleans was with Katrina. He was commenting about how few temporary houses the U.S. government had to provide because so many people were able to stay with family. His concern was that because the trend in France is to have no children or less children, many of the citizens in a flooded out French city would be familyless. In otherwords they would have no family to rely on to stay with after the disaster. Therefore, it would be up to the State to take care of many more flooded out victims than it can handle.

An interesting thought.

Goesh said...

- and during the Smith Elementary School's 4th grade recital, everyone in the audience kept wondering why the woman in the front row had a test tube sitting in the vacant chair beside her - OMG! I proabably should be banned from this forum.

Ron said...

So the answer to the question in my title really is, for a lot of people: yes.

I think this is a false assumption on your part and somewhat insulting to the commenters. There are reasons to object to single parenthood without fearing female autonomy.


Why get so upset about what these women are doing?
Well, people are just funny that way when it comes to the who, how and whys of raising children, THAT's why! Of course, you may disagree with what they are objecting to, but please, it's obvious why people get upset.


They are at the end of their fertility and have not been able to find a mate.
The inability to find a mate, rightly or wrongly, is a standard by which we evaluate if people can raise a child.



They want to love and care for a child, as much as or maybe more than a married couple.
And you know this how? Again, we assume that if people are unable to find a mate, they may not be able to care for a child. Again, this assumption may be wrong, but isn't it a reasonable thing to be discuss and not merely dismissed?


They will have to be altruistic and unselfish to take care of a child, so it's not fair to label this selfish.
If a person cannot find it in themselves to be a mate, we don't assume that they are altrusitic and unselfish. This, again, may be unfair, but isn't the idea that learning to be a spouse with all that requires, is a level of maturity that precedes the even greater responsibility of raising a child?

I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with all these traditional notions, but they do have some basis in human understanding such that disagreeing with them will have some hurdles to overcome.

Wade_Garrett said...

Not to sound trite, but whatever happened to live and let live? If these women want to do this, it is their bodies we're discussing here, and I say more power to them. I for one do not feel as if my masculinity is threatened by independent women raising children without husbands. In fact, I'm sure that most of them will prove to be better parents than a lot of couples.

There have always been single mothers, whose husbands left them, or whose husbands passed away at a young age. Divorced parents are something else, because the father usually has some role in raising the children, even if he is the non-custodial parent. I don't see how these women having children on their own is such an abomination, when its been happening forever and ever.

In general, I think that more single women who want to be mothers -- and more hetero and gay couples who want to be parents -- should consider adoption to a greater extent than they do currently. Some of my best friends in school were adopted, and the thought of them spending any more time in an orphanage than they absolutely need to is painful. Having said that, I realize how hard it can be to adopt a child, if you are single, or a gay couple. For that matter, even Chief Justice Roberts and his wife had to jump through hoops in order to adopt their son. You can't let just anybody adopt a child; they have to be responsible and able to provide for them. However, if the adoption policies were liberalized to allow singles and gay couples a level playing field, I think it would be of enormous benefit to the children, and to the country in general.

Brendan said...

"Can you say 'condescending'??"

Can you say "selfish"? "Arrogant"?

Need I recite the dim statistics of children who grow up fatherless? Statistics that cut across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, btw. Setting out to have a child out of wedlock is like setting out to make a mistake. Fathers are not incidental. The feelings of single, childless women aren't good enough, and hardly rise to the level of an appropriate justification. And just to get everyone up to speed on our wonderfully progressive society, 1) men have no say in a pregnancy termination, and 2) can be rendered extinct in the home. Just make your deposit and get lost. Who says we don't need a men's movement?

Message to the spinsters and lovelorn: YOU CAN'T HAVE IT ALL. You have to choose.

“For the kids we’re talking about, the alternative is nonexistence.”

Are you pro-life now? Certainly life is preferable to nonexistence, no?

Synova said...

And what about donor eggs is different from donor sperm?

Anyway... this is interesting.

The answer, of course, is that people should get married when they are young, stupid, and hormonal. And have kids. ;-)

More seriously, some people don't care if they ever know their biological parents, but most people do care. It matters to them. This is one reason that open adoptions are ever more popular. I do hope that these women don't think that their kids aren't going to care who daddy is. BUT, I have to say this is probably better than having a child with some guy you like but not enough to get married to. I have a friend who did that... now she has a live in (because of *course* the man wanted to be involved in his son's life) and an extended family of aunts and uncles and grandparents and the fear that if she tried to be "single" that her son would disappear to Peru. I blame the feminist rhetoric that led her to believe that she could be a single mom by design.

With sperm donors that's a little bit more possible, but still not perfectly so.

As for the charge of selfishness... it's a darned good thing that we still have the biological urge to reproduce our own genes. When we don't have that anymore we may as well roll over as a species and die.

Selesai said...

Result. In the future each state will mandate blood tests before marriage to ensure that the parties aren't unknowingly half-siblings conceived from a test tube by two different mothers.

downtownlad said...

Luckily - These women don't have to check wih the religious right before having a child.

What about the women who were pregnant and whose husbands died in the twin towers? Are their children going to be messed up because they will be raised without a father? Let's face it - they'll be raised the exact same way as the women Ann refers to.

And these women arent' stupid - I'm sure they're going to make sure that there is a proper male role model for their kids, be it an uncle, a grandfather, a good male friend, etc.

XWL said...

Female anatomy? Who said I was afraid of female anatomy.

The curves and slopes and hidden places are all so tasty, mmmmmm.

What? ohhhhh, female autonomy that's what this thread is about?

Nevermind.

/end of Emily Litella mode


Now to treat this topic with the seriousness it deserves.

I think there are two competing ideas at work that are getting conflated.

Should individuals be free to make choices in their lives that make them happy, absolutely.

Are there women who can parent happy healthy children alone, yep.

But should this be the cultural norm, or even be done without some embarrassment or sense of shame, I personally don't think so.

What is wise, moral or socially acceptable can be at odds with what is good for some individuals but that doesn't mean that society should bend towards the exceptions.

Shame and embarrassment are great but somewhat amorphous and unpredictable tools in regulating social structures. I can accept arguments that say individual women can do this successfully, but any argument that suggests that this practice should be welcomed, normalized, or accepted without a second thought will meet with resistance (as made obvious by this thread) and that resistance is a very good thing.

Some traditions though tough on individuals are better for society as a whole, and the privileging of two parent nuclear families is one of those traditions.

aidan maconachy said...

New reproductive technologies and the consumer options offered by the internet with respect to finding the ideal donor, might seem perfectly reasonable if we equate selecting children with selecting designer fashions. Why not? Surely only old school dinosaurs would resist such a fascinating prospect for the creation of “designer” kids.

Yes well, a lot of people also thought the Nazis were on the cutting edge when they came up with their hot new “biomedical” vision for the control of racial characteristics. Let us not forget either that the inspiration for their concept was Darwinian biology and evolutionary theory. The Nazis weren’t the first designers of human stock. The Spartans also had a run at it.

Quite aside from the narcissistic and elitist nature of this type rarified baby making, the theory behind it goes a lot deeper than mere consumer convenience. There is a darker side to this that needs to be addressed.

Reprogenics as it evolves will allow women to essentially design their own children. There are numerous ethical issues associated with this. Clinics such as Conceptual Options in California operates pretty much like a reproductive fast-sperm franchise. They offer everything from in-vitro fertilization to sex screening and rent-a-womb options. Techniques such as cytoplasmic cell transfer involve the actual transfer of cytoplasm from a third party female into the egg of the client in order to increase the chances of fertilization. This leads to the prospect of children being born with three genetic “parents” .

Aside from the psychological, social and ethical issues that I have only fleetingly touched upon above, there are also political considerations that shouldn’t be overlooked in the rush to pass this off as a cool empowerment option for childless thirty something corporate employees.

The idea of parthenogenesis isn’t a new one. In her book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir - writing in 1953 - said this ...

“... the cooperation of the male will become unnecessary in procreation — the answer, it would seem, to many a woman’s prayer.”

Feminist bioethics views science and medicine as inherently biased against women. They have evolved theories and methodologies that are entirely self-serving and that promote an extreme view of “the individual” as it pertains to the freedom of women to assume control over areas of life that have traditionally been familial or even communal concerns.

These feminist proponents of new age reproductive technologies aren’t members of a new feminist “Reich”, but they certainly adhere to an idea of community that diverges radically from traditional understanding. Their idea of community can be best described by the Greek word “autokoenomy” ... (auto) self (koinonia) community. They are quick to embrace any technological developments that empower women to the exclusion of other considerations, in a manner that is disturbingly reminiscent of earlier communities based on ideas of elitist exclusivity.

Henry said...

This is interesting:

"We find that both income and parental involvement play important roles in explaining the disadvantages of youth who grow up with a single mother. This study finds a much larger role for income than previous studies because we partially control for measurement error in income, which is likely to be a problem in cross-sectional data. Income itself eliminates most of the estimated negative impact of growing up in a female-headed household when predicting educational attainment and out-of-wedlock fertility. Parental involvement is important for explaining educational attainment, but not for out-of-wedlock teen fertility. On the other hand, neither income nor parental involvement can explain the observed disadvantage of youth who grow up in a family with a stepfather."

