Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Fauxbivalence lives on

Jezebel just posted Samhita Mukhopadhyay's "Ten Very Good Reasons You Aren’t Married Yet." The reasons that make sense are about why you're not in a relationship; the ones that don't presume a happy romantic relationship between two adults who could legally marry but are choosing not to do so. The latter are good pretexts for why you're not marrying someone it seems you ought to be marrying, if you think you could do better but aren't sure and are biding your time, or who knows.

One by one...

1. Yes, if you put your career first, and must be able to move halfway across the world at the drop of a hat, and do not have a waking moment to focus on the concerns of anyone but your employer, you should probably be single. But what you don't want to do is gratuitously perpetuate the stereotype that women (never men, just women) who are married have by definition dropped out of the career-not-just-a-job workforce. Married women who are also pursuing a career have to deal with enough grief about this as it is.


2. You haven't met someone you want to marry? This is an excellent reason not to get married. The implication that those who have married did so only by overlooking their spouses' major character flaws is a bit obnoxious, but the overall point is reasonable.

3. Not being able to afford a big wedding isn't a reason not to get married. It's entirely possible to go to City Hall. (Got the papers to prove it.)

4. You're waiting till everyone can get married? No you're not - you don't want to get married, and this is a convenient, noble-sounding excuse for cold feet. Dan Savage and his listeners covered this a while back.  If your actual concern is same-sex marriage, but you'd otherwise have a big ol' wedding, ask your guests for donations to Lambda Legal. (Just don't hold your bachelorette party at a gay bar.)

5. You're too much of a snowflake for marriage? We've already covered this. But I'll add: because marriage=/=wedding, you can perfectly well register your partnership with the state without going for any traditionalist trappings. Or (see 3) spending a lot of money.

6. "You've got a life and friends that you are happy with." The charming implication is that if you're in a relationship, it's because you're a loser. But there probably is some truth to the idea that if "you have 500 friends to call," you can give or take being in a romantic relationship, and that this will give potential partners a certain message about how much you'd need them in your life. Too much "need" is never good, and zero friends, zero going out, means you're not meeting people. But no "need" at all sends an I'd-rather-be-single message. Which is great if you do indeed want to be single. But it's not unheard of for a woman - or a man, but usually a woman - with a hyperactive social life to complain about being single. Sometimes these complaints are from the would-rather-be-singles, who feel social pressure to pretend otherwise. Sometimes not. 

7. "Monogamy just doesn't work for you." Yes, that's a good reason not to make a monogamous commitment. Savage, of course, would say that you can totally get married, as long as you're open about your tendencies. But given how many people are unexcited about monogamy until meeting someone they want to be monogamous with, this advice seems sound.

8. "You are sexually liberated." This one is also reasonable, if also phrased in unnecessarily insulting-to-the-coupled terms. It is irritating that a woman's desire for a dude/dudes is always interpreted as being the desire for a boyfriend or husband - sometimes a woman wants a dude for... other purposes. If you're at that stage of your life, or if that's just you, that is a fantastic reason not to get married.

9. "[Y]ou are dealing with your shit and getting ready to be in a serious long-term relationship." Good thinking.

10. "You legitimately just don't want to get married." Then don't! The justifications, though, are a whirl of snowflake nonsense: 
In fact, the idea of a wedding dress makes you break out into hives and you don't want a blood diamond, you think forever is bullshit and you have no interest in feeding into the romantic industrial complex. You have a hard time reconciling your politics with what you see as a deeply problematic institution. (Or, you're just an atheist.) 
Since when do you need to wear a wedding dress, a "blood diamond" or for that matter any diamond, or believe in a higher power, in order to get married? You can wear a burlap sack to City Hall, use a rubber band (or nothing at all!) as a ring, and ask for a moment of silence for Christopher Hitchens at your reception if you so choose.

22 comments:

Britta said...

