The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

We Have a Parenting Problem, Not a Poverty Problem


I glimpsed a quote from Kati Haycock yesterday, kicking off the Education Trust annual conference, saying that we can’t let “bad parenting” be an excuse for poor educational results. She’s absolutely right, of course. It’s not as if our schools are running on all cylinders (especially schools serving poor kids), and if only parents were doing their jobs too, achievement would soar. And we’ve got several examples of school models that are making a tremendous difference in educational outcomes for kids, regardless of what’s happening at home.

That said, it strikes me as highly unlikely that we’re ever going to significantly narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor unless we narrow the “good parenting gap” between rich and poor families, too. (And yes, I know I’m going to catch a lot of grief for saying that.)

Let’s admit it: The broader/bolder types are right when they say that a lot of what influences student achievement happens outside of schools, and before kids ever step foot in kindergarten. Where they are wrong, I believe, is in thinking that turbo-charged government programs can compensate for the real challenge: what’s happening inside the home.

Conservatives used to talk about this, but for whatever reason they’ve been awfully silent lately. Perhaps that’s starting to change. A new book by Minnesota think tanker Mitch Pearlstein addresses the issue head on. And today, in the Washington Post, compassionate conservative Michael Gerson argues that issues such as divorce and teenage pregnancies are what’s dampening social mobility.

So let’s get specific: What can parents do to increase the chances of their children doing well in school? Let’s just start with the zero-to-five years.

Wait until you’ve graduated from high school and you’re married to have children. Stay married. Don’t drink or smoke when you’re pregnant. Get regular pre-natal check-ups. Nurse your baby instead of using a bottle. Talk and sing to your baby a lot. As you child grows, be firm but loving. Limit TV watching, especially in the early years. Spark your child’s curiosity by taking field trips to parks, museums, nature centers, etc. Read, baby, read.

For virtually all of these items, we’ve got evidence that affluent parents are much more likely to engage in these behaviors than poor parents. And what makes it easier for affluent parents to do these things isn’t mostly money (more on that below) but numbers one and two: Getting married, and staying married. It’s a hell of a lot harder (though not impossible, of course) to be a great parent when you’re doing the job alone than when you’ve got a partner. And in case you haven’t noticed, out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates and divorce rates have reached catastrophic levels for the poor and the working class — but not for the most affluent and well-educated among us.

As mentioned above, the Left’s answer to this challenge is a panoply of social programs. Home visits for pregnant women. Community health centers. Head Start. I’ve got no complaints with these, especially if they can show evidence of working.

But we’re still dancing around the issue if we don’t address the family directly. Imagine we could convince most poor teenagers — whether they be black, white, or Hispanic — to save child-rearing for their 20s, and to get and stay married first. Getting them to adopt healthy parenting behaviors, then, would be much more doable, even on a limited budget. (See the innovative work that is doing on this front.) You don’t have to be Richy Rich to nurse your baby, or sing to her, or learn how to be loving but firm. Sure, a few of these items are easier with money. (I imagine that low-income families use TV as a babysitter more because they can’t afford alternative childcare.) But mostly these take commitment, discipline, and practice.

So how do we spark a marriage renaissance, especially for poor and working class families? Honestly, I don’t have a clue. Some argue for family-friendly tax incentives; others think a religious revival is what’s needed. I would vote for middle schools and high schools that are unafraid to preach a pro-marriage, wait-till-you’re-older-to-have-babies message — paternalistic charter schools or religious schools in particular. In other words, this is another strong argument for school choice.

Whatever the solutions, let’s at least start talking about the problem. Pat Moynihan tried to warn us long ago that our national experiment with large-scale single parenthood would turn out badly. He was right, and then some. Let’s not wait any longer to do something about it.

— Michael J. Petrilli is executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Science Creates Super Broccoli


Does it taste like chocolate? If not, back to work, nerds:

Popeye might want to consider switching to broccoli. British scientists unveiled a new breed of the vegetable that experts say packs a big nutritional punch.

The new broccoli was specially grown to contain two to three times the normal amount of glucoraphanin, a nutrient believed to help ward off heart disease.

“Vegetables are a medicine cabinet already,” said Richard Mithen, who led the team of scientists at the Institute for Food Research in Norwich, England, that developed the new broccoli. “When you eat this broccoli . . . you get a reduction in cholesterol in your blood stream,” he told Associated Press Television.

