“I think that the brutal truth of the feminine situation is that
we’re backsliding as the result of a degree of disillusionment.”
No sooner had I posted my thoughts on the Catholic Church’s effort to deny access to contraception among Catholic women in the United States than other news challenged a basic premise.
That premise was that, since many Catholic women of independent judgment and means are reportedly using contraception anyway, many more would do so if they had ready access. However, two days after I posted my opinion, a Washington research group, Child Trends, reported that more than half of births to all American women under 30 occur outside marriage. Illegitimacy is the new normal, except among college-educated women, 93% of whom are married when they give birth.
Clearly, marriage is on the decline, but child-bearing is increasing in its absence. As an elder, I am dumbfounded by these statistics. What they tell me is that some form of arrested development is manifesting in the feminine psyche in the United States.
Of course, the Child Trends figures pertain to a young population. The prefrontal cortex where judgment resides doesn’t fully develop until late in the 20s, and that can explain some of this. However, even among the population of the mature feminine, we seem to be stalled in many ways.
We have the vote, access to higher education, higher pay and professional opportunity, and federal protection against the sexual harrassment we continually try to incite with manifold ways of turning ourselves into eye candy; and yet there seems to be an ennui afoot that has infected a younger generation of women. It is as though, uninspired by the perceived fruit of unprecedented opportunity, they are choosing subjugation of their own making.
The use of that term is deliberate. When you’re young, parenting is probably often viewed through rose-colored glasses. It’s only later that the dimensions of the responsibility become clear, particularly if the father is no longer involved. An unanticipated consequence may come home to roost: the realization that the child is not thriving and that cognitive, social, and behavioral problems are surfacing. The unwed mother is subjugated by the obligation to provide emotionally, financially, and wisely for a child whose needs overwhelm her own.
Of course, I look at this from the perspective of someone whose prefrontal cortex is stuffed with wisdom acquired through my own errors in judgment. Some young woman who knew my history could challenge me with the question: “So your subjugation was better than my subjugation?”
Well, all right. Nevertheless, it looks like the feminine is losing ground. What do we do to turn it around? I have just finished reading a book that may be helpful. The title is Good to Great by Jim Collins, and it was published in 2001. It’s about the strategy embraced by companies that became great, if only briefly. The findings are stunning and widely applicable.
Collins discovered that three important characteristics pertained. At a critical point, the great companies all took time out to take a look at the “brutal truth” of where they were. Then they asked themselves two important questions: What can we be really good at (even if we’re not doing that now) and what do we have a passion for? They proceeded to act on the resulting insights and stunningly outperform the market.
I think that the brutal truth of the feminine situation is that we’re backsliding as the result of a degree of disillusionment. At the time, the possibilities seemed exciting, but my generation focused on trying to succeed in a man’s world without asking those second two questions about unique potential and passion. As a result, our successes may not have meant as much to us as they should have–kind of like being copycats in our corporate suits–and we weren’t inspiring. For the sake of the feminine, the focus needs to shift to creating opportunities grounded in feminine strengths.
With overpopulation looming on the horizon, we can reasonably encourage young women to find stimulating ways to focus on their own personal development long enough to be able wisely to guide that of a child. The prudent use of contraception could then become a great and universal blessing–no exaggeration. I think our potential is enormous, and the world really needs it right about now.