There was a time when women went to college to get a “Mrs. Degree” but as gender equality moves toward reality, the rush to marry has begun to fade.
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Marriage is falling behind in America as single ladies take the lead, and it’s a trend more women should embrace. So many of us are guilty of swiping through Tinder, or the more feminist app Bumble in search for Mr. Right when we should be embracing our single status. Sure, it’s fun to talk to new matches online and go on dates, but we shouldn’t be so serious about it. The rush to find “the one” is slowing down.
Rebecca Traister, author of All The Single Ladies told Terry Gross on NPR’s daily talk show Fresh Air, that only 20 percent of Americans between ages 18-29 are married, compared to 60 percent in 1960. Not only is marriage becoming less popular, but the median age for a woman’s first marriage is rising. Traister cited a statistic that between 1890 and 1980, the median age for a woman’s first marriage was between 20-22. Compare that to today’s median age of over 27. So college ladies, chill. We have lots of time to find a husband.
The postponement of marriage may also be due to financial reasons. Later marriage can be more beneficial for women because it means both people are much more likely to be secure in their careers and living independently, which levels the playing field between partners.
According to The New York Times, there was a long-term decline in marriage during the recession. It makes sense to be financially stable before tying the knot, and if marriage is going to make a financial situation worse, many would rather cohabitate with their partner without getting married, or just remain single.
Women have faced social and economic inequality for centuries, and now that women have more freedom, the need for marriage has become less significant. Some women make a conscious choice not to marry because they want to live independently, and others may want to marry someday but simply haven’t found someone that will improve upon the life they want to build.
Even within marriage, women’s rights have only recently been solidified. Traister points out how women used to give up individual legal rights when she married her husband. The couple was considered a unit with the man as the leader.
Quoting Susan B. Anthony in her speech “Homes of Single Women,” Traister said that Anthony predicted there would one day be gender equality, and that path needed to be in an era when women no longer married.
“As young women become educated in the industries of the world, thereby learning the sweetness of independent bread,” Anthony writes, “it will be more and more impossible for them to accept the … marriage limitation that ‘husband and wife are one, and that one the husband.’”
We’re certainly making progress, but it make take another generation of independent-minded women to finally make Anthony’s vision of true gender equality a reality.
A version of this article first appeared in “The Daily” at the University of Washington. It is one of the most awarded college newspapers in the United States.
Taylor McAvoy is a staff writer, columnist, and photographer with “The Daily” at the University of Washington. She is a sophomore pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism with an interest in multimedia reporting and plans on graduating with a minor in Law, Societies, and Justice. Taylor has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys skiing, biking, hiking, and horseback riding. She hopes to be able to use those passions along with her dedication to journalistic values to find a rewarding and successful career path.