Monday, August 14, 2006

One Bastard Champion
Last Friday, the government was widely reported to have recently requested local councils and primary health trusts specially to target black and mixed race Caribbean youngsters in an attempt to reduce their comparatively high rates of teen-age pregnancy which do so much to make Britain top of the European league-tables for teenage-conception and teenage-motherhood.
In a letter to council and primary health trusts making the request, Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes stated as the government’s reason for making it the fact that:
‘Teenage pregnancy is strongly associated with poor outcomes for both young parents and their children. It contributes to the transmission of poverty, inequality and low aspirations between generations’.
In an op-ed in today’s Times entitled ‘Bastardy: for thousands of young girls it will always be a legitimate choice’, Germaine Greer springs to the defence of those young black compatriots of hers who choose to have babies at such an early age.
She argues their decision to do so gives them absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, embarrassed about, or to regret. This is because, so she argues, they come from a shared culture where single-motherhood is an accepted part of life and neither carries, nor should carry, any form of stigma.
If, as the government claims, Ms Greer goes on to argue, their having babies currently restricts the educational and career opportunities of these girls, or condemns them and their children to lives of poverty, the fault lies not with them. Rather, it lies with the government for not doing enough to ensure that their education and career opportunities are not damaged by having children, and that their fathers are made to pay child-support.
Rather than discourage teenagers from having babies, argues Ms Greer, the government should be making sure that neither they nor their children suffer any hardship as a result of the age at which they have them. She writes:
‘Already we need every baby we can get; a sound social policy would make sure that we don’t condemn the ones we have to poverty and marginalisation.’
In one sense, what Ms Greer asserts in the latter part of the quoted sentence is unexceptionable enough. However, what the first part of that sentence asserts by no means follows from what is asserted in its latter part, nor can be independently substantiated.
Frankly, contrary to what Ms Greer states, society has no need of those babies who, in consequence of their being born and growing up in highly adverse circumstances, end up as adults making no positive contribution to society, but who are merely a drain on its resources, or worse still, if boys, who end up in a life of crime, or, if girls, become young mothers in similar circumstances and so merely serve to perpetuate the cycle of deprivation.
Ms Greer claims that, because the overall birth-rate in Britain is in decline, the country needs every baby born within it no matter the circumstances in which they are born. In Ms Greer’s scheme of things, it would seem, any disadvantage incurred by a baby or its mother as a result of being born when the mother was but a teenager can be rectified by means of some suitable state-measure designed to equalise their life prospects with those of other mothers and babies.
Such a world-view entirely over-looks the well-attested vital contribution fathers can and typically do make to the development of their children in addition to that made by their mothers. No matter how undeniably positive can be and often is the contrbution made by grandmothers, and maybe sometimes even great-grandmothers, to the upbringing of children, such relatives are no more able than state-functionaries to susbstitute for what a normal loving father can and does contribute to the development and self-esteem of their children in consequence of growing up together with and caring for them along with their mother.
The flip-side of a culture in which teenage pregnancy and teenage motherhood are condoned is that is also one where boys grow up without any responsible same-sex role model in their lives who is as fond and caring of them as their mothers, and who is typically better able than their mothers and grandmothers to exert the discipline they might intermittently need during their adolescence to prevent them from going off the rails.
Moreover, without the prospect of any close daily contact with any children they might have and of bringing them up with the mothers of their children, boys grow up with few aspirations in relation to women and children beyond the joys of having sex with the former and the kudos obtained from their peers on becoming ‘a baby-father’, a status to which here attaches no enforceable responsibilities, financial or otherwise, and which all too often condemns whoever holds that status to a life on the margins of domesticity and respectability.
Ms Greer’s preferred universe is seemingly one entirely uninhabited by any males save, at best, those who serve as sex-objects for women and as walking sperm-banks, and, at worst, as rapists and wife-beaters.
In her time, Ms Greer did as much as anyone of her generation to persuade those who should have known better that men were something women were better off being without, save when having sex with or otherwise obtaining sperm from them.
The Afro-Caribbean culture in which teenage pregnancy and single-motherhood are condoned, of course, was not something created by the influence of Ms Greer and her like. But her writings and those of other 'sixties feminists did much to create a climate of opinion in the nineteen seventies and eighties among political elites and opinion-formers which saw that no steps were taken to challenge or change that Afro-Caribbean culture of single-motherhood, but rather instead to celebrate and glorify it as being emancipated and emancipating.
That modern feminists such as Ms Greer should have championed such a culture is both curious and sad, seeing how, as a matter of historical fact, that culture is but the enduring legacy of a system of slavery in which men and women were forbidden to live together as man and wife, and in which plantation owners encouraged their young female slaves to bear children out of wedlock merely to increase the stock of cheap labour.
All in all, then, Ms Greer might relish being the country’s number-one bastard champion. Those, however, of a different persuasion will take a very different view of her being such, no matter how well suited they might consider that accolade to be.


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