What prejudices are socially acceptable in the U.S. right now?

A self-described “Cambridge liberal” friend on Facebook linked to an article on a divorce initiated by actress Jennifer Garner against her husband Ben Affleck. The article notes that “Affleck’s ‘workaholic’ mentality didn’t sit well with Garner, who is usually home with the pair’s three children, Violet, 9, Seraphina, 6, and Samuel, 3.”

What other information was available to this friend? Wikipedia says that Garner sued her previous husband for divorce and that Affleck was never previously married. California child support guidelines provide higher profits for each day that a child is with a parent. California custody conventions award profitable time with children to the parent who can claim to have been “primary” during time spent as a couple (married or unmarried). In other words, if Garner could convince a judge that she had taken care of the children 80 percent of the time while Affleck was out working to pay the household bills, the most likely outcome after a trial would be that she was entitled to 80 percent custody and Affleck would be ordered to keep paying her bills for the next 15 years. (See the California chapter of Real World Divorce.) Us magazine explains that Garner waited until the marriage reached the 10-year mark before decided to pursue a divorce. That’s the line at which a judge would be able to award lifetime alimony or “a bigger share of Affleck’s reported $75 million.”

In other words, anything that the mother said about her defendant’s shortcomings as a father were potentially financially self-serving. How did the Cambridge liberal describe this celebrity news item?

“Why do we assume that great actors will make great husbands/fathers?”

Here’s the ensuing exchange:

me: What is interesting to me is that you highlight the shortcomings of the man as a “husband/father”. You don’t mention the possibility that the woman (who sued a previous husband for divorce on May 9, 2003) might have any shortcomings as a wife/mother.

Cambridge liberal: She has no shortcomings as a mother if she’s raising 3 children effectively on her own [the Daily Mail quotes Garner saying “You have to have a great nanny…” and has photos of the father caring for the children while the mother parties; also shown is a nanny; litigators such as Floyd Nadler in Illinois told us that a female parent who stays home with a nanny wins “primary caregiver” status but not so for a male parent]

me: What’s your basis for saying that “she’s raising 3 children effectively on her own”? Do you know this couple personally? Or you are relying on a plaintiff’s assertion in litigation? (keep in mind that every additional day of custody that this plaintiff [actually a “petitioner” in California] can obtain will result in additional cash paid to her under California’s child support formula)

Cambridge liberal: Based on the article’s claim that she was disillusioned with his workaholicness and that she pretty much was left to raise the kids alone.

me: is it reasonable to accept uncritically the statements of a plaintiff looking for tens of millions of dollars merely because she is a woman? What’s your basis for the idea that the parent who initiates a divorce lawsuit, thus breaking up the children’s home, is automatically the superior parent? [papers from Malin Bergstrom show the harm done to children by an American-style divorce; ironically, Garner is a trustee of Save the Children]

Cambridge liberal: I do put more faith in women than men, yes. Men have a spotty record to put it mildly. Nearly all mothers have to be good at motherhood for us to survive. Fathers on the other hand can get away with being pretty shitty at that job.

me: Would it be okay if I were to say, after hearing about a plaintiff of Race A suing a defendant of Race B, that “I am pretty sure that the plaintiff is telling the truth and is not motivated by cash considerations because people of Race B are ‘pretty shitty’ parents and ‘have a spotty track record’ as parents”?

Cambridge liberal: No that would not be ok because you’d have no scientific basis for making such claims. Human fathers, on the other hand are demonstrably worse caregivers than mothers on average, by far. [he had no research or data to cite]

Thus a guy who generally is quick to attack others for being prejudiced (against poor people, dark-skinned people, people with unconventional sexual habits, people with gender dysphoria, et al.) was happy to admit believing that fathers are inferior parents compared to mothers. (The New York Times also thought it was okay to run a personal opinion piece on the subject; see previous post.)

So that leads to today’s question for readers…. what other prejudices are acceptable in 2015 America? When it is okay to say that Group X is inferior at handling Challenge Y?

[Separately, I asked a divorce litigator about the Garner-Affleck situation. He responded “When the dust settles it will turn out that Garner was sitting on something more valuable than her acting career.” Assuming that Garner does avail herself of the California family courts, his estimate of how much of the children’s potential inheritance will go instead to pay legal fees? “$2-5 million until they age out of the child support system.” Coincidentally, I flew with a helicopter pilot on Monday who had been an entrepreneur in California. He married a woman 14 years younger than himself and paid for her medical school. As with Garner, she waited until their marriage was just over the 10-year mark and then sued for half of the value of his company, child support, etc. to supplement her wages as a medical doctor and to help support her younger lover.]

