Monday, January 28, 2008

Throwback: Avoiding Parenthood

This video is funny. When I saw it, I laughed and even found myself rooting for the guy that she brought onto the show to be tested. But then I started thinking about the consequences of her situation and the fatherless child that is the real victim. It hits close to home. It seems like most black children these days grow up without a father in their lives.

Even though the woman in the above clip played herself, good men take responsibility for the children they father. If they get a woman pregnant, they do the right thing: They stand by her. They support their child. They don't try to weasel out of a situation they co-authored. They shoulder the obligations of fatherhood, even if they hadn't planned on becoming a father.

Once upon a time, men confronted with news of an unintended pregnancy knew what was expected of them. Often they married the woman who was carrying their child; for those tempted to behave irresponsibly, society devised the shotgun wedding. Women, too, knew what was expected of them. They tended to be very careful about sex. If they didn't always wait until they were married, they waited for a relationship that seemed to be marriage-bound.

It wasn't a perfect system, and it didn't guarantee perfect happiness, but on the whole it was realistic: It recognized that sex has consequences. It bound men to the women they impregnated and made sure that a child had a father, as well as a mother.

But the old code was swept away by the Sexual Revolution. With the Pill and easy abortion came the illusion of sex without consequences. Pregnancy could be avoided or readily undone. Men didn't have to marry women they impregnated; women didn't have to reserve themselves for men who were committed or whose intentions were honorable. With the devaluation of sex came the devaluation of fatherhood. Men got used to the idea of sex without strings. So did women, many of who also got used to the idea of motherhood without husbands. Government helped, too, mandating welfare benefits for unmarried moms, and child-support checks from "deadbeat dads." With the incentives for marriage weaker than ever, more and more children were born out of wedlock. In 1950, just 4 percent of births were to unmarried mothers. By 1980, the rate was more than 18 percent. It stands today at nearly 36 percent. All this is bad enough.

Then, last March, came Matt Dubay with a proposal to make things worse.

A 25-year-old computer programmer in Michigan, Dubay asked the question why it is only women who have "reproductive rights." He is upset about having to pay child support for a baby he never wanted. He claimed that not only did his former girlfriend know he didn't want children, she had also told him she was infertile. When she got pregnant, nonetheless, he asked her to get an abortion or put the baby up for adoption. She decided instead to keep her child and secured a court order requiring him to pay $500 a month in support.

He didn't think that was fair. His ex-girlfriend chose to become a mother. It was her choice not to have an abortion, her choice to carry the baby to term, her choice not to have the child adopted. She even had the option, under the "baby safe haven" laws most states have enacted, to simply leave her newborn at a hospital or police station. Roe v. Wade gives her and all women the right--the constitutional right--to avoid parenthood and its responsibilities. Dubay argued that he should have the same right, and filed a federal lawsuit last year that his supporters are calling "Roe v. Wade for men." Drafted by the National Center for Men, it contends that as a matter of equal rights, men who don't want a child should be permitted, early in pregnancy, to get "a financial abortion" releasing them from any future responsibility to the baby.

Does Dubay have a point? Of course. Contemporary American society does send very mixed messages about sex and the sexes. For women, the decision to have sex is the first of a series of choices, including the choice to abort a pregnancy - or, if she prefers, to give birth and collect child support from the father. For men, legal choices end with the decision to have sex. If conception takes place, he can be forced to accept the abortion of a baby he wants - or to spend at least the next 18 years turning over a chunk of his income to support a child he didn't want.

All true. But it is also true that predatory males have done enormous damage to American society, and the last thing our culture needs is one more way for men to escape accountability for the children they father. Dubay wants more than the freedom to be sexually reckless - he wants that freedom to be constitutionally guaranteed. Truly he is a child of his time, passionate on the subject of rights and eager to duck responsibility.

Our culture used to send a clear message to men in Dubay's position: Marry the mother and be a father to your child. Today it tells him: Just write a monthly check. If this law succeeds it won't say even that. The result will NOT be a fairer, more equal society. It will be a society with even more abortion, even more exploitation of women, even more of the destructiveness and instability caused by fatherlessness--especially in the black community.

And, in some ways saddest of all, even more people like this Matt Dubay guy: a boy who never learned how to be a man.


Gene said...

So much to say.

This really hits close to home. My younger brother was trapped into fatherhood. YES, trapped! Many hate that word, but it is what happened.

His girl at the time told him she didn't want a kid, because she was in grad school and that she was taking the pill. He TRUSTED her. She lied. He has since had to drop out of college to support the child and she dropped out of grad school - which wasn't a problem for her, because she didn't want to be there and getting pregnant was an acceptable reason to quit to her mom. My brother's life has consistently snowballed out of control since he found out he's going to be a father, but I haven't given up on him. His life is not over.

