New York Magazine has a cover story written by Rebecca Traister that details the rise of the American single woman, both praising her influence and lamenting the wider culture’s failure to embrace her in all her liberated glory. It’s a must-read article if for no other reason than that it gives a fascinating glimpse into the motivations of the machination that is the feminist project. Consider this zinger:
The most radical of feminist ideas–the disestablishment of marriage–has been so widely embraced as to have become habit, drained of its political intent but ever-more potent insofar as it has refashioned the course of average female life.
In case you missed it, Traister (a married woman herself) admits that one of the radical–here perhaps she means most fundamental–of feminist ideas is the disestablishment of marriage. And that is exactly what we are seeing unfold before our eyes in today’s wider American cultural climate.
But more interesting from my perspective is Traister’s underlying vision of the good life. What, according to Traister, is necessary in order to have a fulfilling, well-lived life? From what I can tell, her picture of the good life is summed up in this: relational independence.
The way Traister begins her article is telling, with a boast of how long she “made it” in the world independently before she married.
By the time I walked down the aisle–or rather, into a judge’s chamber–in 2010, at the age of 35, I had lived 14 independent, early-adult years that my mother had spend married. I had made friends and fallen out with friends, had moved in and out of apartments, had been hired, fired, promoted, and quit. I had had roommates and I had lived on my own; I’d been on several forms of birth control and navigated a few serious medical questions; I’d paid my own bills and failed to pay my own bills; I’d fallen in love and fallen out of love and spent five consecutive years with nary a fling. I’d learned my way around new neighborhoods, felt scared and felt completely at home; I’d been heartbroken, afraid, jubilant, and bored.
I was a grown-up: a reasonably complicated person. I’d become that person not in the company of any one man, but alongside my friends, my family, my city, my work, and, simply, by myself.
Later in her article, Traister summarizes her research into the lives of other single women and she concludes that, again, what these women are after is independence.
Academic drive, the urge to capitalize on educational opportunity, a plan to put off distracting romantic entanglement, all with the conscious desire to make later independence possible: These motivations were mentioned by nearly every one of the college students or recent graduates I interviewed.
A quote from a young woman interviewed by Traister, who is a senior at Northwestern University, puts a fine point on this desire fundamental for relational independence.
I know it sounds hyperbolic, but I mean it when I say that getting married right now would ruin my life. I want freedom. I want the chance to pick up and move to a new city for a new job or for adventure, without having to worry about a spouse of a family. I need to be able to stay at the office until three in the morning if I have to and not care about putting dinner on the table.
Don’t miss this. Here is this young woman’s picture of the good life, and by extension, Traister’s picture of the good life. This is what relational independence looks like: staying at the office until 3am instead of coming home and eating dinner with your family.
If this is the good life, count me out.
We were created for relationship. We are relational beings, so much so that some theologians define the imago dei in purely relational terms, meaning that man is created in the image of God insofar as he is a creature with capacity for relationship. Our relationship with God and humanity, the first and second greatest commandments, is the sum of our purpose for existence.
The Christian worldview is clear as to what constitutes the good life. It is to be in right, even dependent, relationship with our Creator and fellow creatures
Given the choice between being in the office until 3am or coming home to my family for dinner, well, I’m choosing cooking and praying and eating and laughing and singing and cleaning every single time.