What do you think about marriage?

I thought when Obama was elected president, we’d never have to look at Cheney’s face again. I was wrong on that, too.

So Taylor Marsh made me go look at a Greenwald post about Cheney and his book over on Salon, and because my brain was trying to escape I saw a thing in the sidebar titled, “Is Marriage for White People?” and so I went there. It’s about a book talking about the declining marriage rate for black women by Ralph Richard Banks, a law professor at Stanford. Which makes him a sociologist, I guess.

Banks, a professor of law at Stanford University, uses detailed interviews and extensive statistical research to argue that this gender and racial imbalance has dire implications for both child-rearing and the long-term happiness of African-American women.

I get suspicious when I see men earnestly trying to tell women why they’re unhappy. So I look around. I find this old NYT article.

For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

Why? Again from NYT:

Several factors are driving the statistical shift. At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods. At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.

OMG NO!!!! Women are enjoying themselves. Later:

Only about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.

So, there is quite a culture spread.

Banks says:

To the people who say black women are leading the charge in being unmarried and we should applaud them rather than subject them to scrutiny, I would say they’re really missing the experience that a lot of black women are having. A less charitable take is that it’s doing a disservice to black women to manipulate their experience for the ideological ends of feminism.

To be honest, I would be happy in a good marriage, and I want that. But notice I said good; an awful lot of marriages aren’t good. So maybe instead of saying “black women want to get married,” we should talk about why there’s trouble in marriage these days. Oh, look – Banks says:

Lots of professional black women are married to working class men. I describe those situations as mixed marriages because, although the couple shares a race, they have very different educational and social experiences. They’re also probably more likely to have problems as a result. This is a place where the ideology of believing it’s OK for woman to be the economically dominant partner has completely blinded them to the actual experiences of large number of black women for whom it is not a great thing to be with a guy who can’t relate to your professional experiences.

Oh, wait. Look at this. Banks:

The idea is that if black women can improve their market power by expanding their options in an integrated market, then black men would treat them better. This would be a good thing and it would lead to better relationships among African-Americans.

Black women need to sell themselves better, so they can get a better price – er, husband – er, community. Pressure, much?

Does this not happen to people of other colors, or to white people? Back to the Times.

Only about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.


Coupled with the fact that in 2005 married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time, the trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways government and employers distribute benefits.


On the crisis of masculinity, part of my point is that there is continuity between the experiences of African-Americans and others. If you have white men who are unemployed and their wives are professionals and the husband is dependent on the wife, men are uncomfortable with that.

So, it really has more to do with expectations of gender roles/ income, and it’s hitting the black community harder than any other community. So, maybe it really is a “time to reshape your world-view” thing.

I know I should have looked around more, gotten more facts and figures. I should read the book, rather than go all smash on a review. Maybe. Maybe it’s time to figure out that single can be happy for women. Or that things have just changed. That maybe marriage shouldn’t be a monolith. That men and women need to realign their expectations of each other.

Or maybe Salon should quit letting men talk about what women need to be happy.

2 thoughts on “What do you think about marriage?

  1. That’s a mistake I won’t be making a fourth time. And with twenty years between numbers two and three, sixteen of them as a single-father of four, I can only exclaim “What was I thinking!?” My gal friend has her own place, I my own, we see each other frequently enough for good food, bluegrass and hot monogamous sex, and while I don’t know who brought it up (it may not have been either one of us) but when cohabitation came up in conversation we both had a pretty good laugh. It ain’t gonna’ happen.

  2. I think I would ask Twisty at I Blame the motherfucking Patriarchy.

    Wait. I mean I Blame the Patriarchy

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