Daddies, devotion, and dollars: how do they matter for youth?

You guys need someone to sigmatize? How about going after stepfathers.

Dogtown said...

Ann,

Since you want to talk about the real world, there are real world consequences to this change in society. You see it on a micro level, it seems. On a macro level, I can envision more poverty, crime, loneliness, sexism, and confusion (in kids) as some negative consequences.

I like your site, and read it multiple times a day. I'ev always had this nagging sense that you don't care too much for men, particularly as equals in a relationship. You can relate to your son, for instance, but it's different. A relationship with a mate of relative maturity ("suitability") is what I refer to. If you and other women find men unsuitable, they will become increasingly so in the society portrayed here.

Meade said...

I do have to admit that one thing about this raises a bit of fear in my mind. Dread, really. No, terror is more like it... What if the only males to donate their sperm into these antiseptic banks are exactly like... David "TeachYourChildren" Crosby? You know, "you, who are on the road..."

Not sure I'm brave enough for that new world.

Ann Althouse said...

Just a technical, scientific point: we are not talking about "test tube" babies or in vitro fertilization. This is artificial insemination. It's not high tech. You scarcely even need the doctor.

Oh, and as to the idea that being able to find a mate is the appropriate test of when you will be a good enough parent? Have you taken a look at some of the people who pair up? Women can find men by lowering their standards enough. Why do you think women who do that are more deserving than women who see that they haven't been able to find a match, assess their real situation and see that unless they go it alone they will remain childless?

lindsey said...

Henry, dear, stepparents usually are stigmatized. It's only recently that the media has attempted to rehab their image in films like "Stepmom" with Julia Roberts.

Ann Althouse said...

Dogtown: I agree that there is a real problem with males becoming unproductive and unstable if women do not bond with them. Pre-feminism, women had to pair with men and the problem of unpaired men was minimized. That's actually the most frightening thing about female autonomy. Accusing me of being a man-hater, however, if just dredging up the oldest anti-feminist argument in the book. I am not impressed, and I am not cowed. (Or bull-ied.)

reader_iam said...

I guess my problem with many of these comments is the same as the one I have with the original question headlining this post. It instantly sets the default central question, the default central point of reference, as "of course" the mother(-to-be)'s point of view. In other words, "It's all about me!"

That contradicts the very essence of parenthood, whether we're talking about mothering OR fathering.

I agree that many of the same concerns can be related to children of divorced parents, and that the same charges of selfishness can be made (righly or wrongly, fairly or not) of those parents. But there is one FUNDAMENTAL difference: those parents, and particularly the mother, did not set out to create a situation in which a child, from the outset, is down one parent. (This of course doesn't even take into account that in most cases, the child of divorced parents still do have two parents, even if one is more "active" than another.) In fact, the opposite is true. And, yes, this does indeed reveal fundamentally different mindsets, philosophical starting points, and world views.

I can understand the motivations of these women, and I'm not judging those motivations and in fact can feel great, and personal, compassion for them. But I AM judging their INTENT, and cannot validate their choice.

And yes, we all have flaws and deficits; we all have tendencies to selfishness. However:

1) Having two parents (ideally, together, but practically, even if not) is helpful in that way, in that weaknesses and strengths of each parent can help provide balance.
2) Not having a father (or mother, if using the other scenario) AT ALL is not a just a deficit which can somehow be truly balanced out by other factors, it is an outright lack that can't really be redressed. I truly don't see how "CHOOSING" that, unilaterally, for another person--dismissing at the outset the profound implications as less important than adult self-fulfillment--can be viewed as anything but selfish from the child's point of view.

Finally, if we can criticize dads, whether in the home or not, for not being involved enough in their children's lives; if we can accuse them of selfishness, whether in the home or not, which we (women especially) do; if we can whack those who are deadbeats; if we can DO all that, very appropriately, on the basis of the best interests of children, then why the HECK is it off limits as "dinosaur territory" to criticize women who decide, in advance, to cut off all the potential advantages of having a father, and welcome all the potential disadvantages, of not having one?

Well, there's only one way that you can approve of the former but disavow the latter: If in fact your point of view is that it's all about the mothers. The kids? Well, they're just extensions of their mothers, with their own autonomous interests a distant second in priority.

Sad.

Accidents and sad circumstances happen; then we make the best of it. But INTENT does matter, at least sometimes, and IS an indicator of character--and this is one of those times.

Ann Althouse said...

Lmeade: I think there are some smart, good-looking young guys who are making a lot of money for doing next to nothing. I'm picturing students at elite universities. Maybe we should worry that the next generation will have inherited the propensity not to care who their kids are.

anselm said...

Maybe we should worry that the next generation will have inherited the propensity not to care who their kids are.

You are presumably leveling this criticism at today's young men.

In which case, what better way to ensure such a future than to institutionalize fatherlessness?

MD said...

Ummm, I love the whole inability to find a mate charge, when for a man more education and more money means a wider array of choices in a mate, while for women there is a whittling down of choices. And it ain't just cause the women are picky and looking only for Mr. Right or their 'equal'. So, basically, a man is rewarded socially for excelling in a way that a women is not. Your choices improve (and by that I mean a wider array of women will consider you a serious potential mate) while a woman is chastized for being too choosy (because less men will consider her a serious mate. And spare me the anecdotes).

Sorry, just because those Sex and the City gals were dullards doesn't mean they didn't occasionally have a point.

Ok, this time it's really enough.

Shanti said...

Here is what really set me off -

"Even though it's only you, it really is only you," said Stacia Snapp, 43, of Woodinville, Wash., a technical writer for Microsoft who had two children with her ex-husband and used a sperm donor to have two more on her own. "It's really hard to balance when you have someone who disagrees with what you want to do. You're trying to be a good mom, you're trying to be a good wife, you don't feel understood by anybody."

Here is a woman who does not want any interference with her raising of her kids, so she chooses not to have a dad for her child. I am sorry, but I cannot see anything noble or unselfish in that.

Dogtown said...

Ann,

Not trying to bully you, b.s you, or see you cow to my point of view. I was pointing out a perception gleaned from months of reading your site, not from this single post.

And yes, it is fair to label this selfish. Let's call it what it is. It's as selfish as a parent performing some risky sport, like climbing Half Dome, after a child is born and still in its formative years.

Your question-as-headline is posed as though it's a threat, or a challenge. But the selfishness is evident: "I'm being selfish....does that threaten you?". Well no, but your selfishness has consequences to the greater good, like the rock climber who dies climbing Half Dome and dies, leavin his/her children parentless.

We are a selfish society, but is that the society we want?

JodyTresidder said...

Dear T. Rex (aka reader_iam:))
You wrote of "normal" mothers who end up single: "Accidents and sad circumstances happen; then we make the best of it."

Yet the sperm mothers, surely, are avoiding accidents and sad circumstances?

Aren't they actually actively ruling out deadbeat dads, divorce fallout or bride-blindness?

L. Ron Halfelven said...

Women can find men by lowering their standards enough. Why do you think women who do that are more deserving than women who see that they haven't been able to find a match, assess their real situation and see that unless they go it alone they will remain childless?

Because realism is a valuable trait in a mother-- however little use princesses may have for it.

Henry said...

lindsey -- you are indeed correct. My stepfather line is meant as sarcasm, not advice.

reader_iam said...

Just curious, Ann: Do you keep track of which of your posts have generated the most comments? Or the greatest number of comments generated by a single post? You post on such diverse topics and your readers seem so none-monolithic that, in your case, such statistics would be very interesting.

Ann Althouse said...

Paul: Women who marry unsuitable men are also being unrealistic. That's not to say women going for single motherhood may not also be unrealistic. Actually, everyone goes into pregnancy with some lack of realism.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

That word "unsuitable" again. What does it mean in this context? To me, lowering one's standards as age 40 comes and goes is in most cases a laudably sensible admission that they were probably unrealistically high to begin with. But you seem to be suggesting-- or assuming?-- that this alternative necessarily means settling for someone who's unfit to be a father. How likely is that, even given the restricted choices older women face?

phillywalker said...

The disapproval of single motherhood by choice generated by this post is not surprising, since many Althouse readers are socially conservative, and by definition a social conservative is pro-traditional family, etc. But the mean-spirited tone of the attacks, as well as the knee-jerk simplicity of many of the responses makes me extremely uncomfortable, speaking as someone who has been pretty consistently a lifelong conservative.

Some people oppose single motherhood by choice for religious reasons, although the posters to this comment thread have been keeping that rationale in the background. And if that is your reason for opposing it, you are quite right to express your opinion (and should do so openly, I think) but quite wrong to impose it on anyone else.

The idea that single motherhood BY ITSELF is unfair to children, a recipe for disaster, selfish, wrong, and so on just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Some of the posters have posited a second criterion: single motherhood due to the fact that women who go this route are not mature enough to form long-term relationships results in inevitable disaster for children.

Well, that might very well be true. A woman who can’t form long-term relationships with men might very well be unable to parent satisfactorily. I would not want to suggest, though, that nuns and the hundreds of female Protestant missionaries who have traditionally run orphanages be included in this sweeping judgment (although doubtless some of them are parenting failures, too).