Yeah. The confusion of "wedding" and "marriage" was super annoying about that list. Also the anxious self-defensive tone. It reminded me of the way women who aren't comfortable with their bodies justify why they feel better than thinner women who are 'coat hangers' or whatever, or those Christian chastity clubs I read an article about once that got together to 'not have sex.' Like, if it's not important to you, then generally you don't think or worry about it. If the existence of married people or your friends getting married really bothers you and makes you feel defensive, then you probably have issues about it you're not willing to admit to.*

*(Caveat being that I have never felt pressure to get married, so maybe if I were from rural Tennessee I would feel differently)

Phoebe said...

"Also the anxious self-defensive tone."

Yes.

I think a normal state of affairs for women in the U.S., and I say this also not coming from rural Tennessee, is to be under pressure to get married as well pressure not to do so. There's the <a href="http://whatwouldphoebedo.blogspot.com/2010/12/other-than-fact-that-criticizing-pill.html>window of opportunity</a> - the mythical age at which a woman is neither to old to find a man nor too young to settle down. But what this really means is that from 22-34 (give or take), women are getting <i>both</i> messages. So it's understandable that married as well as single women would get defensive about their choices. The problem is this defensiveness ends up just perpetuating the pressure in both directions.

PG said...

Agreed with Phoebe and Britta that the conflation of marriage with wedding is annoying.

Technically, most of Reason 3 was about men feeling they can't afford marriage, not because they'd HAVE to pay for a big wedding (traditionally, the bride's family foots that kind of bill), but because they think they should be able to support their wives. Which isn't completely nuts -- though I think the sentiment should go both ways -- since the state's interest in marriage is in recognizing and institutionalizing a new relationship that reduces the likelihood that the state will have to take care of someone. The "someone" is most often a child (hence that old aspect of welfare that conservatives claim to hate, that it discouraged marriage because it was focused on single mothers), but "someone" also could be an adult who becomes disabled.

Notwithstanding the "10 Very Good Reasons" headline, Reason 4 seemed somewhat sarcastic: "Yup, that's right, your personal life is a fucking statement about love in America."

Reason 5 was written out poorly due to the above-noted conflation of marriage/wedding, but I've read better explanations of why personal commitment need not involve the imprimatur of the state.

Phoebe said...

PG,

-I knew you'd point that out re: #3! Psychic powers, please also anticipate what your readers will say about the Napoleon chapter, and preempt accordingly. #3, along with all the other items, contained a grain of truth that was then drowned out by nonsense about $27k weddings, blood diamonds, and June Cleaver marriages. I mean, the writer gave "yoga" as a reason to be single, and a commenter, who's in a serious relationship, went on to give "yoga" as a reason she and her dude can't make things official! Because married people, it's a fact, can't go to a yoga class.

When there is of course a grain of truth, namely that once you've committed to another human being, esp. one who might well impregnate you, you're going to have less time to yourself. This does impact women differently than it does men, but a second-wave-feminist interpretation of marriage as an institution that requires women to abandon their careers and identities as individuals isn't going to hold up in 2012 the way it did in 1972.

-#4 as sarcastic is a generous interpretation. Given the overall tone, I didn't read it like that at all. It seemed more like a sincere the-personal-is-the-political, but with a touch of the hyperbolic, like the reference to "500" permanently hanging-out-available friends. But you could be right.

-If the option of civil marriage is available to you, and you choose not to partake, chances are this is because you're not equally committed to your partner as if you did partake. Of course there are exceptions. (Extremist libertarians? Extremist contrarians? Dedicated snowflakes? Do you have a particular case against marriage in mind?) It also explains why complaints from the (hetero) living-together about how unfair it is that their families/society won't take their relationships as seriously as they do marriages. It is less serious. Which doesn't necessarily, in everyone's case, mean less good or wise. A perfectly happy couple might refrain from marrying six months in, despite feeling reasonably confident they will a year or several down the line. And a perfectly happy couple with really severe personal/familial experience of divorce, or with some kind of complicated legal/financial situation that makes marriage a bad idea, might want to be less 'as one' than marriage would make them. But it is different to be married than to be everything-but. So, to repeat myself, if you prefer the flexibility and independence of everything-but, by all means. But if you demand the right to be treated as if married, and could legally marry your partner, without claiming allegiance to any particular faith, but have chosen not to do so, you don't have my support on this. Indeed, understanding that everything-but =/= marriage is probably the main catalyst for marriage in our technological-advances-in-contraception age.

