Thursday, June 14, 2012

Should Women Marry Young or Old?

By declaring that the personal is political, contemporary feminism revealed its true ambition. It would not content itself with legislation and policy; it wanted to control the way women led their lives.

The new feminist life plan told women to marry old, to postpone marriage and childbearing until they had established their careers.

Strictly egalitarian, feminism also told women to repudiate traditional female roles, especially the roles of housewife and homemaker.

Beginning in the early 1970s women embraced these ideas with uncommon fervor. They threw off their aprons, marched bravely forth to lead the revolution and turned their kitchens into battlegrounds.

The result was a wave of divorces.

More recently, young people have expressed a general aversion to getting married at all.

Today, a woman who marries young will be seen as having betrayed the feminist cause. A man who recommends that she do so will be denounced as a heretic and shunned from polite society.

Take the case of University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus. Lately, Regnerus has been in the news for reporting on what seems to have been an imperfect research study about how same-sex parenting affects children.

The study has elicited a spirited debate in the media, with one notable exception. At The New Republic a young editor named Molly Redden declared that Regnerus was a heretic and ought to be banned from serious media outlets. By her lights it was not his first heresy; Regnerus had previously expressed misogynist ideas.

Of course, Redden speaks with no authority on these topics. She is an opinionated young person who holds politically correct opinions, who takes offense easily, and who is unable to present a cogent argument.

Either Redden is an intemperate zealot or she is sorely in need of adult supervision. I vote for the latter; I do not understand how the senior editors of The New Republic could tarnish their reputation by publishing such illiberal tripe.

What did Regnerus say to provoke the wrath of Redden?

Three years ago in the Washington Post he dared to question the feminist dogma to marry old.

In his words:

But our children now sense that marrying young may be not simply foolish but also wrong and socially harmful. And yet today, as ever, marriage wisely entered into remains good for the economy and the community, good for one's personal well-being, good for wealth creation and, yes, good for the environment, too. We are sending mixed messages.

This is not just an economic problem. It's also a biological and emotional one. I realize that it's not cool to say that, but my job is to map trends, not to affirm them. Marriage will be there for men when they're ready. And most do get there. Eventually. But according to social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs, women's "market value" declines steadily as they age, while men's tends to rise in step with their growing resources (that is, money and maturation). Countless studies -- and endless anecdotes -- reinforce their conclusion. Meanwhile, women's fertility is more or less fixed, yet they largely suppress it during their 20s -- their most fertile years -- only to have to beg, pray, borrow and pay to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s. 

Rather than debate the issue, Redden took serious offense and fulminated. She called for Regnerus to be silenced.

In her words:

What do we need with a retrograde researcher who instructs young women to reorder their lives according to men’s “market value”; who treats women like a uniform mass of economic actors seeking only to turn their relationships into marriage with kids; who can’t quite imagine a world in which women have sex for sexual reasons (once describing female consent as “sexual strategies for making men 'fall in love’”); and who traffics in the mid-century notion that the timing of marriage should be arranged around a woman’s “most fertile years”?  Now that Regnerus has definitively added “provider of ill-conceived research to Focus-On-The-Family types” to his CV, here’s hoping that more news outlets will decide that his isn’t a voice we need at all.

Coming from a young person this does have its charm. Obviously, Redden is so full of herself that she does not know that she not have the power to silence anyone. At the least she is demonstrating how badly educated young people are today.

Yet, she is writing for The New Republic, a prestigious liberal magazine, one that has apparently forgotten what it means to be liberal.

As one might expect, Reppen has no use for science.

She argues that the connection between early marriage and female fertility is a “mid-century notion.” She is suggesting that this notion was characteristic of America a few decades ago. It is not. It is a scientific fact. It has always been true, of all human beings. It is positively Darwinian.

If you do not believe that fertility has an intrinsic connection to marriage you are yearning for a prescientific age. Apparently, feminist ideology wants to supercede reality.

As for the charming notion that women sometimes: “have sex for sexual reasons” that, dare I say, is merely a euphemism for “hooking up.”

Actually, men are more likely than women to have sex for sexual reasons, but women are perfectly free to do so. If a woman does she will, as the saying goes, be having sex like a man. She is free to do so. If she follows the feminist life plan and postpones marriage she will be obliged to do so.

However, if a woman decides to have sex like a man doesn’t that suggest that she does not really like being a woman? Think about it.

To find a better picture of how late-life marriage is working out we can turn to Paula Szuchman’s article: “Marriage and the Art of Game Theory.”

The title is not very encouraging. Game theory is not an art. Szuchman is correct to say that married couples need to learn how to negotiate their differences, but one should not confuse negotiated compromise with artistic expression.

Be that as it may, Szuchman reports that many later-in-life marriages are getting mired in constant drama, especially over the division of household labor.

The world is in crisis. The job market is becoming more and more challenging. America’s young people are wasting their time and their energy fighting a Cold War over who is going to do the shopping.

It’s not very encouraging.

Yet, this is what feminism wanted. I hope its leaders will take responsibility for the mess.

