Thanks NYT, the Answer to All Our Questions About Marriage, Re-Marriage, Finally

By Juliana Jiménez

Now, for the first time in history, people who aren’t married outnumber those who are. It’s very interesting to look at how the media are trying to analyze this, sometimes insightfully, sometimes a bit less than.

A New York Times article, Alone Again, Naturally, reveals:

“A woman discovers the answer to the question: Why do many men, after a breakup or a divorce, find it so difficult to be alone, while most women in the same situation seem just fine?”

Seems like a very poor editorial decision with the tagline “A woman discovers the answer” … unusually trite and sophomoric –to borrow the commenters’ favorite adjetive. As the writer retells her fall and subsequent conclusions about marriage and remarriage, she “is overcome by sweeping generalities,” which downright contradict reality.

I can’t relate to having to babysit a man; in my case, he cooks a lot, loves it, is good at it. He sows, goes grocery shopping, irons. But I don’t see someone like my dad doing these things, and I could see my mom being annoyed by an eternal babysitter lifestyle. Especially when she is out working as hard as he does, and comes home for unpaid, unrecognized overtime.

I do like some of the author’s statements that eloquently dispel entrenched myths, like the Cooking Woman Myth:

“Women alone eat breakfast at 11 if we feel like it, lunch at 3 and dinner never if that’s the way the day is winding down. Single women do not worry about cooking unless we want to. And we don’t want to unless we like to.

Gotta love that last line. Not all women like to cook. It would seem overdone to clarify clichés like these, but I still get surprised looks when I say I don’t like to go shopping, I don’t like a million shoes, I don’t like drawing attention to myself when I walk into a room, or whatever.

But “joggled brain” or not, I think the author really “was no longer capable of subtle thought.” She multitasks with several stereotypes, like saying that all women are hardwired to be have a nest and to nurture it. Yes, a lot of women are that way, but how much of it is genetics and how much is social construct remains very unclear. It’s not just dogmatic and narrow-minded; saying that “we finally found the answer!” strikes as 19th-Century pseudo-scientific naivete.

The commenters really jumped on her for this, with good reason. A great point one of them made, was that this whole article makes more sense from the perspective of an older woman, at least 40 and above. Had she established that in the beginning, then the fear of falling down and the annoyance at having to babysit her husband would make more sense.

A generational thing, you say. Still, it doesn’t come close to holding up. The biggest outright lie (for me) in the article is when she says that

“Being alone feels dangerous to a man” … “Women do not walk around alert for danger. Nor do we feel that being alone is dangerous.”

What? Those are very strange things to say. On the contrary, I feel that as a woman you are always under “threat” in some way. You are deemed as weaker and as easier prey, not only to something like rape (the interesting phenomenon that is)but to being taken advantage of, say, at a car dealership.

Think of this situation: you are walking alone at night, in a dark alley in a city like New York, or Washington, or Bogotá. You hear steps behind you. Whether you are a man or a woman, the experience is radically different depending on whether that person turns out to be a man or a woman. If that is not immediately apparent to you, then you are very lucky woman living in a very privileged first-world society. In Latin America, for example (not the worst women’s rights place out there) women don’t go out alone when they feel like it. It’s considered basically “asking for it” (you can replace “it” with a number of horrible things).

I have been many times frustrated because I cannot go somewhere without a male friend, say, to photograph something for a newspaper, or go backpacking (this reminds me of this hilarious Onion video). And the feelings of impotence and helplessness of those collective experiences shape who you are as a person, unfortunately.

Women have plenty of fears; so does everybody. And they fear men, just like men do.

6 thoughts on “Thanks NYT, the Answer to All Our Questions About Marriage, Re-Marriage, Finally

  1. It’s a shame that you let your fear stop you from going certain places without a male friend, or from backpacking alone if those are things you would like to do. I can think of a few women I know who have gone backpacking by themselves throughout all of Latin America as well as Asia and Europe. Don’t let fear keep you from living how you want to!