We have always had single motherhood, although it was almost never by choice, but rather usually the result of death, divorce, or abandonment (and that by itself might tell you something about the relative health/happiness of these families). Some of the children in these families turned out well and happy and some did not, and anyone who wants to suggest that he or she knows for a fact that the absence of a father is the cause of particular outcomes is just blowing hot air. Let’s see some statistics balanced for education, income, presence of other family members, etc.

We have always had two-parent families in which the children turned out well, and families in which they didn’t. Most people, in fact, can point to a traditional 2-parent family in which SOME of the children turned out well and happy, and SOME of the children did not. The same thing happens in single-parent families. Anyone who says that he or she knows why all these varying outcomes happened in all these situations is making statements with absolutely no proof.

What is being proposed is something really very new in human history, I think: single motherhood by choice. I can see that, just because this is new, many people might think it is dangerous or wrong. And they might be right. However, even if single motherhood due to death, divorce, and abandonment MAY be detrimental to children IN SOME CASES, we have no way of knowing that single motherhood by choice will be detrimental to children in most or all cases. We have no data.


I have tried to imagine what I would do if I were in my late thirties, desired motherhood, and had no husband or lifetime male partner. (By the way, I think this situation happens to lots of women not because they are immature, picky, selfish, stupid, etc. I have known quite a few women in this situation, and they seemed no worse in these respects than many of the married mothers of children I have known.)

What I do know is this: if my daughter were in that situation and asked me if she should take the chance of shouldering the immense responsibility and difficulty of single motherhood, try to adopt (still the burden of single motherhood), or wait for a husband to come along in time, I would advise her, with great trepidation, to have a baby. And I would help her as much as I could. Why?

Because I know women in their fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties who have no children, that’s why. Sometimes this happens due to the death of children (always a possibility, no matter what style of motherhood we are considering), but most of them either married and could not conceive or never married. They are not all filled with despair and regret, but – boy, what a difference between them and the ones who have even one child.

Now, there is no way of foretelling whether your children and grandchildren will bring you great grief or great joy, but it seems to me the odds are heavy in favor of great joy. That has been my experience, and the experience of most of my peers. A friend who lost her adult daughter to cancer has said, “My relationship with my daughter was so profound, so wonderful, so unlike anything else I have experienced or ever hope to experience, that I would not lose those memories even if I could erase the pain of her death.”

That has been my experience of motherhood; it’s indescribably wonderful, and I’m not talking just about having cute babies and adorable toddlers, but about adult relationships that last for 30-50 years and are the deepest, best thing you know. I don’t want my daughter to miss this just because Mr. Right didn’t appear at the right time.

Sorry about the length of this.

peter hoh said...

If you really want autonomy, don't have children.

anselm said...

Shanti - ditto.

md,

And it ain't just cause the women are picky and looking only for Mr. Right or their 'equal'.

Then what is it? The dating & mating scene may tilt against professional women as you say. However, the women in the article seem to prefer the uninhibited control that comes with such "autonomy" as they can buy. The hired help does not question their parenting decisions, but nor is it a father to the child.

You confuse legit concern over the lack of two parents for a punitive desire to brand unattached women as spinsters.

Ann,

Accusing me of being a man-hater, however, if just dredging up the oldest anti-feminist argument in the book.

You've written that "the most frightening thing about female autonomy [is males becoming unproductive and unstable]." You have labelled those who point to longevity, stability, and intimacy of family ties as threatened by "female autonomy." You've implied that men are merely a liability and written that all worthy females but settle for inferior males.

Taken as a whole, it does beg the question of whether you see anything uniquely good about men. If not, "man-hater" would seem to be pretty much accurate.

And where autonomy is concerned, absence of an opposite is not the equivalent of autonomy.

Buying help to stand in for a mate and co-parent is a farce of autonomy.

Refusal to accept help or criticism from an equal is not autonomy.

You ask,

"Have you taken a look at some of the people who pair up? Women can find men [only?] by lowering their standards enough."

- but then hedge with:

"Women who marry unsuitable men are also being unrealistic."

Aside from leaving no room for a satisfactory reality (something the women in the article seem to have done) your combined arguments still fail to tear down two-parent families to the extent that single-parent families magically become equal to them.

peter hoh said...

I really want to know if the defenders of this practice think it's okay for a single man to use a donor egg and a surrogate gestational carrier to create his own biological child.

Ann Althouse said...

"Unsuitable" is meant to refer to the individual's own standards. I assume for most it would include various elements of compatibility and attraction, with some things being more absolute than others. Why are you getting weirded out by that word? Does the word "marriageable" bother you?

the pooka said...

I say, Three cheers for designer babies and internet porn!

Seriously, I read Ann's original post as much more a comment on the antiquatedness of fertility/adoption rules, and on the shoddy/condescending treatment these women routinely receive, than as any sort of single-mom manifesto.

At the same time, it *is* enjoyable to see all the normally-libertarian dad's-rights neanderthals get all Spencerian when it comes to this topic...

the pooka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Henry said...

Peter Hoh -- I'll bite. Sure.

Phillywalker "Let’s see some statistics balanced for education, income, presence of other family members, etc." -- I've been banging on this drum too. I did some searching and came up with the scholarly article I linked above:

Daddies, devotion, and dollars: how do they matter for youth?

I don't know if this is a definitive article or not, but I haven't seen any evidence from the "single moms hurt kids" posters that gets beyond stereotypes.

As for the idea that getting married is some kind of kid-rearing aptitude test, I thought I'd make two anecdotal points.

First, for myself, nothing prepared me for being a parent. Learning to be patient with my children and responsive to their way of communicating required unlearning some adult-relationship expectations.

Second I've known many people, both male and female, who run the gamut from a little odd to really quite socially inept, who are great with kids, both fun and responsible.

Sally said...

Wow! It seems gender politics always causes a stir, doesn't it? I just got here, and skimmed the 97 comments.

I'd like to add to what Pastor Jeff said - people HAVE become to picky, especially in this "me" generation. But it seems men are a huge problem today with being overly picky. Many men have morphed into eternal boys. They don't want responsibility, they don't want children until they are "sure" about so many things. A lot of young men don't want to commit these days. Of course these men are unsuitable partners. One can't conceive with an eternal boy.

If doing what comes natural to many women - procreating - continues, despite the present boy/man culture, perhaps these boy/men will evolve. These women are seizing their futures themselves and our denying themselves the traditional role of passivity. I see great potential here for our society to evolve.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Pooka: You'd think I'd said that having a man in the family was detrimental and the more single mothers the better! It's too bad people are so quick to blame women for problems. Why not blame men for not putting more effort into making families for the sake of the next generation? If this were really about how wrong selfishness is, single men ought to be held accountable for failing to embrace fatherhood.

I think most women, myself included, would avoid becoming a parent alone. It sounds very hard! I don't think I would have credited myself with being unselfish for shirking solo parenthood if I had found myself unmarried, childless, and approaching age 40. I grew up thinking that's what self-centered women do!

Shanti said...

Allicent, talking of gender politics why is it always OK to berate men in a discussion (see your men/boys), but it makes people neanderthals to say some women can be selfish? Why is it always that men are unsuitable, but women are never at fault when it comes to non-working relationships?

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't really have any opinion on these women.

It does, however, give me a bit of a sad feeling that men are treated so inconsequentially. A woman has the right to kill a man's child without his say before it is born. Now she can make a child without having to deal with a man at all.

Just as I think women add a lot to the lives of men, men certainly add a lot to the lives of women, and I think men go mostly unrecognized for that while women are usually lauded for the same.

Freeman Hunt said...

If doing what comes natural to many women - procreating - continues, despite the present boy/man culture, perhaps these boy/men will evolve.

I actually think the opposite. I think a lot of the boy/man culture comes from men being constantly infantilized. Constant jokes that they are children, buffoons, helpless beasts, etc. Lower expectations=lower outcomes.

ShadyCharacter said...

ann althouse writes:

"It's too bad people are so quick to blame women for problems. Why not blame men for not putting more effort into making families for the sake of the next generation?"

This certainly does not seem like very coherent comment given the topic of the post. The debate at hand involves the propriety of women "choosing" single-motherhood. Given the context, if the problem is single-parenthood (which itself is a point of debate), who else would you blame but the women "choosing" to take that path? Apparently, men. That's just odd.

Sally said...

Hmmmm... I guess I'm making broad generalizations because I'm right in the thick of it. I'm 34 and my friends range in age from 30 - 40. I've seen many many relationships that went on for years and years and years but never culminated in marriage due to men not being "ready". I've seen many many women who were impregnated by their boyfriends and pressured by them to have abortions. When it comes to the dynamics of male/female relationships, the day to day difficulty of them surely falls on both men and women. But this fear of making the grand step to "settle down" and have kids seems to be coming from men, many of who believe they have their whole lives to decide on the "perfect" women. Women have their biological clocks to contend with and maternal urges, and this is in conflict with the new boy/men.

Are you seeing something different than I am? If so, I'd love to hear your experiences.

BTW, I'm certainly not trying to classify men as bufoons, and I really don't like the way men, especially white men are portrayed in the media - exactly as you said - bufoons. I have the best dad in the world and have a lot of esteem for most men and the work they do for their family and society.

