‘Independent Mothers’

I heard a chilling new phrase on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Saturday morning: “independent mothers,” from a caller who clearly was one herself. If this euphemism catches on, we might as well turn out the lights on civilized society.

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

And yet, apparently, there was still too much suggestion of deficit in the phrase “single mother.” Someone, somewhere, has decided that another rebranding was in order. If single mothers are “independent,” then married mothers are “dependent.” Marriage is thus a detraction from the ideal feminist state and signifies participation in a compromising, patriarchal institution.

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

I give this new phrase a good chance of spreading, since it embodies seemingly unstoppable — and profoundly worrisome — currents in our culture. 

Heather Mac Donald — Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops

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