Parenting and Politics 4/5



I mentioned earlier that Dr. Spock protested against the Vietnam War. After he did so, his book sales dropped by half. But this position was completely in line with his parenting style. Just as authoritarianism breeds children of war, more permissive or balanced parenting styles produce children who question war, who question authority. Spock’s objections to the war were consistent with his values and how that shaped his parenting advice.

In general, men are more likely to be authoritarian than women. Men also get more of the benefits of a rigid hierarchy, since their gender is placed at the top of one. Authoritarian parenting style believes that “Father knows best” and that wives should submit to their husband’s – or male expert’s – decisions in raising children. It’s also a parenting style born of contempt for women and the belief that they will “spoil” children or “weaken” them with too much love and affection.

For 200 years now, men with careers in medicine have presumed to be experts in parenting. Women who raise children are not presumed to have this level of expertise or competence, but men working in an entirely different setting are. Never mind that these men have blamed conditions we now know to be genetic on “refrigerator moms” and maternal sin. Never mind that the authoritarian styles they prefer lend themselves to the worst human rights abuses. Men are inherently qualified to earn money telling women how to do unpaid childcare.

In fact, being a doctor isn’t even required for a man whose wife raised his children to become an “expert” on childcare. Simply look to the case of Michael Pearl, a Christian extremist who advises parents on the best instruments to beat their infant children with. Several child deaths have been directly linked to his teachings, yet his book is still on Amazon right now with several five star reviews. (He was a friend of my grandmother and I have what I believe is a memory of meeting him once as a child. The memory is one of intense fear.)


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