HaloJonesFan said...

Freeman: I agree. And, frankly, this whole business strikes me as yet another outgrowth of the idea that men are useless, overgrown children.

A man who so thoroughly took himself out of the dating pool would be looked on as strange at best, and an object of ridicule at worst. (i.e. "40-year-old virgin".) But now women do it, and we're all supposed to stand up and cheer this misanthropy?

Seriously, a decision by a single woman to artifically inseminate--indeed, the decision to become a parent at all, even through adoption--could be looked on as the ultimate expression of misanthropy. "We're so much better than men that we don't even need a man anymore," say single women who artificially inseminate.

On the other hand, I guess there's not much use discussing relationships with a divorcee.

Ann Althouse said...

Shady: It's not incoherent. I'm saying there should be more men who want to be in families and who are developing themselves into the kind of people who would have matched these women who find themselves without partners. Look at how many young men behave in our culture. A lot of them are in prison, for one thing. Others do not look for women to be faithfully devoted to. They seek selfish pleasures, not more responsibilities. Many have substance abuse problems. They are not pursuing higher education at the same rate as women. There is a disparity that leaves a lot of women without partners. I'm sure some of the women are too picky or too conceited or whatever your stereotype is, but a lot of them are good women who haven't got reasonable marriage prospects. Show some sympathy for their plight!

HaloJonesFan said...

allicent: If women are going to start having kids via artificial insemination, how is that going to encourage men to mature? There's even less incentive to do it--after all, it's not as though someone might want you to act as a role model or anything!

Shanti said...

Allicent, I am 31 myself and have been married for almost 7 years now. I have an infant child myself and I see how much work it is. I have seen a couple of my friends' homes break-up and in my experience it has been because because the women didn't feel "ready" to settle down and have kids. In our relationship itself, my husband wanted the baby way more than I ever did, even though I wouldn't give him up for anything.

I think I am a little alarmed by the marginalization of men being the mother of a boy.

Also, now that I see how much work my little boy is, I could NOT have done this without my husband being around to help out.

HaloJonesFan said...

Ann: But if the choice is "take a chance on a man" or "opt out of the process", who would choose the former? Would you expect a woman to search for years to find a "suitable" candidate and only after that time choose artificial insemination? What about a woman who decides that she wants a baby tomorrow, and there's an AI clinic right down the street?

Shanti said...

Of course, my previous comment was not to say I haven't met any immature jerks in my time. I probably would have remained single if not for my husband and probably would never remarry if I got divorced.

Meade said...

Great posts, Henry Woodbury. I especially liked your two anecdotal points.

reader_iam said...

JodyTressider:

1) Calling me TRex doesn't address the issue I was raising in the paragraph where I referred to "dinosaur territory."
2) Nowhere did I use the word normal, in quotation marks or out of them. That's strictly your terminology.
3) Strictly speaking, they're avoiding an "accident" in that they're becoming pregnant deliberately. But as to avoiding "sad circumstances," that would be true only if you don't consider it's possible that the child may find it sad that he or she doesn't have a father. Or if you don't consider it possible that not having one may have implications and affects that are negative.
4)True, they are ruling out deadbeat dads. They aren't ruling out divorce fallout, of course, because they may yet marry and even divorce ... which would still affect their child. And while the reference to bride-blindness is amusing, it begs the issue of the "fathers-are-irrelevant" blindness to which I was referring, in terms of what might be in the best interests of the children and what their choice or opinion might be as to what best serves it.

Finally, I thought it was clear (but obviously, I failed to make it so) that I brought those up in the specific context of questioning, from the point of view of the best interests of children how it makes sense that fathers can be important enough to criticise when they fall short in the ways to which I alluded, but yet are so unimportant that they can be dismissed as in any way necessary. I was suggesting that to say you can criticize dads for not choosing in the best interests of kids but not moms when they similarly fail to do so doesn't make sense to me. I standy by the concept that saying one is OK but not the other means that we're really not talking making judgements from an objective point of view of what's best for kids, but rather how things affect, or don't affect, the mother. (Thus, the real objection to lazy, selfish, uninvolved or deadbat dads isn't that they are failing the best interests of the kids, but rather that the consequences of their actions or inactions negatively affect MOTHERS.) If that's your point of view, then it IS coherent to make a judgement regarding sperm moms strictly from the view of the mother.

I was trying to point out that it seemed to me inherent in the original post headline and many comments that the BENCHMARK for evaluation assumed the "mother's point of view" as the starting point. I'm saying that I find that default assumption the wrong benchmark: I believe it should a "child's best interests."

No doubt you still disagree, but did I make my point more clear?

Maybe my lack of an opposable thumb (as a dinosaur) is hampering my typing ...

Sally said...

Shanti

Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. You seem to have a great relationship, one built on compromises. I'd like to ask you and others, would you consider your husband the norm or the exception? When you consider single men and women your age and older, do you see more often the men or the women as the ones who are avoiding marriage?

Freeman -

To answer your question, let me share some of my own experiences. As a younger woman I used to go on dates with whomever - older men, men my age, and occasionally a younger man. Now the older men that I dated - they were an odd bunch. I always found it very unsexy that they weren't attracted to women their own age, as I had so many wonderful female friends who were their age. I thought, what's wrong with these men? There was also something strangely immature about these men as well. And a bit sexist. A 45 year old date would comment on the difficult of aging for a woman my age (28 at the time). I've experienced such comments from older men frequently. But there was always something sad about such older men who had never been married but were now wanting it - I could tell - but with a woman 15 - 20 years younger. I thought it kind of sad that somehow they had evaded marriage and fatherhood for all of those years in order to date me or some other young and immature woman who would be snide to their grief and experiences. Perhaps they did not imagine that not everyone is Michael Douglas?

(Disclaimer - Old men and young women, just as Old women and young men, fall in love and get married and have real and deep relationships. I know this, and I am happy for you! It happened to me with my wonderful young hubby!)

Now to continue... if women at 38 or whatever age, go on with their lives, procreate, have families, may be even marry after the fact, they are seizing life and the future that they want. Men will see this, some men will continue to evade marriage, yet will see the life they could have had. Again, not every man is Michael Douglas. Boys will see this as well and perhaps society will not take these fantastic women for granted.

ShadyCharacter said...

ann: I have sympathy! I really do. I just don't see how the argument that men are knuckleheads supports the argument that choosing single-motherhood is a good or even acceptable choice for a woman, her child or society. While at the margins highly successful women (read wealthy, nanny-hiring women) may be able to pull it off, the practice, if widely-adopted, would lead to massive problems IN MY OPINION. Thus, this phenomenon, to the extent it actually exists and is not the fancy of a NYT editor, is troubling to me and apparently to many other "dinosaurs" on this board:)

Maybe the conversation has moved beyond the choosing of single-motherhood to the problems women (and men too, I might add) have trying to find a life partner. I don't believe anything I have written would indicate that I hold to the stereotype that women are "too picky or too conceited". If anything, I think the problem is that the general dating culture as it now exists (and at 27 it's the only culture I've known) is disfunctional and is simply not conducive to the formation of healthy relationships. A way for any man or woman to succeed in spite of that is to sidestep the dating culture (bars and the like) and connect with others in a more organic way. Maybe join a church-group or civic organization etc...

BTW, this highly charged debate is not without precedent - it's Murphy Brown-redux!

Also, I love the blog. It's moved to the top of my list. You're costing me many billable hours each week!

anselm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
anselm said...

Ann,

You so readily exclaim how difficult single-motherhood is on the mother. Yet at the same time, any mention of difficulties to the children has mostly been met with, "tell that to the men who are either not up to the level of "these women", or stubbornly refuse to be their mates!" How does simply passing the blame account for the difficulty the kids will face - or is it just the moms who find it hard, while the kids breeze through?

No doubt that there are loutish men just as there are shrewish women. That's neither new, or at issue here.

There is a disparity that leaves a lot of women without partners. I'm sure some of the women are too picky or too conceited or whatever your stereotype is, but a lot of them are good women who haven't got reasonable marriage prospects. Show some sympathy for their plight!

Consider it shown. But you crying foul on the stereotyping is a little pot-kettleish. We've heard loads from you on the "smart, good-looking young guys who are making a lot of money for doing next to nothing", and then "A lot of them are in prison, for one thing. Others do not look for women to be faithfully devoted to. They seek selfish pleasures, not more responsibilities. Many have substance abuse problems. They are not pursuing higher education at the same rate as women."

Men are on the downswing, no doubt. But when women were out of the loop professionally, society worked to get them in, as did the women themselves. If now men are out of the loop domestically, do we blame them for the actions of a small group of unpartnered women and shit on the good attempts of the conscientious "men's-movement neanderthals"?

Those of us who feel two-parent families are better for kids, where possible, and reduce problems down the line, are not necessarily afraid of female autonomy. It seems convenient for you to make such a claim but you haven't explained it, choosing rather to engage in bobble-headed self-talk like "It's too bad people are so quick to blame women for problems." Why be so thin-skinned in a discussion you opened up, presumably to have different viewpoints aired?

Shanti said...