An AP reporter who tasted the new broccoli found it was the same as the regular broccoli. Scientists, however, said it should taste slightly sweeter because it contains less sulphur.

The rest here.


Exhausted by the Encroachment of Liberalism, One Mom Fights Back


On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., we stayed at a comfortable, mid-level hotel that offered free breakfast and didn’t hurt the pocketbook.  However, the woman who helped us check into our room was wearing a black bracelet that read, in large white letters, SAME SEX . . . something. Probably “equality.” I couldn’t read it entirely, but I was annoyed.

What if I’d had my children with me? Imagine having to answer the questions that could follow: What is sex? What is same sex equality?

Please. I wanted to check into a hotel, not go into birds, bees, and the difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality simply because I need a place to rest my head at night.

Come to think of it, it’s annoying to have to know any political statement from your hotel employee. I’d feel the same way if she were wearing an “End the War Now” button, or “Raise the Debt Ceiling,” or “Osama Was Framed” or “Flat Tax Rules” or “Vote for Rick Perry.” Give me a nice place to rest, not some sort of bumper-sticker sloganeering along with the keycard.

When my husband and I got into the elevator, we griped about it. But when the hotel manager emailed us after check-in to make sure we were happy with our room, I took the opportunity to explain to him my concern.

“Can’t you just wait until we check out?” my exhausted husband asked with a smile. We fully expected him to respond with a long defense of free speech. Perhaps an explanation that we were in the nation’s capital, where political expression was not only good and healthy, but an expected part of life. 

However, I felt that if I didn’t say anything, I’d ceded the moral ground (okay, so just a lobby) to people who value their own opinions above their jobs, their customers, and the eyes of children. It had been a hard political week, and I was fed up. Her bracelet was the last thing I wanted to see.

Surprisingly, the manager’s response was fast and amazing:

I completely agree and will address this at once! Being a native Washingtonian, I know there are areas you don’t go and being apolitical is a requirement. . . . I’m on the same page. I purposely do not sell items in our convenience store that most hotels freely display. I have two girls myself and do not want to have “the talk” on what was suppose to be a fun trip because someone wanted to make some extra dollars by putting adult items next to gummy bears (I have seen that very thing).

The issue was addressed in such a wonderful, professional manner that it put a smile on my face as I walked past the White House later that evening. Sometimes you just need a respite from all the political talk, maneuvering, and spin.  And now I know there’s a hotel in D.C. which will provide it.

Boys on Film


You’ve got a blessed son, Greg. But, as you are well aware, not every son is so blessed.

Culture matters. And when men are portrayed as bumbling goofs with unserious jobs, unworthy of their brilliant, beautiful, talented wives, it’s sending a message about what we think of men and women and our relationships with one another.

Do I think sitcoms are everything, a cultural make-or-breaker in the lives of all American boys? Of course not, but it’s part of a cultural picture.

I think back to when WFB died. There was such an outpouring of love for him, he was truly a part of people’s lives, people who never actually met him in person. A man wrote in and said that Bill was a father figure to him. He didn’t have a dad who raised him, but he had a stable, weekly, wise, manly presence in his life in the person of William F. Buckley Jr. on Firing Line.

When you put something out there, it can influence lives in ways good and bad. Even while we’re laughing.

And, in the case of the goofball men on TV, I worry about its influence on girls as much as boys, women as much as men. Maybe even more. If manhood has been defined down, it’s not because men all of a sudden started bothering with video games more than courting young ladies. It’s because a cultural revolution defined it down. We had Girl Projects and empowered the women in ways presenting them as somehow victimized by masculinity. If we still held up men in our culture, schools, politics, as potential heroes, as even necessary, the jokes might be less harmful. But when New York Times columnists wonder Are Men Necessary?, the prime-time dopes are further blows. Little Maureen needs to see heroes as much as young Michael does.

Men as the Butt of Jokes on TV: Bad or Good?


I feel as if I’m bringing an intellectual knife to an intellectual gun fight, but I disagree with William Bennett and this CNN piece he wrote entitled, “Men become the target of jokes.

Here’s the opener:

“That’s the second unmanly thing you’ve done today,” is the punch line of the most frequently played Miller Lite ad during NFL games. It ends with the ultimatum, “Man up.”

In a new McDonald’s commercial, two newlyweds delay their honeymoon after the man hears that McDonald’s is featuring the McRib sandwich again. The woman says in disbelief, “I married a 14-year-old.”

