The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: Part 22, The Inevitability of Dependency

Having discussed the deterioration of marriage in the modern world, and the negative effects this has had upon women, Perry turns to the issue of motherhood in Chapter 8 "Marriage is Good" in The Case Against the Sexual Revolution

As I mentioned in the last post, these issues are polarizing, and pretty delicate for me to write about as a man. But let me just share Perry's argument and you can decide for yourself what you think about it.

Perry starts by noting that feminism has had a fraught relationship with motherhood. It's not hard to see why. Throughout history, having a child has kept women from stepping into autonomy and freedom. Reproductive biology has kept women tethered to children in a way men have avoided. This has struck many feminists as deeply and profoundly unjust. Motherhood has been a sign and constant reminder of bondage and oppression.

Consequently, a goal of many feminists has been to liberate women from these biological bonds and obligations. For a woman to be truly free she had to reject motherhood, or at least not let having children have any impact upon her goals, desires, dreams, projects and career. Motherhood has to be reduced and delimitated. 

The vision here is the neoliberal vision of human flourishing: to stand independent, free and autonomous, to reject dependency. And this, argues Perry, is the fatal flaw. There's no escaping our dependency. Perry writes:

The psychoanalyst and paediatrician Donald Winnicott has written that 'there is no such thing as a baby. There is only a baby and someone.'

Perry goes on to quote Leah Libresco's comment on this point:

The liberal theory of the independent individual as the basic unit of society is full of exceptions...It would be fairer to say that dependence is our default state, and self-sufficiency the aberration. Our lives begin and (frequently) end in states of near total dependence, and much of the middle is marked by periods of need.

Now, Perry does note that, in the dependency game, women have historically assumed the burden of being the caregiver. As Perry observes, "women are still too often consigned to the role of 'someone'--always caring, never cared for." But Perry pushes on to say:

But the solution to this problem cannot be individualism, because the whole concept is based on a lie. In the natural human life cycle, we begin as dependent babies, spend a very brief period as relatively independent young adults, before caring for our own dependent children, and then ultimately ending our lives in what Shakespeare called our 'second childishness'...Either being 'a someone' or needing 'a someone' is our lot as human beings. That means that we have to find ways to being dependent upon one another.

To be sure, there are ways governments can ease the burdens we face. But most of the policies that will have the greatest and most significant impacts won't be involved in eroding marriages and families, but will, rather, support and help marriages and families do the job they were created to do: helping us be "a someone" to those we love.

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