Every woman struggles with romance at some point in her life. The pressure to find true love by the age of 30 makes women feel like failures if they do not find their perfect partners before society deems them too old to be considered attractive and desirable. Today’s crop of young women are also dealing with an economy that is not conducive to the lifestyles they would like to lead. In short, they are receiving messages that they are not worthy of love while being denied the resources to flourish as single, independent women.
The negative fallout from feminism’s second wave is rarely acknowledged. While today’s women undoubtedly owe a great debt to the feminists who fought for equal rights during the ’70s, a few bad ideas have persisted along with the movement’s enlightened ideals. The main one is the notion of having it all. The second wave encouraged women to cultivate separate but fulfilling lives at work and at home. What feminists never discussed was that having it all should not have been associated with the quest for equality; for better or worse, men did not have it all either. They essentially chose their careers over their families. The second wave promoted a concept that not only is impossible to achieve but that men did not experience either.
This realization should not be upsetting. It is liberating. It frees women from the pressure to lead perfect lives. Instead paying lip service to all possible arenas of life, women should work to achieve the specific goals that are important to them. No one will ever really have it all, but every woman can get what she wants.
There is nothing wrong with not actively wanting to be in a relationship at this moment in time. The job market requires people to have college degrees in order to work the most menial jobs. Women are forced to stay in the infantilism cocoon of university life and their parents’ houses until they are already well into their twenties. They only have a few years to live mature lifestyles before they are expected to get married. This is the new version of having it all. Women are being held accountable for meeting society’s expectations even though society is also imposing job requirements on women that are preventing them from dating. Women have never stopped having to sacrifice either their romantic lives or their job prospects.
In addition to these conflicting expectations, women are forced to deal with the realities of the housing market as the recession continues to do its damage. Women are being kept single, but they are not able to live alone. Small houses and single-bedroom apartments are priced well out of the budgets of the women who want to live in them. They are combating the multiple obstacles that are keeping them single while trying to find places to live that are not priced under the assumption that two people will be paying rent for one bedroom. A house is assigned a price that only a married couple with two incomes can afford.
Much has been written about the effects of hookup culture, but it is still too soon to draw any definitive conclusions about it. People are reluctant to form committed relationships while their living situations are precarious and their incomes are less than impressive. Of course, today’s single women often do not have attractive homes and prestigious jobs until after they have aged out of the peak dating bracket. They cannot afford to have and raise children until their chances of getting married have started to dwindle. Hookup culture is a symptom of much more pervasive social and economic problems. Young adults are still being blamed for not meeting the standards set by a previous generation that refuses to acknowledge simple realities about things like student loan debt.
While all of this might seem dire, it is vital to understand one’s place in the world before progress can be made. Some possible solutions involve redefining one’s ideal relationship and deciding to throw caution to the wind and pursue relationships despite not having much in the way of assets. Perhaps love will come to be less defined by whether or not it results in marriage than by how it moves people to form connections and forge singular paths through everything that attempts to keep them apart.