The destructive effects of birth control on marriage…part deux

You know it sucks trying to be a well-rounded, well-researched pain in the ass when you have to write a part two of a post that was never intended because you forgot what your initial complaint was…

So…that sentence above got a little lost. What had happened is that when I first saw Mrs. Anderson’s blog post I got so pissed about her graph and how incomplete it was, I quit reading it and started thinking about everything it implies, but is so wrong about. It took me a few days to actually have time to right my response (because I don’t usually do much of anything after work except veg on the couch with the hubby). When I did finally take some time to write my response Friday night (as we vegged on the couch) because I knew I could stay up as long as needed, of course the historian part of me said that I couldn’t respond to something I wasn’t entirely sure of the context of, which meant I had to go back and read her post and you can see the rant that was the result of that. I’d gotten so caught up in the sexism of her post that I’d completely forgotten about the scientific and historical arguments I’d thought up at work. It wasn’t until this morning when my husband added another theoretical point on my “he only comes to bed in the morning when I use the bathroom” chart that I laughed about “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation” and had a literal “oh shit” moment.

Because yeah–I think it’s important for women who are confused enough to seek out the marriage advice of folks like Mrs. Anderson have someone like me writing about everything she wouldn’t dare mention. Like the fact that her chart needs to be read with the understanding that “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation”.

Here is the offending chart:

50eab-divorcepill

In my previous post I hinted at my offense at this chart because you’ll notice that the blue “Pill” line seems to be tapering off even which some may cheer for, but it doesn’t mean less people are using birth control, just that they’re switching to non-pill methods.

Now, I’m going to analyze this chart a hell of a lot better. The first thing to notice is that the divorce rate is staying relatively consistent now. It’s naive to think that it’s on another upward swing because anything can cause a divorce and in my opinion, divorce is highly preventable (don’t get your panties in a knot quite yet, I’ll get to that in a little while–if I forget, drop me a message and I’ll update this post).

Disclaimer: I have no talent or desire to to an actual statistical analysis of this data. I literally should have failed college statistics (thank you TA for not destroying my poor GPA, I wasn’t stupid enough to continue down that path, so you saved me and I learned my lesson!). The one thing I did eventually learn (via the Environmental Science department, where the statistics calculations we used, while I also failed at them, had more specific meaning to me, so therefore made slightly more sense) is that to be “statistically significant”, the alpha (result of statistical calculations) must be above 0.05. In other words, based on the calculations, it has at least a 95% chance of occurrence to get this FANCY TITLE. That is all that “statistical significance” is–a fancy title. So take it with a grain of salt because something may not be “statistically significant” because it has a 94.99% chance of occurrence. The same is true about a “100 year flood”. The media portrays this like it means “a flood like this only occurs every 100 years”, but in reality the way of calculating this is to take the top 100 floods, put them in order by size with the biggest as #1 and that flood is a “100 year flood” because it has a 1 in 100 probability of occurring IN ANY GIVEN YEAR. A “99 year flood” is the second worse flood and it could be a mere centimeter smaller than the one above it. So in a world with more bigger floods, a “50 year flood” could be less than a foot smaller than a “100 year flood”.

Anyway, so now you know why I’m just going to eyeball this graph to give my analysis. Besides, for what I care about, an eyeball is all I need.

So…what are some of the causes of divorce? This seems like a good place to start. There’s cheating; abuse (mental, physical, sexual, spiritual, etc); one spouse being gay, transgender, bisexual, etc; umm…”irreconcilable differences” (which covers a lot of things); this is depressing, so you get the picture. The point is that this graph is trying to narrow all these causes into one root cause: “The Pill”.

Which now begs the question: why did the divorce rate jump (it did) after The Pill became mainstream? I’m VERY glad you asked!!

WOMEN’S LIBERATION!

Cool. Thank you very much ladies of the past for making it almost socially acceptable for my husband and I to both hyphenate our names because we’re both important parts of this marriage! Considering where things once were, there was no sarcasm intended in that sentence above. I really am grateful for these ladies and it’s a condemnation for where we still need to go that I snark at.

Women’s history is a slow, but forward moving entity. I don’t really want to go all into it, but my studies generally started with what women did during the US Civil War (the abolitionists, the spys), though there is SO much that they did before that. I just haven’t studied it as in depth, so there’s only a few names that pop out at me–Anne Huchinson is one if you want to start a little bit further back, though PLEASE, don’t think it that ever really has a beginning! Women’s history is important, even as it’s usually ignored with the rest of minority history.

