It is no secret that the feminist movement is gaining more followers each and every day. Something else that we cannot ignore is the growing number of women in the millennial generation who are choosing to stay single (this post focuses on women in the United States). I firmly believe that these two are interrelated. Through recent statistics, common logic, and personal experience, I would like to discuss how the feminist movement has had an impact on the number of single millennial women.
Recent statistics show that the number of educated women in the United States continues to grow. The National Center for Education Statistics’ charts on percentage of college degrees conferred to women throughout the years clearly demonstrates this. More women are seeking education as a means of furthering their personal careers. The desire for this is a byproduct of the feminist movement which empowers women to work towards their goals and be whoever they want to be. As the feminist movement grows, women are expressing themselves in ways that were once considered socially unacceptable—staying single longer (or even forever, for that matter) is a clear example. Statistics show that “44.9% of the unmarried population aged 18 and older are female” (Unmarried Equality, unmarried.org). The number of single women is growing right alongside the number of educated women, and it is no coincidence. We are looking at a cultural shift representative of the progress of feminism. It should also be noted that while many women don’t label themselves as feminists per se, many of them strongly agree with feminist ideals. Despite the fact that there are not many surveys done that measure what percentage of single women are content with being single (none that I could find, anyway), I do know that self-actualization brings with it a high just as good as any relationship.
These statistics and trends are more than just measurements—they are a representation of women’s confidence. If a woman wants to be a politician or scientist, there is no one standing in her way telling her she can’t. If she wants to double-major or get her PhD then dammit, she’ll do it. What this means though is that she will be focused and driven on getting to where she wants and achieving her goals, leaving little to no room for relationships and the potential distractions/drama that they can bring. If she does find someone who is supportive of her goals, the relationship might face strain as some men are still very much intimidated and/or threatened by a strong, successful woman—especially one they are trying to romance and love (thank outdated gender role stereotypes and the ever-living male ego for this). It leaves women in a position to choose between loving another person and loving oneself. Many single women also contribute to this gap by popularizing witty sayings like “keep calm and I don’t need a man” and “some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” The Pussycat Dolls’ hit I don’t Need a Man and Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women spoke volumes about changing times to men and women alike upon their release. While much of this can be very liberating and empowering as feminists conquer the world without the aid of men, it can also further the divide.
Finally, I believe that the feminist movement has impacted the growing number of single women—millennials in particular—because I have experienced the impact firsthand. I am very open about being a young divorcee because it has resulted in vast personal improvement and self-confidence in myself. Marrying at age 19 was not all that uncommon coming from a Hispanic family. Latinos tend to marry and have children young, and I was very confident in my decision to become a young wife. I took pride in keeping a well-decorated and immaculate home, cooking elaborate breakfasts and dinners and packing lunches for my spouse, and frequently imagined what having children would be like. Being introduced as the “wife” brought me deep gratification and I couldn’t possibly visualize my life any other way. Fairytale aspects put aside however, I was in a terrible position. I was constantly being taken advantage of and lied to, held to unreasonable beauty standards, and slowly learned to doubt and hate myself on many levels. As five long years slowly passed by, I witnessed other women my age doing so many things that I never could. Getting an education, living alone, experiencing singlehood and finding self-confidence were all very far from my reach in the situation I was in. Motivated women passing me by finally gave me the strength to let go of the fantasy of a young marriage and find myself. Almost three years later, I have picked myself up both financially and emotionally and am finally able to start on my own path to success. I am writing for a feminist blog which would have seemed impossible just five years ago. I am still single and will likely stay that way as I make my way through the rest of my education and conquer my 5- and 10-year plans. That is not to say, of course, that I would reject the right man should he happen to come along. However, being a feminist has emancipated me from a very empty, unfulfilling life and changed the way I view relationships forever. I would speculate that other single women among the statistics have been motivated to leave poor relationships in search of self-improvement, as well. This might also be a contributing factor as to why the divorce rates are continually climbing. In past generations, women were taught to stay in marriages and serve their husbands ‘til death do they part, regardless of the quality of the relationship. Nowadays, divorce is much more socially acceptable. A woman does not need to put up with any shit. If she is not being treated as every bit of the queen she is, it’s sayonara. We have feminist ideals to thank for this.
While I realize that many of my conclusions in this post might be hastily drawn, a lot of my confidence in these words relies heavily on my interactions with single women. I work as a nail technician and have spent many hours one-on-one with women who treat their nail appointments as therapy time. I have listened to problems from women suffering terrible relationships, and watched many of these women find enough willpower from within to set themselves free. I have also sat with many single women who have their eyes set on their goals and future, with no room or time for a man. I find fewer things more beautiful than a strong-willed woman ready to take on the world. I am not going to say that being single is not without its downfalls and occasional ice cream-binged nights alone with Netflix, but I will say that the end result is all very worth it. I don’t think the number of successful and educated women would be anywhere near where it currently is without the support of feminism and feminist influences.