Opinions are indeed like assholes. Not only does everybody have one, but some assholes are nastier than others. If a recent piece by the Washington Post’s Editorial Board about marriage was an asshole, it would be the sort that makes colorectal surgeons feel faint.
The online version debuted with this headline: “Young Americans aren’t marrying. Politics helps explain why.” Yesterday someone ramped up the scolding and changed it to: “If attitudes don’t shift, a political dating mismatch will threaten marriage.” Don’t make dad turn this car around.
But don’t worry. It gets worse. To prepare yourself, imagine someone mashed together the following items to create a 755 word opinion piece:
- An article that bewails the fact that liberals won’t date conservatives.
- Malicious false equivalency.
- Refusal to acknowledge right wing violence.
- That special use of the word “American” that really means white, cishet, and Christian.
- More sexism.
- The Compromise? panel from Kasia Babis’ classic.
But what takes this article beyond the usual concern trolling about liberals exercising their freedom of association are the sources WPEB relies on to support its main argument (which is buried beneath concern trolling about political polarization): Some women must marry men who hate them. For America.
In addition to the AEI study, there are three links to two articles by members of the Institute for Family Studies and an unlinked reference to the institute’s work. However, the WPEB doesn’t mention the IFS in the piece. More about the organization and its founder in a bit, but you can read about the IFS here if the name isn’t enough of a hint.
The op-ed begins with a jokey reference to younger adults suffering through Thanksgiving with uncles who love President Petit Poings. It seems designed to make people stop reading because their eyes rolled out of their heads. Then, it gets Very Serious.
In some ways, polarization is exactly what one would expect in a large, unwieldy democracy such as the United States’. Americans no longer agree on many questions of how to live or what to live for.
See what I mean about the word “American”? And even the Americans they’re talking about have never agreed on the how/what of living. In addition to the fauxstalgia for the good old days that never existed, WPEB also tries to equate the right wing’s attempts to criminalize the existence of anyone who doesn’t meet the white supremacist definition of human with marginalized people who just want to exist without getting a jackboot to the head.
There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.
Then they have the nerve to mention good faith.
These differences can’t just be papered over through good-faith dialogue — because they are real.
Good-faith dialogue can’t happen when some people want to discuss equal rights or school funding or vaccinations while other people wave guns and scream about Jewish liberal media space lasers zapping school children with transgender critical race theory. While the difference is indeed real, the difference exists because the screaming people have decided to be shitheads. Also, supposedly neutral parties like members of the editorial board for a large newspaper continue to cover for them with euphemisms and false equivalence.
The problem with polarization, though, is that it has effects well beyond the political realm, and these can be difficult to anticipate. One example is the collapse of American marriage. A growing number of young women are discovering that they can’t find suitable male partners.
How does political polarization make it hard for young women to find a marriage-worthy man? Before the WPEB answers that question, a quick digression.
As a whole, men are increasingly struggling with, or suffering from, higher unemployment, lower rates of educational attainment, more drug addiction and deaths of despair, and generally less purpose and direction in their lives. But it’s not just that.
That has nothing to do with political polarization. Perhaps the WPEB wants to prime women to distribute pity fucks. They continue.
But it’s not just that. There’s a growing ideological divide, too. Since Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, the percentage of single women ages 18-30 who identify as liberal has shot up from slightly over 20 percent to 32 percent. Young men have not followed suit. If anything, they have grown more conservative.
This ideology gap is particularly pronounced among Gen Z White people. According to a major new American Enterprise Institute survey, 46 percent of White Gen Z women are liberal, compared to only 28 percent of White Gen Z men, more of whom (36 percent) now identify as conservative. Norms around sexuality and gender are diverging, too. Whereas 61 percent of Gen Z women see themselves as feminist, only 43 percent of Gen Z men do.
To review: Lots of younger men have filled out their Domestic Violence BINGO cards. They are hot messes compared to women and also believe women are second class citizens and have an unhealthy attitude toward guns.
A reasonable person would conclude that heteromen need to clean up their acts if they don’t want to die alone. Or the conservative ones should fight to the death over the women who share their beliefs. The WPEB stuck to tradition and concluded that some women will have to take one for the team and not just date, but marry some walking nightmare. Because its for her own good. Or at least society’s.
And now, more context-free stats that remind everyone Democrats are big meanies.
A 2021 survey of college students found that 71 percent of Democrats would not date someone with opposing views. There is some logic to this. Marriage across religious or political lines — if either partner considers those things to be central to their identity — can be associated with lower levels of life satisfaction. And politics is becoming more central to people’s identity.