19 thoughts on “What prejudices are socially acceptable in the U.S. right now?

  1. Bashing the younger generation is still in vogue, but then again “kids these days” has been an acceptable prejudice since the times of the Ancient Greeks.

  2. According to the logic of your friend (which I disagree with) the worst of all possible situations from the point of view of the child would be to have two gay men in a same-sex marriage as parents. This should be, on average, twice as bad as any other possible situation. You might want to ask your friend’s opinion about that.

  3. Frank that’s a great one… yes Phil, I want to see his reply on that one!

  4. The ONLY socially acceptable prejudice nowadays is against white cisgendered males. Everyone else is off limits, but you can publicly hate on white cisgendered males (also known as “rapists”) as much as you want. Hatred of white cisgendered males is the KKKrazy Glue that holds together the Democrat party coalition – the one thing that they all agree on.

  5. Gun owners. Anyone who has ever watched Duck Dynasty. And much more along those lines.

  6. Fat people are always a popular target.

    Of course, it is because we are concerned about their “health”.

  7. Mothers who SAHM are acceptable targets, especially if they discuss the financial tradeoffs involved. I can assure you that for every defense of one as seen in the OP, there’s four or five people saying something not pretty about her decision.

    I SAHM and have nannies and house cleaners and the heat I take online and offline would save us so much on our winter heating bill I wish I could bottle it.

    It’s interesting Garner did decide to divorce with three kids, usually the divorce initiation rate drops if a woman has more than two, although the biggest drops do come at 4+. Guess he should have given her Just One More Child. Although celebrities are their own category, and the housewives I know with “just” three are not in a position or desire to divorce.

  8. Nobody picked Asian-Americans applying to colleges with superb scores and skills but being rejected for lacking unmeasurable qualities?

  9. The rich. The phrase “the 1%” is now a slur for “anyone significantly better off than I am.” Also sub-groups: hedge fund operators, CEOs.

    Drivers of single-occupant vehicles, particularly for commuting. They’re portrayed as too self-centered to move closer to their jobs or take public transit, rather than people making a reasonable choice for their needs (and I write this as a car-less urbanite myself).

  10. In the end, many want:
    1. Higher status (which can be easier to attain if you bash a person or better yet, a group of people. There is power in numbers).
    2. To influence
    3. To feel important

  11. Anything that remotely involves Donald Trump.
    He merely says what (IMO) 80% of us think but are too ashamed or too PC to admit.

  12. Phil – the prejudice against Asian-Americans is different. You are not allowed to publicly proclaim a dislike for Asian Americans for being too hard working and nerdy. You are only allowed to blackball them in secret and with (semi) plausible deniability.

    This is quite different than the loud public denunciation that is permitted for white males and predominantly white male organizations. For example, if we look at the “Jackie” (non)rape at U Va, immediately after the Rolling Stone article was published, the president of the University suspended not only the accused fraternity but ALL fraternities on campus. Let us imagine that Jackie had instead alleged that she had been raped by a gang of “Japs” (as we used to call Japanese). Rolling Stone would not have published the story in the first place because this would have been seen as racially prejudiced. At a minimum they would have omitted or disguised the ethnicity of the alleged rapists. 2nd, even if the story had been published, it is entirely inconceivable that the university president would then suspend ALL Asian-American organizations on campus – this would have (rightly) been seen as a form of collective punishment (and punishment imposed without trial or due process).

    And yet, because the target organizations were predominantly white male, there was not a whimper of protest when the frats were suspended – the only objections were that the president had not done enough. Setting fire to all the frats would have been seen as a fair reaction to their heinous gang raping ways – as it was the target frat only had its windows broken.

  13. This is slightly OT, but well within the context of your ongoing investigation of divorce legislation, litigation, and applications of OBVIOUSLY SERIOUSLY FUBAR family laws in the USA: http://forward.com/news/311751/tshimoni-israeli-detroit-divorce-custody/

    It’d be interesting to read about the financial incentives/ winnings (for either side) behind this particular custody battle for three teenagers… and the psychological & physical scars/ effects of their court-mandated incarceration—something that the reporter Paul Berger (“covering sex abuse, circumcision, fraud, and other criminal justice and healthcare issues”) failed to elaborate upon.

  14. Phil, Asian test scores substantially over predict success as measured by GPA, graduation, and later higher level pass/fail measures such as the bar and med school graduation. I always took the anti-asian discrimination claims at face value, but upon further reading there’s probably more rational subtlety to it.

  15. Slightly OT, but the real lesson of the Bengar mess is “never marry a female movie star.” Damon was much smarter to marry Affleck’s assistant.

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