Undead Sexist Cliches: I thought I was done

I didn’t plan to do more than three cliches (here, here and here) because if I tried to list all of them—well, that would rather a lot.
However, as I continued through Susan Faludi’s The Terror Dream, I came across one more I particularly loathe.
It seems that in one of the New York Times post-9/11 stories about how women were suddenly desperate to find a husband (because at any second terrorists could strike and how would you feel if you weren’t married, huh?—or something like that), it referenced the Newsweek claim from a decade earlier that a woman over 40 had more chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married. A claim that had been debunked a decade earlier.
The NYT didn’t actual present it as a fact, but merely asserted that after 9/11, lots of women were probably thinking about it. But given that it the figure is both widely circulated and complete bullshit, I think acknowledging the inaccuracy might have been nice.
For those whose tender years don’t reach back 22 or so years, here’s the story: A pair of researchers studying marriage found that American women have historically married men three years older and better educated. They made the assumption this was not just a statistical artifact but a priority, and that women unable to find a man in this category would stay single. Which was seriously bad news for college educated women over 30 as there was a serious shortage of satisfactory men; a 40 year old college graduate had only a 1 percent chance of finding a man.
The terrible fate of women foolish enough to get a degree instead of a wedding ring became Newsweek front-cover fodder, and it was in that article that the writer tried to make sense of the 1 percent statistic by asserting that it was less than the chance of being killed by a terrorist.
Which is, of course, nonsense, at least in the US. But the statistic kept cropping up in women’s magazines and catch-a-man books for years after. Even after feminists pointed out that the figure only applied to women over 30 at the time of the study (under 30, there was actually a man surplus). Even after the authors stated that their efforts to predict future marital behavior had turned out to be wrong. The statistic just kept going. And eventually made the NYT, where it was described as a “media report.”
It is, of course, just one in a long line of articles and diatribes warning uppity women that if they choose career over family, or even try to “have it all” (yeah, imagine wanting a good career, a good husband and kids. How insane are these women?) they’d wind up at 40 unmarried and childless and their eggs would be so defective that if they tried to have kids they’d be autistic two-headed freaks.
It’s bullshit piled on inaccuracy. And as an editor of New Woman pointed out a couple of years after the original article, it’s inconceivable an article like that would ever target men. If studies showed only 1 percent of 40 year old men would ever get hitched, it would still be women’s problem: “99 percent of men are off the market! You have a 1 in 100 chance of ever getting married! Here’s how to land one of the few remaining marriageable guys!”
Your not-so-liberal media at work.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

4 responses to “Undead Sexist Cliches: I thought I was done

  1. Pingback: Blame Weinergate on his wife. On, and the cavemen « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Undead Sexist Cliche: Nothing a woman can do is more important than popping out babies « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: The marriage-go-round | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: There’s a reason it’s a never-ending battle | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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