  2. Just saying “fear won’t stop me! I can do whatever I put my mind to!” won’t will away the staggering amounts of violence against women in many parts of the world. One of the situations I was referring to was when I was a photographer for the Alligator and I had to go to Tent City, when about 1,300 homeless people, mostly men, were being evicted by the police, after two people had been stabbed to death the day before. Let’s just say that tensions were high, and although there were some really nice people there, whom I met, there were also quite a few who were there because of mental illnesses, very bad drug abuse, people who had recently been out of jail for many things, including murder and rape. So my editors were, naturally, a bit concerned to send me alone with one of their $3,000 cameras. A young woman, alone, in the literal middle of the woods, between 90% men living in these conditions…? I don’t know. I went with Sebastian, and I started talking to some guys who were extremely nice to me. But in the meantime, another guy who seemed very mental unstable started threatening Sebastian, telling him to “better grab your woman and go.” So, unfortunately, as much as I would’ve liked to have done MY job on my own, I can’t say that it wasn’t fortunate I wasn’t alone.
    You went to Colombia, to Bogota, and Medellin, you know there are certain places women don’t go alone at night, it’s common sense. Acknowledging that women are also strong and “asserting your independence” or whatever, doesn’t mean ignoring that there are many, many men out there who think it is their God-given right to help themselves to women whenever they want– because that’s what those societies teach them. It’s like harmful colorblindness but apply it to sexism http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/colorblind/201112/colorblind-ideology-is-form-racism
    I’m not sure, but I guess you don’t know what it feels like to walk alone at night minding your own business, when you hear whistles, or a crazy-looking guy eye-raping you and saying disgusting things at you. As a man, you would just walk by and these guys wouldn’t notice you. But in Colombia, in Latin America, from the time you’re 10 until you’re about 60, you deal with this shit, in some streets more than others. And some guys mean it more than others. This is what I mean.
    And Colombia is not the worst place in the world, either, that is very clear. So that is my experience and observation, and that of my friends and relatives.
    I would backpack through Asia alone, like Andrea will soon, and I’ve traveled alone in parts of China. But I wouldn’t do it in, say, Morocco, where I would like to. And women who are strong as hell, like professional photojournalists, work with male fixers and bodyguards when they are in these situations. It seems like belaboring the obvious to argue that more places are more dangerous for women than they are for men, but saying that women now can do whatever they want in the same degree that men can seems to be ignoring an entire history of a people and the current reality they go through every day.

  3. I don’t disagree with a single thing you’ve just said, and I wouldn’t dream of saying that I know what it’s like to be in a woman’s shoes. I’m just saying that if you’re not careful, those very appalling facts can become excuses for you not to do whatever it is you’d like to do. I’ve met women, FAR braver than I, who have traveled by themselves in places that I myself wouldn’t dare. And it isn’t that they’re stupid or naive… they knew fully well what risks they were running by doing so. They just weren’t going to let that stop them.
    For the record, I wouldn’t have gone to that tent city job by myself, either. And there were moments in both Medellin and Cartagena, when I found myself, out of necessity, walking by myself at night in seedy, scarcely-populated streets where neither women nor men should be walking alone, and yes, I was scared.
    But again, I’m not saying that a man has just as much to fear as a woman in these situations– I’m also not stupid or naive. I just don’t want to see you become embittered because you *can’t* do some of the things you want to do. In my opinion, if it comes down to a choice between a risky life that might end sooner than you’d like, and a much longer, safer life filled with bitterness because you’re sitting on the sidelines, the risks are worth it.

  4. What a great, thought-provoking post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. In the United States, I never worry about going out by myself; while living in a “poorer” section of Queens, NYC I would walk the 20 min to the subway station by myself, dressed in high heels and a short dress. Although I never considered NOT dressing that way, or not going out, I will admit that the walk was always nerve-wracking; I’d breathe a sigh of relief if I made it to the subway without too many stares or “mamasitas” being called at me. In Egypt, however, I am virtually a prisoner of my flat; because of the safety issues, my husband requests that I don’t go out for a walk by myself. This frustrates me to NO END, and is the number one reason why I said that we could not live in Egypt. Women should be able to go wherever they want, whenever they want, and not be afraid that somoeone is going to harass them!

    1. @thespectatorssport Thanks for the comment, I was curious to see if my experiences in Colombia and Queens were limited to a Latin American experience of sexism. Sadly, I see it isn’t. The current situation in Egypt with regards to women’s rights is distressing, because the possibility for change is so tangible too; now more than ever there’s a chance to start anew and write new laws and create a system that no longer deprives women of their rights.. but it already seems like that isn’t going to be the case. I will write a post on this soon. The horrible treatment Egyptian women protesters were subjected to, the virginity tests and so much more, leaves one wondering, if that kind of revolution was possible, when will women have their chance to reclaim their rights as human beings? The experience you describe was exactly what SlutWalk was trying to address, the fact that women should be able to walk more freely, not constantly fearing men. We now know from little 8-year-old Naama Margolese in Israel that none of us are immune to this kind of treatment. Thanks for commenting!

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