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3.18.2016

deep thoughts by Rebecca Traister



Just saw Rebecca Traister, live!

And yeah.  Um.

Succinctly, I'd say that she's an articulate but fairly predictable and banal woman who's reporting on a rather interesting phenomenon.  k, so yeah, clearly she grated on me.  She has that that ultra-progressive-it's-implicit-that-we-all-think-like-this-because-we're-sensible-people tone to her talk.  She at one point says outright "conservatives are wrong."  Arrogant and boring; I've met this woman thousands of times.

Um, yeah, she started her talk in the same way she started her interview with Terri Gross; reading from her book All The Single Ladies her reaction to an oh-so-generic list of little girl books that she grew up with (her reaction was a repulsion to these girls' marriages), including Jane Eyre, The Little House Books, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women--see, you get the idea--she's an upper middle class well educated white American Jewish girl.  And as for her Jane Eyre criticism, you can see that Traister's a real literalist, claiming that "Rochester locked his first wife in the attic".  To this I say, Traister, please employ the use of imagination when reading fiction, and try to envision the woman in the attic as symbolic, as perhaps symbolic for Eyre's stifled emotions.

So this is who's coming at us.  Hard to stomach, yes.  However, her book discusses a significant and undeniable trend.

As I mentioned in a previous post, her book discusses the increase in single women, and late married women (in the US).  Two significant statistics; single women now outnumber married women in the US--Traister makes the point that the number of single women is so high that they could sway an election.  Additionally, the median age for first-married women, after hovering between 20 and 23 for over a hundred years, has risen to 27.

One thing that I couldn't tell from her talk on her book All the Single Ladies is whether or not she has a definite opinion on this topic, or whether she's simply relating interesting facts and trends regarding women and marriage in the US.  So much of what she said was imbued with visceral opinion (she at one point says "it's terrifying" regarding a potential Trump presidency, and "conservatives are wrong").  However, I couldn't discern a distinct thesis, or what I mean to  say is, her books seems to be a compilation of statistics regarding single women, and happiness level surrounding this, and interviews with varying 'types' of women (women who wanted children but who haven't been able to, late married women, etc.) combined with some "really fascinating" historical research and speculative claims as to the causes of this shift as to its affect on culture.

One such statistic is that 42% of single women live below the poverty line, as well as a study that that divorced women are the unhappiest (vs. I am presuming never married and married women.)

She really gushed over this Susan B. Anthony quote; "on the path to gender equality, there must be an era in which women cease to marry."  Traister believes that this is that era, and she makes the point that, for example, men who marry at 35 have learned how to do their own laundry, clean the bathroom, cook, etc, and so won't be dependent on their wives to do these things.

I guess that my objection to this conclusion is that it's an interpretation of circumstances that isn't necessarily coming to pass.  Are men and women really achieving equality due to the lack of marriages?  What about the significant rise in porn, rampant casual sex....could this possibly be the reason for why men don't feel a need to make a commitment to marriage--they're fulfilling their need for action by objectifying women and using them for sex, which isn't equality at all.

What I mean to say, she didn't present a lot of evidence to support her interpretation of the Anthony quote, and when you speculate you can arrive at all sorts of conclusions.  

Not sure about her rationales for 'single ladies'; she's attributing it in part to access to contraception.  And to that I wonder, what about women who don't use contraception, who don't agree with it--now why are so many of them staying single longer--this isn't a phonomenon that's necessarily been brought about exclusively through access birth control.

In another 2 + 2 = 4, she also speculates that the decline in marriage coincides with the recent phenomenon of fetishizing weddings.  And this may be true.  My point is that her talked revolved a lot around piecing together "lots of interesting information" and arriving at speculative conclusions.  And when you consider (as I've described above) that Traister's a somewhat boring and unimaginative person, well, why would anyone care about her conclusions?  

Like I said, she's wince-inducingly partisan, to the point that she perceives a huge chasm between herself and 'the other side' -- and she's caricatured that other side beyond recognition.  For example, she says that "Everyday, Republicans say that we need to restate the foundation for earlier marriages."  (meaning, we need to return to a time when women were marrying at 22/23).  WTF?  I have never heard any Republican make such a claim, certainly not everyday.  Get a clue Traister!  It's a canard to think these two parties dissimilar; really now they're more similar than ever.

I guess that I find it a bit incredible that she can be writing about all of these single women; as she's pointed out it's a swath of people, and they encompass all sort of perspectives; and lumping them and interpreting their lives according to her little box of standard Democratic ideologies.     

But she really wasn't all bad.  No, in some respects Traister, really, is awesome.  She's really coming up against the more traditional mind-set regarding marriage, particularly married women, and saying, now wait a second.  Are all these women really so sad and dejected?  And let's deal with the reality of who these women are and find out their stories, and how they got to where they are.  And she does make the point that living against the status quo can be a hard predicament.   Although, now wait, given that single women outnumber married what really is the status quo these days?   Perhaps we're dealing with residual ideas from 1-2 decades ago, since unmarried women are the norm.  

The talk rounded up some awesome, interesting woman; one woman prefaced her questions by saying that she's unmarrid, 43, with no kids, and very respeoctvully pointed out that many of the more 'traditional' people who she knows and works with peg her as 'passionate' for being  an opinionated person.  I think her point is that people see her differently (as a bit of a weirdo?) due to the fact that she's single.

And this touches on what perhaps is the best part about Traister's book; its duscussiong openily (and with an air of optimism) this phonmenon of single women and challenging the many negative sterotypes these women are up against.

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