Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Torygeddon 1: Every Family Matters?

The Family – what does it mean, this ephemeral concept that makes Tory policymakers so very moist and excited? It doesn’t mean any old bunch of people bound together by blood and love. Ian Duncan Smith’s vision of The Family as propounded in his new policy paper, Every Family Matters, is the relatively recent kitsched-out 1950s incarnation of the nuclear heterosexual brood: you know, one man and one woman bound in holy wedlock, living together with their genetic offspring, him in the office, her in the kitchen. Well, that rules out my family for a start, and probably yours too. And yet Tory wallahs – not even in power yet but already slavering to sink their teeth into Labour’s social reforms – get all gooey over The Family. All you need to do is have a shyster mention 'ordinary families', as distinguished from the rest of us scum, and Tory spinsters start wetting their little knickers.
Every Family Matters wants to actively force men and women, who have been drifting gratefully away from the ball-and-chain-and-live-with-it moral mentality for generations, back into the heteronormative marriage model. If Tory plans are initiated, they will institute a compulsory ‘cooling off’ period of three months before divorce proceedings, offer tax breaks and benefits bribes for married couples, and demolish Labour plans to offer the same recognition to unmarried couples and civil partners, as well as boring us all with a whole pile of ‘Pro-Family’ rhetoric.
I am going to remain calm about this. I’m not going to point a shaking finger at the fact that the Conservatives are coming out with more and more evilly recalcitrant, misery-inducing plans by the minute. I’m not going to squeal and whine over the coming Torygeddon. I’m not even going to point out just how much Every Family Matters is completely at odds with their plans to opt out of the European Social Charter and attack abortion rights. Instead, let’s pretend that this dribbling piece of under-researched excuse for loo roll is actually a balanced and sane piece of policy, and analyse it on its own merits.
Right. The main premise of Every Family Matters is the notion that, since kids whose parents are married do better, more marriage will fix ‘Broken Britain’. Which is balderdash. Married parents do not create happy kids. Stable, affluent families create happy kids, and stable, affluent couples are statistically more likely to get and stay married. Johann Hari explains the statistics so I don’t have to, but the short version is: marriage is a symptom, rather than a cause of social stability. Simply putting incentives in place to bribe quite unhappy people into staying together ‘for the sake of their children’ isn’t going to magically create social stability. That kind of logic is cargo-cultism, and it’s lazy, and it’s stupid, and it won’t work because it’s stupid.
In fact, most research points to the fact that whilst children whose parents are married do, on the whole, perform better than their peers due to aggregate economic and social factors, children whose parents are married but unhappy do worst of all. A recent study of 341 children whose parents had divorced showed that, contrary to expectations, fully 80% said they were as happy or happier now than they had been when their parents were married, and only 25% wanted their parents to get back together. Clearly, pressuring folks back into a model of mandatory heteronormative marriage won’t make kids fitter, happier and more productive. So what’s the Tory agenda?
Well, if they want to create straw men to shift our focus away from social redistribution, they have to start somewhere. The document states: “Poverty places enormous strain on relationships, as does poor housing and lack of meaningful employment.” So the Tory strategy would be to improve housing and increase the minimum wage and thus strengthen relationships, right? Right? Wrong. “Supporting adult relationships must be a key concern of family policy rather than a peripheral interest.” So rather than get to the route of the problem and pursue social justice, they’re going to make laws to sellotape unhappy couples together and ‘readjust people’s expectations’. Brilliant.
Marriage also saves the state money, which is more important than national happiness. Encouraging couples to stay together means that we need to build fewer houses; Duncan Smith practically came out and said it when he told the BBC that ‘the idea of compromise from day one, two living as cheaply as one, seems to have disappeared.’
But the basic agenda is far less subtle. Cameron and his cronies simply do not LIKE women who live independent lives, or single parents, or gay people, or people with alternative notions of what a free and happy family constitutes. Promoting heterosexual marriage above everything else explicitly others those people, singling us out as socially destructive. In Torygeddon, we're simply freaks. And I'm sorry, but I don’t want to live in Mr Cameron’s world, particularly not when it’s raddled with hypocrisy.
Which brings us right back to this week’s ‘revelation’ about Tory plans to reduce the time limit on legal abortion without any commensurate easing of the sanctions on early-term abortion. This is a move that will not only significantly undermine women's vital reproductive freedoms: it will bring unwanted children into the world. It will leave us with more dysfunctional families, and put a great deal more children in the care system – exactly what Every Family Matters claims to stand against. David Cameron’s party has no real agenda for bringing about social change, it doesn’t really care about children, and its happy-clappy cuddly-wuddly mummies-and-daddies lets-fix-broken-Britain rhetoric has all the tenacity of soggy toilet paper. We need to get real about the basic hypocrisy of Tory family fetishism.