PG said...

a second-wave-feminist interpretation of marriage as an institution that requires women to abandon their careers and identities as individuals isn't going to hold up in 2012 the way it did in 1972.

Sure, which is why I didn't dispute your take on item 1.

Dahlia Lithwick once gave an interesting talk about how, if you're going to have a demanding career, you still should get married -- just maybe not necessarily to someone who also has a career that requires living in certain places and being outside the home on certain dates and times. I think she gave this talk while her stay-at-home artist husband (not someone famous) was shepherding their kids and also carrying her stuff because she'd broken her foot and was on crutches. And of course it's not marriage per se that requires you to take another person into consideration, but just a committed relationship. If you want to have kids, it's nice to have another caregiver available, and then you have to shape your life around that other caregiver's needs as well, plus the needs of your kids. Really, a lot of her items could be recreated as "reasons not to rear children."

The "fucking" in #4 made it feel sarcastic to me, but I may not be accustomed to the Jezebel writing style.

(Extremist libertarians? Extremist contrarians? Dedicated snowflakes? Do you have a particular case against marriage in mind?)

I did, from a mutual blogging acquaintance of ours, but since she's just gotten married and I can't remember where she posted it, it may not be a good example.

But if you demand the right to be treated as if married, and could legally marry your partner, without claiming allegiance to any particular faith, but have chosen not to do so, you don't have my support on this.

It depends on what you mean by "legally marry your partner." I know poly people who are married but grossly violating the laws (yes, there are still laws) against adultery. I know others who have even had kids with a primary partner but don't want to validate the idea of an exclusive relationship by getting married.

Incidentally, my position on poly marriage is why I had a less skeptical attitude toward Obama's claimed evolution on SSM than most people did. I'm currently against the idea of recognizing multiple marriages, but I also don't feel comfortable saying that it's inconceivable I'd change my mind about it. And I'm less horrified by the idea now than I was, say, 10 years ago. I've now met people who want it and who seem like decent people. I'll debate it with them instead of just calling them perverts. So, evolution!

ICYMI. The American precedent.

Phoebe said...

PG,

I don't think I could possibly address everything in your comment, so...

"And of course it's not marriage per se that requires you to take another person into consideration, but just a committed relationship."

No, but a shared societal sense of marriage-as-different means that all things equal, if you're at a point where you want to take another person into account past a certain threshold, it will generally make sense to marry. People will refrain from marrying in order to symbolically maintain their independence, so it's only fair that couples that can marry but don't are treated as less serious than married couples. That's not, or shouldn't be viewed as, insulting to these non-married couples. But I think what can happen is, one partner (the woman?) will want to be married more, or first, and will feel essentially married, and then resent that society doesn't recognize her not-entirely-reciprocated commitment.

"If you want to have kids, it's nice to have another caregiver available, and then you have to shape your life around that other caregiver's needs as well, plus the needs of your kids."

Which is precisely why having kids with someone is if anything a bigger commitment than marriage. I'm not sure why a couple would intentionally have a kid together and not marry for don't-want-that-serious-a-commitment reasons.

Re: the polyamorous, they'd fall into the category of people whose relationships-in-full could not legally be marriages, and thus who are not refraining from three-or-more-way marrying for snowflake reasons. Doesn't matter if you think they should be able to marry or not.

PG said...

Re: the polyamorous, they'd fall into the category of people whose relationships-in-full could not legally be marriages, and thus who are not refraining from three-or-more-way marrying for snowflake reasons.

