Being Married or Having Daughters Does Not Make You A Decent Person
If it did, women like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would not be slurred by married men like Rep. Ted Yoho
Many women have been called a bitch. Many have been called a fucking bitch, as was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — along with other personal attacks— by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) on the steps of the Capitol recently.
When his attack on her caught a reporter’s attention, Yoho attempted to defend himself. “Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of language,” he said.
In a fiery response that went viral, Ocasio-Cortez was having none of it, noting that she, too, is someone’s daughter:
“You can be a powerful man and accost women. You can have daughters and accost women, without remorse. You can be married and accost women. You can take photos, and project an image to the world of being a family man, and accost women, without remorse, and with a sense of impunity.”
The “daughter defense” has been brought up numerous times from men who have done questionable things to women, Jessica Bennett writes in the New York Times:
The love a man has for the female members of his family, particularly his offspring, is presumed to have special power — to humanize the other half of the population, to allow him to imagine the world his daughter will inhabit. Sometimes, in fact, this happens. Other times, the Daughter Excuse comes across mostly as cynical ploy.
Just as powerful is the idea that being married — especially being married for a long time, which we tend to idealize — would somehow make you “special.”
As Singled Out author Bella DePaulo notes about Yoho’s response:
“[T]his wasn’t just about sexism and it wasn’t just about women. It is about singlism and matrimania and the many ways that many married people — both men and women — see themselves as superior just because they are married. It is also about the many people who agree with them, including, it pains me to say, even some people who are single. The supposed superiority of married people is an ideology, not just any old belief. It is a worldview; people are invested in it. ‘Get married, and you, too, will be superior,’ is an alluring lie.”
Sociologist Andrew Cherlin writes in his book, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, that getting married is “the most prestigious way to live your life,” even though marriage is no longer necessary to have sex, live with someone, have children or for women to have financial security.
And in his majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:
“No union is more profound than marriage for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. … Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other. … Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness.”
Marriage is “prestigious”? Marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family”? Really? Then why would websites like Ashley Madison exist? Why would a high percentage of marriages include physical and emotional abuse? Why would so many choose to cohabit instead of putting a ring on it?
What’s disturbing about Kennedy’s wording is that it perpetuates the belief that those who are unmarried, by choice or chance, don’t have much going on — we’re just “condemned to live in loneliness.” Never mind that we — and that includes me — have full lives that involve family, friends, neighbors, community and sometimes partners, and that involve activities, passions, sex and love.
It’s privileging marriage and thus the people in that marriage as being somehow “better.” Better at what, though? Certainly not decency, because Yoho’s 45 years of marriage and two daughters did not prevent him from calling a highly accomplished woman a “fucking bitch.” I shudder to think what he’s called his wife and daughters.
Believing that marriage somehow makes you a good person is believing that marriage has some sort of magical power. That’s putting a lot of expectations on a marriage license and a gold band.
Getting married is not an accomplishment. You don’t need any special skills or talents, a high IQ, a diploma or college degree, or even a job or money to get married. And getting a marriage license does not bestow you with kindness, empathy and goodness. Getting a marriage license just means you’re married, and thus are bestowed with perks and privileges by the government (and why the government privileges people based on their sexual/romantic life is something all of us should question).
Ocasio-Cortez is single but lives with her longtime partner, Riley Roberts, a man Ocasio-Cortez’s mother really wants her to marry. A private person, AOC hasn’t said anything about whether they’ll tie the knot or not at some point. It shouldn’t make a difference.
But I feel pretty confident in saying this — marrying Roberts won’t make AOC a better woman than she already is (yes, I am a fan). And, sadly, it won’t stop longtime married men like Yoho from calling her a “fucking bitch.”
Want to learn how to individualize your marriage? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore (please do) or order it on Amazon. And we’re now on Audible.