When Newsweek ‘Struck Terror in the Hearts of Single Women’ – Bogus Study Said Women Over 40 More Likely To Be Killed By A Terrorist Than to Marry

When Newsweek ‘Struck Terror in the Hearts of Single Women’ – Bogus Study Said Women Over 40 More Likely To Be Killed By A Terrorist Than to Marry

I was maybe a teen or in my 20s when this study came out. I remember at the time thinking it sounded pretty questionable and stupid.

(Link):  When Newsweek ‘Struck Terror in the Hearts of Single Women’ by M. Garber


  • Thirty years ago, the magazine declared that single women over 40 are more likely to be killed by terrorism than to get married—prompting a nationwide crisis whose anxiety still lingers.
  • …Thirty years later—the publication date of the article was June 2—it’s easy to forget that the so-pervasive-as-to-be- (Link): Ephroned marriage-and-terrorism stat was plucked from a single piece of journalism that was in turn based on a study that was, at the time of the story’s publication, unpublished. It’s also easy to forget, given its resonance, that the stat comes from an article that has since been so (Link): thoroughly (Link): debunked, by demographers and sociologists and media outlets alike, that Newsweek, 20 years after the fact, (Link): retracted it.

  •  ….But what’s perhaps most striking about the story, 30 years later, is how oddly fresh it still feels, how urgent its anxieties still seem. The piece’s core message—panic, ladies, because your professional goals will undermine your personal ones—lives on, in its way, in every current news story about the difficulty educated women face in the “marriage market,” in every blithe reference to the “biological clock,” and indeed in every piece of media that gazes upon women’s bodies and sees, in their fleshy fallibility, some form of social determinism.
  • ….So did the story itself, as it delved into the details that formed the meat of the article: considerations of the consequences of women putting careers before family, insinuations of women waiting too long for their Misters Right, blunt declarations that “super-achieving women set impossibly high standards.”
  • It framed “white, college-educated women born in the mid-’50s” as Single Women, a nebulous monolith. It came up with the “better chances of getting killed by a terrorist” line, which (Link): had not appeared in the original study. “Too Late for Prince Charming?” was ultimately a proof of (Link): Betteridge’s law: It presented a single and unpublished statistical analysis under the guise of demographic determinism.
  • Newsweek’s thesis was that women were panicking about some news, and it proved—“proved”—that thesis not by focusing on the news, but by focusing on the panic. And panic, being what it is, has a way of proving itself.
  • What happened post-publication was a pre-web form of viral spread: The article’s scare-stats were shared and amplified via articles in wire services (UPI (Link): dutifully  repeated the story’s “profound crisis of confidence among America’s growing ranks of single women” line) and in other magazines. Its ideas and insinuations made their way to pop culture, whose own products were reckoning with the same phenomena the journalistic media were.
  • ….Because, gah, it felt true! And what’s most jarring, today—30 years after the article was published, and 10 years after it was officially retracted—is how true it feels, still.
  • Not in terms of the debunked stats themselves, or of the women quoted in the article (many of whom, (Link): the Wall Street Journal reported, went on to get married), but rather in the subtler, stickier elements of the article.
  • Its vaguely accusatory tone. Its framing of marriage and career as being fundamentally at odds with each other. Its insinuation that single women have been, essentially, undermining their romantic goals by focusing on their professional ones.
  • The piece, though it made passing reference to women who choose to remain single, pretty much took it for granted that marriage is not just a social institution or an economic arrangement or the atomic bond at the center of the nuclear family, but something broader and more aspirational: a mark of social success. It assumed a cultural attitude that remains with us, today, in news accounts and the products of pop culture: that to be married is not just to love someone or to have a partner or a companion or a co-parent, but also to have unlocked a level in the great game of life. That to be married is to choose, but also to have been chosen. That matrimony is, on top of everything else, a social status that can be conferred only when another person willingly weaves their life to yours.
  • …All of that amounts to a good, and indeed a liberating, development: The culture is increasingly treating marriage, for so long the default social arrangement, as a choice rather than a fact of life.But: The culture was already doing that in 1986. (“Many women,” the Newsweek piece notes, “have frankly come to terms with staying single—perhaps even preferring it to settling for Mr. Wrong.”)

