Single women should read this book to know they are not alone or defective. Single men should read this book to understand why their potential marriage partners are no longer willing to settle. Married people should read this book to understand why their experience is not the only real and valid one.
Title – All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
Author – Rebecca Traister
Page count – 309
Goodreads Rating – 5/5 (it was amazing!)
This book covers so many topics related to the marriage and (romantic) relationship patterns of women, especially focusing on how women and their singleness have shaped America: our political contributions, geographic living choices, non-romantic relationships, non-married sexuality, and parenthood. This is a chronicle of how the political, economic, and social status of women (single, partnered, married, divorced, etc.) has changed as women have no longer needed to be married to be financially secure. Traister strikes a balance between anecdotal stories from personal interviews and solid statistics-heavy knockout punches. She also does a top-notch job bringing in the theory of intersectionality as it relates to race and class, specifically and frequently bringing up the different obstacles and realities faced by women of color and including whole chapters on wealth and poverty.
Like some of the interviewees expressed in the book, if my choices are to be married and give up my independence and career goals, and potentially be legally hitched to someone who expects me to take care of them, or to stay single and retain my independence while potentially forever forgoing a romantic/sexual relationship…my choice would be to stay single. I’m reminded of that scene in Lord of the Rings when Eowyn, after Aragorn asks what she fears, replies: “A cage…To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.” I – like so many women throughout history – view the unequal sacrifices women are expected to make in a marriage relationship as a cage, and our choice to stay single has allowed us to help shape the country’s political, economic, and social policies to accommodate that choice.
Here’s a quote about the Prohibition era that captures some of the frustration I, too, feel about current marital expectations:
“An awareness of potentially injurious dynamics of marriage also undergirded the burgeoning movement to make alcohol illegal…[The] temperance movement aimed to cut down on the drunken indolence (at best) and violence (at worst) of husbands by prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol. There may be no greater testament to the suffocating power of marital expectation than the fact that, for a time, the banning of booze seemed a more practical recourse against spousal abuse than the reform of marriage law or redress of inequities within the home.” (p. 49)