Marriage & Motherhood Are No Longer The Milestones Of Adulthood. Now What? by J. Filipovic
I’ve done several blog posts on this blog for years now mentioning how secular culture used to equate getting married as signifying one is an adult – and they unfortunately still do this in regards to sexual intercourse: you’re not considered a true adult until you have sex.
Christian culture is 100 times worse at both: Christians are not counter-cultural. They like to think they stand in opposition to the moral decay and laxity of sexual values in our society, but they actually take those secular attitudes and run with them. Christians can be ten times worse at maintaining and perpetuating falsehoods about sex and marriage more so than the secular culture they often complain about.
Christians also regard sex and marriage as necessary rites into adulthood. If you are over the age of 25 or 30, not married yet, and still a virgin, Christians also think you are stunted, repressed, weird, a freak, and you’re immature.
Christians don’t seem to stop and think that Jesus of Nazareth never married and never had sex, and the Apostle Paul actually wrote to the Corinthians it was better to remain single and celibate rather than to marry and have sex.
(Link): Marriage & Motherhood Are No Longer The Milestones Of Adulthood. Now What? by J. Filipovic, June 2018
… As more and more women around the world delay marriage and childbearing, or never marry or have children at all, the traditional markers of adulthood are shifting.
Half a century ago, adulthood in America came along with marriage, then a home, then children, in that order, with women typically marrying before they turned 20.
Today, the average woman marries at 27, while the average age of first birth is just over 26 — in other words, many women are having babies before marriage, and many others aren’t getting married or having babies at all.
As these traditional markers of adult life fall away or get pushed back, women are figuring out how to replace them — and redefining adulthood in the process.
In 2018, the one-size-fits markers of adulthood have evolved. Now, many women are finding that personal independence, like a first paycheck, living alone for the first time living alone, a first solo vacation, paying off one’s student loans, or being able to financially support one’s parents is a more noteworthy milestone than marriage. Johana Bonnell, a 35-year-old chef in Seattle, tells Bustle her transition into adulthood came from forging her own path, including traveling and “seeing how other people live” — and having the freedom to live outside of society’s traditional ideas of what it means to be an adult.
For Anna Holmes, the senior vice president of Topic.com, the editorial arm of the film and TV production company First Look Media, adulthood was more a state of mind than a set of milestones. …
… Which doesn’t mean there weren’t notable “Now Entering Adulthood, Please Fasten Your Seatbelt” signposts along the way. “The first time I could afford to rent my own apartment in New York was a big deal for me,” says Holmes. “It was a marker of adulthood, I wasn’t going to have to have a roommate anymore. It was terrifying and then quickly freeing.” Bonnell bought her own home earlier in her 20s, a twist on the traditional moving-into-husband’s-house narrative that has long marked female independence.
But the marriage-as-independence paradigm wasn’t so much a kind of freedom, as it was a kind of servitude, or “wifehood,” as historian and author Alexis Coe calls it.
As she tells Bustle, “Up until the 21st century, almost all American women had been wives at some point in their lives, whether that was a formal relationship or not. They were wives to husbands, they were wives to fathers, they were wives to brothers. They were always taking care of someone’s house because they were a ward of it. So in American culture, women have held this place of being the fabric of American life, and that explains some of our longest and most vicious battles of American identity — they all touch on the home and the family.”
Men, at least since the American revolution, have enjoyed independence and a sense of adulthood when they were financially autonomous or professionally competent. By the 20th century, the concept of adult milestones came into sharper focus, though they remained mostly gender-segregated.
For men, the ability to be a breadwinner for a wife and children was key. But women, according to Coe, were struggling to carve out a sense of autonomy for themselves, too.
And they did it on two fronts: labor and consumerism, both of which neatly dovetailed with an emerging sense of personal independence in the United States.
In the 1950s, a booming post-war economy and ample federal assistance ushered white families into single-family homes in the suburbs; women, for the first time in American history, began marrying and having babies at younger ages than their mothers did.
The broader cultural message was one of male achievement and female domesticity.
Think advertising executive Don Draper and his stay-at-home wife, Betty — a blissfully happy married couple whose arrangement never caused them inner turmoil or resentment (just kidding!).
… But the 1950s were a blip, and reality was more complicated than the advertisements implied. Women of color and immigrant women had long worked outside of the home in the United States — between 1890 and 1960, about 40 percent of non-white women were employed, with little fluctuation.
In that same time period, even with the post-war fetishization of white female domesticity, the proportion of white women in the labor force doubled. After 1960, women’s workforce participation surged.
