“Wanted: interesting, generous man who loves to travel and make-out in dimly-lit bamboo forest. Nice shoulders a plus, but not required.” (We’ll come back to this).
Kate Bolick is an editor for Veranda magazine and she recently wrote an article, which, in it’s most reduced form, discusses the current women’s situation in the United States. However, the article really covers feminism, patriarchy, the current situation of men in the United States, sex, education, economy, history, racism, marriage, alternative forms of relationships and I think even gorillas were mentioned at one point.
Basically, it’s a big, long article (give yourself a good hour to really read it) and it’s worth it to read the whole thing—the article ends differently than I expected.
Because the article covers so much material, let me just say that there are a few things in the article I disagreed with, please feel free to do the same. Regardless of my caveat though, the piece is filled with interesting information about where women have started, and where we are now. She specifically focuses on the idea of marriage and how living in a nation where women have now become the more educated gender (55% of college students are women, but feel free to dispute that statistic) changes the sexual relationships between men and women. Many women are now marrying men who not as educated as they are, or are not marrying at all because men no longer need to marry to find willing sexual partners.
Bolick interviews several young, single women, all of which have had extensive sexual experience, but few committed relationships. Each one of the women felt that sex, for them, had been less about intimacy and more about the sex itself. This phenomena arises from the fact that there are currently loads of beautiful, educated women running around, and not as many attractive, educated, single men, meaning that of course, men can therefore have multiple sexual partners, without the need to commit. In one of my favorite lines of the article, Bolick states, "For centuries, women’s sexuality was repressed by a patriarchal marriage system; now what could be an era of heady carnal delights is stifled by a new form of male entitlement, this one fueled by demographics." Women’s sexuality was repressed by a “patriarchal marriage system,” however women are still unable to have fulfilling sexual relationships, though for different reasons.
So, she ends up discussing the ideas of love that we have perpetuated in our society; according to Bolick, the need for coupling is one that might actually diminish the value of other relationships. Often, people focus so much of their energy on the development of their romantic relationship that they do not have the time or the desire to continue to build friendships and familial and community support groups.
Now, I do not think that Bolick is arguing against marriage, but rather, merely exploring the consequences of such a narrow-focus for our society, and in that exploration she discusses the idea of women developing bonded, communities of love, while being single.
I think the idea is an interesting one, too often we pity those that are not part of a stable, paired relationship, especially within many conservative, Christian cultures, (of which I am a part being LDS). Our society perpetuates this view with HUNDREDS of films, known as romantic comedies, that show lonely, quirky, silly, slightly pathetic women, desperately searching for a good man (Bolick argues that current trends have literally made fewer “good men,” do with that what you will). However, always in these movies that quirky, cute, Kate Hudson manages to find and win the heart of a legitimate hunk—rarely, do such movies discuss the possibility of not finding someone to share your life with (exceptions such as, My Best Friends Wedding, Annie Hall, and 500 Days of Summer are rare).
My second favorite line by Bolick offers an excellent viewpoint on this topic, "the single woman is very rarely seen for who she is—whatever that might be—by others, or even by the single woman herself, so thoroughly do most of us internalize the stigmas that surround our status. " Too often do educated, beautiful, interesting and unique women feel the sting to their self-esteem that comes from their marital status. The world has, unfortunately, always defined a woman's worth by her ability to get married, not by her ability to contribute in other ways or have valuable relationships outside of marriage.
In typical double-standard fashion, the world doesn’t seem to care as much about it’s single men; it’s cool to be a Heffner bachelor, but sad to be an old cat lady (again, there are certain cultures that do place pressure to get married on their single male population as well).
Our society should find a little more value in it’s single women (and men); not only do we have a lot to offer the world, but we have a lot to offer to other single women. To that end, Bolick finishes her article on the incredibly positive note of female bonding. Single women have been supporting each other, building creative artistic communities and caring for one another for thousands of years: convents and boarding houses become an example for such powerful, and historical, relationships.
This past weekend I was able to visit a lantern festival in Jinju, South Korea with my friend Sarah. It was incredible; lanterns everywhere on a giant river—gorgeous. Of course, the festival was easily a romantic one, fireworks, lantern tunnels, there was even a lovers lane constructed in a small bamboo forest near the river which had lanterns in the shape of copulating bugs (seriously, I’m including a picture for proof). At one point, while sitting on the river, waiting for the fireworks to start, I remember thinking how much I would like to go back to the festival someday with my husband, boyfriend, lover. You know, “Wanted: interesing, generous man who loves to travel and make-out in dimly-lit bamboo forest. Nice forearms a plus, but not required.” But after reading Bolick’s article, I sort of rethought that idea. Maybe my want ad should instead be, “Wanted: one traveling companion and friend. Enjoyment of good food and cheap hotels a must.” And I had that. I had a great time with Sarah, we talked politics, religion, traveling, feminism, relationships, teaching and loads of other topics, basically, female bonding a la bus.
As women, we should happily see ourselves as just that, women. This is something that I think feminism has given us, the right to view ourselves outside of the realm of wife and mother. The single, the individual, is never alone, we are instead, full to the brim with powerful, varied relationships, education, and ideas (and in my case, all sorts of feminist angst).
** Thank (insert deity here) for awesome principals that give tired English teachers an entire week off of work so we (meaning me) can lay (lie?) in bed and catch up on some feminist blog reading (and facebook). Because of such a day I was able to read this article and get all sorts of interested and excited. On a quick sidenote, can I just say how grateful I am for the internet and the unique minds of writers, artists and thinkers who post wonderful and provocative content each and everyday? Here’s a shout out to all you conscientious people with great internet surfing skills.