Imagine the following make-believe conversation:
Betty: “How’s college going?”
Shirely: “Great! I love it!”
Betty: “Wonderful! What are you majoring in?”
Shirley: “What do you mean?”
Betty: “I mean…what is your major?”
Shirely: “Betty…are you from like the 1950s or something? No one has a major anymore!”
Betty: “They don’t?”
Shirely: “No way! Why settle with one major, when there’s so much to learn about in the world!”
Shirely: “We’re not tied down to any field! Why should one field of study take control over my life? What, am I slave or something?”
Betty: “Uhh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to..”
Shirley: “No, no don’t worry about it. How could you know any better? You just need to start being a bit more mature and honest about yourself. You know, we weren’t created to have one occupation.”
Shirley: “We weren’t?”
Betty: “Of course not! Look at the human brain! There are so many different ways to apply yourself. If we were created to be stimulated by so many different things, why not experiment in everything? I don’t plan on leaving college or thinking about a profession for 20 years!”
Now, obviously, that conversation would never happen. We value educational and professional commitment too much. We understand that true success and creativity can only come from focus and limitations. If we let ourselves be limitless, we spread ourselves horizontally, but never reach ultimate vertical knowledge. So if we can understand this, then what is so ridiculous about wanting to settle down with one person? Isn’t there anything admirable in getting your bachelors, your masters, your doctorate, your post doctorate on the one you love? If it’s so admirable to commit as a doctor, to learn all you can learn about medicine, to appreciate it and take painstaking amounts of time to perfect your relationship with it, then why do we feel so strangled by settling down and committing to love and learn about one person?
Apparently, society believes it is so ridiculous, so archaic, that commitment has been stored away as if it were an "I Love Lucy" video. It’s something that we can look back and laugh at once in a while, and not know what's sillier--the Lucy-Ricky traditional marriage or Lucy's fire-engine red hair. But as an article on CNN points out, is it possible that some aren’t really laughing? That some have been made to believe that freedom comes from not having to settle down, only to realize that freedom kind of stinks? Not to mention, when we are ready to break away from freedom and develop true commitment, there really isn’t a market out there. And that’s when it stops getting funny.
But here’s the real issue. Let’s break up the world into the masculine and feminine. Even if you don’t agree that there are such divisions, it works to even divide them as socially constructed values if nothing else. Masculinity is a sort of conquering outside of one’s self. Masculine values are ones of striving, of aggressively pursuing and accumulating. It’s a more external outlook. Femininity is much more internal. It’s a bringing in of others into one’s space to nurture, rather than seeing others as distant and separate. And as someone who does believe in such divisions I would like to point out that the feminist movement did not emerge because women have been dividing, conquering, and acquiring for thousands of years. Men were the ones who naturally stepped up to that plate.
Now, even if you believe that femininity and masculinity are socially constructed, this question is still relevant: What does our society value most? Or better yet, who is more admirable? A woman who is the CEO of a major corporation with no husband to slow her down, or a woman who is married with five children and no career? Which one of those made you cringe? Made you feel more pity? My guess is the latter.
As Wendy Shalit explained in her book A Return to Modesty, nowadays femininity sadly makes us squirm. In fact, in society today, we are waging war against femininity and trying to pretend it doesn’t actually exist. But the saddest part of all is that society can only become a much more moral, loving place when feminine values of uniting and nurturing are the objective, not only divide and conquer. It’s no wonder why women often feel so unfulfilled by the hook-up culture, and feel at a loss when they do wish and try to seek commitment. It isn’t deeply fulfilling to have detached sexual experiences with men, and because society doesn’t value feminine ideals, it’s exceedingly difficult to find commitment in a masculine world where detachment is synonymous with freedom.
Until we see the true beauty of femininity, women will continue to feel robbed, and men will continue to feel relatively satisfied with their superficial experiences. Neither one will reach a deeper level of understanding of any one person, but will have extremely little and superficial knowledge about many. And as the scientists now seem to be saying, it appears that most really do want a Ricky to let us know that they've come home.