‘Family Values’ Voters Don’t Value Real Families

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76761994 The so-called ‘family values’ crowd has controlled the lion’s share of the national conversation for a long time: the recent religious freedom fracas in Indiana, last year’s Hobby Lobby fiasco at the Supreme Court; the list stretches back into time immemorial. But when someone tells you they vote in support of ‘family values’ candidates, what they’re really telling you is this: they don’t really care about actual families.

Before we go any farther, let’s be clear about what is meant by family values. My family has values, of course; we value justice, social support and programs, and equal treatment for families no matter what they look like, or who they happen to be composed of. But by being loud enough for long enough, a certain political element has long since locked up the definition of ‘family values’ in a very different place from the one close to my heart. And I think it’s about time someone took the keys away from them.

Those who emphasize ‘family values’ don’t care about families–the vast majority of families out there fail to meet their Leave It to Beaver mold of ‘two parents (different sex), mother stays at home if possible, 2.2 children and a white picket fence’. That’s not reality, and if that’s what you vote to support with tax relief and social programs and pro-discriminatory laws, you’re throwing your sympathy and your support to a paper-doll fantasy instead of the real families who need it.

Real families have two dads, or two moms, or only one parent. Real families have two working parents, or a stay-at-home dad. Real families have moms who want to work outside the home, because they need to or they want to. Real families need access to abortion (almost two-thirds of those seeking an abortion already have at least one child).
Real families have a tough time navigating a world that purports to value them in name only but which actually undercuts them every step of the way. Whose family is helped by being deprived of needed contraception? Whose family is helped by cutting back child-care or food assistance? If we’re entirely honest with ourselves, these policies do value something, but it isn’t families–it’s money.

It’s time for ‘family values’ to mean something, well, valuable. We should all be sick and tired of the people who think they own those two words and can limit their meaning to a tiny little corner of the world and surround it by a white-picket fence to keep it safe from everyone else. I value families–working-class families, same-sex parent families, single parent families, all families. Do you?

(Image: Creatas / Getty)