I’m late getting to this, but I thought I’d share this piece about the Single Girl trend by Rebecca Traister. I didn’t think she broke a lot of new ground here. But I did like that she stated plainly that we are currently “living through the invention of independent female adulthood”:
For legions of women, living single isn’t news, it’s life. You know, eating, sleeping, working, cleaning the refrigerator — just doing it all while not being married to a man. But to others, waking up in the morning husband-free seems to be some kind of affront. In March, Rush Limbaugh, fresh off his tirade against unmarried law student Sandra Fluke, laid into a 35-year-old female journalist, asking, “What is it with all these young, single white women?”
Limbaugh isn’t alone in his anxiety about maritally uncommitted broads. Comedian Steve Harvey has spent years urging successful black women to ratchet down their standards and just get married already, while Lori Gottlieb’s 2010 book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, conveyed the same message to all professional women. Meanwhile, television writer Tracy McMillan’s viral blog post, “Why You’re Not Married,” now expanded into a book, makes Limbaugh sound downright chivalrous; her damning explanations for extended singlehood include “You’re a Bitch,” “You’re a Slut,” and “You’re Selfish.”
What exactly is so threatening about a woman without a ring on her finger? What’s she done to you? It’s not like a failure to marry by 30 is the end of the world.
Except that the world as we’ve known it for a very long time — one in which a woman’s value was tied to her role as a wife — is ending, right in front of us.
A recent Pew Research Center study found that barely half of American adults are married, a historic low. More striking: Only 20 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are hitched. It’s now standard for a woman to spend years on her own, learning, working, earning, socializing, having sex, and, yes, having babies in the manner she — and she alone — sees fit.
I would go further to say that as this traditional sense of women’s identity being tied to marriage and children ends, it’s effecting women from different cultural/racial/economic milieus differently and maybe not at all. As a black woman, societal expectation has almost always been that I would at least be a mother by the time I was out of my 20s, but not necessarily that I would get married. In fact, the opposite has become true, where people expect black women to be unmarried, childfree or not. So the rules are different depending on a number of factors, including class. But if we’re just talking about the traditional construct of white femininity, yes, that is shifting. It’s almost like middle and upper-class white women are now acting like women of color have been acting for decades, huh?