14 Reasons Why Some Women Always Need a Man to Feel Safe and Valued
Women Have Come a Long Way But Still Have a Greater Distance to Travel
I got one of the biggest jolts of my life when my 68-year-old mother started a serious relationship just 13 months after my father's sudden death. She had complained about my dad for decades—calling him grouchy, negative, and controlling (which he was). I was flummoxed and flabbergasted that she'd give up her new-found freedom and jump into another committed partnership with someone who had the same destructive qualities. But she did and remains there 15 years later.
Although generations apart from my mother, Samantha, my 29-year-old hairdresser, is another woman who can't bear to live without a man. She recently left her husband of 10 years for another guy. When that relationship deteriorated, she immediately begged her friends to set her up with someone new. She began hanging out at bars late into the night to find a replacement. Being without a man—even for a short period—made her feel absolutely worthless and miserable.
Many of us know women like my mother and Samantha who'd rather have a creep in their lives than nobody at all. They frustrate and infuriate us with their dependency on men at a time when it doesn't seem necessary. When we examine history, however, it's not surprising that many women still feel compelled to have a guy at their sides for safety, social status, and financial security. Although the slogan "you've come a long way, baby" is true in many ways, we still have a greater distance to travel. After all, the women's movement is only about 50 years old. Here are 14 reasons why some women always need a man:
Feminists Were Often Portrayed in the Media as Strident and Humorless
Our History Leads Us to Desire (and Need) a Man
1. Historically, women have been defined by their husbands. During World War II, they were recruited to work in factories as men were forced to vacate those jobs for military service. Before that time, most stayed at home—their identities tied to their roles as wives and mothers. They didn't have the same opportunities as men to pursue higher education and higher-paying careers so they were financially dependent on their spouses. Most women of my mother's generation never considered jobs in medicine, engineering, and science.
2. Single women were called “old maids” and “spinsters.” During Victorian times, a woman's purpose in life—no matter what her class—was to wed a suitable man. Marriage was considered “the crown and joy of a woman's life—what we were born for.” If a women couldn't secure a mate, she was pitied and marginalized. In movies and television shows, librarians and school teachers of the past were portrayed as homely women who couldn't attract men. They had to work to survive, not because they were pursuing a passion.
3. Single women by choice were often seen as strident and humorless. During the women's movement of the 1960's and 70's, many of its leaders were portrayed in the media as harsh, grave, and unfeminine. These “women's libbers” was often characterized with underarm hair, baggy clothes, and no makeup. They were often seen as man-haters and anti-family. Traditional housewives like my mother were intimidated by this new type of female and worried what the future would hold.
4. History classes in the past focused only on the contributions of First Ladies but not other women who helped build our nation. When I was in school during the 70's, our history books had just a small section about groundbreaking First Ladies such as Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt. We were left with the impression that women had to marry well to make a difference in the world.
5. Until recently, it was extremely difficult for women to earn their own wealth. Most of the rich women in our nation's past (and present) got their fortune from a father (Alice Walton, heiress to the Walmart fortune) or a deceased husband (Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc, and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple's founder, Steve Jobs).
6. Unlike “Mr.” that's used by all males, titles for women have been assigned according to marital status—either “Mrs.” or “Miss.” In 1972, Gloria Steinem launched a new magazine called “Ms.” and that title gained popularity to represent all females. While still frequently used in business, “Ms.” is rejected by many young women today who think it sounds too coarse and political.
7. According to “The Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund,” women are 35 percent more likely to be poor in America than men. Historically, women have remained in low-playing jobs such as retail, hospitality, teaching, and child care. Women with these jobs struggle to survive on one income. Although she has many clients, my hairdresser, Samantha, struggles to make end's meat. As a private contractor, she must shell out a lot of money to purchase her own health insurance and pay rent at the salon.
The Character "Cathy" From the Comic Strip Perpetuated A Lot of Stereotypes About Single Women
A Woman With a Man Gains Social Status and Respectability
8. Single women have long been marginalized in society and left out of social gatherings. Women who give parties invite couples. A single gal (especially an attractive one) is seen as a threat and an outsider.
9. Many female stars of the silver screen were married multiple times (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie) and each union made them seem more glamorous and desirable. Elizabeth Taylor, who was married eight times, stayed in the spotlight even after her film career dried up because of her high-profile relationships. She even married John Warner, a United States senator from Virginia.
10. Female celebrities hop from one relationship to another to stay in the public eye. Pop star, Taylor Swift, has made a career of writing songs about her former boyfriends, giving young girls the impression that a man shapes a woman's life more powerfully than anything else.
11. “The Bachelor” is one of the longest-running and most successful shows on television with thirty gorgeous young women competing for the heart of one man. The goal is for the women to get the ultimate happy ending on the show's finale—a big sparkly ring and a wedding proposal.
12. Single women in popular culture have often been portrayed as desperate and neurotic. I grew up reading the comic strip “Cathy” that ran in 1,400 newspapers from 1976-2010. Cathy was a single working woman presented in a stereotypical and often negative way. She was always obsessing about food, her weight, shopping, and finding a man to marry.
13. On-line dating and the “hookup culture” make it easy for men to have sex without a commitment. The number of singles now outnumbers married people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50.2 of American adults are single today while only 22 percent in 1950.
14. Even though my mother's boyfriend is no prize, her friends envy her for just having a guy. When a woman reaches that age range, the odds are against her finding a partner. When we're 50-54, there are equal numbers of single men to single women. When we're 60-64, there are 2.3 single women to every single guy. When we reach 70-74, we might as well forget it as single women outnumber men 4 to 1. With her male companion, my mother's social life expanded greatly. She has two social sets now—her widowed lady friends and her couple friends.
This Book Makes a Marvelous Gift for Young Women Who Should Learn About Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem once famously quipped: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." In this collection of her essays from the early 1960's to the early 1980's, we join Steinem on her adventures as a writer and leader in the women's movement. I remember watching her on television when I was a kid—straight hair, little makeup, pants—and thinking how different she was. She was strong and serious—no fake cheeriness or bubble-headed behavior. Perhaps, because she's still alive, Steinem doesn't get nearly the credit she deserves for being a feminist pioneer. Many young women don't appreciate how much she did to improve their lives now.
© 2017 McKenna Meyers