True for people who are currently in multiple relationships, but I was thinking of people I know who identify as polyamorous but don't actually want to marry multiple people right now.

Also, there are sound tax reasons not to marry in certain circumstances, particularly if you are both high earners. "Married filing separately" doesn't help. One of my law school classmates who's quite religious and conservative about it said that doing his taxes made him wish that he and his wife had delayed marrying until they were starting a family.

There's a host of other legal reasons people may choose not to marry, ranging from concern about responsibility for a spouse's debts to wanting to retain alimony/pension benefits from a previous marriage. As I recall, Arizona initially didn't pass a ban on SSM because its highly generalized wording would have barred retirees from quasi-marriage status (and those retirees were avoiding actual marriage in order to keep getting widow/er benefits).

Phoebe said...

PG,

Sometimes, I think you need to look at the broader spirit of the argument, not search for nitty-gritty to disagree with. Someone whose particular circumstances effectively prevent marriage, but who lives as if married, falls under the legally-can't-marry banner and not the snowflake or cold-feet one, even if the law does not in fact prevent their union from getting an official stamp from the government.

PG said...

But that's why I think your position is excessively absolutist and intolerant of the "snowflakes" who have a problem with marriage-as-it-currently-is. (Taxing married couples as a single unit is somewhat peculiar to the U.S.) You're assuming that unless people slap a label on themselves like "polyamorous," they should be getting married if they legally can do so and want their relationship to be taken seriously. While "snowflake" is meant to mock, people's circumstances -- where "circumstances" can include a set of values and preferences that may not come with a commonly-used label -- actually can be aberrations from the norm, such that they are ill suited for marriage.

Also, whom do you have in mind here: But if you demand the right to be treated as if married, and could legally marry your partner, without claiming allegiance to any particular faith, but have chosen not to do so, you don't have my support on this. ?

With the exception of the unhappy former girlfriend of Lee Marvin, most people who refuse to get married don't demand the right to be treated as if married. Indeed, as in the Canadian example, most don't want the government to force them into some marital status without their having explicitly chosen it. That's why the concept of "common law marriage" has almost died out in the U.S.: marriage is reserved for those making an explicit choice, not just happening to live together long enough in a particular jurisdiction to be deemed married.

Phoebe said...

PG,

I think this was clear enough from my last comment, but to repeat, "snowflake" has nothing to do with individual circumstances, and FWIW I'm not entirely unsympathetic to snowflakedom, as I believe I mentioned in my first fauxbivalence post. By "snowflakes" I'm referring to situations in which a woman finds herself 30ish and monogamously thrilled with a man, and wants legal and societal recognition of that union and children it might produce, but imagines herself somehow different from every other woman in that situation, less bourgeois, in a more unique relationship that defies labels, etc. I'm sympathetic, because there are annoying stereotypes about how women only want marriage, certain kinds of marriage, certain acts within marriage, etc., etc. It's reasonable that many intelligent women would be turned off by "bride" culture. But if what you want is a legally-established and socially-recognized union with another consenting adult, even if you don't want a traditional/over-the-top wedding, you want to get married, and should, at a certain point, get over your snowflake-based counterarguments. None of this at all relates to people who refrain from marrying for honest-to-goodness tax reasons. It can, however, relate to the phenomenon of women who fear seeming conventional announcing that they're marrying their boyfriends only for tax/insurance/practical reasons, and *not* because they have the altogether unoriginal desire to be married to their partner.

As for people wanting to be treated as married but not being married, I addressed this a couple comments up, but it also came up in that Jezebel thread - various commenters were annoyed about not being included in their boyfriends' family gatherings, or something. Also: anecdata. But to reiterate, I think this is often something that happens when a boyfriend hasn't (yet?) proposed, and the conventional-despite-herself girlfriend tells herself/anyone who'll listen that they're simply too modern for marriage. If the boyfriend and the girlfriend are both bothered by not getting the respect marriage receives, this is a common-enough impetus to making things official.

