June 18, 2003

June 18, 2003 | News Releases on Family and Marriage

Study: Feminist Disdain for Marriage Proposal Flows from Radical Past

President Bush's proposal to build on the success of the 1996 welfare reform law with a $300 million program to promote healthy marriage is drawing fire from an extreme wing of the feminist movement whose hostility toward marriage places them outside the mainstream of modern feminism.


That's the conclusion of a new paper from The Heritage Foundation that traces the animus of radical feminism toward marriage to its appearance in the late 1960s.


Typical of the radical feminists who emerged in the late 1960s is Marlene Dixon, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago, who wrote: "The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women. It is through the role of wife that the subjugation of women is maintained."


The paper documents the opposition of many other radical feminists, many of whom denounced marriage as a "slavery-like practice" -- and vowed to "destroy" it.


In 1970, radical feminist intellectual Shulamith Firestone, co-founder of the radical feminist group The Redstockings, proclaimed in The Dialectic of Sex that "the institution [of marriage] consistently proves itself unsatisfactory -- even rotten....The family is...directly connected to -- is even the cause of -- the ills of the larger society."


Today's marriage opponents may not spell out their disdain as plainly as their predecessors did, but they view marriage with just as much alarm. "Finding a man -- the [Bush] administration's approved ticket out of poverty -- is terrible public policy," says Kim Gandy, head of the National Organization for Women (NOW). "Marrying women off to get them out of poverty is not only backward, it is insulting to women."


The public opposition by organizations such as the NOW Legal Defense Fund to President Bush's initiative to promote healthy marriage is rooted in the historic hostility of radical feminists toward marriage, the paper's authors assert.


But, contrary to the claims of radical feminists, marriage is good for women, children and men, according to Heritage's Patrick Fagan, Robert Rector and Lauren Noyes. The latest social science research shows that women who marry are happier, healthier, more prosperous and safer from crime, abuse and a host of other social problems than women who remain single.


Consider marriage's effect on poverty: On average, a woman who gives birth and raises a child outside of marriage is seven times more likely to live in poverty than one who raises her children within a stable married family. More than 80 percent of long-term child poverty in the United States occurs in never-married or broken households.


Husbands also are happier, healthier and more prosperous than their single counterparts, the analysts note, and children in stable, married families are likely to earn more, learn more, experience fewer problems with drug and alcohol abuse or with law enforcement and, in general, live happier, healthier and longer lives.


The paper notes that the federal and state governments spent $200 billion last year on programs for low-income families with children, including Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps -- $150 billion to single-parent households. In those homes, children were 14 times more likely to suffer serious physical abuse than children in intact, married families. They also are far more likely to be depressed, to have developmental, behavioral and emotional problems and to fail in school, use drugs and engage in early sexual activity. They also are more likely to become involved in crime and end up in prison as adults.


President Bush's proposal to spend $300 million (or a penny for every $5 spent to help with the myriad problems that beset single-parent families) to foster healthy marriages should be viewed for what it is -- the best, most economical hope for helping many of these families escape poverty, say the paper's authors.

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