Unethical Mothers Day Quote Of The Year: Joanne Samuel Goldblum

diapers

“On Mother’s Day, many moms do not get taken out to brunch or presented with potted plants. For them, Mother’s Day is just like any other day – a struggle to get by. There is one gift we can collectively give them, though: We can stop judging. We can throw away the good mother/bad mother distinction. We can recognize that most mothers genuinely want to do what is best for their children. It is simply much easier for some of us than for others.”

—-, a social worker and the executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, in Washington Post column titled “Stop judging poor moms. Bad policies hurt their kids — not bad parenting”—also a strong candidate for “Sweeping Generalization of the Decade.”

There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “When the only tool you have is a diaper, every problem looks like a baby’s butt.”

Or something like that. runs a laudable and necessary social service that provides diapers for families that can’t afford them. That’s a wonderful service and a wonderful charity, and she and her colleagues are doing a service for humanity. Unfortunately, her unique perspective on the problem of negligent and irresponsible parenting has produced her column in the Post, which uses a stream of rationalizations, logical fallacies and rhetorical deceits to reach an absurd and societally dangerous conclusion.

The fact that public policy may not do enough to help stressed mothers or minimize the damage caused by the irresponsible, negligent, dangerous or self-destructive—or just plain stupid—decisions by women that made them mothers in the first place, cannot mean that society should stop “judging mothers.” intentionally uses “judging” as a pejorative term (evoking the Biblical rationalizations), and with that tactic sides with the ethical relativists. Without critical judgment, there can be no standards. Without public conclusions regarding ethical behavior and unethical behavior, what conduct we encourage and what conduct we condemn, there can be no culture, no shared values, and no internal or external controls to limit destructive behavior. Everyone has a societal obligation to judge their own conduct, and that of everyone else. Judging conduct does inherently reflect on the purveyors of that conduct, but pointing out destructive conduct by mothers does not and must not preclude compassion, fairness, respect and charity.

Goldblum’s initial attack on anyone who dares to suggest that women should not have children they can’t afford to care for and that will permanently cripple their chances at success, proceeds by paring such critics with those who oppose the work of her organization.

“One man called me screaming that impoverished moms should “just use newspaper!” to diaper their infants. In letters and phone calls, others have accused us of encouraging mothers to keep “breeding.” (Barnyard animals breed, mind you. Women have babies.) Our critics believe the women who come to us are bad mothers who should not have had children in the first place. (We rarely get criticism of fathers, as if women become pregnant all by themselves)”

Breathtaking. She begins with the fallacy I call “The Bad Lawyer,”concluding from the fact that a proposition has some foolish advocates that the proposition itself is incorrect. Yes, anyone who advocates endangering a baby’s health by using newspaper as diapers is too mean and dumb to be in civilized society, but using that position to characterize critics or irresponsible mothers is dishonest debating. The suggestion that women decide to have babies they can’t afford because they are confident that they can get free diapers is similarly idiotic,but the position that it’s irresponsible to have children when you should know you can’t care for them is not only not idiotic, it’s blazingly obvious.

“Our critics believe the women who come to us are bad mothers who should not have had children in the first place” is a masterpiece of unethical rhetoric, dishonestly representing the stated belief as the logical and the ethical equivalent of foolish criticism of her organization’s service. Many, surely not all, but many women who need donated diapers are bad mothers, and we should say so. Are they out partying all night? Do they engage in drug use? Do they choose male partners who are irresponsible themselves, or even a danger to their infants? Does this author really believe that there’s no such thing as a mother who isn’t sufficiently mature, employed, smart, responsible, educated and married to have babies? That is as embarrassing a position as believing that newspaper is a substitute for diapers.

Then the paragraph closes with a classic example of that Avis Rent-A-Car of rationalizations, old #2, “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse, or “They had it coming,” which posits the absurd argument that because there is other wrongdoing by others that is similar, as bad or worse than the unethical conduct under examination, the wrongdoer’s conduct shouldn’t be criticized or noticed. The excuse is a pathetic attempt to focus a critic’s attention elsewhere, by shouting, “Never mind me! Why aren’t you going after those guys?”

To make Goldblum’s use of this hoary rationalization especially deceitful, society is very critical of deadbeat dads and randomly procreating bums. That does not mean that we shouldn’t be critical of the foolish women who hook up with them.

The essay, impressively, gets worse from there. Its main thesis is that the only thing separating “good” mothers from “bad” mothers is money, and we all know where that is headed: just transfer enough wealth, and every mother magically becomes caring, competent, responsible and selfless.

In one respect, Goldblum is stating the obvious: if it is irresponsible for women who are too poor to care for children to have them anyway, the problem would go away if they weren’t poor. Yes, and it’s crazy for a legless man to try to run the Boston Marathon, but wouldn’t be crazy if  he had legs. The logical thrust of her argument is that it is unjust to expect poor mothers  to consider their resources at all: if a women has a child, the State, that is, you and I, should pay for it. If she has ten, I suppose the same principle holds. And if a middle class family plans its offspring, saves its money and lives modestly so that they can afford clothes, medical care, and education for the children they have while paying taxes to support the women who have as many children as they want or blunder into, what are they? Saps and fools, I guess.

“America is big on the idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. But raising a family on a low-wage job can leave you strapless,” Goldblum writes. Well, yes, and a woman starting a family before she can get an education and a higher wage job is  irresponsible conduct that it is both reasonable and appropriate for society to criticize, or in her words, “judge.”

