A new report by Pew Research Center shows that barely half — 51 percent — of adults in the United States are married. In place of marriage are nontraditional living arrangements — including cohabitation, single-person households, and single parenthood — that may likely continue. The share of adults who are currently married could drop to below half within several years.
While the report says it’s “beyond the scope of this analysis to explain why [emphasis mine] marriage has declined,” senior writer D’Vera Cohn adds this: “I’m struck by the fact that a large percentage of people who say that marriage is obsolete still want to get married. I think they may be having two ideas in their head at once: one about the institution of marriage and what its status is in society today, which is to say that it’s a lot less dominant, central, or important in society, [and another about] their own wishes for their future, in which they personally would very much like to be married.”
Indeed they do. But some major changes have to take place first.
For starters, parents have to stop getting divorced for less than dire reasons. Many, if not most, of today’s 20- and 30-somethings are products of these divorces and thus have no role models. They may be looking for love, but they have no idea what to look for. Susan Gregory Thomas, author of In Spite of Everything, is a great example. Her parents split when she was twelve, and in an article about her book she laments the lack of guidance available to young people. “Why would we take counsel,” she asks, “from the very people who, in our view, flubbed it all up?”
Second, we must retract the message Boomers sent young women about female empowerment. Indeed, it isn’t a coincidence that marriage rates have plummeted alongside America’s fascination with the feminist movement. Empowerment for women, as defined by feminists, neither liberates women nor brings couples together. It separates them. It focuses on women as perpetual victims of the Big Bad Male. Why would any man want to get married when he’s been branded a sexist pig at “hello”? In the span of just a few decades, women have managed to demote men from respected providers and protectors to being unnecessary, irrelevant, and downright expendable. Consider these examples:
Author and journalist Natalie Angier begins an article in the New York Times by writing, “Women may not find this surprising, but one of the most persistent and frustrating problems in evolutionary biology is the male. Specifically . . . why doesn’t he just go away?”
In a CNN interview with Maureen Dowd about her 2005 book, Are Men Necessary? Dowd says, “Now that women don’t need men to reproduce and refinance, the question is, will we keep you around? And the answer is, ‘You know, we need you in the way we need ice cream — you’ll be more ornamental.’”
Lisa Belkin, a blogger for the New York Times wrote, “We are standing at a moment in time when the role of gender is shifting seismically. At this moment an argument can be made for two separate narrative threads — the first is the retreat of men as this becomes a woman’s world.”
In an article in The Atlantic titled “Are Fathers Necessary?” author Pamela Paul wrote, “The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution.”
Women have also been raised by their feminist mothers to “never depend on a man.” As a result, couples no longer think of themselves as one unit but as separate entities sharing space. “The confusion over roles is there, as are the legacies of a self-absorbed, me-first, feminist-do-or-die, male-backlash society,” wrote Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee in The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts. Honestly, are we really surprised marriage is on the decline?
The concerns of men frequently arrive in my inbox. The latest is from Mark Trueblood, who had this to say: “From a man’s perspective, men take on an untenable risk. The culture of male disposability runs deep — some say even at the level of our DNA.” Because of this, he says, “Men are making a lifelong commitment to eschew marriage, cohabitation, and even dating in some cases. We do so for all the reasons you can guess, and more. As far as I am concerned, this is the wisest lifestyle decision for men in the United States at this point in time. And I say so as a conservative/libertarian who fully acknowledges the power of a functioning nuclear family.”
Mark Trueblood is not an anomaly. Countless men’s-rights groups have popped up across the country, and even more men happily shack up with their girlfriends with no plans to get married — which may sit well with women for a while, until their clocks begins to tick, and they become desperate for a baby. All of the sudden men look more appealing — but the men don’t want to marry them.
There may be more than one reason Americans are delaying or eschewing marriage, but almost all of them can be attributed to feminism. Feminists assured women their efforts would result in more satisfying marriages, but that has not happened. Rather, women’s search for faux equality has damaged marriage considerably (some might say irrevocably, but I’m an optimist) by eradicating the complementary nature of marriage — in which men and women work together, as equals, toward the same goal but with an appreciation for the unique qualities each gender brings to the table. Today, men and women are locked in a battle. The roles have changed too drastically, and the anger runs deep.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t call that progress.
— Suzanne Venker is co-author of the new book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can’t Say. Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.