If popular culture is any indicator, manliness is on our minds. Six new TV shows this fall focus on man’s role in society and the family, according to the Wall Street Journal. Three are appropriately titled, “Last Man Standing,” “How To Be A Gentleman,” and “Man Up!” Something is going on here.

In all these shows, men have become the butt of the jokes. From weakness to irresponsibility to immaturity, the modern idea of manhood is in doubt. A shift in cultural norms, a changing workforce and the rise of women have left many men in an identity crisis. It makes for good comedy, but bad families.

And . . .

Boys become men through mimesis — the Greek word for imitation. Boys look to role models, from parents to coaches to teachers to fictional characters, for actions they should imitate. The forces of imitation can be either constructive or destructive, making it essential that boys imitate the right kind of men. My brother and I were raised by a single mother, but she went through any pains necessary to put good men in our lives — good priests, teachers and coaches.

The problem with Bennett’s argument that these sticoms are bad for boys is twofold. One, the shows aren’t targeted at boys, and even if boys are watching, there really aren’t a lot of them doing so.

Here are the ratings from last week. On network TV. . .

. . . and from cable. . .

The three shows Bennett mentions are nowhere on the list and How to Be a Gentleman has already been cancelled.

But this brings me to problem two with his argument. The male characters in the shows he does mention are actually the role models he speaks of. In Last Man Standing, for example, Tim Allen is a successful photographer at a sporting-goods store. He saves his job when a rant he puts on the company’s website goes viral and the company makes it a regular feature. Here’s an sample where Allen’s character tells viewers why learning hand-to-hand combat is more important than learning Chinese, Spanish, or poetry. The entire show is about Allen’s belief that manliness is under attack, and he is the “last man standing.”

How bad are sitcom dads really anyway? Fred Flintstone, Ralph Kramden, Ricky Ricardo to the modern-day men of TV like Ray Barone (Everyone Loves Raymond), Doug Heffernan (King of Queens) and Phil Dunphy (Modern Family) are all good role models. All held decent jobs, all were hard working, and none ever cheated on his spouse.

They may have been portrayed as goofballs, but hey, men are goofballs. We laugh, as Homer Simpson often says, because it’s true.

I remember watching a documentary a few years back when they interviewed black kids in Harlem and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. The girls, for the most part, wanted to be nurses, lawyers, etc. The boys wanted to play in the NBA.

Now, look again at the ratings above and see what are the most popular shows. Football, baseball, and fake wrestling. How many boys watched convicted felon Ray Lewis against Jacksonville? How many boys watched the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series — a team whose hitting coach is disgraced Mark McGwire? It will be interesting to see if McGwire makes the trip to the White House, as his last trip to D.C. — as a babbling, teary-eyed witness in front of Congress, too afraid to “man up” and admit his use of steroids — didn’t go so well.

Bennett ends with this, and I agree 100 percent:

We must teach our boys what is to be loved and imitated. As the writer Tom Wolfe said, we must engage in a great relearning. It is our generation’s task to instruct and train our boys to be men. As Proverbs says, train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

It’s just that as a parent, I’m not going to lose any sleep if my son is watching a sitcom where the male lead is an employed and faithful husband. It’s also my job to make sure as we’re watching the football games on Saturday and Sunday that my son knows who the role models are and aren’t on the field of play. And if my son doesn’t turn out to be the man he should be, it won’t be because of the shows he watched, it will be because I failed as a dad.


The Kardashians, Conan, and the Seriousness of Same-Sex Marriage


Apparently, Kim Kardashian’s marriage didn’t last too long. Who knew? And I am truly sorry to hear that. Truly.

I learned about it when journalists started calling to ask for my thoughts on whether the Kardashian news wasn’t indeed another reason for not giving same-sex marriage a try. I have heard this line of reasoning quite a bit from people thinking the reasoning is sound. It goes like this: “See you heteroes make a mockery of marriage so why not give us a chance?” They offer sky-diving and scuba-diving weddings as examples. Or Erik Menendez’s jail-house nuptials where a twinkie from the vending machine served as the wedding cake.

This strikes me as similar to the the tobacco companies begging, “Listen mom and dad, your kids already consume more junk food and sugar drinks then they should. Why not give us a shot at them?”

Who makes an argument for their particular deeply held self-interest by appealing to someone else’s failure to meet the ideal?