PG said...

But if what you want is a legally-established and socially-recognized union with another consenting adult, even if you don't want a traditional/over-the-top wedding, you want to get married, and should, at a certain point, get over your snowflake-based counterarguments.

If that's what "snowflake" means, I'm not sure how it applies to item 5 of the originally-linked Jezebel post. That item specifically denies wanting a public ceremony (which even City Hall is -- marriage is intrinsically a public act); it decries marriage as "traditional and played out."

Moreover, the desire for social recognition doesn't have to track with a desire for legal recognition. You can want to be invited for Thanksgiving without wanting to have your tax bracket set by the combination of your incomes. Even Miss Manners doesn't say that people should be invited as couples only if they are married or would-marry-but-for-unjust-laws.

Phoebe said...

PG,

"Moreover, the desire for social recognition doesn't have to track with a desire for legal recognition."

No, but sometimes in life, you have to make choices. In our society, "husband" and "wife" mean different things than "boyfriend" and "girlfriend," and if you want your relationship to be taken as seriously as possible, you really do have to get married, and pushing past whichever liberal-arts-grad overanalysis of the meaning of it all. The advantages of having a legally-and-socially-recognized relationship are so great that some people marry despite this screwing with their tax bracket, alimony, etc. See also: why SSM is such a big deal to gays and allies.

While it's sometimes but not always possible to negotiate with your own family about a plus-one, as a rule, a spouse is taken more seriously than a boyfriend/girlfriend. Unless you're gay, mentioning a boyfriend/girlfriend rather than a spouse/fiancé simply has a different meaning. Others will hear 'the person I'm sleeping with this week.' The hassle of explaining in each and every instance, serious and frivolous alike, to near-strangers who could not care less about your oh-so-unique situation, that while you are not married, your relationship is live-in, multi-year, Very Serious, is significant enough that if you find yourself doing this all the time, maybe think of, I don't know, getting married.

Phoebe said...

Oh, and add to the comment above - if your ambivalence about what marriage means outweighs your desire for your relationship to be taken seriously immediately once anyone learns of it (which, with rings, can be upon meeting you, even if you never mention your spouse), then sure, don't marry. But also don't expect "partner" to be taken as seriously as it is in the case of gays who don't have the option of marrying theirs.

Phoebe said...

And one final point on this - age and gender enter into it, in ways that aren't necessarily fair. If you're in your 20s, early-mid especially, and you mention a "boyfriend," you seem young, and maybe even promiscuous. A man the same age mentioning a "girlfriend" reads as younger than one who mentions a wife, but still as mature, because he at least has a partner he'll publicly acknowledge and isn't just playing the field. This is one factor making women more eager to marry.

And gender-neutrally, your age impacts how likely your family/everyone else is to include your opposite-sex "partner" without an eye-roll or protest. If you're 20 and have a boyfriend or girlfriend of three years, that person may be less readily included than the bf/gf of six months of your aunt or uncle who's 50.

PG said...

I think the mockery of deliberately-unmarried straight people as "snowflakes" claiming to have an "oh-so-unique situation" is really only fair if these are people who think others should marry. For example, if you'd be horrified by your widowed or divorced mother's "living in sin" with a new man but think that's appropriate for yourself, then yes, it's an obviously hypocritical stance. In contrast, if you are skeptical of marriage in general, for everyone (as many gay people are as well; the current gay equality leadership's focus on SSM is by no means universally preferred among all those whom they claim to represent), then what's wrong with wanting to avoid it?

The terminology of "partner" vs. "boyfriend/girlfriend" is interesting. I definitely take the term "partner" more seriously than "bf/gf" even when it's used by straight people. Until getting married last year, Ta Nehisi Coates always referred to his "partner." It mostly seems to be used in reference to a person with whom you are living, and often someone with whom you have children. Someone you've just been dating, even if for a few years, really is just a boyfriend. A guy who lives in the dorm on the opposite end of the quad from your dorm is not a "partner." OTOH, if you're 21 and have been living with someone in a relationship of mutual economic support for a few years, I don't think "partner" should garner an eye-roll.