Allicent, I come from a SouthAsian community where it is kinda hard to remain unmarried too long. I do agree that I have seen one guy remain unmarried till he was 30-something - he was a jerk.

I have had many friends who were unmarried and older form work that I went drinking with. Usually, the women are big-earners, just trying to get by - great personalities. The older men that I have seen have been mostly shallow, although better looking than the women. I have no idea where I am going with this, so I will stop by saying that that was just my personal experience :)

Sally said...

Anselm,

It's also difficult to raise children without an extended family living nearby yet many people do. Adoption is difficult, as children of adoption often have identity issues. Being raised in a biracial/blended family during the 80's was difficult for me and my family. All sorts of family situations can make raising children difficult, but people choose to do it with love and sacrifice and often have relatively stable and happy children. So what's the big deal with the single woman?

Dogtown said...

Picking up where I left off earlier, regarding consequences, don't be surprised to see more of this if women choose to forego the forming of a relationship with a man.:
http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2005/10/11/real_dolls/index_np.html
If men are disposable in the parenting equation, don't be surprised when men relate to women in a much baser fashion than anything they do now.

And as for the pseudo-argument of: married couples produce bad offspring, as some single mothers produce bad offspring, or vice versa, ad nauseum........that's an individualistic, selfish, and rationalizing attitude. I don't dismiss this so easily with the approach of "it'll all work out.....SOME will turn out good, and SOME won't, but in the end it'll be even". Exceptions aside, is it not better to have two parents, and is it selfish for a society to want that?

Undecided said...

Yes, female anatomy does frighten me. I'm more comfortable with male anatomy - my own.

vbspurs said...

As for the children, I'll say it again. Those who are born to these women would simply not have been born otherwise. Are you telling me that it's better not to be born than to be born into this situation?

I may not, but my mother (a child psychiatrist) certainly would.

The single most important component of a child's mental health is to have a biological father sharing the life of that child with its mother.

Sure, I see you have raised a valid point -- that modern-day society precludes this ideal at times.

But that doesn't change the fact that if this is what you want for your child, the best possible start to its life, at least you should try it.

Personal Disclosure: I'm not married (yet). I don't have kids. My parents, who both lean left politically, are together over 30 years now. I'm grateful to them for the life they've given me thus far, warts and all. I hope to duplicate it when my turn comes.

Cheers,
Victoria

Freeman Hunt said...

Boys will see this as well and perhaps society will not take these fantastic women for granted.

And my point is that it's not going to work this way. (Especially when these "fantastic women" will still sleep with them.)

Also I think you could just as easily say that men don't want to commit because they can't find satisfactory women.

JodyTresidder said...

CheersVictoria wrote: "The single most important component of a child's mental health is to have a biological father sharing the life of that child with its mother."

Prizes for the daftest generalization I have ever read, bar none.

gs said...

Jumbled thoughts before dashing off:

1. Ann previously posted about elite-school women who intend to drop out of the workforce and marry. Whatever else might be said about that trend or the single-mother one, imho it's a healthy sign for a society if its women put a high value on childbearing. Consider the demographic crisis in Europe.

2. I kind of resonated with Sloanasaurus. Like any innovation, this one should be discouraged but not stigmatized or forbidden. Barriers should be neither too high nor too low.

3. Henry Woodbury--wow, I never heard of the wicked stepfather before (not that I accept the results at face value). I wonder what a study would find by comparing a father's stepchildren and biological children in the same family.

3a. The study indicated that negative consequences of single motherhood could be mitigated by income and parental involvement. Fine and dandy: good luck to Supersinglemom!

Jennifer said...

After spending the better part of the last year and a half on a base where almost every single soldier was mobilized, I've seen more than my fair share of children who are miserable without their daddies - including my own.

I suppose the argument can be made that we volunteer for a lifestyle where Daddy comes and goes - maybe that's no better than eliminating him entirely. So maybe I don't have any real leg to stand on here.

But, I cannot blithely accept that children are A-OK without a father.

And, speaking from my own personal experience, my son would likely be a wimp if he were just parented by me and he would likely be dead if he were just parented by Dad. It's good to have mitigating forces at work here. :)

PatCA said...

We're all talking about cultural trends, like AI, that have existed for only nanoseconds in historical terms. Every generation has regrets: my mother's generation was constrained by sexism and lack of reliable birth control and so had regrets about lack of intellectual fulfillment. How many successful women today followed the "don't be dependent on a man" call? Now, a scant 30 years after the bombshell of the Pill, boomers are constrained by the problems caused by too much independence. So it's way too early to say that the world has been reinvented.

As for men, who I think are taking a hugely bad rap from the women's movement, if they aren't as responsible as previous generations, I would suggest that women should look to their own behavior for part of the reason. Women today provide men with sex, companionship, homemaking, all without marriage--enough comfort for any man who chooses to live well and avoid maturing indefinitely. It tells me that women today are just as confused as men, so take resonsibility and give them a break!

Cathy Young said...

Interesting debate.

See my take here.

SippicanCottage said...

Troglodytic misogyne dinosaur traditional means of restraint here again-

victoria's point is right on the money. I can't imagine what statistical rock jody looks under, but it's almost impossible to find any stronger correlation between grave social ills and causes than lack of a real at home father.

A. I am a husband and father. I've earned the right to be called that, and I resent anybody using it to describe someone who masturbates into a turkey baster for a female to become pregnant with an illegitimate child.

B. A woman inpregnated with sperm using a selection process that affords the "ability to select a 6-foot-2 blond, blue-eyed, genetic-disease-free donor," with the state as its putative father has a familiar ring to it. Can't quite place that one. East of here, 70 years ago or so, if I recall. Worked out swell for everyone.

C. The idea that money is a substitute for a father is pandemic in this thread. Lovely.

D. The portrayal that people who decry voluntarily having illegitimate kids as backward is laughable. The institution of marriage as a fundamental construct for the raisng of children is the sophisticated outlook here. Widespread illegitimacy is a retreat to barbarism, and nothing new, whether you're a camp follower in the middle ages or a turkey baster buyer who watched Murphy Brown once. You're the dinosaur here, Sex in the City Trollops, not us. We're the monks hiding the latin manuscripts from the barbarians until the modern dark age of faux rousseauism is over.

E. Children raised without fathers for other reasons used to be quite common with many of our recent ancestors. Work was hard and dangerous for a man 150 years ago, and many small children buried their fathers. Many of the most compelling public characters of the last century lost their fathers as small children, and became prominent citizens. James Michael Curley and Fiorello La Guardia come to mind. The method of raising these children, to make them into men, was for the mother of the boys to essentially become the father of the family. The longsuffering, hardworking, strict disciplinarian was quite common among widows who were quite meek and mild when their husbands were alive. They realized that the absolute worst situation for a male child is to be raised by a single mother. Any survey of the prison system will bear that out.

F. Ultimately, I don't care much what these women do. I care deeply about their children, because they deserve better, but what are you gonna do?

Cathy Young said...

(By the way, sorry about the hit-and-run posting -- I'd love to add to the discussion here, but have to dash off on a trip to Washington, DC.)

Sally said...

Patca,

Yes! I agree. Women are somewhat responsible for the infantizing of men. I absolutely agree, living together before marriage has encouraged this. Also, these long long relationships that people have these days before (or without) getting married. Of course! Men have everything they want and women are bending over backwards to give it to them, in a pseudo post-feminist passive manner.

If I could give young women advice it would be threefold 1. don't live with a man before marriage 2. don't date for more than a year 3. don't be too nice. Men love bitches.

JodyTresidder said...

Blimey, after the last trickle of comments...Stepford Dinosaurs, no less!

vbspurs said...

SippicanCottage wrote:

A. I am a husband and father. I've earned the right to be called that, and I resent anybody using it to describe someone who masturbates into a turkey baster for a female to become pregnant with an illegitimate child.

Heh. Very well put.

I don't want to start a whole other side argument (oh, go on then!), but one of the Pro-Choice arguments that MOST irritates me, is the one which constantly refers to the right to abort a child as "a woman's right over her own body".

Fine. Dandy. Where's the dad's input into all of this?

Didn't he have 50% of responsibility, and therefore, some kind of moral and legal authority to intervene if he doesn't want to kill his own child?

Why do we, in modern Western society, always always discount or reduce the male-sphere when we speak of women?

I understand it might be a reaction to all those years when women were brutally subjugated by men around the world.

But it seems to me that doing the same thing, just when you're in charge of the situation now, is no legitimate response.

B. A woman inpregnated with sperm using a selection process that affords the "ability to select a 6-foot-2 blond, blue-eyed, genetic-disease-free donor," with the state as its putative father has a familiar ring to it. Can't quite place that one. East of here, 70 years ago or so, if I recall. Worked out swell for everyone.

Double Heh.

When I read, "6'2, Blond, Blue-eyed" I thought very much the same thing.

Cheers,
Victoria

Eli Blake said...

I think this is great.

It is a fact that, between wars, the greater death rates of young males due to accidents, homicide, suicide, and a number of childhood diseases, together with the higher rates of male incarceration, (and I've seen one study that also suggests a higher rate of male homosexuality) there are, by the age of 30, significantly more available single women than single men. That's just the math of the matter.