22 comments:

  1. "women are substituting the beta males they no longer want or need for marriage with a Big Brother Daddy government to help them foot the child rearing bills that their feckless, drug running and serial killing lovers won`t... so while a mating system where 90% of men reproduce and are thus invested in the outcome of society, and where womens dangerously wild sexua and social impulses are partly constrained, has given us the pinnacle of civilisation in the West and East Asian lands, it may also contain the seed of its own demise."

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  2. A brilliantly written article. Thanks.

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  3. Nice article.

    Your link seems to go through to the home site for a weird ass special interest group, and try as i might I couldn't find anything to do with the policy report on there. I'm pretty sure that they didn't have anything to do with it?

    Anyway, this right here is a link to the actual IFLG "Every Family Matters" report. As a PDF, no less!

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  4. Oh, and, anyone fancy joining me in a posse? We'll hunt down IDS and tattoo "Correlation does not equal causation" onto his baldy head.

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  5. WTF with all the white people on the Every Family Matters webshite? Do non-white families matter?

    Bloody hell....

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  6. Maybe I am just stupid and/or paranoid, but this 'cool-off' period seems to me to be a gift for obsessive and/or abusive partners, who will be able to sink their teeth back into their partners and maybe even persuade them NOT to divorce. Especially if there are kids...

    Bringing the Asian perspective to this, I must just say: AAARGH. What about arranged marriages, when the woman (and sometimes, a disabled person) is tricked into it? More broadly: domestic violence? Forced pregnancy? Will the Tories give a s**t? I highly doubt it. What with the cutting of funding for rape crises centres as well... oh God.

    WHY should marriage be the only reason for people to live together? Some people are not, and never will be, ready to handle that kind of union. Why not civil partnerships, based on a conferment of legal rights rather than a fetishising of reproduction? For example, family members obv. can't marry each other, but if they want to, they should be able to have a sort of legal union.

    For the fucking Tories, there are no solutions, just 'Back To The 1950s.' Why can't we seal them in cryogen, if modernity is so impossible for them to bear?!

    (Sorry, getting v.wound up).

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  7. KJB, strongly disagree that family members ought be able to have legal unions with one other. Gay unions, great; incestuous unions, ungreat. Gay incestuous unions, plusungreat.

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  8. Melanie Phillips actually wrote in the "Daily Mail" that unwed parents were to blame for the cr@p. My unmarried sister is too busy making a great job of bringing up my nephews to have time to point out how stupid that is. I like my sister's partner. They are good parents already, their getting married would take a lot of time and effort that could be used elsewhere.

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  9. Col Bloodnokk (ex MI5)15 July 2009 at 13:51

    Actually I'm looking for a family Penny.
    To get me out of this hellish Nursing Home the service put me in.
    I tried volunteering for Afghanistan just to escape but what with my prostate and dodgy ticker they wouldn't have me.
    Can anyone out there help ?

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  10. Ms Kitton: The website that penny red linked to in the article has nothing to do with the Tory party or the policy document. Spango has the right link above

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  11. CJ - you eejat, I don't mean incest! I mean, say that 2 sisters want to be able to live in the same house and remain unmarried (or, two friends), they should be able to have legal rights conferred on them, so that they can do so.

    Of course I don't support incest. I've studied biology ferChrissakes!

    What I meant to say is that most people, once they reach their 20s, seem to believe that the only 'right' way to move out is through marriage or cohabiting-then-marriage. Some will be able to get away with just cohabiting, but many people are pushed unfairly to marry just because it confers legal/tax advantages.

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  12. The trouble is that IDS is completely correct in everything that he says! But he won't be able to turn the tide back, we've degenerated too far socially to be able to do so. Homosexual couples shouldn't be allowed to adopt for example because they might molest the children in their care or do other psychological damage to them, e.g., performing sodomy, fellatio or cunnilingus on each other and witnessed acting out such heinous perversions, against the will and laws of both the human race and God, by the innocent children in their care. How easily plague and disease could be transmitted from some wretched sodomite or sapphist to a child in their company.

    Homosexuality is NOT a healthy coequal alternative to heterosexuality but a disgusting perversion that has gathered too many apologists and has become too tolerated in the modern world.

