Monday, 11 February 2013

(Normal?) Family Day

Salute to British Columbia, which celebrates its first Family Day today!  That is just the day after the Lunar New Year, which is another big family-oriented holiday in many countries, and a few days before Valentine’s Day.

They say money can’t buy love.  Well, tell that to the American men and women who will be set back for about $175 and $89 respectively.  That’s when the average credit card debt already stands at $7,194.  But if you feel bad for people who have to buy for a lover, just think about those single women in China who have to rent one.  Apparently they feel the need to hire “boyfriends” to take home for new-year gatherings to combat family pressure.  My own moral judgments of this enterprise and the families’ expectations aside, the ploy is obviously non-sustainable.  I wonder what these women would rent if their families expect them to get married and have kids.

Those who live outside of China aren’t immune to the pressure of being in a traditional relationship and having a family either.  The world is filled with the message that one better has a very good justification to be single.  And even though the nuclear family is no longer the norm in Canada or the United States, people in heterosexual relationships are expected to have children.  I know of a woman whose (then) husband told her that there was perhaps something pathological about her resistance to bear children, since he thought a desire to procreate was simply “natural.”  People (particularly women) who don’t want to procreate are often accused of being “just plain selfish,” as if all children are born as a result of reflective decisions or unwavering commitment of lifelong selflessness and altruism.

It would take a whole other blog entry to get into all the reasons why people may (not) want to procreate.  Suffice to say though, whatever one’s procreative decision might be, some reasons are carefully deliberated while others are not.  But I have the most admiration for many, biological parents or not, who love and care by adopting, fostering, nurturing, and educating children in whatever ways they can.  On a social level, any pro-family or pro-children stance can’t simply be about procreation.  It has to be also about advocating for access to affordable childcare, quality education, paid parental leave, and support and recognition for hired and familial carers.  It also has to be about allowing everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, to experience the same joy and misery (!) that marriage and family life bring forth.  It is troubling that in 2013, many people in various parts of the world cannot even reveal their sexual orientation to others without being prosecuted or persecuted, let alone marry or have children. 

As a philosopher, I’m often concerned about definitions, particularly those that can affect people’s identity, political rights, and access to services.  But when it comes to love and family, I would rather let people define that for themselves.  Love and family ties can be manifested in many different ways, but they generally require long-term reciprocal investment that will make the $175-gift seem cheap.  People ought to have the freedom to negotiate with each other what arrangements work best for them given their contexts.  This requires not simply freedom from government sanctions.  It also demands freedom from social pressure.

May your February be filled with love, however defined.

Image Sources: Normal family, I love you


  1. I love it! Such an important topic to address. And I think the "rent a kid" market could be a win/win!

    Prior to the U.S. election Minnesota had a gay marriage initiative on the ballot. An editorial that stuck out for me was one arguing that the average U.S. wedding costs around $35,000 as does the average divorce. So, allowing gay marriage could really stimulate the economy.

  2. So maybe we should encourage everyone to marry nd then divorce. Now THAT would stimulate the economy. LOL!!!

    I don't think we should tell people who they can or can't love. We have enough problems in the world already. It seems that the conservatives and the religious people seem to be the ones most hung up on stuff like this.

  3. It's Family Day in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan today. Maybe people in these provinces think their family is as important as the President in the US. ;) You guys crack me up. Yes, if anyone can marry and divorce, that can be a great economic stimulus (and make a more equal world that truly celebrates love). NYT just had an article yesterday about how federal law does not allow Americans to petition for green cards for same-sex spouses or partners.