Suzanne Fields

Few in Washington discuss this because it's first a cultural problem, and Washington only wants to talk about problems that can be reduced to politics. Culture doesn't fit comfortably into political solutions. When Bill Clinton was president and reluctantly supported welfare reform, welfare was widely thought to encourage illegitimacy. The government played Big Daddy and picked up the check. Many women who had lived on welfare learned that getting off the dole and finding work felt good. They found work but not daddies for their babies. The revolution freed women to take charge of their lives, and men were happy to get out of their way.

What's being ignored in the controversy over government-mandated contraceptive coverage is the way men have abandoned their responsibility to share responsibility for birth control. There's no one in the debate to say this. Neither Mitt Romney nor Newt Gingrich is eager to join the debate, and Rick Santorum only dreams of the day when contraception will be forbidden. The celibate bishops in their gowns have more to say about sexual responsibility than the men who have rendered themselves irrelevant.

It's a little cheeky of feminists to mount high horses to object to the rudeness of being called "sluts," it seems to me, since they've organized "Slut Walks" to assert their right to dress like hookers without suffering the leers of men. The idea was to deprive the word of its sting, in the way that gays have tried to deprive the word "queer" of its power to wound. It hasn't quite worked. The dissembling of Sandra Fluke, who brought Rush Limbaugh low, is easy to see through, too; she knows very well that college-educated women do not depend on government mandates to pay for their birth control. Women are no longer the second sex.

The birth control controversy has been cast as political -- Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal -- when it's clearly about whether the religious folk can be required by the government to pay for something offensive to their faith.

It's also about the fundamental change in the male-female relationship. As women gained equality with men, men lost their identity as provider and protector. If marriage was once required as a sexual-economic compromise that domesticated men for family life, it is no longer. Men have fled fatherhood as well as the responsibility for preventing unwanted fatherhood. Man has been unmanned.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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