I'm glad the days of marrying women just because they got pregnant are over. My father got his first wife pregnant at 18. They married and by the time he was my age - nearly 26 - he had been married for almost a decade and had three kids. The marriage did not last. It was not based on love or any of the other things marriage should be based on. It was based on a dangerous social norm.

Fatherhood is very serious. It is a calling. Something that should not be taken likely and something that should be considered sacred. Until we realize that, the world will continue to fall apart. I really believe that the majority of people in this world have "daddy" issues on some level. And when your foundation is that shaky everything connected to you will be as well.

But regarding the video ...
I have never seen a fat black woman run so fast in my life. And I'm so tired of women dogging dudes out for living with their moms, having no jobs and being college dropouts. It wasn't a problem when you had sex with him?! An underachiever is bad, but someone who tries to holla at an underachiever is sick.

A Beautiful Life said...

I"m the product of what happens when two people rush into marriage for the sake of a child and the marriage fails four children later....not to mention that our father is absent..Although they were in their 20s, they were not ready.I'm fine and healed and forgiving now, but I had to work HARD to get past all the junk my parents situation put on me and to make sure that I wouldn't bring their drama into my marriage or relationships. I love them, but I guess they couldn't see past the here and now at the time. Sex is not a game.

Gene.. I love your point that someone who tries to holla at an underachiever is worse than the underacheiver. That is so real!!! Ladies, please stop dogging these messed up dudes that you choose to date!

Is there really such a thing as a trap? I mean don't we all know that anytime you have sex, whether protected and pilled or not, that a baby can happen.

Gene said...

"Is there really such a thing as a trap? I mean don't we all know that anytime you have sex, whether protected and pilled or not, that a baby can happen."

I knew this would come up. If you and I make an agreement of any type with the understanding that we are on the same page and that are actions will support our agreement, but in the back of your mind you have another agenda that you know is not in my best interest, what else is it? Can we honestly say that it is both parties "fault" when both parties did what they were supposed to do based on the agreement? What else do you call it when you're poking holes in condoms and taking pills in front of a dude but spitting them out when he turns his head?

the chairman said...

This a great controversial topic. I think that women should be treated as equals in society. That is the definition of being an independent woman, but the law caters toward women. They have the freedom of "choice" and men don't. It takes two to make a baby, which is equal responsiblity. Men should have the same freedom or the 21st centry women should not play the role of the vitcim.

the chairman said...

On a personal not I have two sons. The second one came about when me and the mother made a decision that she later changed her mind. I told her whatever "choice" she made I would support my sons and take care of my responsiblities. I was able to do that and finish college. If your support system is strong you can still accomplishing anything. However the mother did not take the same path as I did. But that was also her "choice"

Jermel said...


I agree it does sound like your brother was trapped. But as men, young and old, we have to understand the consequences of trusting a woman to that level. I personally never have unprotected sex with a woman I'm not willing to have a child with (minus the occassional condom break). Although I may not want a child with that woman, I understand that my actions could lead to that result even if she says her intentions are the same as mine. I can't control her taking a pill or her poking holes in condoms, but I can buy my own condoms, and pull out. Focus on what you can control, and you'll be able to better live with the results of your actions.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad somebody is finally talking about this because to me, "fatherless" families are one of the biggest threats to our society. And not just black society, but America in general! We have celebs like Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, and Bridgette Moynahan being praised in the press on a daily for having the “guts to go it alone!” Nickelodeon stars having babies at 16, and even movies like Juno and Knocked Up making it seem cute and funny that women are having some random mans baby.

And it’s not just in La-La land: a good friend of mine is currently 4 1/2 months pregnant with a man who she only knew for a month before becoming pregnant with his child! Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he was trapped, lets not forget it takes TWO to tango, I would say that I feel sorry for both him and my friend when she realizes that she didn’t make a decision that will provide for the best future emotionally/mentally/financially for either her, or her child. But most importantly, I feel damn sorry for the kid who will likely be born into a dramatic and turbulent family life.

Whenever I hear about situations like my friends, or Halle’s, or Jessica’s, I wonder where the hell our society went wrong? For so many people, having a child out of wedlock is nothing. While I think it’s trifling on the man’s part, I wonder why our young women weren’t raised to expect better for themselves? I’m so sick of going on Facebook and seeing yet another of my friends posting pic’s of her new baby, tagging her baby daddy, and still saying “it’s complicated” under relationship status!

As unfair as it seems, WE WOMEN need to take more control of our actions and our Bodies. WE need to stop having children with men we are not married to! We need to teach our daughters, nieces, and cousins to demand that their children have a father before they even begin having sex. WE need to change our own mentality, then teach it to our children. The only way to do that is to first admit that the current system of “baby daddy” and “baby mamma” is not working. Even if that means owning up to the fact that many parents haven’t made the right choices themselves AND ENCOURAGING THEIR KIDS TO GO IN A BETTER DIRECTION!

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