Like me, most of my friends are in their 30s, some turning 40...
We’ve tried all of the dating things, found no one and biological clocks are ticking. One friend said her life is not worth living because she hasn’t got a partner or a child.
...life isn’t going how we thought it would. We’re being left behind and without the financial ability (or housing) to freeze eggs or go it alone, or adopt.
I get harassed by some friends, almost bullying me into going on dating apps...But I hated it – men were rude, unkind and I felt physically threatened. I found myself despising all men.
The idea that single people in their 30s are all having fun is a lie. We are the have-nots and we are sad. What now?
Mariella's advice? She wants the reader to focus her energies on bringing about more feminist social revolution. The problem, according to Mariella, is that women still aren't equal enough, so more feminism is needed to fix the condition of "sad singleton" women:
What a fascinating dilemma...in the 22 years since Bridget Jones was published, life hasn’t changed much for women in their 30s. I’m not convinced that even millennials will have a radically altered experience of women’s still untenable position.
While Helen Fielding’s book was dismissed as “women’s writing” at the time, it was a zeitgeist novel that summed up the state of the world for sad “singletons”. Women were told they had equality in a still wholly unequal world. Now here you are, over two decades later, experiencing the same old story. Truly society has not yet shape-shifted enough to fully integrate us.
Your letter confirms what I’ve long suspected – that the seismic changes needed to make the world more bearable for our sex aren’t happening fast enough or with enough focus. Women are still penalised for pregnancy, bear the main burden of domestic life (so often now combined with full-time work) and, despite increasing lifespans, have the same short window in which society deems them to be fully contributing members.
...There will, I firmly believe, come a time when women’s lives truly are equal and breakthroughs in medical science will be welcomed instead of fuelling hysterical headlines about pensioners giving birth....I’m convinced that if you and your friends focus further on shaping the world you want and worry less about what the fates will bring, your chances of fulfilment and happiness will soar...
There's nothing of substance in this advice. Just an abstract call to more equality and a hint that science might solve the problem by allowing women to give birth later in life. It is, at heart, a refusal to even consider that feminism might share some of the blame for disrupting family formation.
So what might help women form families in a more timely way? You could write a book on this, but here are a few suggestions on my part.
First, it would help if women weren't encouraged, from girlhood onwards, to believe in a radical form of autonomy. As an example, here is a quote that I noticed in a girl's magazine my young daughter was reading:
"Women are empowered and strong, and don't have to be saved by some male hero, but can take care of themselves using their intelligence and power."
I agree that women don't need to be "saved" by men. Where, though, in this quote is the recognition that it is natural for women to live as part of a family? What is the point in telling a girl, at age 10, that she can "take care of herself" as an empowered woman, and then consoling her at age 35 when she is in grief at being single and childless?
Second, it doesn't help that feminists see the world as a contest between men and women as hostile social classes. How can this not disrupt family formation, especially among the more highly educated, left-wing women who take these ideologies seriously? I know myself how frustrating it is to hear my work colleagues frequently blaming "white men" for social problems. There is no way I could develop romantic feelings for women with this mindset, i.e. for women who saw me politically and socially as the enemy.
Third, there has to be a recognition that the sexual revolution has had negative consequences. Mariella Frostrup is all for this revolution: on her social media accounts she pushes the idea that there is no such thing as a woman being too "slutty". But if women (and men) do not self-limit when it comes to sexuality, much else follows, including a decline in the ability of women to successfully pair bond, and a rise in the rate of divorce that follows (leading to a decline in trust between the sexes and cynicism about marriage).
The Guardian reader disliked dating apps because she found the men rude and unkind, but if feminist women press the idea that there is to be no self-limitation when it comes to sexuality, then it is likely that standards will be coarsened.
Fourth, reform to family law would help to revive marriage. Currently, a man who marries is heavily exposed to abuse from a divorcing wife. He can lose children, house and future income. There are perverse incentives at the moment for a woman to marry a man without seeing this seriously as a life commitment. If divorce really does have to exist, then there should be an expectation of shared custody, with the wife supporting herself rather than expecting a now ex-husband to continue his former role of provider.
Fifth, the feminist push for "equality" runs hard up against female hypergamy in relationships. Women want to marry men they can look up to and who they perceive to be worthy in terms of social status, resources and so on. But the pool of high status, high resource men is in decline. The greater the success of feminists in pushing women into higher education and high status professions, the greater the problem these women face in finding men of equal or higher status to marry.
It is a similar story with "empowerment". If women are hypergamous, and are drawn to men who they perceive to be powerful relative to themselves, then the more that women are empowered the more difficult it is for these women to find men who will impress them.
Sixth, feminism has encouraged the collapse into merely economic values. We live in a market economy and the values derived from this way of organising society, such as career and consumer lifestyles, have become too dominant. Feminists very clearly believe that it is a higher thing for a woman to work in an office as an employee than to be a mother within a family. There is little acknowledgement of how important family roles are in terms of our identities as men or women, or in fulfilling a deeper instinct to reproduce and carry on our traditions, or in the natural drive to experience parenthood and maternal or paternal love, or in our basic human relational needs of having the love and close support of those we are closely related to.
Finally, it is difficult to secure family formation in a culture that has rejected virtue. The question of what qualities should be cultivated so that a man might be a good husband and father, or a woman a good wife or mother, are rarely asked and, in the case of women, would probably be considered regressive. But it cannot be merely assumed that individuals will develop in a way that allows them to be good candidates for marriage. A woman, for instance, needs to develop qualities related to emotional regulation, loyalty and patience, a self-sacrificing love, prudence, gratitude, and appreciation of the worth in everyday things - and none of these can simply be assumed, they need rather to be fostered both within the culture and within the individual soul.
It is part of the nature of genuinely masculine men (men with the warrior instinct) that they wish to defend the good not only in themselves but within their own people. There is an order that can be won from the flux and chaos of the world, that represents things being set right. Ultimately, a people lives or dies by the presence or absence of such genuinely masculine men (men with chests, as C.S. Lewis put it).
Family formation is part of what has to be set right for a people to flourish. It is where we need those genuinely masculine men to re-form and to take charge of the culture. The grieving single women won't find any solutions in the Guardian, let alone from Mariella Frostrup, and nor from Western men who have collapsed into a view that either sets economic values as paramount, or who believe only in a discordant reality, so that there are only individuals and their own autonomous choices, with no choice having any more significance or value than another.
We have to retrieve something within the culture that is not entirely lost, but that has been put away for some time.
A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.