In my previous post, The Topic that Turns Smart, Creative People into Mindless Spouters of Clichés: Part 1, I quoted from Toure’s ode to marriage in the “daily rant” feature of the Dylan Ratigan Show. Go ahead and read that first part, so you will have in mind the context for this post.
Here in Part 2, I will review just a few of the problems with Toure’s platitudes.
Let’s start with the one about how people who are married are “being propelled each day to fight the good fight it takes to provide for your family, rather than wanting to succeed because it boosts your ego, your status, and your self-image.”
So those are my two choices? Either I’m providing for my family or I’m out to boost my ego, my status, and my self-image? Toure, there are around 100 million adults who are not married, and that’s just counting the ones in the U.S. So Molly Ivins, Condoleezza Rice, Janet Napolitano, David Souter, Maggie Kuhn, Ralph Nader, every Pope, and all of the other lifelong singles were all out just to boost their egos? Consider, too, that many single people are providing for their family, including those who do not have children of their own. You have just insulted a whole lot of them. Plus, you do not flatter yourself by proposing this dopey dichotomy.
What about Toure’s claim that by marrying, you help “perpetuate the human race”? Here I feel like Rachel Maddow explaining contraception to Mitt Romney, and that sort of naivete is not at all what I associated with Toure before I heard his rant. I feel embarrassed to spell this out but here goes: You don’t need to be married to have kids.
Toure, do you really believe that it only occurs to married people to pick their socks up off the floor? And about needing to marry in order to learn to compromise, have you ever been in a workplace?
Now let’s talk about the woman who looks at you with goo-goo eyes because you proposed to her, and only now believes that you have become a real man: That’s kind of sad. And, in my opinion, bigoted. Single men are not fake men. And commitment comes in many varieties other than the marital kind.
I have a similar reaction to Toure’s wistful reflection that “There’s just something about the right woman that helps you mature into that man you’re supposed to be.” If a man can only mature with the help of the “right woman,” I think that’s a sorrowful statement about that man. I have much greater respect for the men who are all that they can be regardless of whether they ever marry.
Is marriage not just a valuable experience, but a “transformative” one? For more than a decade, the claim has been made that marrying transforms single people – otherwise doomed to nasty, brutish, and short lives – into blissfully happy, healthy, and long-living couples. When I wrote Singled Out, I looked up the data supposedly supporting such claims, and found it stunningly unconvincing. I still read closely just about every new journal article purporting to show the transformative power of marrying, and continue to be unimpressed.
I will, though, grant Toure one way in which marrying really is transformative: It transforms single people from targets of unapologetic stereotyping and discrimination into privileged members of the Married Couples Club. It grants them the keys to the kingdom of presumptuousness. As long as you have that certificate, you are in. Regardless of the stuff you are made of, getting married means that you are “mature,” “a real man,” or a complete woman. No matter how insular and greedy your married life may actually be, you are pronounced “part of something bigger than yourself.” You are, Toure maintains, a credit to your species.
There are plenty of people who glorify married people, and in the process, degrade single people – however unwittingly. I’m picking on Toure for a reason. He’s smarter than that. He should know better. So should Matt Miller, the guest host who responded to Toure’s rant by exclaiming, “Toure, I love that!” and “I agree with all of this.”
Matt Miller, who also uncritically highlighted some singles-bashing during a previous stint as Dylan Ratigan’s guest host, is, like Toure, not usually one to mindlessly parrot the conservative party line. Dylan Ratigan also fashions himself as a thinker, and often really is. But he, too, has been credulous about the links between marriage and happiness, and has reiterated such shaky statements with as much cautiousness as would Tony Perkins.
The stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against single people – what I call singlism – is pervasive. So is matrimania – the over-the-top hyping of weddings and marriage and coupling. What’s more, singlism and matrimania slip by mostly unnoticed and unquestioned, even by progressives and by the intellectual vanguard of our society. That has to stop.
“While our parents battled oppression, we’re left to explain that racism is still present to skeptical people who continue to benefit from white privilege but struggle to see how.”
Toure, I would like to explain that marital privilege is present and always has been, and that you are benefiting from it.
Briefcase photo available from Shutterstock.