If you follow this through, there will always be a few women dealt out of the game. Why shouldn't they still be able to have children if they want to?

I am a male and I don't feel threatened by this kind of thing at all.

vbspurs said...

The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank

I just finished reading that last week, and our general topic in this thread reminded me of some of its points.

It's a good read, as long as you don't mind being irritated by the constant interpolation of the author, David Plotz, into the story.

(OTOH, it makes what he has to say especially interesting to men, since his perspective is from the vantage point of a father donating sperm, which he actually does just to see what it is like, with all that implies)

The creator of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, Robert Graham, refused to accept applications from people he thought unfit to bear genius babies (certain women, like lesbians), but it turns out that most of the married women who sought his services, ended up divorced, or separated anyway.

The way the author describes the life of the DI kids, with the various psychological implications this type of sperm donation have, are worth the read alone.

Cheers,
Victoria

Bruce Hayden said...

Intesting change since I took off from the thread this morning.

A poster way up above brought up a book by Ursela LeGuinn. My initial response was that my favorite fantasy book on sex and child rearing issues was Sheri S. Tepper's "The Gate to Women's Country". I then rethought it, given that Tepper is a militant feminist who would often seem to fall in with these women.

But the last 20 or so posts make that book somewhat relevant. In it, the women live in villages, where they maintain science, medicine, etc. Outside, the men live as Roman legions. The boys go to the men at five, and are given a chance to move back as teenagers if they agree to be guilded (they aren't and turn out to be the real fathers of the next generation).

The reason that it struck a chord with me when I read it years ago, is that it well described the bad sides of both sexes. The men would really prefer occasional copulation, then spend the rest of their time running around with the guys. The women fall in love with these guys and have sex with them, no matter how inappropriate.

Which brings us to today. A lot of men are perfectly happy to do just that. The difference between now and before is that then the women and society wouldn't let them get away with it. Sex and marriage were tightly interlinked. Even if you didn't wait until marriage, if a woman got pregnant, they got married.

Today, we have all these liberated women who let the guys get away with regular sex without responsibility for, in some cases, decades. And why should they settle down? Some other woman is often willing to pick up where if one gives up.

How does that tie into this discussion? I see these women contributing to this for at least two generations. On the first, they aren't doing their part in domesticating a male.

Worse, males raised without a father are significantly more likely to end up running in male packs and, in our society, ending up in prison. Some 90% of those there were raised w/o fathers.

The problem that we have seen in the lower economic African-American communities is a direcct result of both of these trends. The men didn't have to settle down to have sex and procreate, so they didn't. And they didn't have to because the women didn't need them, being for a long time supported in this by the state.

Lest you think that this won't happen with these women, as they are rich enough and well educated enough to not make this mistake, I have seen it happen more than once. A decade or so ago, I dated a couple of single mothers in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Chicago. Both had teenaged sons, and one, believe it or not, had a PhD in child psychology. The sons were out of control, in and out of trouble at school and with the law. Both of the older kids of the child psychologist were thrown out of high school. (However, to be fair to the women in the article, both of these women had their kids in wedlock).

Back to my point though. I don't like where this is taking us. I don't see any good from it at all, and this has nothing to do with religion.

Bruce Hayden said...

Allicent said:
"If I could give young women advice it would be threefold 1. don't live with a man before marriage 2. don't date for more than a year 3. don't be too nice. Men love bitches."

I don't know about the last point. But tonight as I drove home from dinner, I was listening to the infamous Dr. Laura. A woman had been dating a guy for five years (but no sex) and he didn't want to get married yet. Dr. Laura told her that she had just wasted the last four years.

And she is right, esp. as they were five critical years through her mid twenties. Now she is nearing 30 and hopefully starting over.

The problem is that dating, and in particular, living with, a guy for years is not a good thing for either of them. In particular here, it enables the male behavior that is one of the things at the heart of this matter.

37383938393839383938383 said...

"This is hard on men, but maybe it will put a good pressure on them to become better husband material."

You're ignoring that these women are not ordinary and normal women, despite the fact that they see themselves this way. In fact, they are abnormal and extraordinary. Perhaps it is not the men within their orbit who are faulty, but the expectations of these women that are unrealistic. I would think that if you are so unable to find a suitable mate that you are driven to a sperm bank, perhaps the problem is you. I mean, if a man said he was so unable to find a suitable woman to marry that he needed to procure prostitutes, we would all treat that claim with skepticism. Perhaps the problem, we might think, is that he's a loser.

amba said...

XWL (I'm only halfway through all these Comments),

Go read Gruntled Center's posts here and here about the need to have three categories: best, good enough, and bad; the preferred, the tolerated, and the prohibited. He says:

For example, historically and cross-culturally, marriage is the preferred institution in which to raise children, and incestuous unions are a prohibited way. What centrists need to be able to say is that marriage is preferred for raising children, and some other ways – my nominees would be single parenthood and same-sex unions -- are tolerated, acceptable, good enough. This is true of any social policy. The best way is still better, and social policy should provide incentives to promote the best way. But those who fall in the middle category, the good enough way, should not be penalized beyond the natural inefficiencies of doing something in a less than optimal way.

For liberal egalitarians having any kind of second class status is unacceptable.
For conservative perfectionists permitting any but the preferred way is to connive at social breakdown.

The primary political and philosophical problem of centrism is legitimizing the distinctions among the good, the bad, and the good enough.

amba said...

Tangentially pertinent to this subject is a book my friend Dalma Heyn has coming out next month called DRAMA KINGS: The Men Who Drive Strong Women Crazy. The men who are good at relationships usually pair up early and stay married. That means that the men who are still out there when a woman is looking for a mate in her 30s or 40s are, if not exactly unsuitable, then psychologically incapable or unwilling. Dalma describes several behavior patterns of men who are attracted to strong women but equally compelled to frustrate, sabotage, or deceive them. Unlike books that lament the terrible prospects of aging women doomed to be alone, DRAMA KINGS is exhilarating in its depiction of women who learn and gain strength and experience through these crazy relationships and don't regret them. The women emerge ready and happy either to live "alone" (surrounded by friends, children, even part-time lovers) or to connect with the rare man who's really ready for them. . . . Am I advertising her book? No, I frankly loved it, and not just because I love her. "Exhilarating" is the word that comes to mind for the way she depicts . . . well, female autonomy, and real, un-self-censoring relatedness.

Sally said...

Amba,

That seems like a very relevant and interesting book. Thanks for the info!

Eli Blake said...

Victoria:

the one which constantly refers to the right to abort a child as "a woman's right over her own body".

Fine. Dandy. Where's the dad's input into all of this?

Didn't he have 50% of responsibility, and therefore, some kind of moral and legal authority to intervene if he doesn't want to kill his own child?


The problem is that men don't have to sacrifice their own health and body to carry a fetus for nine months.

I think it is great if a woman does consult with the father and reaches a decision on whether to abort or not together, but ultimately, it is the woman, not the man, who gets pregnant, so the decision should lay with her in the end.

My fifteen year old daughter got pregnant three years ago. We both agreed that abortion was not the way to 'fix' it (I am actually against abortion, but I don't think the way to end abortion is by banning it). After that we disagreed (I thought adoption was the best choice, she decided to keep the baby, who is now a very enjoyable little granddaughter). But if she had chosen an abortion, then it would have been her choice, and neither me nor my wife nor her boyfriend nor her boyfriend's family would have had the right to make that decision for her.

Wade_Garrett said...

Let's say you're a professional woman. You're in school until your mid-to-late 20s, spend the first five years or so of your career in a residency or associateship. You're 35, single, never married. Odds are, men your age will be interested in dating women younger than you. Odds are also good that the men slightly older than you, who are interested in dating you, have kids of their own -- kids who will always see you as their father's new wife.

What are you to do in that situation? By the time you're 35 you are probably pretty set in your ways; if you've been doing what you want when you want for 15 years of adulthood then its hard to suddenly start sharing and compromising your life with somebody else. Furthermore, meeting somebody at that age isn't like meeting somebody in college, when you can get to know them over a period of time and become increasingly serious and then try moving in together and then eventually get married after several years.

About 50% of marriages in this country end in divorce. The statistics I've read show that people who get married for the first time in their mid-30s tend to divorce at higher rates than people who get married in their late 20s. A two-parent household might be ideal, but those are increasingly rare. I don't see how a single woman having a child on her own is any worse than so much of the other stuff that goes on.

Wade_Garrett said...

Furthermore, ask a single, professional black woman what she thinks about this. Let's say you're a 35 year old black female attorney, living in Madison, Wisconsin, or for that matter, almost anywhere other than five or six metro areas. What are your chances of finding a professional black man who is also single and who has a clean criminal record? According to my friends who are in that situation, not good. I haven't talked about this with any of them, and I don't really want to, but could you blame them for wanting to have a child on their own? Are you going to ask them to wait until somebody right comes along? How long would that take, in Madison, WI? How long would that take in the town in which you live?

somross said...

