Tuesday, July 3, 2007
“Life as a single woman can be full of purpose,” Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, said last week. Unfortunately for many women in conservative Christian circles, single life can also be full of confusion.
Marshall’s single “life of purpose” was news to attendees at the Conservative Women’s Network luncheon at Heritage on June 24. About 70 young women–with a few middle-aged women mixed in–came to hear Marshall discuss her new book, Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the Twenty-First Century.
Conservative Christians tend to emphasize marriage as the ultimate goal of a woman’s life. They support abstinence education, which completely ignores the fact that 95 percent of Americans have premarital sex. But despite this rhetoric, even conservative young women can find themselves in their mid- to late-twenties with no husband, picket fence, or children on the horizon.
Many young women–particularly those living in urban settings such as Washington, D.C.–have graduated from college without an “MRS” degree” and now must face the supposedly daunting task of living a fulfilling single life. Conservative relatives and friends are prone to repeatedly asking if these young women have found “the one,” and caution them not to become so self-sufficient lest they appear too much of a “career woman” to want or need a man.
In her book, Marshall offers advice for making singleness “more than a holding pattern” from a conservative Christian perspective. “This book is about redeeming the time between now and the ‘not yet’ for which we hope,” she writes in the introduction.
On Thursday, Marshall shared anecdotes from her research for the book, which mostly involved interviewing women about their conceptions of single life. Due to the fact that conservative Christians around the country responded to her poll, Marshall concluded that “this is a cultural conversation that everyone wants to participate in.” This is probably because conservative women have never had it. Progressives started the conversation about single young adulthood decades ago with the feminist movement and the sexual revolution. But Marshall claimed feminism did more harm than good.