Sunday, June 04, 2006

"[C]career women are here to stay, and they're renegotiating the rules of relationships and marriage and motherhood"

Odd piece in the New York Times today on the recent revelation that Newsweek overstated the odds against single women getting married after 30. In a famous 1986 article, the magazine (along with Time known for its breathless, but clueless, trendiness) said a single woman at 35 had only a 5% chance of ever marrying. A woman past 40, the article continues, is more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to be married. It turns out that the odds are better. A woman who is still single at 40 has a 40% chance of being married.

That's all fair, but what I found interesting is the notion that this was all a hysterical chastisement of career women. No one apparently should have - or would have believed the dire claims but for an anitpathy against career women. An academic (a professor of gender studies) is quoted as saying that "[t]he panic was a socially and culturally constructed panic." At the root of the "panic," the article continues is the presumably false idea that "for career women, success often comes at the price of parenthood."

Well, women can have a career and children but people being only human there will be a price to be paid somewhere, just as a man who really wants to be a father to his kids will have to pay a similar price. The author stumbles on this when she quotes Rosey O'Donnell's character in When Harry Met Sally, who says that the terrorist statistic is not true, but "it feels true." That's because you can't - whatever your gender - have everything you want. Success and love require sacrifice. We like to pretend it's not so.

The article goes on to quote a woman involved in the production of Sex in the City who says:

"You saw your girlfriends who got married early — congrats to them — many of them are getting divorced," she said. "Or others settled. So the idea of needing any husband went away, and it became more about, What if you marry the wrong person? How do you find the right person?"

But for you denizens of Sex in the City, the women in that show all came to realize that life - for men as well as women - requires one to "settle." You must find the right person, but whether they do, in fact, turn out to be the right person requires effort. A spouse is not a commodity you find, but a member of a partnership you create. This brings joy, but it involves pain.

I know I sound like a guy whose kid just got married. Sorry.

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