In 2011, Kate Bolick wrote a cover story for The Atlantic that analyzed societal fear of the single woman (the dreaded 'spinster') and cultural glorification of the couple. She debunked popular myths that single women are unhappy by default and critiqued the prioritization of marriage over other relationships. Her research took her around the world and enabled her to have conversations ranging from discussing how the average age to marry and settle down has increased with millennials to talking about definitions of happiness with a woman who lives in a community designed for single women between 30 and 65 years old in Amsterdam.
After her article was published, a bidding war ensued for a book of the same subject. The recent release of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own has caused Bolick's article to make rounds once again. Her insights, such as how marriage is no longer necessary for women to have economic stability and how women no longer need men to have children, quite convincingly argue that maybe the end is near for 'society's highest ideal' to be defined as 'traditional' marriage.
What I find most persuasive is her insistence on the fulfillment that other types of relationships can bring, and the detrimental effects of not valuing those relationships to the same esteem as marriage. Such imbalance leads to a cultural fascination (perpetuated through the media) with marriage and motherhood, but no policy solutions for varied family arrangements or societal support for raising children.
Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the “romantic market” in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing). But this strange state of affairs also presents an opportunity: as the economy evolves, it’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of “traditional” marriage as society’s highest ideal.