Kate Bolick, Lounging, from an Observer photographer.
This pair of interviews with Kate Bolick was published last fall, after her Atlantic cover story. I could relate to some of the things she mentioned in the email exchanges and wanted to post some of the interesting highlights here:
Should I talk way up at the start about how mine is NOT a story saying there are no good men left? I’m terrified of people reading it that way — when in fact the reality, as I see it, is much more subtle and complex. Statistics are indeed showing that more men are struggling now than in the past, which is a result of vast economic forces, as well as social ones (Christina Hoff Sommers wrote very presciently about “The War Against Boys” in 2000). And this is serious, and needs to be paid attention to.
I worry about this all the time, but I work hard to get that voice out of my head. It’s the voice of a very irritated man saying, “All you single women are the same. Just mad you’re single.” But I am fully aware that there are many good men in the world, they are just having a harder time than men used to have in social, economic and religious spheres. Here’s more:
…the argument that there are fewer “marriageable” men than in the past relies on an archaic definition of “marriageable”: husbands who are higher-earning, better-educated, have more status, and are taller than their wives. (The “taller” thing keeps cropping up — just because it’s a very concrete and measurable thing.) The very good news for everyone is that women tend to be much more flexible in what they find attractive, so they’ll love and marry men in spite of any new so-called “failings.” And who knows — perhaps even prefer them? I for one have never been drawn to the “traditional” catch — the captain of the lacrosse team, etc. — but I know I’m weird like that.
Me, too, Kate! Me too. I am almost 6 feet tall myself, so statistically, that significantly cuts into the marriageable pool when height is involved. I have no problem dating shorties, but…depending on the man, this is an issue. (I don’t actually ever call them shorties aloud, by the way. I realize how demeaning and self-sabotaging that would be in the dating arena.)
Seriously, I thought that what Bolick wrote here about the inferiority complexes of men is pretty central to part of the shift we’re seeing:
A darker aspect is that this new power balance/imbalance means men are having to grapple with feelings of inferiority that they’re not quite accustomed to, and this can be hard on couples, particularly in a world that almost presumes women will have inferiority complexes.
If women believe and think they’re powerful, basically, and men think that they’re useless, our world starts to look a whole lot more matriarchal than ever before. It would be hasty to say that we’re on a fast train headed in that direction, considering the male-female wage gap and the lopsided gender make-up of politics, corporations and decision-makers in pretty much every significant sphere in American life. But we are in the midst of dealing with some significant changes that have deep emotional ramifications.This is true even if we don’t think we’ll be married — the inferiority thing shifts even how we relate as men and women to each other in workplaces, in sacred spaces and as friends.
I love that in the second part of the interview, Bolick talks a little bit more about what she would have added to the piece, which she wrote in a little over a week after six weeks of research. She also goes on to say that one of the critiques of her work was that she didn’t say anything new, but the truth is that she elevated a conversation that needed to be addressed in a different way. She talks about the need for “relationship ed” or ways to educate our ourselves about how to navigate these new social changes that are underway, which sounds like a fabulous idea. And then she says something that I could completely relate to, when she talked about wanting to marry someone who shares her values:
“Values” is a loaded word, isn’t it? I just meant a guy who sees the world similarly to how I do, who prizes things like honesty and communication and absurdity and new experiences.
But here’s the thing: I never once say in the piece that I never want to get married! I’m not against marriage. I’m just against its being our only and highest ideal. Our public rhetoric and internal monologues need to catch up to the on-the-ground fact that more and more of us are getting married later, or are creating “alternative” lifestyles, or are getting married and then getting divorced, and therefore spending a much longer period of time single than ever before. So how do we create a conversation that reflects and speaks to this new world we’re already living in?