Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

The Powerlessness of the Single Woman

Today's dating scene favors men over women.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead broached the touchy subject of the powerlessness of single young women in her book "Why There Are No Good Men Left". She is well-credentialled to take on such a verboten topic. Ms. Whitehead is Director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The National Marriage Project studies and reports on social and cultural trends affecting the state of marriage in America. The State of our Unions, its annual report on dating, mating and marriage, is widely cited as a source by both national and international media,

 In addition to her research, Whitehead writes commentary about social and cultural issues for many publications. She is also the author of The Divorce Culture: Rethinking Our Commitment to Marriage and Family. Whitehead studied at Columbia University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and earned a Ph.D. in American social history from the University of Chicago.

 Ms. Whitehead had the courage to investigate the phenomena of American women seeking marriage in the 21st Century. This was not supposed to happen. 1960s and 1970s feminists like Erica Jong called marriage "the slavery of Home" and viewed it as an obstacle to liberation. The idea was that marriage would one day disappear as women overthrew the shackles of patriarchal society.

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But a funny thing happened on the way to equality. The 1960s-70s era featured the successful breaking down of barriers in the board room.  Today's single woman has parity in the workplace. With the battles for equal access to higher learning and equal pay for equal work largely over,  the focus of smart young women has turned to a politically incorrect subject.    As Whitehead observed, "There is something in the new single woman's professed desire for marriage that runs against the official story of women's social progress."

These same forbidden themes  of women's desire for marriage and their frustrations with men and dating have been box office magic in recent "Chick Lit"  movies like "Bridget Jones Diary " and "Sex In The City". Feelings of fear, powerlessness and alienation  are safely released as long as it is in fiction or pictured on the silver screen.

It turns out that today's liberated women want to marry. The problem, as Whitehead points out, is that  the social infrastructure that was designed to help young women meet marriageable men no longer exists. Once upon a time the American courtship rituals of  the Senior Prom and sorority formals accomplished their task of getting young men and women paired off. That era disappeared along with platform shows, bell bottom pants and mood rings.

Since many women are pursuing marriage after they have left high school  and college with their  pool of available men, these single women must take on this chore by themselves. Instead of dating and mating with men they grew up with or at least shared classes with, many are now dating and mating with strangers.

This new system is tailor-made for the mirage man. He doesn't even have to promise young single women to go steady to achieve his short term goals.  He either "hooks up" or is "joined at the hip." The "hook up" is friends with benefits, meaning sex without commitment. The other option is "joined at the hip", where a couple that doesn't know each other very well commits to a sexual relationship and spends all their time together. Neither hooking up or being joined at the hip leads to many strong relationships that can weather the storms of life. That is why Whitehead notes that men in the 21st Century are viewed by today's single women as "less the target for political outrage than as the source of chronic romantic disappointment." Writer Jennifer Grossman likewise observed that there is a sense of powerlessness in the personal instead of the political.

Women and men are virtually equal in the classroom and workplace in the 2010s, but today's dating scene favors men over women. This is not progress. It is in society's interest for men and women to marry and have stable families. Until our leaders get serious and finally realize that this is a national security issue, America will continue to crumble at its foundation.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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