‘Marriage Changes When You Don’t Just Need A Warm Body and a Paycheck’: A Talk With Rebecca Traister
(Link): ‘Marriage Changes When You Don’t Just Need A Warm Body and a Paycheck’: A Talk With Rebecca Traister by Jia Tolentino
- After two months, my [Jia Tolentino’s] copy of Rebecca Traister’s new book is already dog-eared, wine-stained, and train-battered. All the Single Ladies is essential, careful, bold, and rigorous; it’s a warning and a celebration, and I loved it. Traister and I talked on the phone last week.
- [Rebecca Traister said]… I always hated it when my heroines [book characters] got married.
- … but I took in the message that Laura learned, and then taught us: that marriage was the end of fun.
- …one of the interesting things that’s happened coterminously with the decline in marriage rate is the rise of the wedding industrial complex and the fetishization of marriage as the signal achievement of female life.
- That’s happened even as women have been marrying less and less, and for a couple of reasons.
- One, the economic strata of women who still most consistently marry are the wealthiest women: you have a whole industry that’s built up around selling them very expensive weddings, and this industry now crosses classes. There’s a diffuse but very strong pressure to correct women’s move away from marriage by fetishizing it.
- This, in turn, is possible in part because marriage is no longer the thing that kicks off a woman’s adult life.
- As sociologists put it, marriage is now a capstone event instead. It’s the thing you do when your life is in shape, when you have the right amount of money —and particularly in middle and lower-income communities, when you know you have the right partner, and in many cases, when you already have a kid. Marriage is popularly a sign that your life is in order, which contributes to this renewed positioning of marriage as aspirational.
- [Jia Tolentino said] Right. It’s the fairytale narrative run through a late-capitalist filter. You make your money, you formalize your ambitions, and then you still get rewarded with the kiss and the ring.
- [Rebecca Traister said] Despite all this, women are still not marrying at the same rate they were. You can bombard women with messages that they should be aiming for this; that they should be doing that. But you know what? They’re still not doing it. You might be able to make them feel bad about it—but this mass behavior no longer applies.