Hillary and Julie Goodridge, the plaintiffs who fought for and gave us our nation’s first same-sex marriage law (Massachusetts) separated two years after their wedding and divorced in 2009. It is no more right to pile onto the Goodridges than it to pile on the Kardashians or anyone else whose marriage fails. But our goal should not be to bring marriage down to it’s least common denominator, but to strengthen it. How will redefining marriage to say the “husband/wife” part of marriage is merely personal choice strengthen marriage?

If same-sex marriage proponents are really about taking marriage seriously — as we are told they are — is getting married on Conan’s show the way to show that seriousness? You would go to Charlie Rose for that.

Kate Gosselin Has a New Job


Meet Kourtney Kardashian’s Baby Daddy, Scott Disick


Happy Halloween!

Cain Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Feminists Say


This week, after a glorious thrill ride for Americans who enjoy our national pastime — baseball — we must endure another political attack, this time on Herman Cain. I’ll resist talking about the obvious: an ad hominem charge against a black conservative who, to a lefty, represents the lowest of the low. Instead, I’ll focus on the real issue: In response to the two women who claim they were sexually harassed by Herman Cain, Erin Matson, a vice president for the National Organization for Women, had this to say: “It is deeply insulting that this is being called political. . . . Sexual harassment allegations are always about a woman who is simply trying to go to work.”

In fact, that is rarely what sexual harassment allegations are about.

Thanks to feminists’ well of grievances (hence Matson’s use of the word “insulting”), sexual-harassment allegations are about women’s feelings — and nowhere is this more evident than in the accusations against Cain. According to Politico’s sources, the incidents in question include descriptions of gestures that were not overtly sexual but made the women who experienced them “uncomfortable.”

That women now have the power to ruin men’s lives using a boatload of resentment but no evidence to speak of tells you all you need to know about feminism and its effect on our society. Once a free country, in which a person was innocent until proven guilty, America has devolved into a country hell-bent on getting even with men — and what better way to do this than using sex as a weapon?

Not only have our sexual-harassment laws threatened the reputation and livelihood of countless unsuspecting college guys, adult men and fathers are equally victimized. As Missouri judge Robert H. Dierker Jr., explains in The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault, claims of sexual harassment have become a means by which feminists vent their malice toward men. He wrote that feminism’s “confluence” with the Left has “spawned a truly horrible jurisprudence.” Feminists have determined that the law should not treat women the same as men but bette — —to compensate women for centuries of oppression. “Sexual harassment law threatens to become a weapon by which [feminists] ensure the oppression of men.”

My heart goes out to Mr. Cain. As a black conservative, I’m sure he imagined the attacks that would come when he decided to run for president. But he may have greatly underestimated a feminist attack — that’s the worst kind of all.

— Suzanne Venker is co-author of the new book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say. Her website is

Parents: What Was the Worst Costume You Saw Last Night?


I challenge any reader to find a worse one: a 13-year-old boy dressed up as a baby, complete with bonnet, pacifier, and diaper.

I’d love to meet the proud papa of this imbecile.

Re: Attack the Parents


As a parent of a child who was in the NYC public-school system, I can offer an observation on whether sex-ed should be taught in middle school: Hell no.

Kathryn links to a N.Y. Daily News story that quotes parents from Middle School 391 in the Bronx. gives the school a one out ten ranking, ten being best. Although the school gets a “B” grade under Bloomberg’s grading system, that actually means this school is one of the better, horrible schools. For the real story, look at student achievement, which is a “D.”

Schools chancellor Dennis Wolcott was quoted in the article:

A significant percentage of our teenagers have had multiple sexual partners, so we can’t stick our heads in the sand about this.

Let’s also not stick our heads in the sand and be honest and say the truth: Any time spent not teaching the basics to kids at M.S. 39 is time wasted. 


Question of the Day: As I See Teens Begin to Knock on Doors ...


how old is too old for trick-or-treating? 

Male and Female He Created Them


I remember the Girl Scouts being flakey way back in the early 1970s, long before their formal association with Planned Parenthood and their penchant for showing girls sex brochures.

Even as a Brownie I had my doubts. When I was told to look in a mirror on the floor, recite some chant, and step over the mirror, it seemed so meaningless, and even a bit wrong. If I had had the vocabulary, I would have called it pagan. It may be some small proof that the Truth is indeed written on every human heart that a tiny un-churched girl of seven could smell a rat.

