Sunday, January 21, 2007

Spinsterhood, American Style :: CJR Daily

Recently I noted that The New York Times had a copycat article of a Times article on the declining proportion of women who are in the state of matrimony. The NYT article attracted considerable attention in the blogosphere. And the NYT later ran a more substantive article, perhaps responding to criticism of the first article.

Gal Beckerman crystalized the criticism of many:
[T]here is nothing that will turn our faces red faster than a story that lazily slaps together a few anecdotes, buffered by a minor statistic, and then presents itself as important news. Especially when the "trend" masks a much more complex and dark reality.
. . .
The article, to no one's great surprise, hinting as it does at the problems of sex and love, was the number one most emailed today (or as Gawker, in its inimitable style, put it this afternoon, "Also, 91% Of Women Are Now E-Mailing Spinster Article To Their Single Friends.")

Leaving aside what struck us as strange methodology (like the fact that the survey counted anyone over the age of fifteen as a woman), there was something else disturbing about the piece. It had a tone of exuberance that spun the numbers as an unambiguously positive piece of progress for women.
. . .
the Times, of all papers -- having run groundbreaking series on both race and class -- should realize that a phenomenon that might bode well for middle-class white women might be absolutely disastrous for poor black women.

Apparently, though, we are the only ones to see it like this. Because apart from a tossed-off paragraph that reminds us that, buried within these statistics, seventy percent of African-American women are single, there is nothing to indicate how the epidemic of single parentage in the black community contributes to this statistic. We imagine -- though aren't told -- that many of these women are raising children alone and being dragged deeper into poverty because of their unmarried status.

Instead the rest of the article is completely about those middle class white women who insist they have chosen to be without ball and chain.

Here's what marriage looks like from the black American woman's perspective. One thing to keep in mind: all women are making choices, not just white women. And many women are choosing to live without a spouse because they, and any children, are better off that way.

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