Did you know that the idea of a nuclear family – mum, dad, and a bunch of tiny humans – wasn’t a proper concept until the late 40s, early 50s?
I mean, I know what you’re thinking Karen, obviously nuclear families existed prior to the 40s, the term just wasn’t coined until the late 40s.
Do you want to know why the idea of the nuclear family started popping up?
Because people discovered “forever” is a really long time when you suddenly have a longer life span and because divorce became more accessible and socially acceptable, especially after the introduction of the no-fault divorce laws (Australia).
Let me stop, and take you right the fuck back for today’s Ted talk:
Did you ever read (or at least hear of), Abelard and Heloise?
Well, firstly, if you were under the impression that the trials and tribulations that represent more of a Shakespearean tragedy (specifically, Titus Andronicus, where Titus feeds Tamora’s sons to her and her husband, the Emperor) and less of a real-life story, you’re sadly mistaken.
While no one had their sons fed to them in the Abelard and Heloise romance tragedy, Abelard was castrated, so there’s that.
You don’t get a lot of love stories that end happily ever after once one of the parties in said romantic love story is castrated.
Especially not by Disney.
Maybe Pixar, given Up! and Inside Out, but they have a tendency to eat your soul and then give you a happy ending, not the other way around.
But for those who have no fucking idea who Abelard and Heloise are, and why the fuck Abelard was castrated for loving Heloise?
Well, it would be one for me to write the fucking obvious and say that the Holy Roman Empire obviously wanted to keep sex sacrosanct, and that sex outside of wedlock was beyond an abominable sin in 1115 CE. If it’s not obvious right now, Abelard and Heloise broke that somewhat-vital Catholic rule.
Despite the fact that Abelard was a prolific Notre Dame teacher, and Heloise was just as successful in her own right (abbess, writer and scholar), and despite their obvious inner workings within the Church, that still didn’t save them.
But, as everyone is very well aware of how much old white men love making laws that impact everyone but them, as they view the laws they’ve created as optional for them, while mandatory for everyone else, all the while mocking and shaming the rest of humanity who breaks the same laws they do, but because they’re rich and powerful, they get to do so while blaming others.
If that sounds awfully specific, let me introduce you to Richard Sackler.
Because he’s not the point, if you want more on that piece-of-shit-stain-excuse-for-a-human-being, you’re on your own for now, Karen. He’ll probably be a Shut Up post in the future, though, so there’s that.
Anyway, for a while, the Roman Catholic Church didn’t want anyone to be having the sex.
I mean, I assume bar the elites who could do whatever the fuck they want (here’s looking at you Cardinal Wolsey, and here’s a picture from one of Wolsey’s best endeavours: Fucking Oxford.
Like, yeah, he had a mistress and children and broke a million Catholic things and had all the deadly sins – pride (his ambition to be more than a Cardinal was part of his downfall); wrath (he frequently would control King Henry VIII’s subjects and had numerous enemies. One of which was Anne Boleyn, who’ll you remember from such moments as the time that she married King Henry and helped create the Church of England and all of that which might not have happened if Wolsey hadn’t denied her permission to marry a man she supposedly did love. Though, to be fair, Wolsey was frequently blamed for things he wasn’t always responsible for, and it seems fairly clear it was done so at King Henry’s behest, so I don’t think Wolsey had a lot of choice in the matter.) Then there’s greed; after Wolsey’s passing (he was not executed by Henry VII; Anne inherited several castles and properties – one of which being Hampton Court. I’m just saying, the fucker wasn’t exactly living a life of poverty. As greed has a tendency to go hand in hand with gluttony, and we’ve obviously established lust as one of the Cardinal’s sins, making jealousy and sloth the only cardinal sins Wolsey didn’t reach, though I feel like 5 out of 7 cardinal sins for a Cardinal is pretty impressive, no?).
Just so it’s clear: I don’t have a huge amount of judgement of Wolsey. He’s no sloth, either; he created fucking Oxford and he genuinely worked hard to ensure the best for his country (and himself), but if you want anything extra on him for now, you need to fucking Google that shit.
Like I said, the Church didn’t originally want anyone having sexual relationships.
Obviously, they did not realise that sex was essential to the human race, and that sex was something that a great many humans desired and not something that could easily be controlled.