Goldblum never actually addresses that core issue; instead, she erects a straw man. “None of this, of course, satisfies those who say that people should not have kids they cannot afford,” she writes. “They don’t acknowledge that poverty often comes after the children are already born.” Yes, that’s because the topic is having children when you already can’t afford them. 

Oh, I almost forgot..

Happy Mother’s Day.

12 thoughts on “Unethical Mothers Day Quote Of The Year: Joanne Samuel Goldblum

  1. Well here’s the discussion I thought was (at least) tangential to the one on the woman in Baltimore with six kids, one of whom she was, all by herself, attempting to keep out of a riot.

  2. You know… This topic makes me angry. It’s like the social justice warriors of the world want to break us all down to the lowest common denominator, as opposed to raising up the disenfranchised. And this mindset is pervasive.

    Recently, a major British newspaper ran an article that quoted research from a study that showed that consistent behavior by parents, such as reading their children bedtime stories, was a larger determinant of success than an expensive private school. Instead of taking the very reasonable, in my mind at least, track of “Hey guys! Instead of forking over 20,000 dollars annually, read your kids some stories!” The article said, and I can’t make this up, that reading your children bedtime stories UNFAIRLY advantaged those children over children who did not receive the benefit of those stories. And, trigger warning: headsplosions, according to the author, the reason he doesn’t advocate for the state BANNING bedtime stories, or a solution like rounding children up and raising them in state sponsored children upbringing facilities wasn’t the sheer authoritarianism of it, or the cost and logistics of it, or the retardation of the suggestion itself, but that the family unit has other secondary benefits, and those benefits should be maintained.

    This is a race to the bottom. We never raise people up, we tear them down. It’s fucking sick. I found the article mirrored by an Australian mirror:

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058

    And come to think of it…. That’s probably an ethics issue as well. Since when did the wanton copy/paste of whole articles become ‘journalism’?

    We are actively encouraging bad behavior by putting a stigma on good behavior and removing stigma from bad behavior. God forbid parents love their children because there are children out there without love, dammit! Let’s not equip our children with a single tool more than the least benefitted child. This is cultural Marxism. “In communist Russia, if two farmers have a cow each and one farmer’s cow dies, you shoot the other.”
    Any more room on the Mars colony?

    • Choice Quotes:

      ‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’

      ‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

      ‘We could prevent elite private schooling without any real hit to healthy family relationships, whereas if we say that you can’t read bedtime stories to your kids because it’s not fair that some kids get them and others don’t, then that would be too big a hit at the core of family life.’

      ‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’

      ‘We think that although in practice it makes sense to parent your biological offspring, that is not the same as saying that in virtue of having produced the child the biological parent has the right to parent.’

          • I was scolded once for being a product of white privilege. I said, “Damn right. But I call it responsible parenting. It’s the way my parents were raised, the way they raised me and my brother, and the way I’ve raised my kids. Anything less would be criminal.” When did responsible parenting become a social ill?

            • Well, when you look at it, it is about ideology. To have a certain group in power, they need a bunch of voters that will always vote for them. You find that voters on welfare always vote for one party. That party then makes sure that there are a lot of those voters, and that they never get off welfare.

              When I look at how our ‘social safety net’ is structured, it is more like a lobster trap than a safety net. You are rewarded for not getting married. You are rewarded for having children they can’t support. You are rewarded for having more children after they are on welfare. You are not rewarded for giving up children for adoption if they aren’t capable of taking care of them. You are rewarded for aborting those children, however. If you don’t feed your kids, the state will give you money to help feed your kids. If you use that money for something else, the state will give you food directly. If you still don’t feed your kids with that, the state will feed your kids at school. If you can’t get your kids to school early enough for the state to feed them at school, the school will take part of the school day and feed your kids then. If you don’t feed your kids in the summer, they will open the schools for breakfast and lunch to feed your kids then, too. You are penalized if you try to get a job and get off welfare. You are rewarded for going to school, but only for partying purposes. You are not rewarded for completing a program and getting a job.

              Welfare is structure to suck all initiative and responsibility out of people. Any responsible behavior is punished. Irresponsible behavior is rewarded. As a result, we have raised a large group of very irresponsible people.

        • Incredibly, this is not satire. A few months ago I ran across a conversation on a blog for academic philosophers in which they were discussing of what “privileges” they should deprive their children so as not to give them an unfair advantage over other children. These folks were willing to deprive their children of music lessons, rides to soccer practice, help with their homework, and any number of other benefits they could provide for their children. I was surprised none of them mentioned food and water. They had the ability and desire to provide these benefits for their children, but were concerned that doing so would be unjust.
          From my perspective, they’ve gone too far down the slippery slope of human rights and social contracts. That slope that got much more slippery and steep when Rawls published A Theory of Justice. According to Rawls, it is unjust if the most well-off benefit unless the least well-off benefit along with them, regardless of whether those least well-off have done anything to earn or deserve any benefit. Rawls argues it is their natural right, and what would be agreed to in a social contract governing all fair human interactions. Many academic philosophers have accepted this as truth. Of course, Rawls did not clearly see that such a scheme would discourage the pursuit of excellence and otherwise ethical behavior. These folks have simply made it to the steepest portion of the slope. They should crash soon.

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