And now the Girl Scouts want to admit boys who dress as girls. (See here.) It may be their undoing.

When the Colorado troop leader initially disallowed the boy’s admittance on the grounds that he had “boy parts” — she was later overruled by the Girl Scout top brass — his mother and grandmother were outraged, saying such talk “devastated” the seven-year old and made him cry. (They refer to him as “him.”)

“I really got upset because my grandson is himself,” said the grandmother. “We’ve all accepted Bobby as he is, and for this lady to talk to him that way, it was just awful. This lady shouldn’t be working with kids.”

The Girl Scouts of Colorado responded to it all with lefty platitudes that it is “an inclusive organization” and supports “transgender children.” And in a statement, it said, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

Ah, how welcoming and inclusive of them. No thought what it might do to the boy himself, or to the girls in the troop who really are girls.

Author and educator Dr. Judith Reisman, who never minces words, said this policy amounts to “child sexual abuse, the violation of children’s genetic reality.”

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News medical expert, said, “On the face of it, it seems to be expecting far too much psychologically of young girls to ignore the anatomy of a boy and act as though he is a girl. . . . The girls are just developing comfort with their own bodies, after all.”

Dr. Ablow added, “We’re conducting social, cultural, sexual experiments on the fly, using our own kids as guinea pigs, without the necessary research to guide us.”

I think it’s safe to say that most parents did not enlist their young daughters in Girl Scouts to be part of any cultural sexual experiment. And if the Girl Scouts persist, they will lose families in droves, and they will also lose money. They’ve already lost respect.

And one final thought: No mention is made anywhere of the boy’s father, and his utter absence from news stories strikes me as a classic “elephant in the room,” or in this case, not in the room. Dare I state the obvious, unspoken truth? This poor little boy desperately needs a father.

— Cathy Ruse is a senior legal fellow at the Family Research Council.

Attack the Parents


Roland Martin writes about the mandated sex-ed program in New York City schools on “There are few things more annoying than listening to ignorant, whiny parents complain about a school district teaching their children about sex.”

New York City government is into its second week of clearly being on the defensive about this graphic, inappropriate overreach, thanks in large part to the work of the NYC Parents’ Choice Coalition. (Feeling the pressure, the City has been forced to say it will redact some of the most explicit descriptions.) 

Insisting on an apology from Martin, Michael Benjamin, executive director of the NYC Parents’ Choice Coalition, former New York State assemblyman (a D.) responds to Martin:

“How dare Martin call parents ‘whiny and ignorant’ for having an opinion on what’s best for their children. We aren’t looking to prevent a single city parent from enrolling his or her children in the mandated program; all we are asking is for an alternative for families who find the planned program culturally hurtful or offensive.”

Much more on the NYC attack on innocence with Greg Pfundstein from the Chiaroscuro Foundation; from our recent interview:

LOPEZ: Miriam Grossman’s recent report on New York public schools’ mandated sex-ed program suggests that it’s no help, but a muddled mess. Conversations about sex ed or the dreaded “abstinence” word are rarely constructive. How can that change? How can New Yorkers lead the way?

PFUNDSTEIN: Five years ago this conversation was really tough, because there was very little evidence that abstinence education works, mostly because such programs were very new. Now there are a good number of published studies showing abstinence-centered education working, often better than so-called “comprehensive” sex ed. Here again I think there is an opportunity for data to settle the question. Why don’t we let the two approaches duke it out over time on a level playing field? Many parents find the content of the city’s recommended curricula very offensive (take a look at for a few tidbits), so why not let schools offer an abstinence-centered, evidence-based program as an alternative? Over time we can track the kids in each program and figure out which one works better. I think this would be a very scientific approach. We aren’t asking the city to stop teaching condom-based sex ed in schools; we are just asking them to allow an alternative. If they would track the effects of the different programs, they would be doing everyone a great service. Unfortunately this is another matter of religious orthodoxy on the left. But a certain prominent politician not long ago talked about restoring science to its rightful place in public policy. The science here says there is no reason to exclude abstinence-centered curricula as an option if parents prefer; despite the talking points, it works.

LOPEZ: On this issue, you recently wrote about protecting children’s innocence. Is that just way too quaint for a place like New York City in times like 2011? Fine, try to drive this mess out of public schools, but what about outside the classroom? You drive in from upstate or New Jersey and see the Hustler Club. And that’s tame. Take a walk with a kid in SoHo and good luck . . . 

