Having missed out on involved grandparents, the author urges older folks to seize their chance to positively impact their grandchild's life.
A Bad Man Is Better Than No Man at All
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, therefore, 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. She did, though, and remains there 15 years later, choosing a life with a not-so-desirable guy and largely turning her back on her children, grandchildren, friends, and volunteer work. She has a man but not much else.
Jumping From Guy to Guy
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 began to deteriorate, she immediately begged her friends to set her up with someone new. She started hanging out at bars late into the night to find a replacement. Looking at eligible guys online became an obsession, and she'd go out with three or four of them a week. Being without a man—even for a short period—made her feel absolutely worthless and miserable even though she had great friends and loved her job. She knew virtually nothing that was happening in the world with current affairs, politics, and celebrities. Her focus was almost exclusively on her love life. She was only willing to let go of her current guy when she had a new one on the hook.
We Still Have a Long Way to Go
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 tangible reasons—safety, social status, and financial security—and for the intangible reason—to make them feel complete. Although the slogan "you've come a long way, baby" is true in many ways, we still have a great 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 (don't be surprised if you recognize someone in your circle or, perhaps, even yourself)!
1. Women have historically been defined by their husbands
During World War II, women were recruited to work in factories when 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 even considered jobs in medicine, engineering, and science. If they did pursue work outside the home, it was typically low-paying jobs such as store clerks, customer service, and textile workers. Women making huge strides in high-paying, prestigious careers such as lawyers, doctors, and business leaders is a recent development, explaining why so many women still want a successful man to give them status.
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 in order to survive, not because they were pursuing a passion. The notion that a career could be fulfilling and enjoyable for a woman, and not just drudgery, is another recent development in our history as women begin to see their jobs as a path to happiness, not just marriage and kids.
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. Men like my dad were threatened by them.
Many of us today hold Gloria Steinem in high regard and are grateful for the role she played as a prominent leader of the women's movement in the 60's and 70's. I was a girl attending Catholic school during those times, though, and I remember how she was demonized—portrayed as the antithesis of the wholesome values we held dear such as home, family, and marriage. When Steinem said "a woman without a man was like a fish without a bicycle," she was seen as dangerous and revolutionary.
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 contained scant information on important women in American history. There was just a small section about groundbreaking First Ladies such as Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jacqueline Kennedy (and, of course, Betsy Ross who sewed the first American flag). We were left with the impression that women had to marry well to make a difference in the world (or be a seamstress). We thought a woman's primary role was to be supportive of her husband. We didn't hear the tales of strong women who did brave deeds such as Pocahontas, Sacajawea, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. We thought our destiny rested with the ambition of our spouse and not within ourselves.
5. Until recently, it was extremely difficult for women to make their own wealth
Most of the fabulously wealthy women in our nation's past (and present) got their fortune from a father (Alice Walton, heiress to the Walmart fortune), a deceased husband (Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc, and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple's founder, Steve Jobs) or a divorce. It's only in recent times that we've see women become incredibly rich and powerful on their own such as Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Sandberg. They are shining examples to girls today that it's possible to secure their own economic futures without depending on a man. According to the National Association of Realtors, 23 percent of first-time home buyers are now single women, proving that women feel more confident about making big steps forward in their lives without a husband.
6. While men (married or single) have one title, Mr., women have traditionally had titles to denote whether they're married or not, 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. Even after all these decades, women are still using different titles based on whether they're married or not. When a woman gets the married title of "Mrs.," it seems more sophisticated and grownup sounding than the childish "Miss" or the strident "Ms."
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. She lives paycheck-to-paycheck and has no savings for retirement. Having a man in her life to share expenses certainly eases her financial worries and makes her feel safer at her apartment in a not-so-safe part of town. Although women have come along way, they still rely heavily on men for safety and protection.
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. A woman with a man gains social status and respectability. She can mix with both men and women and isn't seen as a piranha. Even though my mother's boyfriend is certainly no winner, friends envy her because she has a man to escort her to church, take her to parties, and elevate her position in their retirement community.
9. Many female stars of the silver screen were married multiple times
Leading ladies of the big screen such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Angelina Jolie were married many times 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. Actresses in Hollywood have long known that they can keep themselves in the spotlight, despite movie flops, if they're paired with a high-profile actor.
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. Many young actresses throughout the decades have used relationships with high-profile men to garner publicity when they're starting out in show business. Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Lopez all dated a string of male celebrities when launching their careers.
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. Who would think at this time in her nation's history with women making such strides in business, education, and politics that a program with such a backward message would be such a hit? Yet, it offers that simplistic fairytale ending that so many of us grew up believing--finding romance and living happily ever after.
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. She was single, insecure, and neurotic and made being single seem dreadful.
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. The days when men had to marry a woman or find a hooker to have sex are long gone.
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 content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I loved the article but I do wish you would have mentioned more about the "labels and treatment" we, as women face, even today if we dare to speak up for ourselves. The Me Too movement, etc, has been a great kickstarter. I've been blacklisted from radio going on 30 so-odd years now because I believe I was one of the first to "dare" file a sexual harassment suit against my radio station, so how do we fight against that?
Answer: I read the other day that 85% of men don't know what the Me Too Movement is so we still have a long way to go! But if these uninformed fellows are foolish enough to sexually harass a female co-worker, they're now much more likely to be reported and suffer consequences because of it. Women today feel empowered, want to see more progress, want to get ahead in their careers, and reap the financial benefits.
No woman today needs to feel alone. We're in this together and we all have an obligation to act so there won't be more victims. We need to keep the discussion going, letting employers know how sexual harassment affects our mental health, our ability to perform on the job, and our interest in staying with the company. So many talented women like you were lost in the early days and we don't want that to continue.
You were one of the early heroes (and victims) of the movement. You took a stand and suffered the consequences. We owe you a debt of gratitude because you paved the way for what's happening now. Your sacrifice made a huge difference in this movement and you should be commended.
The culture has definitely shifted and you can see that on television. I grew up watching Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. They always had big-breasted blondes on their shows, made jokes about them being well-endowed, and treated them as mere objects and punchlines. Even more recent shows such as “Friends” and “Two and a Half Men” seem so outdated and offensive in their treatment of women now that they're barely watchable. The sexist jokes just fall flat.
While I see positive things coming from the Me Too Movement in regards to the workplace, I don't see such a rosy picture regarding the overall treatment of women in society. I read an article today about “incels” or “involuntary celibates” (there are dozens of articles about them on the internet). They're a hate group with an online presence. They're angry guys who despise women for not choosing them as sexual partners. It's all quite disturbing as so many of these online groups are and reflects the rising hostility against women.
As we become more powerful—becoming financially independent, getting ahead in our careers, making strides in politics, and deciding who we find sexually desirable—backlash is inevitable. The last presidential election proved that there will be no kid gloves for female candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina.
I'm sorry you lost your position in radio. I'm grateful the Me Too Movement has shined a light on the actresses who lost roles and careers because of sexual harassment. It's so heartbreaking to think of the talent we lost.
© 2017 McKenna Meyers