It is important to remember that, during the late 1000s, early 1100s, Catholicism, while far-reaching, was only just beginning to create their Empire as we would come to know it. It was fuelled by Isabella I of Castile, Queen Catherine of Aragorn’s mother, and Henry VIII’s first wife. What I’m trying to say is that, prior to this, a lot of religions – and therefore countries – had less prudish reactions towards intercourse. After all, it’s the Holy Roman Empire, and we know that those fuckers liked sex. You can’t just wipe out millions of years of biology and “it’s always been this way” mentality easily or quickly.
To no one’s surprise, the Church realised that this was a dumbass plan that no one was going to follow, and therefore implemented the idea the having sex outside of wedlock – a marriage that had to be ordained by God and permission granted from Kings, Queens and the Pope (in some cases) – was seen as a grievous offence – and it worked.
Monogamy became a real thing (of sorts).
Marriage was expected in a way that it hadn’t been before – and it was the only way to ensure legitimate heirs, financial and social security for women, and a necessity for basic life. (Just in case you’re like “you feminazi bitch” let me kindly remind you of the Salem Witch Trials where old, strange, intelligent, loner-like women were the frequent targets and the majority of victims. I’m just saying, there’s a pattern of women behaving in a way society deems unladylike and then punishes them for not meeting conventional standards.)
I bet you’re fucking wondering, like you always are Karen, what the fuck any of this has to do with a nuclear family.
Good question, Karen.
Well, you remember that pesky little disease called the Black Plague?
It killed 25 million people during 1347-1352, and that wasn’t the first or last Black Plague epidemic. (Fun fact – the Black Plague actually came to my hometown, Maryborough, in 1905.)
That meant that there was a good chance that if you survived, there was a solid chance most of your loved ones didn’t, as your chances of dying were a solid 80%, meaning if you contracted the disease, you really did eat lunch with your friends and dinner with your ancestors.
As around 30+ million people were killed during that single five-year period – not counting the outbreaks prior to or following – in Europe alone, how many people do you think had to remarry?
If you were a woman, there was a decent chance you had children – same if you were a man whose wife had died, which was rather common during childbirth.
Henry VIII’s mother (so Henry VII’s wife) died during childbirth. So did Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour (the point is, childbirth was dangerous, even for the very rich).
Which created a lot of blended families. I mean, Henry the VIII had six wives. Among those six wives, three children survived – and that’s not talking about his numerous bastards, both those he recognised, and those he didn’t.
Then, remember when I discussed the War of the Roses?
The Hundred Year War?
As men predominately fight in wars, especially during the 15th century, how many women do you think lost husbands do the numerous battles and wars fought?
And, because women likely didn’t have lands or titles of their own, for how many women was it essential to remarry for basic survival? (And that’s not looking at the noble women, who were expected to remarry if they were among their reproductive years, because what else are women for, if not to serve men and look pretty?)
What about all the other wars?
The wars so big that we called them ‘The Great War’ or ‘World War II’?
What about the Spanish Flu?
Or the countless genocides this country has faced?
Blended families are normal. Nuclear families – the principle behind it – was created to re-establish control after WWII ended: Men were returning to their lives, whilst women didn’t want to give up the lives they’d stepped up and into. Women needed to be reminded of their place and men’s feelings needed to be validated, kind of like they need to be after a bunch of fragile men unable to handle toxic masculinity break down every time Gillette releases a new ad.
Remarrying was, and still is/can be, essential for some people.
Families have always been more blended than “nuclear” or “traditional”, because they had to be.
So don’t beware the Step Family.
Embrace them, love them, care for them.
After all, history dictates they’re far more normal than your “traditional family”.
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— Sources —
Bachelor of Education: English and History
Diploma in Criminology and Profiling
Diploma in Forensic Science
Background in law and psychology
Teacher 7+ years
Background in special needs, learning support – other specific teaching fields that required hands-on development.
NB: This is a declaration of the background of my personal knowledge, collected over the years via a professional form of education and development. Some of these take the form of actual degrees and others come in the form of necessary professional development. When doing your own research, you should always try and verify the person’s credibility. My credibility, nor anyone else’s, is not with their education. Everyone has biases and no one is infallible. I am deliberately including some of my background education to highlight this, because you should be questioning information you are receiving.