Monday, April 24, 2017

Epoch of Single Women

When I was young--yes, I was young a long time ago--women were actively discouraged from pursuing higher education and careers.  There were two big issues of those days: It could become a challenge to find a suitable groom, and an educated/career woman might not fit into the multi-generational household that was the norm then.

As a young boy, I bought into that.  But, at the same time, I could not understand how anybody in their right minds could prevent my aunt or sister from higher education or careers.  As I got into high school years, the more I observed my female classmates from afar--we couldn't talk to them!--I became convinced that it was wrong to stop them from doing whatever they wanted to do.

So much has happened within my life time.

Now, women everywhere seem to be ready to do, and as that old Hollywood expression goes, "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels."  Women are doing some serious butt-kicking!

Further, I now notice something else too--women don't seem to care all that much whether they are married.  Young men don't seem to care either.  Young women are awesomely independent these days.  We have seemingly transitioned into a society of singles.  All within my life time!  (Of course, it is the American context in which I now operate.)

The visionary feminist, Susan B. Anthony, foresaw this:
In the 1800s, Susan B. Anthony wrote: “In women's transition from subject to sovereign, there must needs be an era of self-sustained, self-supported homes.” Traister says that her prediction was correct, and that this has led to what Anthony once described as an "epoch of single women" in America.
All these are mind-blowing stuff.  If only we paused to think about them.  Daily life is changing so rapidly that I cannot even begin to imagine how it will be when my lifetime comes to an end.

I, therefore, have no problem with this statement:
The 21st century is the age of living single.
What a continuation of the two-hundred-year story!

And, oh, I can personally relate to this, even though the author is talking about young people:
Those who cherish their alone time will often choose to live alone. Some have committed romantic relationships but choose to live in places of their own, a lifestyle of “living apart together.”
So, in this century's chapter of the human story:
As the potential for living a full and meaningful single life becomes more widely known, living single will become more of a genuine choice. And when living single is a real choice, then getting married will be, too. Fewer people will marry as a way of fleeing single life or simply doing what they are expected to do, and more will choose it because it’s what they really want.
If current trends continue, successive generations will have unprecedented opportunities to pursue the life that suits them best, rather than the one that is prescribed.
A full and meaningful life ... as a single woman.  Something that my grandmothers could never ever have imagined!
But, our politics has yet to catch up with the reality.
So what we have is the need to reform all kinds of economic and social policies to better reflect the way that Americans are actually living, not the way that they used to live 50 years ago.
Amen, sister!


Ramesh said...

Yes, I can perfectly imagine a tomorrow where most people live alone or in loose relationships. I think the institution of marriage will come under serious pressure and will have profound social consequences.

We may not recognise the world at all if we came back in 200 years.

By the way, were you ever "young". You, who refused to read The Jungle Book because Kipling was a racist ..... :)

Sriram Khé said...

I tell students in my classes that we won't recognize the world even 50 years from now, leave alone 100 years from now. Even now, the world of the grandparents and their grandkids is physically the same space, but other than that the way of life has never been more divergent in human history. This divergence will increase even more rapidly.

hehe ... yes, I was young once. With lots of curly hair too ;)

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