    (( click here to read the rest ))

Regarding that last line: I was engaged to an idiot, a jackass. I am more happy without him and being single than having entered a terrible marriage with him. The selfish douche didn’t even try to meet any of my needs, the whole relationship was focused on him and what he wanted. There was no way in hell I was going to MARRY THAT. It really is better to stay single than settle for Mr. Wrong.

Related Posts:

(Link):  How Sorry Do We Feel for the Lonesome Single Bachelors of New York? by T. Moore (never married men in their 40s talk about being tired of being single)

(Link): Myths About Never Married Adults Over Age 40

(Link): More 40-Something Single Women Falling Prey to Dishonest or Violent Men in Dating (says report)

(Link):  What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis (from TIME) (ie, Why Are Conservative Religious Women Not Marrying Even Though They Want to Be Married. Hint: It’s a Demographics Issue)

(Link): Does God Require Singles to Be Perfect Before He Will Send Them a Spouse

(Link): Typical Incorrect Conservative Christian Assumption: If you want marriage bad enough, Mr. Right will magically appear

(Link):  Stop Telling Women Their Most Valuable Asset Is Their Youth

(Link): Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians Re: Marriage

(Link): The Stupid Advice We Give To Single Women Over 40 (from the Current Conscience Blog)

(Link): First Time Marriage for Man and Woman Both Over Age 40

(Link): This dad is glad he postponed fatherhood (commentary – first time father at age 40 or older)

(Link): Never-Married Men Over 40: Date-able or Debate-able?

(Link): Woman’s First Marriage at Age 40+

(Link): Men Become ‘Invisible’ And Lose Sex Appeal At 39 – Article from Daily Caller

(Link): First Time Marriage for Man and Woman Both Over Age 40

(Link):   The Grief, Happiness, and Hope of Late-in-Life Singleness by H. Ferguson (she married for first time at age 58) 

(Link):  Single and 40: Dealing with Disappointment by L. Bishop

(Link):  Ageism Vs. Age Preferences and Creepy Older Men

(Link): I’m 45, Single And Childless. No, There’s Nothing ‘Wrong’ With Me. by M Notkin

(Link): Infertility/ Kids/ The Male Biological Clock

(Link): Ladies Over 35 Years Of Age Having Babies

(Link):  Stop putting pressure on women to have kids before they’re 30 by A Chandler

(Link): Obnoxious, Condescending, Sexist Esquire Editorial by 50-Something Year Old Man, Tom Junod: “In Praise of 42 Year Old Women” – Condescendingly Reassures 40 Something Women He’d Sex Them Up

(Link): Why men are boycotting marriage, fatherhood and the American Dream (article by Matt K. Lewis)

(Link): Why all the articles about being Child Free? On Being Childfree or Childless – as a Conservative / Right Wing / Christian

(Link): College Women, Don’t Listen to Marriage Concern Trolls

(Link): True Love Waits . . . and Waits . . . and Waits – editorial about delayed marriage and related issues

(Link): The Irrelevancy To Single or Childless or Childfree Christian Women of Biblical Gender Complementarian Roles / Biblical Womanhood Teachings

(Link): Otherhood – An overlooked demographic – the Childless and Childfree Women and Singles Especially Women Who Had Hoped to Marry and Have Kids But Never Met Mr. Right (links)

(Link): The Nauseating Push by Evangelicals for Early Marriage

(Link): The best age to marry is when you meet the right person – editorial responding to study that says if you marry past 30 your marriage is doomed

(Link):  Are Marriage and Family A Woman’s Highest Calling? by Marcia Wolf – and other links that address the Christian fallacy that a woman’s most godly or only proper role is as wife and mother