PFUNDSTEIN: The innocence of children is a simple fact, and one so obvious as to be almost universally acknowledged. Almost no one who doesn’t work for Planned Parenthood thinks it is appropriate to talk to first graders about sex in school, and even they make ovations to the notion that the sex ed they want in first grade should be age-appropriate. (Lest you think I am making a joke, consider that on the morning of our press conference in August, the day we released Dr. Grossman’s report, El Diario published side-by-side op-eds from the president of Planned Parenthood of NYC and the state policy director of the National Abstinence Education Foundation, Ann Marie Mosack, on the New York City sex-ed mandate. The PPNYC president lauded the new mandate as far as it went, but said it wasn’t enough: We need to teach kids about sex in first grade on up, she said. That any sensible person thinks she is crazy proves my point about the innocence of children.) This is why we think sexual abuse of children is the worst of all crimes and perversions and why we are careful what our kids watch on TV. Even Hollywood stars like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore recognize the innocence of children with their “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign.

#ad#Of course, there are many influences in our culture that militate against the innocence of children that many rightly lament. We can only do our best to help our children navigate those influences. But to have a person who is an authority figure in the life of our children, a teacher, tell them that, at 13, no one can decide when is the right time to have sex but themselves is substantially more deleterious than any invasive television advertisement.

Consider a recent article in Essence magazine, “Our Teens’ Secret Sex Lives.” In it, young African American girls discuss with researchers how frequently and intensely they are pressured to engage in sexual activity by their equally young boy peers: “The friends [two 13-year-old girls] say sometimes the boys at their middle school — who for the most part live in comfortable homes with professional parents — confront girls with graphic sexual requests and rumors designed to embarrass.” Imagine a young girl is trying to protect herself from such advances. Do you think it will help her case that Ms. Smith just told them in “health” class that only they can decide when they are ready to have sex, and that if she is afraid she may have gotten pregnant because she didn’t use any protection she can head down to the local clinic for some emergency contraception any time in the next few days, all without her parents knowing about it? Seems to me those are a few more arrows in the impulsive and obnoxious little boy’s quiver. Imagine, on the other hand, that Ms. Smith just told them in no uncertain terms that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and disease and that it is the choice most likely to keep them on track toward their goals. Isn’t that an arrow in the girl’s quiver?

Whose side are we on? Parents are on the side of their children’s success, and the vast majority of them think that includes abstaining from sex at least until they are adults. While Mayor Bloomberg may think he knows better, I don’t see how that gives him the right to work against the wishes of parents who are the primary educators of their children. Parents’ rights need to be defended, and children’s innocence needs to be defended. And all you libertarian readers who are reflexively opposed to this position because you think sexual morality is anti-libertarian, just remember that this is statism at its worst. I find nothing more annoying than a libertarian who opposes the rights of parents to make decisions for their own children.

Kate Bolick and Men


This Atlantic discussion highlights why The Book of Man is a gift to our culture this fall. For both men and women. What is a man? What makes a man? What feeds him? Why would we/do we admire him? 

Women Need to Watch Something Other Than the Mass Media


There are still a few of us around who remember the counter-cultural phrase that originated from Canadian educator and scholar Marshall McLuhan but was popularized by writer and psychologist Timothy Leary: “turn on, tune in, drop out.” The idea behind the slogan was to get the flower children and just about everyone else caught up in the turbulent 1960’s to move away from conventional society, detach from the world, and get re-connected to themselves. Leary ran with the saying to promote his own agenda. He claimed the best way to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” was through the use of hallucinogenic or psychedelic drugs.

Acid trips aside, in today’s media-saturated culture, where the over-sexualization and objectification of women and girls is off the charts, and where women are given all types of conflicting messages about who they are supposed to be in the 21st century, the idea of turning on to something besides Toddlers & Tiaras, The Real Housewives of Orange County, Twitter, and Facebook — and getting away from or tuning out the media at least temporarily — would be a good idea. It really is time for women to get back to basics and realize their true dignity as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

Let’s look at some of the messages women are receiving recently. Thank goodness NBC’s The Playboy Club was cancelled after three episodes. But just the fact that a major broadcast network believed a TV series developed around, as the Parents TV Council described, “a pornographic brand that denigrates and sexualizes women,” was a good idea for prime-time television is disturbing. Given the strides women have made in the last few decades, one would think the media moguls could do a lot better; but apparently that old Virginia Slims “you’ve come a long way baby” advertisement was all wrong.

