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by Rachel Alexander | September 16th, 2007
Women can no longer be taken for granted when it comes to desiring marriage. Since they're increasingly becoming financially independent, marriage "security" means they'll probably end up paying for some guy's kids from a prior relationship.
I find this topic irritating to write about, but unfortunately it is prevalent everywhere, including in the one hardcore political magazine I make time to read, The Week. Each issue never fails to contain some article discussing how women are more emotional than men, how they need security and marriage, and how men are the opposite, tending to view relationships in physical terms. Both conservatives and liberals are guilty of promoting this stereotype, although for different reasons. Liberals like to portray women as different in order to promote them for offering a different perspective, no matter how invalid that perspective may be. For example, since liberal "Jane" prefers to have touchy-feely conversations at work about promoting diversity, teaching tolerance, and the importance of volunteering outside the office with social counseling programs for women in domestic violence shelters, "Jane" should be promoted to a Vice-President at the corporation, such as a VP of Diversity.
Conservatives promote the stereotype of women as more controlled by their emotions than men because they think it means women will care more about staying at home to raise children. While it is extremely important to have a parent in the home to raise children, it doesn't necessarily follow that there is a correlation between women's natures and that important priority. Women are increasingly entering the workforce, leaving their children in daycare or with babysitters. Their supposed "extra emotional" side is failing to show and stop them. Perpetuating this stereotype is no longer working to keep a parent in the home; it's time conservatives turned to other arguments, perhaps one that acknowledges that a male parent in the home raising children serves the purpose equally as well.
I would argue that this stereotype is not only no longer working for conservatives, but it is actually hurting our cherished values, such as marriage. A comprehensive study out of Australia found that while in 1971 only 11.6% of those age 30-34 had never married, today that number has increased more than threefold to over 36% (and note this doesn't even include divorcees or those in their late 30's). In my generation X, there are quite a few of us who aren't married and are hesitant about it. My friends are mainly intelligent, successful women in their 30's who are tired of men taking them for granted, men who assume once they start dating them that the women want a longterm commitment and "security." Combine this with the message women get from society that men are only interested in superficial things as if they're prostitutes, and it's enough to make the women prematurely bail. It's become more of a problem for women in their 30's, because the stereotype gets worse as men assume the women are even more eager to snag a guy before they're too old to bear children. If you haven't noticed, First World countries are having fewer and fewer children these days – the stereotype about women wanting children is also disappearing.
Since there are more women entering the workforce, there are more successful women who don't need "security" (in today's world, "security" means they'll probably end up paying for some guy's kids from a prior relationship), who see the tremendous responsibility it takes to raise a child, and hear about others' miserable marriages. Women are waiting and being very cautious before even contemplating marriage with the average guy they're dating. With the advent of dating sites combined with women's increased income and longevity of attractiveness thanks to plastic surgery, there is always a better fish in the sea out there, so why settle down to misery and being told that the man really doesn't want you and marriage? Doesn't anyone see it as a problem that the women in Generation X have been scared off from desiring marriage? Women already seek divorces more often than men do, why are we continuing to go down this path discouraging marriage?
It would be helpful if the news media and commentators wouldn't exaggerate the minute differences between the sexes in every silly study that is produced. So what if 2% more women than men view "emotional connectivity" in a relationship as a higher priority than men, that could be explained away in the realm of statistical error or dismissed as a societally trained response. There is a reason why the most well-known proponent of mental gender differences is snake oil salesman-like John Gray, the Men are from Mars Women are from Venus author with a mail-order degree. If you tell someone over and over again they are a certain way, they will eventually believe it. Telling men they view women as physical objects, instead of as equal human beings, serves no purpose but to repress men and ruin future relationships they have with women.