Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me?

by | January 27, 2010
filed under Feminism

Some things age well, like fine wines, while other’s don’t, like milk.

And according to some people like author Lori Gottlieb, women are more like milk than wine. Gottlieb’s new book is called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Goodenough and her website brags it’s going to be available in stores just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Yay?

Gottlieb argues that women are too picky about men and ought to stop waiting for “Mr. Perfect” and realize that they can be happy with “Mr. Goodenough.” As Jezebel points out: “Those all-important husbands may not be too thrilled with Gottlieb’s advice to “e-mail the guy who’s a little doughy.” I can safely say I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who’d decided they were “settling” for me.

There’s a couple things that really get me about books like Gottlieb’s, and she is by no means alone in viewing singledom as a situation to be pitied, especially among older women. The first thing that pisses me off is the idea that women somehow have a best-before date, after which they should be grateful if anyone will have them at all. Who decides what age that happens at? If you meet some high standard of physical attractiveness do you get the date pushed back? Is there a stamp somewhere, like inside my ear, that tells me when mine is?

Then there’s the related idea that singledom is pitiful and women who don’t want men are somehow abnormal. According to College Candy, Gottlieb  tells women, “If you say you’re not worried [about getting married], either you’re in denial or you’re lying.”  It’s hard to decide whether Gottlieb’s blanket statements are more insulting or  ridiculous.

Not to mention she’s very clearly gearing her book towards middle to upper-class, straight, white women and drawing from her position as one of them, yet implying these statements are relevant to all women.

In Gottlieb’s world I never would have to be with someone who was “settling” for me because even though she expects it of women, men don’t get the same advice. It’s the same message we get reinforced in pop culture, especially sitcoms, where you always see smart and beautiful women married to bumbling, stupid men. Although she does point out she’s not “suggesting you pick the fat, lazy guy who repulses you.”

Admittedly, Gottlieb isn’t arguing “settling” makes women happy, just that it may stave off the inevitable despair of a forty-year-old spinster’s unending lonely nights spent with her cat, a box of chocolates, and a collection of Robert Redford movies. Here’s an excerpt from her interview with Marie Claire:

LI: But you make dating after 40 sound so miserable. You compare it to being in a drunk-driving accident!

Lori: Do you know anyone who likes it?

LI: I don’t really know a lot of people that are doing it…I know it’s hyperbole and I know that you said that…

Lori: But it’s not! That’s not hyperbole. When’s the last time you dated?

LI: I’m 35 and maybe I haven’t hit the threshold yet but I think dating’s fun.

Lori: Yeah, but you’re still 35. Imagine yourself five years from now. Imagine your social circle — 90 percent of your friends will be married and you will be by yourself, and it may seem okay now but would you want that for the rest of your life? And think about the kind of men…who’s gonna be available. There are so few men who would date a 40-plus woman who is even in their age range. And those guys are taken. They’re taken or they’re dating younger women. That’s reality that a lot of people think is disempowering or offensive to say, or anti-feminist.

I’m not sure how Gottlieb thinks that what she’s arguing is somehow empowering or feminist, but telling older women they’d better get a man, any man, ASAP, is neither of those things.

On a related note, here’s a cool article on how some newspapers have applied Gottlieb’s arguments to discussions of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

-Jarrah


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