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    The Effects of Education and Independence on Singleness

    April 16, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    I think it important to mention that what I am discussing in this post is a subsection that follows right behind the discarding feminism subsection in Getting Serious About Getting Married. It is always good to know the flow of things in a book and try and discuss it all in context.

    In the prior section {discarding feminism, remember}, Maken ends with two long paragraphs, the tone of which are sounding more and more defensive to me. She begins by accusing men of not being marriage material, of “lagging behind women in this culture.” She explains that she knows this because more men than women are going to college, saving up and buying houses, etc. She then says that the attitude facing women today is that they “deserve to be single for choices they made.” Specifically, she is referring to choices made that make them “successful.” She ends the section with this:

    How dare [women] be successful and leave men behind? As if one sex’s success prevents the others.

    This debate about a woman potentially being more “successful” than a man is personally important to Maken because when she was single she was an attorney. I think, from my reading of this section, it is safe to assume that there were people that Maken encountered in her personal life who thought that she personally was single because she was successful at being an attorney. Obviously, I do not know Maken, so I have no idea if this is true.

    Now this is the part where this gets sticky. I do not have any friends who are single and in such a situation. Not that my single friends are “unsuccessful,” but careers like being a doctor, lawyer, intensely specialized research scientist with a Ph.D. and a post-doc, etc., tend to be viewed in a category all their own. In her book, Maken points to certain other cultures, like that found in India, as an example of a woman’s extensive education and success being viewed as an asset. She says that this is proof that “our mating structure, not educated women, are hostile to marriage.”

    I agree with her in general. I do think that the cultural method of finding a mate is highly unorganized, leaving much to chance and encouraging too much waiting and inactivity on the part of males. However, I also think that Maken is failing to deal with our culture and some of the reservations it has about women with high-powered jobs.

    I asked Si what he would think if he were single and met a woman who was a lawyer. I asked him what he would have thought back when we were single and in college and a female classmate said it was her goal to be a lawyer. He said that he would immediately label her a Career Woman. Maken may rear up and say that this is unfair, and it may be, but, in all honesty, I would have done the same thing.

    I now find it pertinent to share a bit of personal experience. When I first entered college, I was a voice major {think opera here, folks}. I had some health problems in my first semester that required me to rethink my major. So I set about asking the question, “What do I want to do with my life?” I always wanted to sing, and that wasn’t an option any longer.

    My father had often encouraged me to be a lawyer. Even recently he mentioned that I could have been a lawyer. And I can’t say that being a lawyer was completely unappealing. Depending on what sort of law I got into, I think I could have enjoyed all the researching, writing, and developing of logical arguments.

    What held me back was that my deepest desire was to be a wife and mom. Though being a lawyer might have held some short-term enjoyment, I was not created to be a lawyer. But law school takes an intense amount of time and money. It is a huge investment for someone who would immediately give it all up upon motherhood, if not upon marriage. The long and short of it is that I personally chose not to be a lawyer because it did not seem a good fit in light of my desire to be a wife and mom.

    I do not know Maken’s heart. But I do know why the stigmas surrounding women who are doctors, lawyers, psychologists, etc. are there. The stigmas are there because many women who have these jobs do not give them up for the sake of their families. Mrs. Maken did; she is now a homemaker. But I think that because of this she is underestimating the effect on a single woman if she admits to being a doctor or lawyer, or, when she is younger, wanting to be a doctor or lawyer. Many professional women keep the job and try to juggle it with family life. This is not an appealing prospect to some men, and these men may not immediately realize that some “Career Women” hold those careers with open hands.

    Most single women do not have these careers and yet remain single. Having a career does not appear to be the sole cause of singleness. I think that Maken is rightly saying that there is something going on here at the macro level–at the cultural level.

    However, it may help to think about it this way: When pursuing a goal, it is usually best to try the most direct route. Law school is an indirect route to motherhood. It doesn’t preclude motherhood. Many lawyers are mothers. But if my daughter looks at me someday and says, “Mommy, my deepest desire is to be a wife and mom,” I am going to help her take the most direct route possible. Though a job and education is of great importance when unmarried, I would never suggest she become a doctor while waiting for Mr. Right. It just doesn’t make much sense.

    I will close by saying that this post is not meant to be a criticism of a woman who is already in a high-level career. It is not meant to be interpreted that I have no compassion for single women who have this problem. It is simply that I think two things are overlooked by Maken:

    1. There is a stigma attached to being a doctor, lawyer, or any profession traditionally belonging to males. This is how the culture tends to be, especially the Christian culture-within-the-culture. Instead of decrying the stigma, Maken needs to be explaining to women in this situation that they are going to have to get past that barrier with prospective mates, and maybe give some suggestions on how this can be accomplished. Their career will not likely be interpreted as communicating a commitment to home life.
    2. Knowing this, parents have a chance to encourage the next generation to do differently, to make different choices. If Maken really believes that women should be getting married younger, that protracted singleness is inappropriate, and that it is the culture that is keeping them from getting married in a timely manner, the change in culture she is calling the reader to will mean they don’t have time for a law degree anyhow. It logically follows that they will be too busy having babies.

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    2 Comments

  • Reply Brandy April 18, 2007 at 4:49 am

    Elizabeth,

    Welcome to Afterthoughts! This is your first comment, no? 🙂

    I like that you brought up the financial aspect of pursuing an M.D. or Ph.D. There is an article I recently read on education and debt that you might find interesting. I thought the author made a very good point when he explained that even women who want to give up the career are sometimes unable to because they have so much debt. Formal education is, in part, a financial decision. Medical school can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars–which tends to be fine if you practice medicine long enough. But for a woman who wants to settle down and have a family, well, you are right! It just isn’t logical–or practical.

  • Reply Elizabeth at A Biblical Home April 18, 2007 at 2:26 am

    This post made a lot of sense to me. As a teenager, I deeply desired to become a doctor, but as I came to terms with the fact that it would impossible to be both a doctor and a mother (at least the type of mother I wanted to be), I gave up that plan. I am thankful that I set my “career” aside for a path that would allow me to eventually stay home(even though I had no marriage prospect at the time). It just isn’t logical to invest several years and countless thousands of dollars to pursue “plan B”.

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