By James Wallace Harris, Thursday, July 30, 2015
Spinster: Making A Life Of One’s Own by Kate Bolick is a fantastic book for men who want to understand modern women. Kate Bolick, an editor at The Atlantic, has written something that is part memoir, part literary history, and part feminist declaration of independence. Bolick interweaves her personal memories of growing up and choosing not to marry with the history of other women who made the same decision. By using five women from different time periods Bolick creates an evolutionary chronicle of women who chose to swim against the social current and found personal freedom. Bolick’s inspiration came from:
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)
- Edith Wharton (1862-1937)
- Neith Boyce (1872-1951)
- Edna St. Vincent Millary (1892-1950)
- Maeve Brennan (1917-1993)
In essence, Bolick asks why should women be a slave to biology, society and men. Bolick explores no new feminist territory, but she has written the latest dispatch from the front, and she’s written her story in a very engaging and compelling way. I highly recommend Spinster.
The heart of Bolick’s tale is to ask why should women marry. Her book is personal, but it could also be a sociological study. The reasons why women today can decide not to marry is because of all the changes in society over the last two hundred years. Bolick’s five muses are five advanced explorers in feminist history. They represent the choice between wife and all the other possible roles women can chose from.
We can examine that history easily enough by asking what compels women to marry:
- Family and children
- Financial security
- Peer pressure
- Cultural brainwashing
Young girls don’t decide to go boy crazy in their teens, but hormones drive them to seek out the perfect mate. Peers and society put a cultural spin on that impulse that we rationalize is a choice, but it’s not. In recent centuries society has created the story of love to cover over biology, but in earlier times women were married off for economic reasons. They had zero choice. Love gave them one choice. Even after the invention of romantic love most women felt compelled to make a good match for financial security. Men were seen as providers and protectors. Everything in church, school, pop culture and society pushed girls to believe marriage was their true goal in life. It’s amazing that any women broke free of this programming. They now have an infinity of choices.
The marriage myth started to break down when women began to earning their own living. Society still favors the man economically, so most women still choose to marry, but that’s changing. Even some of the women Bolick profiled eventually married, giving them economic freedom, and sometimes wealth.
What’s really changed things has been sexual freedom. When women discovered they could have romance and sex without becoming a household slave is probably the beginning of the breakdown of marriage. If all women become financially independent, finding romantic partners without cultural guilt, what reasons are left to marry?
Having children remains the strongest incentive to bond in pairs. Children are a lot of work, and a huge commitment, and having two people dedicated to the task makes it much easier. Because men are often not equal partners, many women have learned that being single moms is possible. Any women who grow up not wanting children and has the ability to financially provide for herself has little reason to marry.
Because most women go through a series of love affairs they quickly learn that passion does not last, and servicing men’s incessant unromantic desires puts the kibosh on wanting them around full-time. Many modern women prefer to have a series of romantic relationships; ditching the man when he becomes too troublesome. Some women have gone from casual sex to anonymous sex to maintain maximum free time and reduce distracting obligations from her growing ambitions.
For us men, we need to ask: Why do women need us? Because culture continues to sell the storybook concept of perfect love for life, many women remain disciples of Miss Austen, and we can still hope to play Mr. Darcy to our fantasy dream girl even if that’s not her fantasy. But that segment of the population is in decline. Because religion teaches that family and children are the highest purpose in life, many believers, both male and female, keep marriage and family thriving. Luckily, biology compels a large percentage of the population to raise the next generation of humans. So being a potentially great Dad will always be in demand.
What about friendship and companionship? I think society is changing here too. Many women love male friends as long as they don’t have to sexual service them. Modern women are learning to separate chemistry from friendship. Of course that means hot guys get lots of sex and average guys get to be just friends.
The experiences and decisions Bolick makes in Spinster are the same ones that millions of young women are making today. Just look at this chart of the percentage of women getting married over the last 50 years.
The end of the 1960s was when the women’s movement started, but also when more women started working. Bolick’s story is a personal one that back these statistics. I know many women who chose not to marry, and not to have children. I have to ask though: Was this huge social change because of the freedom to pursue careers or the freedom not be be chained to men?
Some demographers claim those who marry today are from the economically better off segments of society because marriage preserves wealth. If you want to be rich, successful and have beautiful kids, it really helps to combine two incomes, and have the support of successful grandparents as mentors. In other words, the future of marriage might be those who are well-to-do. For woman, that might mean finding mates that are 50-50 partners. In other words, marriage might go from being a male dominated kingdom to a egalitarian corporation. Which is kind of pre-romantic love retro if you think about it.
5 thoughts on “Why Women Choose Not To Marry”
As humans we belong to the animal kingdom and all species find their own way to preserve themselves, the beings with more intelligence have more complex societies and teach better to the new generations and prepare them to have better life, in other words they continue to adapt to life no matter what, the ones that failed to do this are already extinct. One good example of these animals is “the killer whales” they seem to have strong societies and teach their whale cubs all the complex skills to survive and be the best predators of the sea.