People get pregnant for all sorts of reasons, on purpose and by mistake, and those reasons can be pretty close. Married couples don't all have babies for the "right" reasons. The data mentioned early in the thread about single mothers probably didn't even include women like this: these tend to be very economically secure women who don't have partners but want children very badly and are able to find a way to have them. How can this be selfish? Why is it admirable if a married couple wants a baby but selfish if a single person does?

TopCat said...

Ann,

I know I'm coming to this post late, and I scimmed the first 20 comments before adding this note, but this issue drives me crazier than any other domestic problem we have. Every schred of empirical evidence on this issue shows what damage single parenthood does to society and the chile brought into the world by these narcissists, and you actually want to encourage it? I also think you overlook the more crass economic costs that these women are imposing on society -- the reason this is becoming more acceptable is because our tax policies and social services infrastructure are designed to provide enormous subsidies for this deleterious behavior. I wish you would rethink your position.

JodyTresidder said...

So many of these prescriptive, backward-looking, smugly judgmental, unscientific, empathy-free, slippery slope arguments could so easily be applied to banning divorce - as, indeed, they were to little effect.
And since when has it been the duty of grown women to also "raise" the men they might marry by denying them sex?

Shanti said...

No, Jody - "grown" women don't have to deny men sex. They also don't have the right then to cry about men who are not ready to get married and settle down.

JodyTresidder said...

And that's precisely what they're NOT doing, Shanti. Instead - as the next best alternative - they're bravely wiping their red, snuffly noses, marching out the door and bravely getting on with producing a much-wanted new life to the very best of their abilities.

knoxgirl said...

I'm ambivalent on this one, but I definitely don't like the posts that say that as long as the woman has enough income it's ok, no dad needed. If single parenthood is not good for a poor woman, it's not good for a rich one either! As long as you have enough money to provide the bare essentials, it's your emotional maturity that dictates if you'll be a good parent, not your money. It's gross to talk about it in terms of income.

(This is part of the reason why I think adoption should be free. It makes it hard for anyone who's not wealthy to adopt. Unrelated, sorry.)

Freeman Hunt said...

The problem is that men don't have to sacrifice their own health and body to carry a fetus for nine months.

Interesting how a baby becomes a "fetus" once one talks about killing it but remains a "baby" so long as the woman wants it.

Sacrifice their own health and body? So it's okay to sacrifice another person (the baby/fetus) on the altar of one's health and body? Oops, I guess this is off topic. Back to the topic. . .

Maybe our fully empowered me-first society makes it harder for people to adapt to marriage. When you're used to getting your own way and wanting what you want, it's hard to adapt to taking another person into account at all times. I think that's why the first year of marriage is usually the hardest for people. There's a big learning curve.

bearing said...

Isn't it possible that the "eternal boy" syndrome is a direct result of current trends that value little boys but disdain grown men?

If men are useless, not even necessary for reproduction, why would any boy bother growing up?

JodyTresidder said...

knoxgirl,
I think the good independent income aspect kicked in only as a secondary consideration.

Mainly to get away from the dinosaurs gibbering at the thought of solo turkey baster moms relying on welfare feather bedding the moment their "designer" babies fail to amuse.

Diane said...

Nonexistence is not as bad as it seems. It’s not like our world is so horribly under populated that it needs us to have children in less-than-ideal circumstances. These “babies” won’t know that they don’t exist. The rest of the world *will* know they exist, though, if they aren’t given the advantages they deserve because someone wants something small to love them and doesn’t care about the child’s needs. A baby isn’t something you have to make yourself feel good. It is a human being, with rights and privileges independent of you. You have a child because you respect this human being and look forward to having it unfold. You want to help that child soar and obtain happiness and joy. You shouldn’t start off when you know one of these child’s legs are going to be chained to the ground.

A woman should have *someone* with her to help her raise the child. If you cannot find a significant other, than you should have a friend, or a family member.

A person willingly jumping into parenting without help is criminally irresponsible. Parenting is a hard job. You shouldn’t *choose* to have a child without someone there to help you. We, and our society, did not evolve around doing it alone. Our children are effectively helpless. They effectively hobble the person caring for them. You need another person to care for both of them, or they are not going to be alright.

Yeah. If you can’t find help, then you should give up hope of motherhood. I won’t say it needs to be a man you are currently in a relationship with. It can by your lesbian lover, you parents, your best friend, etc. But you can’t do it alone. Unless you have another party’s complete support (as in they *know* they will be the other parent of this child, and they will be expected to put in just as much work as you), then you are a selfish wench.

It’s one thing to plan the best future, and have it come down around on you. It’s one thing to accidentally wind up having your child in less than ideal circumstances. Women who willingly put their child in such a situation because they want a “baby” disgust me. Baby is in quotation marks because upon closer examination, they usually don’t want a baby. They want a puppy/husband substitute.

I don’t see them as any different from women who poke holes in their significant other’s condoms. These are vile creatures that should be exterminated.

I say this as someone who knows a child raised by a “Single by choice” mother. Her mother is a self-centered twit. The Mother just doesn’t understand why her daughter didn’t turn out to be the wellspring of unconditional love that was advertised. The girl selfishly lives her own life, and doesn’t even provide for her mother’s social needs. . . The daughter is so jaded to motherhood that she’s had her tubes tied.

Diane said...

Freeman Hunt;

Interesting how a baby remains a baby when you want to breastfeed it, and becomes a child only when you want to wean it.

I prefer the term “born Zygote” to baby. I think I’ll use that from now on. As for me, I am a sexually developed child. Not an adult.

anselm said...

Diane,

It's just too bad you choose to hold individuals responsible for the decisions they make.

Don't you know they're forced to, through no fault of their own, by social forces?

Can't you recognize your own narrow-mindedness in yapping on about children's need for parents, parents' need for support, etc?

Denying access to any commodity such as motherhood to any indidual who really wants it, and can pay for it, is elitist, sexist, and downright mean of you.

JodyTresidder said...

Diane wrote of the sperm mothers:"These are vile creatures that should be exterminated."

Excuse me while I go shower.

PatCA said...

Jody,
You're paraphrasing the arguments here, I believe, in a rather extreme way. No one has advocated "denying men sex to get what they want." Does a woman have to have sex with everybody to be a true feminist??

Women should be clear about what they want in life and stop blaming men if it didn't turn out perfect, in spite of their behavior. If a woman is looking for a mate, she should think carefully before embarking on a sexual relationship. She would be wise to start looking in her 20s since that's when most men are single, rather than 40s. If she's out for fun, fine, just understand that a one-night stand is a one-night stand. These seem like pretty reasonable, self-evident prescriptives. But maybe that's me.

Dana said...

Children of single mothers have been found to do as well as children of two parent families. The key factors in success include (surprise!) economic status and the educational level of the mother. See, e.g., http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/May04/single.parents.ssl.html

Given that those kids are already doing well, one wonders how much better they might do without the bias of teachers, coaches, and parents of their classmates who expect less of them for having a single parent?

Nitpicker said...

IMHO, the test should be the interests of the child, not the single mother (or father). And the interests shoudl include not just the product (how the child "turns out") but the process (what the child goes through as s/he grows up). I was widowed when my daughter was seven years old. Unlike single-by-choice/divorced mothers, I had plenty of money & plenty of support, & no societal condemnation, and uncles/grandfathers/godfathers who tried to fill the gap. And my daughter "turned out" not just fine but exceptionally well by conventional standards. However, she went through a great deal of unhappiness, due to the lack of a real father. Sometimes, as in our case, @#$% happens & the parent(s) just have to do the best they can. What I can't understand, however, is someone's deliberately chosing to create such a gap, and the resultant unhappiness, in a child's life, from the very outset.

SippicanCottage said...

"professor emeritus of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell."

Trying not to burst out laughing...

$CAV3NG3R said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JodyTresidder said...

Adoherty,
My sympathies and some understanding. My father was killed in a car accident when I was 11. It was horrible. But the terrible gap in our lives was because we had so loved and lost him. This is different, I think, from the gap caused by a sperm parent not being there in the first place.

vbspurs said...

I think it is great if a woman does consult with the father and reaches a decision on whether to abort or not together, but ultimately, it is the woman, not the man, who gets pregnant, so the decision should lay with her in the end.

I concede it's a difficult decision for all concerned.

In a perfect world, or at least a workable world, I would want a woman to realise that 50% of that child is not hers, and act accordingly.

It has a lineage, a history and a genetic code that has nothing to do with her, unless she's marrying kinfolk.

How many women abort a child without even telling the father?

Many.

It's that sense of shared responsibility that makes women less like human incubators when she's bearing a child.

Cheers,
Victoria

peter hoh said...

Henry Woodbury: yesterday around 3:30 you responded to my question about single men who might do something like this. Thanks. You're the only one so far. I wasn't trying to set a trap -- I don't have a "gotcha" follow up. I was just trying to make sure that there was acceptance for the idea of gender equality, or if women are allowed to play by a set of rules that men are not allowed to follow.

I knew someone who became a single mom by choice. I think she was about as responsible about it as is possible. I think the most interesting questions raised in this thread relate to the lack of suitable men -- which was her problem -- and I'm not inclined to blame her for being too picky.

I don't think we'll see a grassroots effort to end the practice of donor sperm and donor eggs. Certainly the tsking of the dinosaurs won't bring about change.

