Alex Blaze

Queer the McFamily!

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 17, 2007 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Argentina, Don Imus, Elmer Martin, George Will, James Dobson, LGBT families, McFamily, racism and heterosexism

(I promise, this will be the last post on Don Imus. Unless something further develops, of course.)

This past Sunday on This Week, George Will, as always, was at the round table. I don't have transcript or video, because you have to pay ABC for those, but I did watch, and during the discussion of Don Imus, George Will tried to change the subject by saying that this ignored the biggest problem facing Black America. For several seconds, since George Will is such a slow talker, I wondered what exactly is the biggest problem facing Black people in America today. Employment discrimination? Local funding of public education that perpetuates income inequality? The nastiness that's still going on post-Katrina in New Orleans? Constant, subtle racism?

Not being Black myself, I waited for George Will's answer. While he's a slow talker, he's not so slow that I had enough time to realize that my lack of certainty stemmed from my not being Black and that it would not be assuaged by George Will, because he's not Black either. In fact, on top of being a white country club conservative, he's also a total douchebag. But that's neither here nor there.

The biggest problem facing Black America today, according to George Will, is the massive numbers of Black children being born out of wedlock.

You read that correctly. George Will said that Don Imus calling the Rutgers women's basketball team hoes is distracting America from the fact that they really are hoes. (continued)

Now, I know a thing or two about being called slutty. It seems that that's the insult that the establishment lobs at Blacks, Asians, and Latinos, as well as uppity women, gay men, lesbian women, and transfolk. But especially gay men. But especially transfolk. But especially Black people. But especially....

And what it harks back to for me is my childhood, growing up in a nearly all white community as a first generation Latino kid. And I remember a few differences in family structure. I had a Waspy friend who hated his little brother with a passion. I thought it was a long-running joke, but now that we've all grown up, those two won't speak to each other. I had another white friend who couldn't stand his brother and sister, and now as adults, they still don't get along.

Now I'm absolutely not saying that white people can't get along with people in their families. What I am saying is that Waspy white families tend to have more distant relationships between siblings in order to make them stake it out on their own as adults to have their own families that will eventually do the same. Talk about a difference from a Latino family! Even though I grew up far away from my mother's extended family, we call every week, and they all get together several times a week down in Argentina. It's a lot more common down there to live in the same town as the rest of the extended family when you grow up. Family ties extend beyond the nuclear family providing a complex social and financial support network.

So I'm not surprised to have read in Elmer Martin's The Black Extended Family that the same thing occurs for African Americans as well. Fatherless for a white, middle-class American family has a far different meaning in other cultures.

Especially for lesbian parents. Remember when James Dobson complained in Time about Mary Cheney having a baby without a father and lying about how absolutely necessary a male parent is to have the kid grow up to be a productive member of society? It just seems like everyone who doesn't make for themselves a little McFamily - one father who works, one mother who doesn't, several children, all self-sufficient and happily separated from yet polite to the extended family - has something wrong with them, despite the fact that only 25% of American households fit that mold. I wonder if it's just that sort of post-industrial mass production mentality that made McDonald's what it is today that's also involved in the normalization that George Will, James Dobson, etc., are trying to foist upon the rest of us with this image of a standard nuclear family.

So, no, George Will. Let's think a little deeper here than jumping to blame the victim, if we can. But let's also start to think about how the same stereotypes, the same disapproval of difference, and the same normalization of one legitimate model for the family all lead to the oppression of lots of groups of people. Even if it's most obvious for us when the establishment is talking about queer people, they use the same imagery against all difference.

(And that's probably why I think George Will is a douchebag. He's always presenting himself as the center of America, the normal opinion, the quiet scholar that when we get down to it, we can all agree with. While the content of his opinions is far from mainstream, he uses his style as a weapon to silence disagreement with him. Plus I've never been a fan of normal.)


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Wilson46201 | April 17, 2007 11:11 AM

I suspect you have Will's argument topsy-turvy. As an exponent of laissez-faire capitalism, he probably wouldnt mind genuine "ho's" since they are merely entrepreneurial businesswomen selling a service. Pregnancy is an occupational hazard! He's objecting to Black women giving "it away" - wasteful altruism! True, he's also an advocate of government-enforced pregancy...

You read that correctly. George Will said that Don Imus calling the Rutgers women's basketball team hoes is distracting America from the fact that they really are hoes.


I think you're stretching this a bit...

Never mind George Will and the "nuclear" family- because it reads to me that you are arguing that so long as there is a close knit extended family, women of any age or race should go ahead and get pregnant whether they're actually ready or not. Go on, you've got a great extended family, that's all that matters?

I think you're spot on with this one, Alex. All the more reason why we should queer our definition of "family," rather than assimilating into this racist, patriarchy model.

Way to call 'em like you see 'em!

Queering the family,IMHO, is not equal to young women getting pregnant by accident and having children that they are not financially capable of supporting.

On second thought, queering the family does not equal welfaring the family.

George Will may be a jacka**, but I don't see how Alez's retort addresses that.

I'm not going to touch on Will's assessment of what Black America needs most since, as Alex says, he's not a part of that community. Standing outside and pointing fingers is always too easy.

But I do think he has a point when he that the community has bigger fish to fry than firing Don Imus. One guy lost his job. He said something offensive again and it finally cost him his livelihood. Now move on to something substantial. Because if all the focus that went into outrage over Imus, or Richards, or Gibson, went into something more productive than a modern day tar and feathering perhaps we could honestly move race relations forward.

Do they deserve a platform? No. No one deserves a platform for anything. As Alex says in another post, they're entitled to free speech but not a public platform to speak from. Those are the facts. But why not use that public platform to do something more productive?

Perhaps it's time to move beyond the strict father role model of punishment and "Good equals discipline" and try something more nurturing and still equally "good."

Jen Jorczak | April 17, 2007 4:54 PM

As somebody who grew up in a white (though not WASPy) household, totally hating her brothers but now mostly getting along with them (though, true, they do live several states away), I gotta say that I have no idea what it's like to be part of a black or latino family. I wouldn't presume to speak to that experience, and though I'd like to learn more about other cultures, I'm never gonna be the best spokesperson to or for those groups.

Which is the difference between me and George Will. He seems to be someone who has no problem speaking for any or everybody else. Perhaps that's why he's a douchebag.

The point is, what's "best" or "right" or "normal" for one family isn't for the next, and nobody should be saying it is. & the great thing about queer families seems to be that they are usually 100% chosen of free will--partners who choose each other, choose which people they want to associate with regularly, choose when and whether to have/ adopt children. How cool is that? That's already starting a leg up from everybody else.

P.S.--I can't say what "the biggest problem facing Black America today" is, but I can tell you that George Will's comment is as much "constant, subtle racism" as Imus' was.

"The point is, what's "best" or "right" or "normal" for one family isn't for the next, and nobody should be saying it is. & the great thing about queer families seems to be that they are usually 100% chosen of free will--partners who choose each other, choose which people they want to associate with regularly, choose when and whether to have/ adopt children. How cool is that? That's already starting a leg up from everybody else."

Thanks Jen for saying what I meant more articulately than I did!

Haha, I like how with all the disagreement here in the comments, we can all agree on one thing: George Will is a total douchebag.