Throughout the 20th century, “women’s labor changed consumerist culture in America, which directly impacted women’s ability to carve out an adulthood for themselves,” says Coe.
Before 1900, “the idea of individualism for women was simply off the table,” she says. “We see the introduction of that in the 1920s, of women being able to buy hats and French heels, of being able to go to supper clubs, we see department stores sponsoring supper clubs for working class women.”
This commercial power — a woman’s ability to afford something on her own, something long primarily available to men — remains resonant for women today.
But instead of hats and French heels, it’s more likely to be a house or an education. Samhita Mukhopadhay, the executive editor of Teen Vogue, tells Bustle that she felt like a real adult “the first time I could buy something really expensive. I bought my parents’ house last year, and that felt very adult.” For Anna Holmes, “When I finally paid off my student loans after 12 years, it felt like I was very much an adult.”
Women’s financial independence, and the personal independence it begets, has always been suspect, especially in more conservative segments of society, who rightly see that autonomous women are less likely to play by long-established rules of female subservience and male dominance. With every step toward female freedom, a backlash has followed.
In the 1920s, middle-class women heard that their reputations, and therefore their marital prospects, might be damaged if they were seen cavorting around on their own.
But the threat didn’t work then, and similar scare tactics — today’s claims that (Link): working women are miserable and “can’t have it all,” that (Link): delaying marriage and childbearing are ruining the American family or the demographics of white America — don’t seem to be working, either.
…. With female financial independence has also come a big shift in social perceptions of marriage.
As recently as a half-century ago, marriage was largely about a man ready to enter adulthood, job in hand, and a woman embracing dependence on a husband instead of a father, and signing up to bolster the independence of her husband and future sons.
Marriage, in this model, was what marriage scholars call the cornerstone model: one part of building an adult life.
Today, marriage is treated as more of a capstone: A thing you do after you’ve established yourself as an independent adult.
But even the concept of “independent adulthood” gets fuzzy for young people who are more likely to live with their parents than any generation in the last half-century.
“As we’re having to develop new ways of organizing marriage, child-raising, love, sex, we’re having to find new definitions of adulthood,” American historian and scholar Stephanie Coontz tells Bustle, noting that, “millennial women, in particular, are in uncharted territory.”
… There’s also a false narrative about how major life events are supposed to transform us into adults. “The one time I didn’t really feel like an adult was when I got married because, looking back on it, I realize we were kids who didn’t know how to be married, which is why it didn’t work out,” says Holmes.
“I had markers of adulthood, I wore a wedding ring, and I used phrases like ‘my husband,’ but I didn’t feel authentically like an adult because I was married.”
What did feel very adult: getting a divorce.
That, she says, “was enough of a shitshow and upsetting enough that having gone through it I feel stronger and more adult.”
Which doesn’t mean that marriage and babies aren’t still what we think of when we think of “adulthood.” Even women who are living outside of the cookie-cutter model find it can be a challenge to see their own life choices (or for some, what feel more like circumstances than choices) treated with the same respect and seriousness as the more traditional events like weddings and baby showers.
And even when women do think outside the box, it’s these traditional milestones that all other life events are filtered through and judged against.
… For Mukhopadhay, her first book, a feminist look at dating, was a major personal and professional accomplishment — and the reaction to it was a telling insight into just how much the old markers still matter, even to her feminist-minded friends.
The book came out right around the same time that most of her friends were getting married, and, Mukhopadhay says, “Especially because of the content of my book, which is an interrogation of heteronormativity and how we put pressure on coming of age rituals for women and marriage… I was really hurt by my friends who made no effort to come to my book party who I had done huge things to come to their wedding — flown across the country, officiated a wedding. It was a turning point for me.”
A friend told her that she should say something, and explain why her book party was so important. “And I was like, I shouldn’t have to tell you my book party is a big important thing,” Mukhopadhay says. “You didn’t have to tell me your wedding was a big, important thing.”
… Of course, even some of the most self-proclaimed feminist women aren’t immune to feeling badly about missing certain traditional milestones. For Mukhopadhay, “not getting married isn’t a big political choice I’ve made, it’s not meeting anyone I want to marry,” she said.
Read the rest here.
The Bible no where teaches that marriage, having sex, or becoming a parent are necessary for a person to become mature, adult, or godly – so Christians need to stop assuming this is so.
Maybe once Christians stop equating having sex or getting married to being an adult, they may possibly start showing equal time and consideration to the adult singles in their churches or neighborhoods and start meeting their needs.
(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 – Also: More Hypocrisy – Christians Teach You Need A Spouse to Be Purified, But Also Teach God Won’t Send You a Spouse Until You Become Purified