The people who would be most effective critics of the practice are the ones conceived in this manner. If, upon reaching adulthood, they are inclined to raise hell about this, it will be hard to ignore their voices. There are a handful of such donor-conceived activists out there currently. Should be interesting to see where this goes.

Tony said...

Kudos to them. Some kids get moms and dads who are together. Some kids get moms and dads who are divorced. Some kids get a single mom who will be really invested in them.

Intentionally dooming a child to a life without a mother or father is evil in my opinion.

Sure, sometime a marriage doesn't work, or a father or mother gets killed, but you didn't go produce a child specifically without a dad or mom.

Maybe I'm old fashioned and a throwback, but I believe a child has the right to be the product of the love between a husband and wife working in concert with the Creator.

Doing it with a turkey baster, or a test tube strikes me as creepy and reminiscent of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

And I'm not afraid of "female autonomy", but child deserves a dad and a mom. A single man adopting a child has the same problem.

Murky Thoughts said...

I think vibrators are the more threatening development for men.

Murky Thoughts said...

One downside for the future of the species and culture is that being able to love and get along with somebody are good a kind of natural selection or screening force. Egg donor and sperm donor alike may be unloving and unlovable in this scenario. To the extent there's a genetic component to lovability and to the extent it correlates with sociability in general, we may be making the world less friendly by encouraging these people to reproduce.

Kev said...

Allicent: "A 45 year old date would comment on the difficult of aging for a woman my age (28 at the time). I've experienced such comments from older men frequently. But there was always something sad about such older men who had never been married but were now wanting it - I could tell - but with a woman 15 - 20 years younger."

Why is this "sad?" A 45-year-old man who wants kids will have great difficulty doing so with the vast majority of women his age, for biological-clock reasons. If you're going to support the choices of women choosing single parenthood later in life, shouldn't you also be supportive of men who want married parenthood at the same time in their lives?

vbspurs: "I don't want to start a whole other side argument (oh, go on then!), but one of the Pro-Choice arguments that MOST irritates me, is the one which constantly refers to the right to abort a child as "a woman's right over her own body".

Fine. Dandy. Where's the dad's input into all of this?
"

Amen, Victoria! That's always bugged me as well. And it's not only the dad's input that needs to be considered, but the rights of the child him/herself. Just like in those old sixties sitcoms and commercials where the pickles-and-ice-cream-scarfing mother-to-be joked about "eating for two," isn't anyone making the "choice" to abort also "choosing for two" (or three, if you consider the dad)? And shouldn't we assume that the child would vote "yes" to the question of whether he/she should be allowed to come to term?

OK, I got a bit OT here, but I was happy to see someone agreeing with me that the "choice" of one party to a pregnancy doesn't automatically trump that of the other(s).

tcd said...

kev,
I think Allicent's point was that a man can choose to have a baby anytime he wants as long as he is able to find a woman of child-bearing age to have the baby with. For a woman, once she passes her prime child-bearing age, her chance of having a biological child is limited or non-existent. The fear of passing their child-bearing period may be the reason why some single women are choosing to have children while they still can and even if alone. That's my guess.

My husband and I have given parenthood a lot of thought from day one of our relationship and we're still in the thinking process. I just can't imagine that these women would take parenthood much lighter than that. So instead of jumping to conclusions about them being selfish or thoughtless, I just think that maybe they've thought long and hard about their personal situation and decided that single parenthood was the only choice for them.

And Victoria,
How many women have abortions because the father is just not there?
Many.
(I really don't know, but I stated it as fact since you did the same unless you have actual statistics and studies.)

Richard Bennett said...

What about the children?

Female autonomy, the suffering the professional woman, the rise of the Internet, and freedom from patriarchal constraints not withstanding, their welfare is the main issue.

Althouse complains that women can't find suitable husband material because the young men are flawed:

A lot of them are in prison, for one thing. Others do not look for women to be faithfully devoted to. They seek selfish pleasures, not more responsibilities. Many have substance abuse problems. They are not pursuing higher education at the same rate as women. There is a disparity that leaves a lot of women without partners.

Gee. You would think that a law professor would have the analytical heft to peek behind the curtain for at least a millisecond and try and discern why these things might be the case, to try and isolate one or two cultural changes that have made young men so messed-up.

But she avoids this line of inquiry as if it were a teenaged gang-banger with his eye on her purse because she knows the answer.

Althouse, either this post is a troll or you've got some serious issues with your identity.

El Conquistadore said...

Part Pygmalion, and part Oedipus, women who shop at sperm banks are looking to create the man they always wanted to f*ck.

With no regard for the emotional and spiritual well-being only a two-parent household can bring, these women selfishly refuse to adopt older children who need homes, who want so badly to just be loved, so they can breed a race of supermen.

The Nazis really won World War II.

By "unsuitable" men, they don't mean felons or cancer victims. That's a cover-up. By unsuitable they mean "five-nine and under".

Am I “afraid of female autonomy”? No. I see they’ve finally taken my advice: go f*ck yourself.

What I am is appalled by their arrogance.

Must they find a man first? Um, yeah. That's generally how it works. But, in the future, maybe all you need is a jackknifed big rig spilling a load of superman sperm. Then you just go sit down in the middle of the freeway.

CosmicConservative said...

So when will men be able to retrieve a donated egg and become single fathers without having to go through finding the "right woman?"

JodyTresidder said...

Or perhaps, Conquistadore, these women just don't fancy a foulmouthed recidivist and amateur shrink with a Napoleonic height complex who visualizes his maleness as a great big tanker truck?

Richard Bennett said...

It's interesting that the latest fashionable notion of "female autonomy" involves a condition very much like slavery for children. Althouse's argument that there's no use worrying about the welfare of the children of single mothers by choice because they wouldn't exist otherwise was originally created to rationalize the status of slave children, of course.

Sprudeln said...

When I turned 30, the joke was '40 is the new 30'. But it's true - how many articles have been written about the rising number of college graduates (male and female) who live with their parents?

We can lay blame all day for how this state of affairs came to be, and it is all irrelevant to this discussion. My generation is here now, and in an unfortunate position.

The fact is, many of us 30-something women were unprepared to have children in our 20's. We took this time to be selfish (traveling, educating ourselves, establishing ourselves professionally, etc) knowing that when the time came for children our focus would be completely on them.

Now we are in our 30's and trying to meet partners for life, and trying to convince that prospective partner to trade a beer bottle for a baby bottle. It's harder than you think. Men have the luxury of delaying growing up, settling down, and procreating - those who are not fathers already don't feel the pressure to attend little league instead of the major league.

When guys out there break up with women for not wearing skimpy lingerie to bed every night (oh yes, it's true, a professional computer programmer thought my choice of t-shirt as pyjamas was grounds for splitting), Grandpa as the male figure doesn't seem unreasonable.

Realistically, what are our options? Time machines are out, so we can't warn ourselves to mature earlier. We date, and hope, to find someone with whom to share our lives. Some of us get lucky (after meeting loads of confirmed bachelors) and meet a loving, stable guy. But what happens if the relationship doesn't work out? We go out and try to meet someone else with their eye towards commitment. Repeat this once or twice, and you can easily be past 35 and facing diminishing fertility.

We've also learned to be strong and independent women. Our parents taught us this when they encouraged us to take math with the boys, and we reinforced these lessons when we fought our way through glass ceilings (which are not history yet, much as we'd like to think).

Now we're told we're selfish for our innate drive to nurture children, and that we can't do it alone. We need a man.

Phooey. Support systems are important. Good male and female role models are important. Health, security, love are important. The marital status of the mother - not so much. Of course these families face challenges, but who doesn't? Plenty of couples enter parenthood with different, but no less significant problems from the get-go, with wide open eyes. Are people in Iraq selfish for having children to raise in a war zone? What about prospective parents who are ill?

anchorless said...

Just a few comments

In an ideal world, I think that a child is better with a mom and a dad, for no other reason that it provides diversity in nurturing; providing the child with authority figures of different gender, personalities, viewpoints, etc.

In this ideal world, what would be the solution to making this happen (ignoring divorce, gay parents, etc for the moment)? Criminalizing artificial insemination by single mothers? As a libertarian, I would never stand for that. Increased social pressure? I find it hard to reconcile hoping for social pressure in instances I agree with when other social pressures clearly are in direct contrast with issues which I do not consider worthy of comparable stigma, such as homosexuality.

Of course this is not an ideal world, so I don’t see this as such the big deal. However, as an intellectual exercise, I find this comment thread fascinating.

Currently, I don’t see single motherhood by choice as anything more than a rare peculiarity. The few women in the circumstances to make this kind of choice probably fit within a very narrow classification: intelligent, financially successful, parentally capable, and (assuming they are not lesbian) not especially attractive in the physical superficial sense, be it by age or unfortunate genetics (Note that I’m NOT implying that this is “fair”). There’s sure to be exceptions to this, but the general assumptions are reasonable I think.

So I’m not particularly bothered with this right now. However, if the numbers and diversity of women opting for single parenthood ever proves to become a statistically valid number (I.E this becomes trendy among lonely 18 year-olds in high-school), you’ll soon find me philosophically aligned with the “dinosaurs”.