You don't have to be an elderly Aunt Agatha to remember when feminism was about equal rights and equal pay. In those heady days of righteousness unbound, not all women cheered the revolution, but most did. Our mothers and grandmothers who enjoyed the freedom of being full-time moms, home for the kids after school, nevertheless believed that pay scales deprived women of what was rightly theirs.
But soon women of the generation of stay-at-home moms felt the sting of condescension, targets of the pioneering women they first cheered. They had become the enemy in a new war, women vs. women. The mommies lost that war, and their daughters went on to full-time careers. Today, women are the majority sex in college and graduate school, including the schools of law and medicine.
The sexual revolution brought freedom -- and privilege -- to women that an earlier generation never dreamed of. Alas, like most revolutions, the feminist revolution, for all of its earnest and idealistic beginnings, has been blighted by unintended consequences. A new class of victim, the single mom, has been abandoned by men to raise children alone. Not so long ago, a man who fathered a child with a woman he wouldn't (or couldn't) marry suffered stigma and reproach, perhaps from men more than women. That was before "illegitimacy" became the "new normal." Now, more than half of babies born to mothers under 30 are born outside marriage. The trend accelerates.
These single moms are not the college-educated career women who have climbed the ladder of rank and prosperity. "Marriage has become a luxury good," sociologist Frank Furstenberg of the University of Pennsylvania tells The New York Times. Fully 90 percent of college-educated women who become mothers are married. They discovered something besides book learning behind the ivy-covered walls. The big losers are women without the advantages of prosperity. The racial breakdown of unwed mothers is stark and dramatic: 73 percent of black children, 53 percent of Latino children and 29 percent of white children are born to single mothers.
These are more than statistics. Any of us can recite the litany of disadvantages inherited by children raised without fathers. They are more likely to experience poverty, to do poorly in school, to wind up on the wrong side of the law and to repeat the grim cycle in their own generation.