To simplify, let’s look at this list of “women’s issues” (issues that women were actively involved in) starting with the US Civil War: Abolition. Rights for freed slaves. Rights for immigrants. Rights for children. Rights for women. All through this there was Temperance, weaving in and out as social ills were blamed on alcohol. Then there was the Women’s Right to Vote, which there were probably as many women for this as there were against. Remember that also during all of the above, these women activists were attacked not only for what they were fighting for, but also because they were acting outside of the realm of women–women were supposed to be under the control of their husbands and fathers or other male relative. To speak out against anything not condoned by their protector made them that much less of a woman, though even when they did have the support of their husband, both sorts of husband was still often accused of being less than a man for not controlling his wife.

Imagine the situation a woman wanting to speak out would be in if she lived in a society where her husband is expected to control her. She’d be terrified to disagree with him because back then it was perfectly acceptable for a husband to hit his wife to keep her submissive. It was legally very difficult for a woman to go after a divorce while very easy for a man to ruin his wife with one–imagine the stigma of being a divorced woman–she can’t find work because she’s no longer “proper”. Gah–there are plenty of books written about this; if you need more information to be able to imagine this Hell, feel free to find one. Or there are lots of good documentaries. Let’s just leave it that there was this “Utopian Ideal” much like the one described by “modern” women who preach about a “Good Christian Wife who is Submissive to her Husband” and then there is REALITY when there are actual laws that prevent women from being independent AND a society that finds it morally acceptable to snub (meaning allow to suffer) women who are divorced, have a child out of wedlock, and, to some extent, who are beaten (there was a line, but it was still a grey area–“rule of thumb” and all that).

Anyway, This is pre-1920, a good place to pause and acknowledge the role of the rest of the world because at this point WWI has just ended, leaving many families without a male head of household. Wars had always left many women in such a state for thousands of years, but never on this kind of scale. This is because there’d been a change in how families earned their living. Before, the work of her husband may not have been socially acceptable for a woman, but she was probably lucky enough to live in a place where since she’d been honorably widowed (and enough of her neighbors were in a similar state) that it was okay for her to take over her husband’s shop or push his plow in the fields. She could game the system in whatever way was necessary and people would overlook it.

But, before the War, factories had been invented and while it may be okay for a woman to run her husband’s general goods store after his death, it was more questionable for her to work in a dim, dirty, factory. Factory girls weren’t proper girls. It might have been okay for a teenager to work in one before she got married, but after marriage she was expected to stay home and raise the children. Once she became a married woman, dirty work was just that: dirty. Scandalous. But, a family has to eat, so a woman did what she had to do and again, because she was probably lucky enough to live in a town where there were many women living a similar life, at least the scandal was minimized and ignored. Women would never brag about their day job in polite society.

Manufacturing during WWI wasn’t such a massive scale that women were expected to work in the factories while the men were away. This was merely women taking the jobs of their deceased husbands to be given up at the time that she found a new husband. REMEMBER THIS!

With WWII, we see those wonderful “Rosie the Riveters” and the “All American Girls Baseball League”. This was a time when factories actually were RECRUITING women to fill jobs vacated by men who’d been shipped overseas. Now, lets go back to what society had been. Before, most women only worked outside of the home because they needed the money to survive. Society encouraged this ideal. If a woman seemed to step outside of the idealized role of wife and mother, she was shunned or at least talked about behind her back. I believe even rambunctious and scandalous Anne of Green Gables quit her teaching job when she became pregnant (if not when she married), thus conforming to the ideal. Laura Ingalls also quit teaching upon pregnancy if not upon marriage.

And now, during WWII, we have the US government (feel free to leave a comment if your country had a similar campaign) actively telling women that they’re needed outside of the home. That they’re actually important to the war effort. Imagine what must have gone through these women’s heads: “Wait, I’m worth more than just my ability to have a child? I’m actually smart enough that you want me to build and fly airplanes, bombs, tanks, etc? You aren’t telling me you want me to be just a placeholder, because I personally am needed?” Even if she wasn’t having these revelations, once she was actually put into these roles, she must have enjoyed the mental stimulation, especially if she was one of those amazingly brave women who were flying airplanes near enemy territory without ammunition (because we all know that a woman isn’t in combat if she isn’t properly armed)!

The same “UNCLE SAM NEEDS YOU!” mentality went into recruiting women into the factories as it did getting men into the trenches. Is it any wonder that women reacted so strongly when they were told that they weren’t needed anymore when the boys came back from war? Yes, many happily went back to being a housewife and mother. Few told their children what they’d done (it was only in 2002 that those WASPs (Women Air Force Service pilots) were allowed to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery and then someone had the nerve to revoke those rights in 2015, though it went back into law this past May). But some really liked the work. They liked being useful as something more than making and raising children. So, women started actively entering and staying in the workforce even after they married and had babies.