The popular reality-TV genre is another area of media unkind to women and in particular to young girls. A new study by the Girl Scouts of America, Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV,” found that not only are the reality-TV shows popular with young female viewers, but these same viewers have a hard time discerning fact from fiction. Of the 1,100 girls surveyed for the GSA report, 50 percent said the shows are “mainly real and unscripted” when just the opposite is true. If that isn’t bad enough, those questioned also have come to accept the antics regularly portrayed on the programs such as fighting and gossiping as part of normal behavior

Even those women considered to be part of the group known as “the beautiful people” aren’t quite beautiful enough. Take for example the stunning dancers on the ABC hit show, Dancing with the Stars. Two of the program’s professional performers, Lacey Schwimmer and Cheryl Burke, two women probably in better shape than most people on the planet given what they do for a living, have been publicly ridiculed by the paparazzi for being “too fat” to be dancers. Why? Because they are not a size “0” or a size “2” and instead are more muscular and shapely than most women who walk the red carpet and look like they are in dire need of a sandwich. Go figure.

Given all that is thrown at women 24/7 in today’s culture, it’s time for us to have an extreme media makeover. Let’s start turning to more of the positive sources in life such as family, friends, and faith — and start dropping out and tuning out all the noise.  Less time in front of the TV and laptop and more time in prayer and fellowship would do wonders for our relationships and our self image.

— Teresa Tomeo is author of the new book Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ Not Confirmed to the Culture

Beyonce Sings to Cultural Endurance


 Jennifer Marshall:

 If you take “The Girl Project,” add “The War Against Boys,” and mix in some sexual revolution (“Dan Quayle Was Right,” after all, per The Atlantic’s April ‘93 cover story), is it any surprise you’re left with “All the Single Ladies“?

Our feminist forebears were frustrated by barriers to fulfilling work. Today we’re frustrated by obstacles to lasting love-and some seem to be the result of the feminist movement itself.

For too long, the dominant framework of male-female relations has been that storied battle between the sexes. Antagonism expressed in power struggle, rather than the pursuit of mutually respecting interdependence, is the default perspective.

Which brings us back to our views of marriage. Is marriage an ideal because the majority, the powerful or forces such as evolution or economics made it so? Or is marriage an ideal because it is rooted, timelessly, in the universal nature of man and woman?

Many marriage-minded women struggle with the unexpected in-between of today’s prolonged singleness. That includes Bolick: “If I stopped seeing my present life as provisional,” she writes, “perhaps I’d be a little … happier.” (The ellipsis is hers.)

Bolick seems to have resolved her sense of being betwixt-and-between by demoting marriage. In other words, if experience doesn’t match up to the ideal, toss out the ideal. But must we abandon our unique esteem and deep desire for marriage to find fulfillment today without it?

We need to restore cultural respect for the marriage ideal. In the meantime, the marriage aspiration is alive and well.

Far from giving up on marriage, the single ladies - a la Beyonce – are looking for a man to “put a ring on it.”


Men Are Not the Problem


 Mona Charen responded to the Bolick piece here Friday.

‘What Me, Marry?’


Kay Hymowitz responds to The Atlantic cover story:

 Bolick rightfully observes that with women making up 57% of college grads, some of them faced with the prospect of marrying down may well choose not to marry at all.

But that still leaves us with the question as to why at this point women who can actually afford to raise children on their own almost always avoid doing so, while the women who have almost nothing in the bank are going it alone. 

In the not so distant past, college educated women were often destined for spinsterhood; today they are more likely to marry. That’s the opposite of what one might expect.

The answer to the question of why women who can afford to raise children on their own but decide not to, reveals the limitation of arguments like Bolicks; focused on the economics of marriage, they ignore the institution’s deep connection to childbearing. 

Educated women are still the marrying kind because they know intuitively what research concludes: children are more likely to succeed in school, go to college, and get good jobs if they grow up with their two married parents. Prepping your kids for a competitive knowledge economy is a time-consuming, devotional task; no wonder it works better with a steady, focused twosome.

“Alternative family arrangements” that can do that job anywhere near as well? Good luck.

Halloween: Whatcha Wearing?


Here’s my four-year-old. We tricked her into believing her princess stick-thing is also a magic wand.


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