Phoebe said...

PG,

Please read what I meant re: "snowflakes" more carefully, or something, because a) you're making it out to sound malicious, when it's not, and therefore skipping over the bit where I explained I'm sympathetic, and b) I've explained plenty of times, in this thread and elsewhere, that I'm not using this expression to refer to every last case of a couple that could legally marry choosing not to do so. If you've been dating someone for two years and are not yet ready to marry, that's not "snowflake." If your parents had a rough divorce and you never want to marry because of that, also not "snowflake." Nor are all your tax reasons, which we don't need to enumerate one by one yet again. Nor are problems with marriage that you can actually articulate.

"Snowflake" is when a woman who straight-up (pun intended) wants the same things as most every other woman around her age - marriage to a man, a wedding with some if not all the traditional elements - finds it inconceivable that she could want such ordinary/retro things out of life, the only articulated reason being that it's this special individual in question. So, if her guy does want to get married, she'll insist that the marriage is for practical, paperwork-type reasons, that the ring is an heirloom and it would upset her family if she didn't take it, that she totally considered a bunch of rad vintage dresses and the one that fit her best oh just happened to be a white gown, and so on, all the while seeming obviously thrilled in precisely the same way as a sorority sister is on the lead-up to her country-club wedding to a finance guy. If he doesn't want to marry, or doesn't yet, or there isn't a guy on the scene, "snowflake" means defining her non-married status on the basis not of it-hasn't-happened, but as some kind of a statement about how inherently non-bourgeois and interesting she is. This, PG, is snowflake in this context. It's completely forgivable, given the contradictory expectations placed on well-educated 30-ish women, and it's absolutely not a blanket description of all singledom, all qualms in this area.

Anyway, re: "partner," defining that too strictly gets you into trouble in ways not unlike the marriage-is-for-raising kids defn does. Some very serious couples choose not to live together (Woody and Mia, alas...), not to mix their finances (all those tax reasons, and personal ones as well), not to have kids. We would, however, only consider a young couple (under 25, say) "partners" if they met some or all of these criteria.

PG said...

But then how does that definition of "snowflake" apply to the #5 on the Jezebel list, "5. You don't need or want a symbolic public ceremony to celebrate something you already have... You two are an adventurous lot, committed to each other and show it in more genuine ways than the most traditional and played out way ever known to civilization."

I think that's why I got confused about your meaning -- you said in response to #5: "5. You're too much of a snowflake for marriage? We've already covered this."

By using words like "adventurous," Samhita certainly is describing someone who thinks of herself as "non-bourgeois and interesting." But where does the "wants the same things as most every other woman around her age - marriage to a man, a wedding with some if not all the traditional elements" come in?

With regard to your attitude toward the snowflakes, since the link in "We've already covered this" leads to a post where you describe fauxbivalence as "one manifestation of that [snowflake] tendency I find most irritating of all," I don't think it's unreasonable for me to think you use the term "snowflake" to describe something toward which you feel negatively, even if you think it's "understandable." I think it's "understandable" that white working class Americans are resentful toward immigrants, but I'm pretty sure that "They tuk our jawbs!" is mockery.

Phoebe said...

"You already know you and boo are ride or die, why spend the money on a wedding when you can do that Spanish immersion program you have been planning for the entire time you've known each other? You two are an adventurous lot, committed to each other and show it in more genuine ways than the most traditional and played out way ever known to civilization."

Reread this in full, have the same impression as when I first read it. If the gist is, you have a boyfriend with whom you have permanent commitment, but your way of expressing this is more interesting/"adventurous"/"genuine," less "played-out" than that of other people, this is the very definition of snowflake.

