Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Unmarriage Minded

Taking a stand against patriarchy is much easier if you're well-educated, have a stable income, and live in a community where you could theoretically find an educated, employed man to marry. For poor, uneducated women, especially those who have kids, the question of whether to get married looks a lot different: It's the choice between raising children on one or two incomes, between having someone to help with household chores and child-rearing alone while working multiple jobs.
Emma Green "Wealthy Women Can Afford to Reject Marriage, but Poor Women Can't"
One of the assumptions that seems to crop up over and over in the "Marriage versus Poverty" argument is that there is a rather large cohort of single people in general (not just women) are willfully passing up an ironclad Good Thing simply to be contrary. The numbers don't seem to back this up. As Gallop points out: "Regardless of age, Americans are much more positive about marriage than not, as the majority of all age groups are married or want to get married someday. Fewer than one in 10 young Americans have never married and say they do not want to get married. These findings indicate that there is a significant desire for marriage even as the overall marriage rate has dropped in recent years."
It's lonely in Column 3.
Given the fact that I think that a lot of women would agree with the idea that a second set of hands (and a second income) would be welcome when raising children, we have to ask why they aren't marrying. My personal opinion runs towards the following: 1) worthwhile partners aren't just beating down the door to offer a ring, 2) single mothers, especially poor ones, have other things to do the preclude them from trolling singles bars looking for Mr. Right and 3) many of the men they do know have three or more strikes against them already or simply aren't interested. In other words, given what they understand the prospects to be, remaining single strikes them as a rational choice, if not their only real option under the circumstances. But one of the great things about the modern World Wide Web is that I don't have to speculate on why people who would rather be married aren't - I can simply find someone who has already asked the question, and see what they have to say.
Hmm... "Holding out agianst the Patriarchy" and "Pissing off Social Conservatives" don't seem to have scored very highly.
Now, it's possible that single parents make up the majority of the "Never married and do not want to get married" group. But I doubt it. I do, on the other hand, suspect that you'd find a pretty good batch of them in "Have not found the right person" and "Money/Financial reasons." Because given the overall American desire for marriage, it simply makes sense to assume that unmarried people - even those who would be better off married for whatever reason - have a rational reason for not walking down the aisle yet.

Now, I don't know a lot of single mothers. I don't really move in those circles. But, thinking of the few that I have known; they've met potential husbands either at work, or through some sort of serendipitous meeting that happened to allow them some time to converse. A lot like everyone else, actually. But the single moms I know also tend to either have enough support, from friends and/or families, to actually date and take their time to get to know prospective partners pretty well (entering into marriages lightly is unwise, and I suspect that single mothers are acutely aware of that) or they have enough money for competent childcare. Now, it's been a long time since I last did social work, but I don't recall the poor people I encountered as having a lot of time available for a dating life. And maybe that's a large part of the issue. Barbara Ehrenreich points out that many low-wage jobs are physically demanding and have unpredictable schedules. These, on their face, would seem to make things harder when it comes to finding a workable partner.

So I think that the idea that poor women, especially those with children, "reject" marriage is off-base. I think the issue is more that, with all of the demands on their energy and time, that actively looking for an appropriate partner tends to slide into the area of "unaffordable luxury." So rather than playing the blame game, or lording allegedly superior morals over them, perhaps helping to fix that would start to change things.

No comments: