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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Of Nuclear Families & Explosions (Kipnis)

To those who want to maintain that non-divorced families turn out less neurotic or happier adults, the evidence supporting such views is a little scanty: please look around. Are traditional families really such happy, neurosis-free places? They seem to produce their share of criminals and sociopaths, and run-of-the-mill unhappiness. Clearly the answer to the much-debated question "Does divorce harm children?" should be "Compared to what?" Compared to contexts of chronic unhappiness and dissatisfaction, to unmet needs as status quo, to bitching mothers, remote fathers, and other gendered forms of quotidian misery? Is it really likely that the majority of unhappy parents are also such master thespians that kids remain unaffected by family contexts of emotional distance or sexual coldness or mutual disrespect of long-term disappointment? Unfortunately what "for the sake of the children" really means is multi-generational training grounds for lowered expectations as an affective norm; for "that's just the way it is" as a guide to living; for the idea that change spells catastrophe and trauma, and wanting anything more or different is ridiculous.

Laura Kipnis, Against Love: A Polemic

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