a bird and a bottle

Chicago Tribune: 51% of women are single because we are just too demanding.
January 23, 2007, 10:31 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, news & views

I posted last week (twice) about the new study showing that 51% of adult women are single. Over the weekend there was a flurry of secondary coverage, including an article in the NY Times by Kate Zernike. (Note the photo of George Clooney accompanying the article. It’s as if the Times is saying, “look what you’re missing, ladies.” Except (1) it’s supposed to be sexy that he’s still a bachelor and (2) I don’t know many men who look like him.) I wasn’t sure what to make of the statistic as a news piece, and how it would play out in other media outlets.

And then I saw this (via Broadsheet).

So, according to these two men, one of whom wrote a book called Divorce Wars (suggesting, perhaps, an anti-woman bias from the start?), the reason 51% of women are single boils down to this:

In reality, men give a lot to their families–as much as women do. The current trend away from marriage and toward divorce and/or remaining single has more to do with overcritical women and their excessive expectations than it does with unsuitable men.

Right. Ok, when men actually DO do as much as women do, i.e. when they can carry around a fetus for nine months that makes them have to pee seventeen times a day and have swollen feet and stretch marks and maybe even an episiotomy, then we can talk. But moving beyond simple biology, I don’t buy it. I don’t think that women have unreasonable expectations. I think most women who seek a romantic partnership with a man (or with another woman) want someone who respects them and their ambitions (whether they be in an office or in the home) and treats them with dignity, someone who is willing to change with the relationship, someone who share some interests but likely not all, etc. Maybe women’s expectations are higher than they were fifty years ago because women on the whole are more educated than they were fifty years ago (regardless of socioeconomic status. I am not just talking about formal education but also the realization that a woman can do more than be a wife), and now often chafe against the traditional subjugation of women in their marriages. Maybe more women are “single” as in unmarried because lesbians feel more comfortable now expressing their sexuality and avoiding sham marriages than they did 15, 25 or 50 years ago.

And even if women’s expectations are “excessive,” what’s so wrong with that? Maybe it’s a sign that men need to get their act together and start helping more around the house, taking parental leave, and taking their turn as the primary caregiver if a couple decides to have children.

The authors of the column say that men are already doing this. They write:

Census data show that only 40 percent of married women with children under 18 work full-time, and more than a quarter do not hold a job outside the home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2004 Time Use Survey, men spend 1 1/2 times as many hours working as women do, and full-time employed men still work significantly more hours than full-time employed women. When work outside the home and inside the home are properly considered, it is clear that men do at least as much as women. A 2002 University of Michigan Institute for Social Research survey found that women do 11 more hours of housework a week than men, but men work at their jobs 14 hours a week more than women.

Hmmm. As far as I can tell, the data the authors cite to try to debunk the whole “second shift” thing doesn’t pull its weight. Certainly, the fact that only 40 percent of married women with minor children work full-time doesn’t give ME any piece of mind. Instead it leads me to ask: how many of them would work fulltime if they could afford childcare? Or if they could get back into the careers they left when their children were born? How many of those 40 percent would be working fulltime if they could? And how many of those men would be working fewer hours if they could? As one commenter on this blog has suggested, perhaps the problem is not that women work too little but that men work too much. Or maybe it’s that these statistics are meaningless because they don’t take into account other family structures besides the traditional marriage (same sex couples, single parents raising children without family support, extended families). It just seems to me that comparing men’s work hours outside the home with women’s work hours in the home is disingenuous. It’s not apples and oranges. It’s closer to apples and tuna fish.

Close to its conclusion (thank goodness. I couldn’t take anymore misogyny), the column states:

[I]t’s doubtful that many men or women are truly happy alone. Much of women’s cheerful “I don’t need a man/I love my cats” reaction has a hollow ring to it, and sounds a lot more like whistling in the dark than a celebration.

Because to these authors, the options are:

(1) straight women lower their expectations and just stick it out with their so-so hubbies, or

(2) die alone and be eaten by their cats.

Leave it to these guys to in the end resort to the most facile and least illuminating stereotype about single women. And they wonder why we don’t want them….


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