The political point I've made is this: liberalism holds up autonomy as the highest good, but women are most autonomous when they pursue a single girl lifestyle of career, travel, partying and flings with unsuitable men. Most women don't, however, want to give up entirely on marriage and motherhood. So there is a compromise in which women are supposed to spend their 20s doing careers and single girl things before finally taking family formation seriously in their 30s.
But there are problems with this delay in family formation. The most obvious one is that it gives women little time to meet someone, date, get engaged, marry and then finally have children. By the time the process in properly underway, many women won't be far off declining fertility. Second, the women who wait too long might find that their male peers have adapted to a bachelor lifestyle, or opted out, or married women from overseas, or are interested in younger women, or haven't seen the point in committing to a career.
And so you get women like Kate Bolick, who admits she broke up with a perfectly suitable man at age 28 expecting there to be plenty of replacements later on. But, at age 39, she had to accept that there weren't. And why did she break up with Mr Right? Because she wanted to preserve her autonomy:
...the elevation of independence over coupling (“I wasn’t ready to settle down”) is a second-wave feminist idea I’d acquired from my mother...
I was her first and only recruit, marching off to third grade in tiny green or blue T-shirts declaring: A Woman Without a Man Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle, or: A Woman’s Place Is in the House—and the Senate, and bellowing along to Gloria Steinem & Co.’s feminist-minded children’s album, Free to Be...You and Me...
...my future was to be one of limitless possibilities...This unfettered future was the promise of my time and place...We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.
The problem of delaying family formation is now getting some attention in the mainstream Australian media. I reported recently on an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Bettina Arndt. And now the Catholic Church here in Melbourne has voiced concerns:
WOMEN should marry earlier and not be too picky if they want to avoid an Aussie man drought, the Catholic Church has warned.The statistics given here are a bit misleading. There aren't 1.3 million women chasing 86,000 men as a fair proportion of those women would already be in a relationship (plus, not every woman would expect a man to earn over $60,000). Even so, it's interesting that of 1.343 million men in the 25-34 bracket only 86,000 are single and earning more than $60,000 a year. It does suggest that women who, like Kate Bolick, deliberately ditch a Mr Right are unwise to think that there are plenty more to be had later on.
Australia is experiencing a huge decline in the number of available men, with the church telling the Herald Sun women should also forget living with their partners before tying the knot.
Statistics show there are just 86,000 eligible blokes for 1.3 million females aged between 25 and 34...
But the reverend Father Tony Kerin, episcopal vicar for justice and social service in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, said women wanted the best of both worlds.
"Are women getting too choosy? I'd say yes," said Father Kerin, speaking on behalf of the archdiocese.
"I think many are setting aside their aspirations for later, but by the time they get around to it, they've missed their chance.
"In trying to have it all, they end up missing out."
Father Kerin said the rate of marriage had halved despite nearly four in five people still wanting to settle down.
"For many, it remains an unattainable dream," he said...
Demographer Bernard Salt calculated there are 1.3 million women aged 25-34.
But of the 1.343 million men in the same age bracket, only 86,000 single, heterosexual, well-off, young men were available after excluding those who were already married (485,000), in a de facto relationship (185,000), gay (7000), a single parent (12,000) or earning less than $60,000 a year.
And I congratulate the Catholic Church for speaking up on the issue. Inevitably there will be those who will criticise the Catholic Church for doing so, but if a culture of marriage is to be protected then delayed family formation needs to be tackled.