Conservatives, who were offended by the president's "Life of Julia" commercial because it promoted female dependency, were wrong about its appeal. "Julia" was looked on by millions of single women as worthy of imitation.
Single feminists of earlier times who railed against dependency on "the Man" now hail the government of Big Daddy, though such dependency is ultimately likely to be worse. Unlike the 56 percent of married women who voted for Mitt Romney, they're satisfied with their relationship with a faceless bureaucrat as long as he sends the checks for Head Start, college and health care. They admire Sandra Fluke as campaigner for government-supplied condoms.
President Obama didn't pull Julia out of his imagination as a social model worthy of admiration, as many conservatives said -- he had read the latest statistics on marriage. Nor was it an oversight that Julia had a baby with no husband in sight. Men are abandoning responsibility. Women rely on them less. It is not so much "The End of Men," as Hanna Rosin colorfully puts it in the title of her new book, but the end of men as we have expected them to be. It may also be the "end of women" as we have expected them to act.
My parents would have been shocked at my son's unconventional wedding with a pregnant bride, but the newly wedded couple may stand in transition to more radical customs worldwide. Fewer men and women are marrying at all.
Joel Kotkin, in a widely circulated report titled "The Rise of Post-Familialism: Humanity's Future?" describes the way the family model for most of human history -- defined by parents, children and extended kin -- is undergoing radical change. For now a new model dominated by singletons is concentrated in urban centers of North America, Europe and East Asia. Though reasons are different in different countries, the upending of traditional values among secularist societies is written in a minor key. The question is whether it will become the dominant theme.
"The current weak global economy, now in its fifth year, also threatens to further slow family formation," writes Joel Kotkin. "Child-rearing requires a strong hope that life will be better for the next generation." We can all hope.
Write to Suzanne Fields at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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