Rebecca Traister Explains Single Women's Undeniable Power In This Election in 3 Quotes
As the U.S. presidential election approaches, there’s a major, rising demographic that shouldn’t be ignored: Single women. In the June 17 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, author Rebecca Traister explained the importance of single women to the 2016 election. The number of unmarried women in America is growing, and they might just determine who will make it to the White House on Inauguration Day.
You may already be familiar with Traister from her writing for New York Magazine and The Cut, as well as her 2016 book All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation . On Friday, she sat down with Bill Maher to talk about how the rise of single women has changed the social landscape in the United States, and why they are going to be so important in the voting booths this year. “There are now more unmarried people in the United States by about a percentage point,” she explains, “We are a single majority nation.” The number of single women outstripped that of married women for the first time in 2009, and young women especially are choosing to delay or forgo marriage. In 1960, almost 60 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 were married. Now, only 20 percent of Americans in the same age range can say the same.
That shift has dramatically altered how women live in the United States. Traister tells Maher,
For women especially — who historically have been economically dependent on men, have been sexually dependent on men, … who have been dependent on men if they wanted to have socially sanctioned families — the fact that circumstances have changed, and that now they can be earners, they can participate in public and political life, they can have liberated sex lives, they can have families without being married, what that means is that it displaces marriage as the organizing institution … and it creates all kinds of new paths for women. It remaps women’s adulthood in a way that is totally unprecedented and is discomfiting to a lot of people.
Traister explains that, historically, a woman’s entrance into adulthood coincided with her entrance into marriage — so most women were given very little opportunity to experience life as independent adults. That has changed radically in the last two decades. Traister says that, in the past, you would be “hustled” into marriage
…at the beginning of your adulthood because you were dependent, because you had to establish a relationship to the kind of American who could be an earner, and who could provide you with a socially sanctioned sex life and a family. That had to kick off your adulthood, so that for hundreds of years, the median age … of first marriage for women fluctuated only between 20 and 22. In 1990, it crept up to 23.9. Today it is over 27, and higher than that in many cities. So even for those who are marrying, they’re doing it later, and spending more years of their adulthood outside of this institution that historically really confined them.
So what do those growing numbers of single women mean when it comes to voting? Put simply, they mean power, and you only have to look to the last presidential election to see that power in action. Traister says,
[Single women] were the key voting block in 2012… They were 23 percent of the electorate, so almost a quarter of the electorate, and they voted for Barack Obama by a staggering margin: 67 to 31 percent. And by many measures, they are responsible for Barack Obama getting reelected.
She adds, “I have this sneaking suspicion that the margin might be wider when it comes to choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.”
Watch the full interview in the video above. You can find more of Traister’s thoughts and research on the role of single women in American society in All the Single Ladies .
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