Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Eternal Shortage of Marriageable Men

1870's: Harper's Bazar: Men could get wives "at a discount", and "eight melancholy maides" clung to the same bachelor's arm at parties. "The universal cry is 'No husbands! No husbands!'"

1890's: A marriage study concluded that only 28 percent of college-educated women could get married.

1940's: A Cornell University study said that college-educated single women had no more than a 65 percent chance of getting married.

1940's: This Week (a Sunday magazine): A college education "skyrockets your chances of becoming an old maid."

1980's: San Francisco Chronicle: "There's a terrific scramble going on now, and in two years there just isn't going to be anyone left out there. There aren't going to be all these great surplus older guys."

1980's: Newsweek: "Do you know that...forty-year-olds are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than find a husband?"

2000's: Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children, (2002):"Nowadays, the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful a woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child."

2000's: On Point (12/8/03) on WBUR: "What's your brand? If you're a single woman 35 years or older and want to get married, you'd better come up with one, and fast..."

Hmmm. Does one see a pattern? If there is a man shortage at regularly occurring intervals, why the recurring cries of impending doom? Why does this become an apocalyptic item of news at intervals, when the actual demographics have not changed for the last hundred years or so? Why is being educated a handicap for women who want to find a partner? Could it be that they might be...too uppity?

And my final question: Whom does it benefit if women are in fact scared into scrambling desperately for partners?

All but the last two items are based on Susan Faludi's Backlash.