challenging the two-parent heteropatriarchal household09 Jan 2017
i’m reading salvation: black people and love, the second book in bell hooks’ love trilogy. as always, there’s lots of good stuff but chapter seven: cherishing single mothers, has a ton of pushback on the westernized notion of the male-headed, two parent nuclear family.
basically, her point is that that the dominant narrative’s assumption that two parent hetero households are best is unfounded. in fact, there is likely much evidence that asserts the opposite reality. i’m still working my way through the chapter, but here are some points that really resonated with me. i’ve seen all these things happen first- and/or second-hand.
- love is not automatic in any context, including two parent relationships. if a couple doesn’t have a foundation of love, it will not magically one when a child is born.
- the presence of a man doesn’t automatically mean a household will be better off. his actions and ways of being that provide that. if his presence is neutral or destructive to the work of love, his presence is unnecessary at best and detrimental at worst.
- men often control money (their own or that of the family) in ways that undermine or keep static overall family well being. for example buying grown-up toys (nice cars, hobby-based equipment), gambling, and womanizing, are ways that keep the additional income of a male in a household from being spent on the family’s well-being or the well-being of the children.
- our society assumes that having a male income earner will make the family have more money. however, there is much evidence but because men often control the finances, having the extra money doesn’t do any good (see previous bullet). sometimes, single women spend more on their kids than two family households with only a man earning income.
- a household with two unloving parents can create a worse environment than a single loving parent. this idea is the root of the sentiment that divorced children often learn quickly. i.e. “i wish they had just broken up earlier; i probably would have been better off if they had.”
- patriarchal families can cause all sorts of harm including male-perpetuated incest and abuse. sometimes, a chain of abuse that is generallationally passed down can be broken by a single mothered household.
heavy stuff, but i have seen all of that stuff play out in different ways. i think hooks’ point here is a good one. obviously, a two parent loving household is the best situation. but if either one or both parents in that context don’t know how to love, it is not automatic that two parents are better than one.