Do you agree?
Rebecca Traister: I was four or five when my parents read the Little House books to me, so I certainly wasn’t putting together a critique of the marriage model, but I do remember being bizarrely sad when the stories ended. When I was nine or ten, I read the books again on my own, and the same sadness came back: my friends, my funny friends—they got married, and they were done with their wild adventures.
Of course, these are coming-of-age novels. Of course their stories were over when the characters came of age. But the fact that their adventures ended when they marry became what, as an adult, I understood to be a truth of female life.
Women are still not marrying at the same rate they were. You can bombard women with messages that they should be aiming for this; that they should be doing that. But you know what? They’re still not doing it. You might be able to make them feel bad about it—but this mass behavior no longer applies.
Pretty good proof that marriage has historically been awful for us.
And I’m not saying there won’t be a countermovement. But so far, even with all the fetishization of marriage, with all of the pressure being applied by conservative politicians claiming that the cure for poverty is marriage—women still seem to be happy to stay single for longer, even if they’re being bombarded and, in many cases, tortured by this kind of messaging.