I understand that in feminist fantasyland couples who marry late are so fully self-actualized and equal that they naturally share all household tasks. If Szuchman is right, the feminist vision is either an illusion or a lie.

In truth, as I have often pointed out, building a life together is much easier than joining two constituted lives.

Mark Regnerus offered his heretical views in this passage:

Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you're fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life. 

To get a closer look at the lives of couples who marry late we can examine the list of complaints that married couples expressed to Szuchman and her co-author.

I find it striking that they are exactly what you would expect of people have lived independent adult lives and who now lack the skills needed to live as part of a couple.

Here is her list; it sounds like it was drawn up by a grievance committee:

“Learning to live with another person in the house.”
“Having to compromise.”
“Different points of view.”
“Making myself less of a priority.”
“Not always getting my way.”
“Agreeing to disagree.”
“Seeing eye to eye in raising children.”
“Negotiating different goals.”
“I can’t do everything I want when I want to.”
“Toilet seat.”

When you live alone you develop singleton habits. You do not have to negotiate or compromise over your everyday life so you never learn how to negotiate or compromise.

Surely, it is possible to develop such skills. Yet, when you are older negotiated compromise is going to feel wrong; it is going to feel like a sell out; it is going to feel like repression.

 As for the last complaint, it reminds me of a television show after 9/11 where a reporter interviewed a group of widows of men who had been killed in the terrorist attack. One of them plaintively declared: "I wish he was around to keep the toilet seat up."


David Foster said...

Part of the problem here is the insane level of worship of educational credentials, which implies that if a woman wants to get started in her career before marriage/children, then she needs at least 16 years (often 17-18 years in practice) AND 2-4 years of professional/post-graduate education (probably realistically more if she goes for a PhD). All of this might make sense if she was going to be doing advanced research in semiconductor physics, but for most real-life jobs the credentialism is only about itself, not any kind of genuine knowledge-need.

n.n said...

So, women were directed to dream of material, physical, and ego instant gratification, presumably without consequence.

Both men and women should marry and have children young. It reduces occurrence of promiscuity and its attendant problems, including disease among others. It is safer for the mother and increases the likelihood of having offspring who are mentally and physically healthy.

They should conduct a study to determine how a majority of the population reproduces in the minority. If there was ever a definition of evolutionary dysfunction, then that would have to be it.

Dennis said...

Actually everything on her list is why one should marry young. Learning to deal with someone one loves prepares one for dealing well with others. Having children when one is young and strong and much more capable of handling all that comes with raising them is far better than dealing with teenagers when one is set in their ways. If a woman is smart all she has to do in correctly utilize her time and she can prepare herself for any profession she desires.
As for the toilet seat, I have always wondered why the other way around wasn't better for the woman because she knows what actions have been taken and can correct them. I always thought this was just the dumbest complain I ever heard. Somebody needs to grow up.

Dennis said...

I am not sure that this is evolutionary dysfunction, but how evolution works to remove the dysfunctional. The more women, especially American women, remove themselves from the gene pool the better off the species is in the long run.
I have to admit that I take a much longer term view of evolution.

Dennis said...

Meat to add "these types of American women."

n.n said...

That would depend on how you distinguish between cause and effect. I consider human consciousness (i.e. enlightened) to be an order which coexists with the natural order. The enlightened order is similarly causative as is the natural order, albeit on a far smaller scale. The natural order sets the rules and the enlightened order will either follow them or invite evolutionary dysfunction. With dreams of physical, material, and ego instant gratification, humans have chosen to ignore the natural order and we are observing the consequences of our arrogance.

Anonymous said...

"Apparently, feminist ideology wants to supercede reality."

Of course.

"Yet, this is what feminism wanted. I hope its leaders will take responsibility for the mess."

IMO,Feminism might be best described as a "meme".

Almost a form of possesion,
it destroys without building.
On the family/fertility scale, it is a failing life-strategy,from what I can see.

The idea that "someone" might be around to take responsibility
is laughable,Stuart.

Leftist memes seem designed to destroy, not to build.


Marx said :“Destroy the family and you destroy society."

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Nowadays the correct term is "deconstruct."

David Foster said...

One factor that probably encourages later marriages: the idea of extending the search to find someone "better."

In traditional societies, the pool of potential mates for an individual was usually pretty limited and pretty well-known; once you knew all the girls or guys (of your class, religion, whatever) in the village, you might as well make your choice, because that was going to be about it as far as your prospect list went.

Today, the prospect pool is for all practical purposes infinite, so an individual can always convince himself/herself that there is a better option waiting just around the corner.

Ideally, strong romantic love, coupled with a good fit on a practical level, should short-circuit the process and terminate the search, but this seems to happen less often than it did previously.

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at the list. I married late, not out of ideology but just because I didn't meet the man I wanted to marry until I was in my 40s. I love him madly, but yes, it is very, very hard to adjust to living with another person! I have told him if he drops dead, I am not marrying again.

Sam L. said...

I married late, also, and she was much younger. We settled the up/down problem this way--leave the lid down. Each lifts what needs lifting.