Inspired by Hanna Rosin’s debate on ‘The end of men’ at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas that was focused on the changing role of women in society. Her discussion on ‘the hook up culture’ was of particular interest so I have completed a brief comparison on relationships a few decades ago and those we see now.
Rewind back to our grandparents era…(Early-mid 1900’s)
Most men and women claimed to be straight (or didn’t have the courage to defy social norms?), sex before marriage was not commonplace, you often dated only 1 or 2 people before marrying and in many instances married quickly. Both my grandparents were married for 50 years+
Fast forward to today
A variety of relationships exist in society: straight, gay, bi, transgender, de facto as well as numerous options to conceive and nurture children through IVF, surrogacy, adoption, foster care. Abortion rates are increasing (in Australia this is high at 70K p.a.) and divorce rates have been on the increase for a while.
An interesting transition that could explain relationships over time is through the integration of science and education. Education has created technology which has created more educated people through accessibility, ubiquity and real time answers to questions (where would we be without Google!).
As people become more educated they realise they don’t need to rely or ‘follow’ a popular life journey. In the developed world at least it seems obvious this typically involves… school, work full time, get married by 30, buy a house, have children by 40 and the rest is history. This is a common pattern and certainly one that I have seen develop with numerous friends getting engaged by the age of 29 to then be married by 30. Is it a race to the popular life journey finish line? I’m not sure but seems coincidental at least. Perhaps the biological clock plays a role but with all of the technological advances that have created options above to conceive / nurture children it seems the biological clock isn’t as crucial as once thought.
Changing patterns of relationships
There is a culture out there (tinder users you know who you are!) where people are quite happy to ‘hook up’ and move on to the next person they choose. No strings attached. No hanging out. The freedom to choose what you want when you want and meet a whole heap of interesting (and probably not so interesting people) along the way. Perhaps also a valid mechanism for the busy, not so social or shy people out there who are looking for their other half. News.com.au recently reported that ‘The average female now has eight partners during her lifetime, up from four in the 1990s – and catching up with men, whose average is 12….’.
In last week’s Sunday Life one of the articles I read was by a lady who after ‘years of child rearing, is now smugly single‘. Dianne Blacklock notes that by 2020 the number of single person households is expected to increase by reaching 16%. A very interesting read as she discusses her requests by people to rationalise her relationship status.
“Apparently I have a problem. You see, years after getting divorced, I’m still single, and I’m not actively doing anything about it. I am told, repeatedly, that I’m supposed to be putting myself “out there”. Out where? Where is this mythical place? And why is everyone so insistent that I “put” myself there?”
This lonely london lady is so keen on finding a boyfriend she has set up lost boyfriend posters!
Disbanding the ‘nuclear family’
While Australia is a wage earner welfare state focused on the assumption that most members of society form a ‘nuclear family’ with a male breadwinner, stay at home wife and 2.5 children. (How can you have half a child anyway???). Clearly this needs some revising as women are starting to combine the roles of caregiver and career woman – igniting their intellect and reclaiming their role as equal to men with 45% of women now comprising the workforce. (Ungerson) 31% of women versus 17% of men will require care in institutions as women are considered to be overworked due to the two roles.
Hanna Rosin states that the income of women is increasing while our male counterparts is decreasing. This could be due to our prior ‘underdog’ status and therefore increased ability to adapt or ‘hustle’ as Hanna calls it and change. Did you know that for every 3 degrees women earn men earn 2? We can even see the role of women changing by watching sitcom episodes in the 70s compared to now. Domestic violence is decreasing with divorce increasing partly due to women now being less financially dependent on men. Women are what could now be considered the apple computers of humanity as Hanna eloquently put it!
It’s clear that society will evolve how society wants to evolve and policies developed by the State particularly those relating to the Market need to be progressive. For example, policies relating to work, corporations, child rearing, relationships, welfare benefits, marriage laws (including gay marriage) and support services. Policymakers should have concepts in mind like Hanna’s description of women, with their ability to ‘adapt and change’.