Republicans have made violence and weapons of mass murder central to their personal and political identity. They constantly fantasize about threatening, attacking, and killing anyone who doesn’t agree with them. And they often act on those fantasies. Therefore there is more than “some” logic to Democrats avoiding them before you add the excuses society makes for any man who harms women.
However, the WPEB studiously avoids the topic of Republican violence and sure as hell doesn’t want to discuss DV. It’s just differences of opinion, don’t you know?
This mismatch means that someone will need to compromise.
That someone being liberal women and no they do fucking not need to do shit. Remember those IFS citations I mentioned? Here’s the second one, to an article that ran in the Atlantic earlier this year.
As the researchers Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox have noted, about 1 in 5 young singles will have little choice but to marry someone outside their ideological tribe.
It’s amazing that the WPEB sat down in the year 2023 and promoted right wing beliefs that women have little choice but to enter an intimate relationship with a man who thinks they should be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and likely thinks oral and implantable birth control should be illegal. I mean, how do people with their heads up their asses even sit?
Let’s talk about Bradford Wilcox and the IFS, since the WPEB is really into their work, but for some reason shy of mentioning the IFS. I had forgotten Wilcox, but the name rang a bell. The kind that tells you to leave the building, right now. Thanks to one sociologist who is all over Wilcox and his ilk like white on rice, it took perhaps 10 seconds to refresh my memory.
Remember the Republican plan to fix poverty by promoting marriage because some studies proved married people had more money? Or perhaps you recall Republicans crowing about a study that proved their marriages were happier than Democrats’? Yeah, that guy. And the study that the right wing heralded as proof that same-sex marriage was bad for kids before and after it was revealed to be a hoax? Wilcox was involved in that too. Wilcox is also a senior fellow at the AEI.
I also checked the IFS website and confirmed that yes, it’s right wing cranks all the way down.
The other option is that they decline to get married at all — not an ideal outcome considering the data showing that marriage is good for the health of societies and individuals alike.
The article doesn’t link to data that supports that claim, but it is the largest turd that the IFS pushes around with its nose, and the WPEB mentions it in the same paragraph as two links to articles from Wilcox/IFS.
So, according to the WPEB some liberal women have to marry right wing dirt bags because a bunch of right wing dirt bags said they do.
At this point the WPEB ducks into a parenthetical disclaimer.
(This, of course, is on average; marriage isn’t for everyone.
For example, marriage is not for shitty people. No one is owed a relationship with another living creature. Men who think otherwise make society much worse. And after millennia of women entering relationships to make someone else happy or just Because someone else said so, fuck off. It is time we had a break.
Nor is staying in a physically or emotionally abusive marriage ever the right choice.
Agreed. But the WPEB skipped over the same conclusion about entering an abusive marriage in the first damned place. And because Republicans have apparently limitless stores of physical and emotional abuse for people who don’t agree with them, the WPEB’s pitch to liberal women amounts to: Stop being so picky and marry that MAGAt. But keep your political beliefs to yourself if you know what’s good for you. You might need to cut ties with your current group of friends. And if things don’t work out, enjoy the divorce process. Because that is good for a society that treats you like a second class citizen.
I can hear the younger women fighting to sign up for that deal.
But, on the whole, while politically mixed couples report somewhat lower levels of satisfaction than same-party couples, they are still likely to be happier than those who remain single.)
You’ll be less happy than if you hadn’t married someone who thinks you’re dirt, but probably more happy than if you hadn’t not not married someone who thinks you’re dirt. What the fuck? And the source for that statement is a write up, co-authored by Wilcox, of research conducted by the IFS.
As an aside, even if you ignore the right wing attempt to stuff its patriarchal norms down everyone’s throats, I don’t think it is unfair to link some of the unhappiness that single people experience with the fact they live in a society that has a mania for romantic pair-bonding.
At any rate, the piece dribbles off into more tut-tutting over the fact that kids today take their political identities way too seriously and America’s fate depends on them not doing that.
Unfortunately, Americans have not equipped themselves to discuss, debate and reason across these divides. Americans have increasingly sorted themselves according to ideological orientation.
Again, some Americans are capable of having reasonable discussion and debate, but some Americans want to wave guns and scream. The WPEB may want to false equivocate this divide out existence, but they look like assholes when they try.
People who post off-topic comments have already placed an order for Wilcox’s next book.
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