The Subversive Nature of the Term “Parent”

The Subversive Nature of the Term “Parent” March 18, 2019

Ken Ham is upset. It’s a travesty!

The attack on the family continues, this time in France. New legislation erases the words mother and father from school forms, instead replacing them with the terms parent 1 and parent 2. It will be no big shock for you to read that this is considered necessary “to bring France’s schools into line with the European nation’s 2013 same-sex marriage law.”

Ye gods. The horrors!

Nothing has more power to make the world fall apart than a form that says parent 1 and parent 2 instead of mother and father. (At least, that’s the impression I generally get from the conservative evangelicals who run organizations like Answers in Genesis.)

You know what though? My local school district already does this. It asks for the student’s parents. The only distinction it makes is between “household parents” and “non-resident parents”—i.e. parents who do not live in the household with the student. This “attack on the family” must be why we have no families left here. (Just kidding. The family seems to be doing just fine here!)

Some forms—like medical and dental forms—bypass this entire question entirely by asking for “relationship to student” and leaving the parent to fill it out as they prefer. I appreciate it when forms do this, and I always put “parent” instead of “mother.” Ham would hate this.

 

My relationship to my children is not governed by my gender. There is a much greater range of parenting within each gender than people like Ham like to admit. In some families, the father is the disciplinarian and the mother is the “softie”; in other families it’s the opposite. The same is true of every area of parenting. Some women prefer outdoor activities; some men prefer cooking.

Ham isn’t thinking about any of this when he voices his objections to France’s change in its forms, though. He’s thinking exclusively about same-sex marriage:

The increasing elimination of the terms mother and father is happening in the name of “family diversity,” to appeal to the very small number of same-sex couples with children. But it’s really just an attack on the family, which is the first and most fundamental human institution which God ordained in Scripture (in Genesis). We don’t get to define marriage and family—God does.

Ham lost this battle back when women left the home and entered the workforce. He lost this battle when no-fault divorce was legalized and when women started wearing pants. He lost this battle when Title IX opened doors for girls in sports, and when advertisers began to depict men changing diapers. Even the straightest of straight parents are no longer limited to the stereotypes upon which Ham’s view of marriage and the family—and of family roles—are based.

The diversification of family norms over the past few decades may be one reason why opinion on same-sex marriage—and same-sex parenting—swung so dramatically over the past decade. We no longer expect every family to look the same as every other family. This isn’t the 1950s. And if families can look very different—single parent and dual-parent, working mother and kitchen-obsessed father—same-sex couples as parents no longer look as subversive.

A transition from mothering and fathering to parenting helps pave an acceptance of families that may look even more different from that 1950s family. In a very real sense, then, the term parent is even more dangerous to his worldview and way of life than Ham realizes.

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