    Everything should be done to counter such monsters, i.e., homosexuals and other deviants, from achieving contact with helpless children.

    I support IDS in what he is trying to achieve in a small way. I hope the Conservative Party will grasp this nettle and, over time, push the homosexuals back into their closets and under their stones!

    It's funny that homosexuals use the euphemism "gay" to describe themselves; even they seem to be secretly ashamed to attach the word "homosexual" to themselves in public.

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  13. Jesus, what a dick. Prime rib stupid, right there.

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  14. Marriage is a social symbol of stability, not a cause. Brilliant article.

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  15. Lionel - you really ought to be careful with such biting satire: we over sensitive lefty types might just think you're being serious.

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  16. @KJB you're completely right. Although no doubt Tories will respond to comments like yours with 'but it's a marginal issue!'

    Um, no it ain't...

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  17. God's Holy Glans16 July 2009 at 19:36

    Yea, unto and forever shalt thee feel the scourge of the most high upon thy jaw and genitals.

    The Bible unequivocally condemns homosexual behavior. Lev. 18:22 states the principle: "You [masculine] shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination". The second (Lev. 20:13) adds the penalty: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them."

    Such an act was regarded as an "abomination" for several reasons. The Hebrew prescientific understanding was that male semen contained the whole of nascent life. With no knowledge of eggs and ovulation, it was assumed that the woman provided only the incubating space. Hence the spilling of semen for any nonprocreative purpose--in coitus interruptus (Gen. 38:1-11), male homosexual acts, or male masturbation--was considered tantamount to abortion or murder. (Female homosexual acts were consequently not so seriously regarded, and are not mentioned at all in the Old Testament (but see Rom. 1:26). One can appreciate how a tribe struggling to populate a country in which its people were outnumbered would value procreation highly, but such values are rendered questionable in a world facing uncontrolled overpopulation.

    In addition, when a man acted like a woman sexually, male dignity was compromised. It was a degradation, not only in regard to himself, but for every other male. The patriarchalism of Hebrew culture shows its hand in the very formulation of the commandment, since no similar stricture was formulated to forbid homosexual acts between females. And the repugnance felt toward homosexuality was not just that it was deemed unnatural but also that it was considered unJewish, representing yet one more incursion of pagan civilization into Jewish life. On top of that is the more universal repugnance heterosexuals tend to feel for acts and orientations foreign to them. (Left-handedness has evoked something of the same response in many cultures.)

    Whatever the rationale for their formulation, however, the texts leave no room for maneuvering. Persons committing homosexual acts are to be executed. This is the unambiguous command of Scripture. The meaning is clear: anyone who wishes to base his or her beliefs on the witness of the Old Testament must be completely consistent and demand the death penalty for everyone who performs homosexual acts.

    Yea, unto and forever.

    God doesn't like queers.

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  18. Oh no - what will happen to all those queer Tory MP's discovered in hotel rooms with rent boys and cocaine? Dammit - I always had a soft spot fot them....

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  19. Firstly, will anyone a) marry or b) stay in a dysfunctional marriage because of tax breaks/government hand-outs? Unlikely.

    So essentially, it's just redistributive taxation. Using money taken from the hard working gays who contribute so much to our economy to subsidise these lazy, married, benefit scroungers. Bastards.

    And, it's not just redistributive, it's a prime example of the 'nanny state' (tm - Daily Mail) interferring in our lives.

    I imagine the right wing press will have some very harsh words for this......

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  20. "All you need to do is have a shyster mention 'ordinary families', as distinguished from the rest of us scum, and Tory spinsters start wetting their little knickers."

    It seems rather hypocritical to invoke 'spinsters' as objects of derision while criticising the Tories' breathless, impossibly idealised notions of The Family.

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  21. Can we just be clarify what this report says about civil partnerships? My reading of it seems to suggest that, at least in these early years after they were introduced, they should continue to be treated with (approximate) equivalence to traditional marriage:

    "the approach taken throughout this report is that reference to reforms in respect of marriage, divorce, marital agreements and
    similar should, if and where appropriate, incorporate the equivalence in civil
    partnership" (pg 41)

    I certainly don't see anything which proposes rolling back the recognition given to civil partners, although I am happy to be corrected.

    That aside, excellent article. This point about correlation not being the same as causality needs to be made over and over again until somebody making policy listens.

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  22. I'm idly confused; if "marriage is a symptom, rather than a cause of social stability", then does it follow that the sharp decline in marriage during the last decade or so is due to increased social instability? And if so, what might the cause of that be?

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