 (Link): Singleness Is Not a Gift

(Link):  Please Stop Shaming Me for Being Single by J. Vadnal

(Link): Why It May Be Wiser For Women to Enter First Marriage At Age 40+ – especially ones from religious or conservative families

(Link): The advantages to getting engaged at age 37, by Patricia Beauchamp

(Link): The Netherworld of Singleness for Some Singles – You Want Marriage But Don’t Want to Be Disrespected or Ignored for Being Single While You’re Single

(Link): Article by J. Watts: The Scandal of Singleness

(Link):  Statistics Show Single Adults Now Outnumber Married Adults in the United States

(Link):   Thirty Year Old Woman Kills Herself Due to Being Single and Childless – Churches contribute to this by either Ignoring adult singles or shaming them for being single and childless

(Link):   Stop Believing God Told You to Marry Your Spouse by G. Thomas

(Link):  Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians Re: Marriage

(Link):  The Holy Spirit Sanctifies a Person Not A Spouse – Weekly Christian Marriage Advice Column Pokes Holes in Christian Stereotype that Marriage Automatically Sanctifies People

(Link): How Christians Have Failed on Teaching Maturity and Morality Vis A Vis Marriage / Parenthood – Used as Markers of Maturity Or Assumed to be Sanctifiers

(Link): The Myth of the Gift – Regarding Christian Teachings on Gift of Singleness and Gift of Celibacy

(Link): There is No Such Thing as a Gift of Singleness or Gift of Celibacy or A Calling To Either One

(Link):   Decent Secular Relationship Advice: How to Pick Your Life Partner

(Link):   Typical Conservative Assumption: If you want marriage bad enough (or at all), Mr. Right will magically appear

(Link):  Depressing Testimony: “I Was A Stripper but Jesus Sent Me A Great Christian Husband”

(Link):  The Cruel, Capricious God of Naive Christians, Concerning Singleness and Marriage – If Only You Had Waited Five More Minutes!

(Link): Ever Notice That Christians Don’t Care About or Value Singleness, Unless Jesus Christ’s Singleness and Celibacy is Doubted or Called Into Question by Scholars?

(Link): Family as “The” Backbone of Society? – It’s Not In The Bible

(Link): Is Singleness A Sin? by Camerin Courtney

(Link):  Wives Are Now More Educated than Husbands In the U.S.

(Link):  Over 10 Million Men of Prime Working Age Are Unemployed in the US and Experts Think It’s Causing Declining Marriage Rates

(Link): Why are Working Women Starting to Unplug from Their Churches? by Sandra Crawford Williamson (Also discusses never married adult women)

(Link): Why Unmarried – Single Christians including MEN Should Be Concerned about the Gender Role Controversy

(Link):  Christianity Should Be Able To Work Regardless of Culture, Childed or Marital Status / Article: Unlike in the 1950s, there is no ‘typical’ U.S. family today by B. Shulte

(Link):  “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site

(Link): Post by Sarah Bessey Re: Churches Ignore Never Married Older and/or Childless Christian Women, Discriminate Against Them

(Link):  Christian Teachings on Relationships: They’re One Reason Singles Are Remaining Single (even if they want to get married)

(Link): New-ish Christian Cliche’ About Singlehood: Don’t Waste Your Singleness -or- Make the Most of Your Singleness

(Link): Same Old Tired Advice to Christian Singles

(Link): Fifteen Things You Shouldn’t Say or Do To Your Single Friends

(Link): Annoyances of Being a Christian Single (includes some of the usual cliches you get)

(Link): Responding to the Cliche’ “Jesus Is All You Need” – Re Christian Singles

(Link): The Obligatory, “Oh, but if you’re single you can still benefit from my marriage sermon” line

(Link): The Problem with Platitudes – for Christian single over 35 years old never married

(Link): 10 Things Never to Say to a Single Girl (article)


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