A New York Times op-ed, "The M.R.S. and the Ph.D" sparked a conversation among The Daily Circuit team last week about educated women today and their prospects for marriage. For more than a century, women were often forced to choose between an education and a husband. We were wondering: Is this still the case? Does marriage suit educated women?
Kerri Miller spoke with Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. She is the author of the op-ed that spurred this in-depth segment.
"You know back in the 19th century," Coontz said on The Daily Circuit, "the woman was described by the leading gynecologist of the day as someone with a head too small for intellect but just big enough for love. And women who wanted to do more were called mental hermaphrodites. It was said that it would ruin their fertility, it would ruin their marriages, and as you say, right up until the 1950s and 60s, women were told...'What you're going to college for is to get your MRS and, as soon as you get that, you should...leave college.'"
Indeed in the 1950s, men ranked education and intelligence near the bottom in qualities they prized in a mate, Coontz said in her recent op-ed. Good cooking ranked near the top. Today, many men put cooking and cleaning near the bottom and intelligence and education near the top.
Today, women are earning more than half of all of Masters and PhDs awarded, as well as 60 percent of the bachelor's degrees.
This change has affected how men see themselves too, said Kerri's other guest, Joshua Coleman, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families.
Before the sexual revolution, "a man defined himself by being the protector and the provider and the woman by being the homemaker, and by being deferential to the man," Coleman said. "That's largely been turned on its head. Men no longer see themselves as being the protector and the provider. There are still wrinkles in it, one of the winkles is that for many men, at least for some men, they don't really know what's attractive about them if they're no longer in the protector and provider role."
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