The trouble with choice is that if you give it to people, they hardly ever choose what you think they should.
For decades in the UK and other developed countries, a certain strain of particularly strident feminists (and the ‘liberal elite’) has been raging against the shackles of tradition that keep women trapped in the cultural expectation that they will marry instead of having a career. The overbearing paternalists who strive to keep women chained to the kitchen sink have been soundly beaten off and opportunities for women to choose their life path, go to university, and rise to the top of their chosen profession have never been better.
It is no longer expected that women will ‘settle down and have children’, and the very suggestion that they might prefer marriage to a career (read: prefer drudgery and servitude to success and independence) is guaranteed to send these liberal feminist commentators into the stratosphere with apoplectic fury.
Unfortunately (for them) the poor, downtrodden female populace doesn’t seem to be exactly welcoming this freedom with open arms. Sure, they like the fact they have choices, but given the choice, most of them would actually prefer marriage to a career.
Yes, you read that right: most women, when asked “If you had to choose between a career or marriage in your life, which one would you choose?” responded: Marriage.
The results come from this poll by ComRes, who interviewed over 2000 women across Great Britain in January this year. They reveal that in every age group, every social class and every region more women would choose marriage than career if they had to select one.
- Over all 59% of women would choose marriage, 23% would choose career and the remaining 18% didn’t know which they would choose.
- Even in the famously work-oriented metropolis of London, 57% picked marriage ahead of career.
ComRes have cut the data to create a group called ’25-35 ABC1′ which is effectively a group of well-educated, middle- or high-earning women who are most likely to be in the season of making decisions about career, marriage and family. In other words, these are people who have grown up with a cultural expectation that they will go to university then have a glittering career. They’ve had the brains, the encouragement and the opportunity to make the choices the feminists have been fighting for, and fewer than a quarter of them (23%) would choose a career outright. 55% would choose marriage.
The only subsections in which this is not true are single women – of whom the same number (just under 40%) chose marriage as career – and people in civil partnerships who were also evenly split (44% marriage/43% career), though the number of respondents is too small to be statistically significant.
- Married women – i.e. people who have tried it and know what they’re talking about – choose marriage by 76% to 11% (they’re also the group with fewest ‘don’t knows’).
- Separated and divorced women – who we can surmise haven’t had the best experience of marriage – choose marriage over career (41% to 31% and 39% to 34% respectively).
The poll was released on 29 February, the day when it is traditionally considered ‘acceptable’ for a woman to propose, and although 79% of the women asked thought it was acceptable for women to propose then or any day, 53% of respondents said they would never propose (this question was only asked of unmarried women).
What does this tell us?
It says that whatever you might hear or read from the media, and whatever the militant feminists might want us to think, most women, given the choice, would opt for being married over having a career.
The question about proposals I think strengthens this finding, suggesting it is not because feminists haven’t managed to get their message across, but that these are genuine choices made by women who know they have the freedom. The proposal question suggests that the vast majority of women feel that it is perfectly culturally acceptable to propose – that is a choice which is open to them – but they are exercising their freedom to choose not to. Given the choice, they would prefer to be wooed, pursued and chosen than to be the pursuer.
Shock news: women prefer relationships to careers.
NB: This is not the same as saying women prefer relationships to success, which is what the feminists would have us believe. For women, to be in relationship is to be successful. We gain satisfaction and fulfilment from stable, committed relationships with men, and from having and caring for children. That’s what we love. That’s what we’re wired for, that’s what we’re designed for.
Women have great skills outside the home, too. All through history women have worked and done it successfully – even before they did it through choice. They have done it through economic necessity, and they have done it for enjoyment. Many women have remained happily single their whole lives, and been fruitful and productive and valuable members of society without having to feel in any sense belittled because of their lack of a husband. I’m not saying that marriage is the only way a woman can be happy or that all women should be forced to marry and to leave the workforce. Neither am I saying that it was better when women were belittled and in danger of destitution if they failed to secure a husband.*
What I am saying is, don’t be taken in by those who say the opposite, those whose goal in life is to convince women that marriage and motherhood are evil methods of subjugation and that our bounden duty is to cast off such shackles and liberate women everywhere. The Song our culture sings, persistently and persuasively, says that if only women knew the options open to them and could freely choose, they would choose freedom from the ‘old fashioned, outdated’ ways.
The New Song says ‘be thankful for the freedoms you have, but don’t be ashamed of choosing the path you were designed to follow, even if that challenges the prevailing cultural assumptions’.
Marriage may be facing challenges from culture, the media and politicians, but it remains incredibly popular among women. Who’d have guessed?
*Declared interest: For those who don’t know me, I should point out that I am, let’s say, past my mid-30s and single. I enjoy my work, I’m good at it and I add value to the company I work for. Given the choice, though, I’d leave it tomorrow if marriage to the right man were the alternative.