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During last Tuesday’s presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney tried to explain our country’s problem with gun violence through his ideal vision for structures of family. On the topic, Romney said that, “We need moms and dads … to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone.”
He not only negated the abilities of same-sex couples to raise competent and nonviolent children, but also implied that violence comes from low-income families as a result of their instability at home.
What he means is that families with a single parent are more likely to create violent children.
The truth is that marriage is not the solution to the problems of poverty or violence. Romney reveals some ignorance on this subject when he says that, “if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically.” While it is true that there are less single-parent households in the middle and upper class, the reason that people live in poverty is not because of their martial status. This is especially true because people generally marry people in the same socioeconomic level as themselves.
Sociologists have found that the added stress of a relationship in an impoverished household, which already has more than its fair share of stresses, can be more of a burden than a benefit.
For these individuals, marriage is not a fix-all solution, but rather has the power to destabilize their family structure. So, Romney’s solution, as researched by many acclaimed sociologists, actually has the power to “diminish women’s long-term stability … encouraging partnering is, ultimately, an unsustainable policy,” according to Jill Weigt at California State University San Marcos.
This is disheartening to hear from a presidential candidate for a number of reasons. For one thing, if he were to take ten minutes to Google this situation, he would find ample evidence disproving his assumptions. Most people do not want to have a baby and be on their own. Having a partner that enhances your life and supports you and your dreams is not something that only middle to upper class people want. Of course lower income individuals dream about the same thing. In fact, there is evidence that they dream about it more, that they are more traditional than most Americans and hold the values surrounding marriage (monogamy, love, trust, support) in higher regard.
However, middle-income earners realize that the reality they are living cannot match these societal ideals, and thus have to live their lives a little differently, usually by raising kids on their own and not getting married.
Romney reveals his distance from the lives of those in our country who do not meet the standards of being considered middle class through his statement about how families should be done in order to end violence. The people he is referring to are as American as everybody else, and it is striking and arrogant that he would know so little about what these people truly need in order to raise healthy, non-violent kids.
Aside from the fact that Romney brought this subject up as a solution to gun violence, no political solutions are as simple as he lays them out here. Getting married does not prevent gun violence. Gun violence does not come from single-parent households. These problems have many complexities; blaming people for problems beyond them (like gun violence) because of existing problems (like poverty) does not solve either of these. With his quick-fix solution and naive understanding of low income people, Romney shows his true colors — and they are not colors that these American women think the nation needs.
Contact Feminism Columnists Mira Winograd at Mira.firstname.lastname@example.org and Becky Powell at Becky.email@example.com.