Let’s say we’re in the 1950s, now. Women have been expanding their role. They’re still talked about behind their backs and their jobs are considered unimportant (because anybody can be a teacher or a secretary). Depending on the demographics of her town, she’ll be more or less accepted. Think deep south vs. NYC. Also at this point we need to acknowledge that demographics have changed. Fewer people know their neighbors and this downward trend is reaching rock bottom today. When you don’t know your neighbors it’s both very easy to vilify them and also to ignore them, which is why there was (is?) a wide gulf between the homemakers and the working women–both assume that the other is someone she probably isn’t. Anyway, at some point, college is suddenly considered a proper place for a woman (because education is necessary for women to be able to teach their sons to be educated and because college educated men make for good husbands), though they weren’t expected to actually complete a degree other than an Mrs. At least if a woman had a husband, her parents couldn’t completely give up hope that she’d turn out “normal”.

Then came the 1960s. The era of the protest. And women whose mother had potentially worked in a factory during WWII (having been told that she was smart and special to get her there), is now in college and maybe she thinks she’s “smart and special”, too. Like, maybe she’s capable of more than just an Mrs. degree. And as other minorities start to fight to get the same basic rights as white folks, white women start to wonder why their choices are still stigmatized. They begin to protest, too.

Meanwhile, by now the Pill has been developed and is LEGALLY sanctioned for use only within marriage. Even before this condoms existed and were stigmatized even when used by married couples. So, it’s not like the US government has always been pro-free-sex, there were laws on the books that said that you had to prove marriage in order to get birth control. For a relatively long time.

Now, while I’m sure all of you are fascinated by women’s history, I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with the divorce rate. Well, I’ve shown you the progression of Women’s Liberation. From speaking out on husband-approved topics like slavery  all the way to women burning their bras. During that time, women were always faced with the tales of their mothers and grandmothers. Tales of women who, once married, were forced to stay in that marriage no matter how miserable they were. Tales from them about women who’d been shamed (as precautionary tales). But these women of the 1970s didn’t want to be forced into that life. Women-kind, as a sex, had lived through so many changes, why should they as individuals be forced into a life that wasn’t the one that they wanted. Yes, this kind of independence was still stigmatized, but if a man can run off to Paris to become a starving artist, why can’t a woman? During this time of upheaval, the simple truth that came out was “If a man can do this, why can’t I?” That is Feminism. The belief that I’m not less capable of anything simply because I was born with a vagina instead of a penis. And maybe there was/is a little chauvinism of “well, I can do everything a man can do WHILE bleeding for a few days every month AND I can grow a new person inside of me”.

So. The divorce rate. The first thing that had to change was that it became legally as easy for a woman to be granted a divorce as a man. In reality this was a slow process because there were still male judges who were less likely to grant said divorce. But, with time, this changed (that’d be that slow rise of the red divorce line way up above at the graph).

Because, let’s also head way up above to where I started my analysis: what are the causes of divorce? NONE of these are NEW. None of them. There has always been cheating. There has always been abuse. There have always been revelations that one spouse is not heterosexual or has any other sexual dimorphism (PLEASE do not yell at me for not knowing the correct terms to use here–when it comes to gender issues, I’m very sympathetic, but not a scholar. Feel free to correct me in the comments!). There have ALWAYS been irreconcilable differences.

People have always wanted to end their marriages: the problem was that it was socially and legally unacceptable. With Women’s Liberation, this changed. Yes, I’m blaming Women’s Liberation for the high divorce rate and I’m PROUD that it did! Because you know what? I think we’d live in a shitty society if people were forced to stay in relationships with people they don’t want to be with anymore! That situation cannot be healthy for anyone, but especially for any children that are involved!

Now, at this point I want to mollify those of you who got upset when I said that I believe that divorce is highly preventable. Here’s the thing: My husband was married twice before me to two women who sucked. Yes, he loved them at the time that they got married, but they turned out to be awful. Both cheated on him, though he said to at least one of them that he’d accept an open relationship so long as she was honest with him–she wasn’t honest. The rest of his girlfriends were, for the most part, not great (because, one of the things I love about my husband is that he’s always been honest, but gracious, towards his many exes, so I will not stoop to their level and call them trolls).

I think a lot of what eventually happened with them would have been solved by a few weeks of good PRE-marital counselling. I get the vibe that when he was 22 and married his first wife he was really just looking to be a husband and father and thought that what love they had was enough, though she ended up changing on him. In other words, he didn’t know her well enough before he married her. She’d been looking for a dad for her two girls and he probably liked the idea of an instant family. I think I can honestly say that whatever the cause of the divorce, it’s something that could have been spotted before the marriage occurred just by ensuring that both parties are honest with themselves about what they want and having a 3rd party ensure that both parties are being honest with each other by bringing up the hard questions. I doubt that there could ever be a time when the divorce rate hits zero, but if we begin to fashion a society where people are looking for marriages that are based on the right foundations for success, the divorce rate can get very low.

It seems like I haven’t had a post yet comparing a marriage to a wedding. I need to get on top of this.

 

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