Red Families v. Blue Families

Book Review by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Review of "Red Families v. Blue Families," by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone

This widely-discussed book seems to be about the differences between red states and blue states, between socially conservative and socially liberal America, between red families and blue families. In fact, it is about the differences between college educated women and everyone else. You could say this book is the “soft power” version of class warfare. The rich are deliberately making war on the poor, not to expropriate their material resources, but to establish social hegemony. They want complete social approval and legal support for a lifestyle from which they benefit and which harms others.

I was supposed to have written this review long ago. The time-consuming nature of unpacking the illogic and obfuscation in this supposedly scientific tract is not the only reasons for the delay. This book made me so angry I could barely read it.

Red Families v. Blue Families image The essence of the Cahn and Carbone’s version of class difference, which they wrongly attribute to "red families" and "blue families", is delayed age at first marriage. Later marriage allows women to complete their education and enter into high-income, high-status jobs before beginning families. These high status women are likely to get married and stay married, which further enhances the family’s financial wealth and their children’s life-chances.

Cahn and Carbone, both academics specializing in aspects of family law, leave no doubt that they approve of this “blue state script”. If their only point were to encourage later marriage and childbearing, their book would be unobjectionable. They could join the legions of abstinence educators, religious leaders, school teachers and parents who have been trying to convey that message to the young.

What is objectionable is that their data leaves no doubt that it is not “maturity” or greater self-command that makes the later marriages of the well-educated possible. The elites rely on contraception, backed up by the unapologetic use of abortion, to establish their high-status late-marriage life-styles.

Cahn and Carbone plainly disapprove of red families advocating for traditional morality, who are more concerned with marriage than age per se as the prerequisite for childbearing. “Rather than ground family morality in investment in higher education and disciplined childbearing, these advocates continue to celebrate the unity of sex, marriage and reproduction. The reward in this system, particularly for those who may never reach the enhanced status that comes with dual college-educated earners, is family life itself.”

As a highly educated woman who nonetheless “celebrates the unity of sex, marriage and reproduction” I found passages like these hard to read. Carbone and Cahn are implicitly accusing us of opposing “higher education” and “disciplined childbearing”. In fact, there is nothing “disciplined” about the child-bearing of the upper classes. They are simply willing to use abortion to kill off the babies that arrive too early for the script. Contraception, not discipline, allows them to be sexually active and still postpone marriage.

And we do not oppose higher education, as they seem to imply. We simply recognize what Cahn and Carbone themselves recognize in the above quotation: not everyone has the aptitude or inclination to go to graduate school, and absolutely no public policy will change this basic fact. They know that the sexual revolution isn’t working for the lower socio-economic classes, yet their book drips with condescension and contempt for those who resist its continual march through society.

Cahn and Carbone direct their fire at advocates of abstinence education and parental notification for abortion. They do not seem to realize that the early sexualization of the young and the decline in parental authority are a large part of the problem. The combination of Supreme Court decisions and federal promotion of contraception education amounts to a complete government take-over of sexual culture. Against this and the social disorganization of the lower classes, abstinence education and parental notification are, admittedly, impotent weapons.

Advocates of an organic holistic view of sex, marriage and reproduction have few weapons remaining in their armory. The federal government picked a fight with the traditional sexual culture and forced us to bring knives to their gunfight.But Cahn and Carbone turn a blind eye to all this, maintaining that abstinence education and parental notification for abortion are to blame for the problems of the underclass. If only they had more contraception and more abortions, these unfortunate people would postpone marriage, go to law school and be just like “us”.

Let me add a few facts that they overlook. First, over half of women who come for an abortion say that they were using contraception during the month they conceived. Second, nearly half of all women who come for an abortion report that they have already had at least one previous abortion. Since they have obviously been to an abortion clinic before, someone could have told them anything they needed to know about contraception.

Continue reading: "Red Families v. Blue Families" and Dr. Morse's view of how contraception plays a significant role.

This book review appeared at in Sept. 2010, located here: Red Familes v. Blue Families

Return to the home page: Red Families v. Blue Families

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