The Mythical Dearth of Marriageable Men

by | December 5, 2012
filed under Feminism

by Jasmine Peterson

You know what I’m tired of? I’m tired of being told that, because I’m a feminist, I am the reason that men are oppressed, women are lonely, men won’t marry women, or vice versa, and that the end of men is nigh.

No! Feminism and feminists have not caused some catastrophic imbalance in the dating universe. We are not the reason that people marry later in life, or not at all (or, if we are, it’s only in that people have been afforded greater choice in whether or not they DO marry, when they do it, and why they do it). In fact, what feminism has done is provide both men and women with options – you can marry, if you so choose, not out of economic necessity, not out of some patriarchal ownership of your lady love, but because you genuinely want to.

There is nothing about Suzanne Venker’s piece “The War on Men” that is not highly offensive – to women, to men, to feminists, to anybody or anything that is a living, breathing organism.

Maya over at Feministing does a great job of highlighting ten of the major ways in which Venker’s article is entirely ridiculous. For example, it’s discriminatory (e.g., ignoring the existence of anyone who is not cisgender and heterosexual), ignores more recent and accurate data on trends in marriage, and makes sweeping generalizations about men and women.

Let’s just address some of the major flaws in Venker’s argument:

 “Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.”

Except that that’s not true. That’s a dated, played out stereotype that taps into discourses of a woman needing to bag a man before she’s old and unmarriageable and the myth of the emotionally distal male. It plays upon women’s fears of ending up alone, and reinforces that perhaps there’s something fundamentally wrong with those women who aren’t or don’t want to get married.

A research study, funded by that published its results in early 2011 suggested just the opposite trend: men had more pro-marriage attitudes than stereotypes suggest, and females were more desiring of independence than popular discourse might have us think. And according to Statistics Canada Census data shows that “married couples remain the predominant family structure”, so I’m not sure who these women are marrying if there’s such a “dearth of marriageable men”.

“Women aren’t women anymore.”

What? If we’re not women, what are we? Fembots, out to destroy the institution of marriage, perhaps? What Venker is really saying is that women are no longer subservient kitchen wenches, compliantly fulfilling their roles within patriarchal constructs of what it means to be a woman.

And in emancipating ourselves from roles that we don’t desire to fulfill (not to say that there are not women who don’t love and choose to fulfill these roles, and I am glad that they can make that choice) and affording ourselves choice in our life trajectories, we’re consequently causing the universe to topple over on its head, and we’re pissing off the men. Quick, back to the kitchen, ladies! And don’t forget your lipstick and high heels, because you better look good preparing your marriageable man’s dinner, hadn’t you?

“It is precisely this dynamic – women good/men bad – that has destroyed the relationship between the sexes”

I never tire of this myth, that feminists hate men (sarcasm alert). Feminism isn’t about hating men. Wanting equality (for persons of all genders, ages, classes, races, sexual orientations, and so on) is not the same as hating men. In fact, not wanting equality is not only rooted in a tradition of misogyny, but is not beneficial to men, either. In fact, the positive effects of liberating women often spill over and enrich the lives of men.

Some examples: challenging gender stereotypes allows men to break out of their gendered binds; they can express a range of emotions; they can be primary caregivers of their children; they can be married – or not, if they choose – to strong women or men; they can do jobs that they love, even if they’re not traditionally masculine jobs (like teaching or nursing); they can share the role of financial provider rather than working 80 hours a week and never seeing their family… and so on.

And then there’s this:

“Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.”

I can’t even read this as anything other than sardonic. Surrender to our nature? Our natural femininity? There are actually men out there who appreciate women who are assertive, successful, independent, and who are not only willing but enthusiastic about sharing in the role of ‘supporter’. There are even men who find it quite refreshing, to encounter us feminist women (oh wait, we’re not really women anymore, are we? Sorry, us Fembots).

If there is a war on men, it only exists in the continued ways in which constructs of masculinity limit men in their pursuits. So perhaps Venker is right in saying that “Men haven’t changed much”, but she is wrong in saying that they do not need a revolution of their own; perhaps such a revolution would allow us to do away with stereotypes like this that suggest men are less inclined to form close emotional attachments and desire marriage than women.

(photo by David Ball via Wikimedia Commons)

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