I mean, sure, the post I linked back to didn't absolutely anticipate this later question, which is not identical to the fauxbivalence issue. But the overall idea is the same - wanting what is in every which way marriage, but thinking that you're somehow too interesting a person to call it something so pedestrian as "marriage."

Finally, you seem intent on precisely pinpointing my stance in terms of sympathy versus mockery wrt snowflakes. But this is impossible - it depends on the snowflake, or more precisely, the situation. If the fauxbivalence tilts more towards genuine concerns about gender roles and whatnot, I'm more sympathetic than if it's about thinking that as a hipster, your monogamous commitment to a dude is fundamentally different from that of a sorority sister to her dude.

PG said...

If the fauxbivalence tilts more towards genuine concerns about gender roles and whatnot,

But if it's genuine, isn't that conventionally called just plain "ambivalence"? Inherent in saying that someone is "faux ambivalent" is a claim of falsity, of something being not genuine. (Unless there's a nuance to "faux" that I'm not getting as an English speaker.) Someone who is really concerned about how heterosexual marriage will tend to put people into gendered husband-wife roles -- a concern that's even more pressing if one partner doesn't see those roles as problematic and oppressive -- seems rather unfairly described as merely "faux" ambivalent.

Phoebe said...

PG,

By "faux" I do mean the word's usual meaning. Think of it in terms of cognitive dissonance, not ambivalence, although there's overlap. In more concrete terms, this is when a woman feels she ought to be too interesting/feminist/educated/special to want a wedding/a white dress/an engagement ring/a monogamous male partner, etc., but she in fact does want whichever of that. But wanting it challenges her self-conception, or impacts how she imagines others will see her, so, publicly, privately, or both, she feigns a greater level of ambivalence than she feels, if she indeed feels anything at all. Feigned ambivalence, fauxbivalence. And I'm more sympathetic when the feigned ambivalence comes from someone who is somewhat ambivalent, esp. for feminist reasons, but is exaggerating that ambivalence, than I am when the feigned ambivalence is about someone thinking she's simply too special to want what everyone else does. (The somewhat illustrative Portlandia sketch.)

Also, maybe the addition of "snowflake" to this is throwing you off. So, for precision: a woman who doesn't wish to marry, whether for articulated reasons or not, snowflake reasons or not, or simply isn't sure if she does or doesn't, is not fauxbivalent. The point of "fauxbivalence" isn't to claim that deep down inside, all women secretly dream of bridezilladom, or marriage at all. Obviously some women don't want to marry, and some aren't sure. Fauxbivalence describes the phenomenon of women being reasonably to entirely sure they do wish to marry, but feigning reluctance.

Also important - it's difficult, not to mention impolite, to point to fauxbivalence in specific real-life cases. Even if you've correctly found fauxbivalence in action, the feigner of ambivalence won't take well to being told that what she really wants is clearly an outcome more traditional than she lets on. It's like YPIS - it points to something real, and people should, as they say, check their privilege, but telling someone to do isn't so productive.

PG said...

All this about pretending unwillingness -- feigning that one would fain be single -- is reminding me too much of my college English Renaissance literature class. Which doesn't speak well of the advances of modernity for women if this is all a women-only phenomenon, but I'm more hopeful that it's actually part of the human condition and applies to men nowadays too.

So yes, I think it's helpful to distinguish snowflake from fauxbivalance. The snowflake actually doesn't want to get married because she is too adventurous for something so played out; the fauxbivalent may be concerned about the institution of marriage as a whole, or may think she ought to be too adventurous for marriage (aspirationally snowflake?), but in either case wants to be part of it anyway.

Phoebe said...

There's a male variant of fauxbivalence, but it's... traditional. Men are and have long since been expected to express reluctance at the prospect of settling down, "the old ball-and-chain" and all that. It isn't about thinking they're too counter-culture for marriage. There also isn't the same historical precedent of marriage spelling the end of a man's life as an independent person.