Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Family Values

Today Julie's Hump Day Hmmm... is all about values.

Values are a hard thing to write about, I'm finding. Values are largely objective. Sure, when I was in England a bank would happily tell me the subjective value of the US dollar, which let me tell you is not very much. But the values that a person holds? Very objective. I know that even among friends and family who largely value the same things I do, the way we RANK those values is very different. My husband and I, for example, will rank differently the values of time alone, a clean house, saving money and clean laundry. It doesn't mean we don't value them, but we value them differently.

The thing that stuck out to me about values, though, is the Family Values platform that is bandied about so much in politics today. Family Values is extolled as if it is of the highest value to everyone, and that we all agree on what it is. Or, at the very least, we SHOULD all agree on what it is, and its ranking of value.

The problem, however, and why I often cringe when I hear the phrase, is not that I don't value family. I do. It's how I feel they want to define the family that is valued.

Family Values extols the virtue of a family consisting of a mother, a father, and their children. I think this family has a lot of value, seeing as how I am a mother living with her husband and her child. I also grew up in this kind of family, and found that experience to be very valuable to me.

Family Values seems to begrudgingly accept step families and single parents - as a sort of lesser type of family, but one that sometimes circumstances call for.

But what about the gay couple? Or, even more unheard of, the gay couple that has adopted children? What about the single person who chooses to have or adopt a child? What about the orphan? What about the single person? The two adult siblings who live together? Two friends who live together?

I think a family is any group of people who are committed to living communally, who care for each other, who base their relationship upon love and respect and wanting what is best for everyone involved. I value family very highly in my life, but still I cringe when I hear "Family Value" because I feel that it is used not to support a wide variety of families, but rather to define who is allowed to be called a family.

Check out the other Hump Day Hmmmm... posts about values by clicking on the link to Julie's post, above.

25 comments:

Kelly said...

Conservatives have hijacked the term for their own purposes. Extolling the virtues of family and familial support doesn't mean, however, denigrating other families that aren't based on their rigid ideals. It's a term that makes me wince as well, primarily because its architects were twice and thrice-divorced men with adulterous rap sheets. Family values, indeed.

Jen M. said...

I love these hump day hmmms....and I do NOT love how family values are supposedly reserved for one political party. What a joke!

thailandchani said...

I find the western definition of family, particularly the definition in individualist cultures, to be very limiting.

Even given the biological family unit that's proported to be the pinnacle of right living, what about aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and the remainder of extended family?

And, as you say.. gay people, voluntary communities, single people.

Why not just value... people? Period?


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

Christine said...

imagine me jumping up and down applauding! i couldn't agree with youmor eon all this. i absolutely jhate the term family values. it has almost become meaningless.

niobe said...

I think a family is any group of people who are committed to living communally, who care for each other, who base their relationship upon love and respect and wanting what is best for everyone involved.

Well, using this definition, I'm pretty sure that neither of the "families" I grew up in would qualify.

slouching mom said...

but still I cringe when I hear "Family Value" because I feel that it is used not to support a wide variety of families, but rather to define who is allowed to be called a family.

Yes. Yes!

soccer mom in denial said...

Couldn't agree more with your definition about what makes a family. And since my kids have several friends with two mommies, it is completely normal in our world.

The conservatives have hyjacked the term. We need to take it back.

Aliki2006 said...

Sign me up for hating the term "family values" as well--it rings so false and conservative to me.

Jennifer said...

Yes, yes, yes. I comletely agree with your definition of family. And add me to the "cringe" list regarding "Family Values". *shudder*

Beck said...

Great post!
About the cake: I didn't even attempt to make it with brownies. I just used my standard 8 inch chocolate cake recipe and then just cut it into a rectangle and a small triangle. Voila, easy. (and I didn't post MY picture because I remembered yours and yours looked BETTER!)

jen said...

i love, love, love your definition of family values. we are that definition of family values.

Mad Hatter said...

I recently snapped at a woman who called me on behalf of some "family values" org. She wanted me to add my name to a petition that would urge Hollywood to produce more family-oriented films. She was despairing about the amount of violence and mature subject matter that comes out of Hollywood. And while I agreed with most of what she said, I threw a fit when she refused to define what she meant by family values. I told her that I couldn't support her because the kinds of film I would like to see Hollywood make for families would likely be blacklisted by her.

Yes, "family values" is an expression like "the tax payer" that has come to have it's own overt agenda.

Emily said...

I would add that families don't necessarily live together. My husband is very close with his parents, but they live on another continent. I love your definition, otherwise. I'm jumping up and down with Christine.

carrie said...

My question is, why does anybody have the right to define what is "family" for anyone other than themselves?

Makes no sense.

Great post!

nomotherearth said...

To take your subject on a particular tangent, I have often felt the same way about marriage. I have no idea why states, provinces, religions (whatever) can only seem to define marriage as happening between a man and a woman. Why is whether or not gay marriage acceptable even an issue these days?? It makes no sense to me.

stacy michelle said...

i always felt like, before jeff and i had xander, that (by others) we weren't considered a "family." a few years back i remember i almost cried when someone asked, "do you have a family?" i didn't let on how much it upset me, but i did respond, rather cheekily, "well, you just met my husband." as if to be a *real* family you must have children. (an especially painful jab for me, when we were trying so hard for a baby...)

Wayfarer Scientista said...

thanks for your definition! I too like it much better and cringe at the widely used (in the US) Family Values term because to me it is a way of making something not so pretty (i.e. exclusiveness & bigotry) sound pretty and inoffensive. It's a strategy that gets used a lot these days and well, quite frankly the pretty paint does not make the ugliness beneath it go away!

ewe are here said...

Ahhh, another pet peeve. The phrase 'Family Values' when used by the right wing drives me insane, because they really do mean to exclude quite a few family scenarios. Why can't everyone just accept that 'family' means different things to different people, but that all families need and deserve support and understanding!

Oh, and I would add widow(ers) with children to the list, single parents yes, but not by choice. My BIL's partner's sister now falls into this category; her husband died of a brain tumour last year. Sadly, I suspect a lot of people who don't 'know' this only see a single woman with two wee ones and criticize her 'choice' silently.

Again, drives me insane.

Amy York said...

I loved this post ~ very well written! I heartily agree with everything you had to say...

thirtysomething said...

Yep. Fmaily values today require outside the box thinking. There is no more typical traditional family and the sooner society accepts that, the better off we will all be!

blooming desertpea said...

I couldn't have expressed that any better ...

Jenn said...

Perfectly put.

I'm not sure how "family values" can exclude the most important factor, love.

Because who cares what race or gender or how many are in a home, it's the tie that binds that makes the family.

Instead of placing so much emphasis on "Family Values", I wish they'd focus more of the value of the family, no matter what it looks like.

Victoria said...

So wonderfully put. Thank you for saying what I have thought, but have never been able to articulate!

Julie Pippert said...

Excellent...I could not agree more.

Values are totally subjective, and you are so right that we weight them differently.

That's why the "family values" thing bothers me so much, too.

I mean, first, it's supposed to be a trump card: whose going to advocate against "family values?" That must make you a schmuck...except it doesn't and I'll advocate against those narrow, non-supportive things in a heartbeat.

When I hear them promoting things my family values, I'll get on the bandwagon.

Like you said, I value family...all families, no exceptions.

Julie
Using My Words

BipolarLawyerCook said...

Right on!