In Stephanie Coontz’s lecture at Dickinson College, The Way We Never Were: American
Families and the Nostalgia Trap, she discusses the myths of family life and the way marriage has changed over time. She talks about her basic philosophy about the positive aspects of these changes and how these changes have “reshaped” the idea of family and marriage today.
The first aspect of family Coontz talks about is single parent families, which she explains is a concept we think of as new but is actually quite traditional. Single parent families were the norm throughout history because of the high death rates in the beginning of the 19th century. In fact, “it wasn’t until the 1970s,” she acknowledges, “that more kids became likely to experience a parent’s divorce before they left…show more content… By the late 19th century, violence was unacceptable, but nevertheless marriage was still defined unequally.
The man’s role had a duty to support the family financially while women had the duty to tend to the children, housekeep, and “provide sex.” Women depended on their husbands up until that point. Power structures began to change as this idea of love emerged and male dominance began to decrease as female subordination was called into question. The legal authority in the household shifted and women gained property rights.Also, in today’s society, we see a shift in this idea of love and marriage in that people often marry who they are actually in love with. In our society for the most part, individuals often marry who they want. We see this reflected in current laws such as the laws allowing for gays and lesbians to marry who they wish. The new idea of love and that people should choose who they want to marry and do so on the “basis of what would make them happy” began to emerge. Those who were traditional, conservative individuals were scared that this would mean that the wrong people would get married,