Now most woman or man that don’t want to continue to preserve basic human cell (family) is for different reasons and each one knows their own, a lot of times it is related to our inability to select and maintain a good match and inability to commit and preserve the family values.
What good people must understand that our modern societies are out of focus, our evolution is going backwards, our functions were determined before as as basic functions of any being ” born, grow up, reproduce and die”. We came out of that premise, if modern societies or individuals want to change that than we simply fucked up as a race.
Is marriage slavery then, Jim? Do you lose your “personal freedom”? Maybe you do, I don’t know. You’d know more about that than I do. But don’t you gain anything in exchange?
You want to “understand modern women,” but do you really think that one book by one woman is how you’ll do that? Would you accept that one book by one particular man (Rush Limbaugh? Donald Trump? Rick Santorum?) would show women what you’re like? 🙂
Sure, in the past, women were considered a man’s property. Women couldn’t even vote in America until 1920, and it was very difficult for a woman to have a career even fifty years ago.
That’s not today. There are more options today, for women and for men. (Plus, there are a lot of men in prison.) So, many women – and many men – don’t get married, whether by choice or otherwise.
That’s freedom, yes, but it’s also freedom to marry (heterosexual or homosexual unions), if you want to. Marriage isn’t slavery – not these days, at least. Men and women both want to get married – not all of them, and not always to each other, admittedly. But no one has to force people to get married.
And tell me, does Kate Bolick have any children? You can certainly raise children without a partner, especially if you have money, but it can’t be that easy (especially if you don’t have money). It’s a lot of work to raise children. It’s very expensive, and it’s got to be stressful – particularly if you have no one to share the responsibility.
And those five women who also chose not to marry? According to Wikipedia, all five of them did marry. Now, maybe they didn’t have much choice, I don’t know. But today? You ask what “compels” women to marry. Why didn’t you ask what compels men to marry?
Were you compelled to marry? Was your wife? Do you both consider it to be slavery? 🙂
One book is a start. You should know me better than that Bill to suggest I would ever believe one book could cover any topic. But that would be an interesting idea for a blog. How many books does a person have to read to understand a topic. I’d say one to get started, three to get an idea of variety of issues covered, five to begin getting a feel for the subject, ten to start talking about the topic yourself, and twenty-five to feel comfortable thinking you really knew something about the topic.
Slavery is a slippery word. It doesn’t have to imply chains and whips. To women seeking their own path having to be a nanny, housekeeper, cook, nurse, chauffeur, sex worker when they want to be something else can seem like slavery. For men, being tied to the expectations of a good father can be a burden.
Biology compels most people to marry. Society and cultural expectations push us to marry. How much of it is a choice? Of the five women she mentions, most of the marriages didn’t work, and the one that did was very unique, and it was late in life. Read the book Bill. Men get married because they want regular sex, companionship, and all too often a mother for their children and a housekeeper for their house. Most of the women Bolick admired met men who wanted to care for them, but often ended up caring for them, and they had to give up their ambitions.
Marriage is not what our romantic times promise. It is changing. I think men who aren’t familiar with feminist literature who would read Spinster would find out a whole lot about women they didn’t know, unless they were good observers of women. And I don’t think most men are good observers. But then, I think most women are poor observers of men, even thought they think they are experts. I think we’re all deluded by our own view on things, and unless we read books like this one, seldom think about how other people see things.
Bolick doesn’t have children. She wants to be an editor and writer and ignored the traditional paths for wife and mother to pursue her ambitions. The book is about the consequences, among other things.
Spinster is also about learning from books. It’s a love letter to people that inspired and mentored Bolick through literary time capsules. I was very impressed with how Bolick studied the lives of women like her to plan her future.
I’ve had my eye on this book since reading an article on it but I’m waiting for it to get to paperback before I purchase. I like the questions it raises because I’ve often considered some of them. It seems that once a girl hits her late 20s, especially, she’s pushed to get married and form a family as if that’s should be her only goal. But I believe I have an option and that I don’t have to be united in marriage to be happy later on.
I am one such woman who chose not to marry, but rather focus on a career and good quality of life. I observed my mother and her four sisters all got married by age 20, with varying results. Only one went on to have a successful career. But most importantly I observed my mother finding herself divorced by 25 with a child to see about and an ex who was no longer interested.
That made me determined to not have kids before I had a successful career and could afford to comfortably raise my kid/s on my own should the father walk away. It also made me want to complete a bucket list of experiences before settling down. I’ve accomplished both things now.
But I think the underlying key factor in me not marrying is that I never met anyone I actually wanted to marry. Most females are obsessed with their dream wedding and pretty much corral any male into the role of groom once he doesn’t resist too much. I however am looking for a true partner to share life with, and that has proven to be a monumental task. Most men I encounter want a female who is a combination of super fan and personal cheerleading squad, vixen and personal porn star, and celebrity/supermodel arm candy. They do not care about personality, character, morals, education, earning potential, etc. The shallowness I encounter is such a turn off. So I made up my mind in my late twenties, if I don’t find someone suitable to me I just won’t bother to get married. I earn more than most guys, I have a great social life and travel alot, have my own home etc….all I need a husband for is companionship and true sharing.