All the Married Ladies: A Response to Kate Bolick

Though I was deep in the throes of childbirth, I couldn’t help smiling at the nurse’s shocked face. She’d noticed my wedding ring. “You’re married?”  She paused, and I watched her count backward on her fingers. “This baby wasn’t conceived until after we were married” I gasped, as another contraction took hold. The look on her face made me laugh out loud, despite the pain. “You waited?”  She was shocked. “I deliver babies every day and I never see married couples in here!”

I suppose her reaction shouldn’t have surprised me. I gave birth in a prosperous neighborhood, at a well-respected for-profit hospital. Even so, my story, which a generation ago would have been commonplace, now defies modern conventions across all economic levels. Women with lives like mine will only become more unusual as cultural attitudes toward marriage and parenthood continue to shift—and if The Atlantic’s November cover story is any indication, that’s bad news for all of us.

Kate Bolick’s All the Single Ladies argues that, since traditional marriage is on its way out, we ought to “embrace new ideas about marriage and family.” Her analysis of the well-documented changes at work in the marriage marketplace is alarmingly one-sided. The blame, she says, lies squarely at the feet of the men who have failed to keep pace with advances in women’s income, employment prospects, and education. As women have climbed the career ladder, men have largely stayed put, making matters difficult for women who don’t want to marry beneath themselves. High-powered women who delay marriage, as so many do, until they are well into their 30’s and 40’s, find the party is limited to those bachelors “who are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.”

Bolick treats this limitation as inevitable. Her own story, she says, is illustrative of what’s happening to women all over the world—a result of feminist ideals which have “been good for everyone.” It’s unclear just how she thinks it has been good for men, whom she acknowledges are at a disadvantage in the new female-dominated market.

Traditional marriage no longer works for most people, she argues. It’s time to restructure society around alternate arrangements. I beg to differ. Traditional marriage and families are indeed struggling, but they struggle as a result of feminist doctrine, not in spite of it.

Ms. Bolick is, by choice, unmarried at the age of 39. Her pensive, unsmiling image, featured several times in the pages of her article, makes one wonder whether the feminist notions she champions have been good for anyone. She looks unhappy. She still has not decided, she writes, whether she wants to raise children. She’s equally unsure whether marriage can—or even should—be a part of her future. At 28, she broke up with “an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind” for “no good reason” aside from the vague sense that “something was missing; I wasn’t ready to settle down yet.”

My story is very different, and my life has been better for it. I have not been limited, as Ms. Bolick is, by feminist expectations. Rather, my reliance on traditional marriage and gender roles has given me the space to be myself.

My husband and I married soon after we graduated from college. We were twenty-three, and neither of us had ever even dated anyone else. We were both virgins when we married, and our first child was no accident—we were eager to be parents. Eager does not equal financially able, however, so a few weeks after our daughter was born I made space for her in my office at a small non-profit organization. I learned to balance dirty diapers, teething remedies, and sleepless nights with greeting visitors, typing up reports, and troubleshooting computer problems for the better part of five years, all while building up a reasonably successful writing career on the side.

As Ms. Bolick agonizes over whether to center the rest of her life on her career or her relationships, I’m enjoying both. I watched my daughter take her first steps from my perch at the kitchen table, where I sat with my laptop editing a New York Times bestselling book. My daughter is older now, and she often sits beside me at the kitchen table where I still work. I write op-eds and book chapters in between math and reading lessons, and I answer my email in between meetings at the local home-schooling co-op.

If anything, my career has benefitted from my decision to raise a family, because I’ve had the freedom to take advantage of educational and career opportunities that would not have come up if I’d been locked in an office all day. If I can manage to make this work, so can other women.

Ms. Bolick writes that her mother steeped her in feminist examples because she envisioned “a future in which I made my own choices.” By way of contrast, my daughter will grow up with the knowledge that traditional values, paired with traditional gender roles, will provide her with more of those choices than feminism’s limited precepts can ever enable.

Feminism limits women tremendously when it argues that a woman’s place is in the workplace. Ask any mother who has ever been accused, as so many of my friends have, of bearing too many children. (“Too many” often means, simply, “more than one.”) Ask any housewife whose chosen profession is scoffed at during dinner parties. Ask any home-schooling mom whose love of educating her own children is looked down on.

Traditional marriage, on the other hand, need not rule out career, education, or financial success. It has given me everything I need to enjoy the best of all worlds. Someday it will give my daughter the same freedom, if she chooses to let it.

Society doesn’t need new ideas about romance and family, Ms. Bolick. It just needs to remember where it came from.


Rachel Motte is a freelance writer, journalist and editor specializing in social issues, educational affairs, and international religious freedom. Follow her on twitter @RachelMotte

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  • Lauren H. Hunter

    Rachel, you go girl!!! I could write a novel on the topic of feminism, Christianity, marriage, family and working from home . . . you explained your (my) point of view so very well. Bravo!! Thanks for taking a stand – for all of us – who are able to stand up for what we believe in, lead our families, help provide for our families, all while being married and putting family first.

    Lauren Hunter

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  • Randy McDonald

    How many women get to write NYT bestsellers? Generalizing from your example may not be the soundest sort of thing.

  • Blindblom1

    Ms. Bolick cannot seem to acknowledge that choices have consequences, and poor choices have ill effects. Her article is a long attempt to justify her refusal to accept the limitations of choice (if you choose one thing over another, you have limited yourself to the thing you chose). She is not alone in this, of course, yet her compatriots are not only women. In other words, the culprit is not merely feminism, but the immaturity behind, and not limited to, many aspects of feminism. (You yourself, Rachel, are benefitting from social change wrought by feminism in that you are able to work at home and “enjoy the best of all worlds.”)

    I do hope that Ms. Bolick might be granted a second chance at marriage, once she realizes that “freedom” is not all it’s cracked up to be, and that she really doesn’t want to be single, no matter what opportunities society may make for it.

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  • John Foote

    How very interesting! You and I both wrote Christian responses to Ms. Bolick’s article on the same day. Even more interesting—we reach somewhat different conclusions. Should you be interested, you can see mine at:

    It’s difficult to read what you’ve written and not come away with the feeling that you’re pretty judgmental towards her and the decisions she’s made in her life. For instance, I think your piece may have been strengthened by avoiding comments on Ms. Bolick’s appearance and photos. Did you consider that she might read this piece? Did you think that she might form conclusions about the church and Christianity, and maybe even Jesus on the basis of how you’re treating her? Would you feel comfortable saying to her in a personal conversation, everything that you’ve written here? I’m happy for you that you’ve been able to balance a meaningful career and the raising of children, but there may be a better way for you to state what you believe in, than comparing your life to the life of another to prove how well things have gone for you.

    With much respect,

    • Mark

      Yes, as Christians we should always follow Jesus example of bending over backwards to be polite to people who disagree with us. You certainly couldn’t imagine Jesus calling his opponents something nasty, like a brood of vipers (Matt 12:34), or calling them children of the Devil (John 8:44).

      • John Foote

        The instances you cite are of Jesus speaking directly to religious leaders, whom he repeatedly denounced for arrogance and hypocrisy. Setting aside for the moment whether Ms. Bolick is your enemy, or even your opponent, consider how Jesus treats the woman caught in adultery (John 8) and the Samaritan woman, who was many times divorced and living with her boyfriend (John 4). What did he say to them? He called them “something nasty,”, right? And talked about how unattractive they were, right? And compared his life to theirs, and said “look how great my life has turned out compared to yours,” right?

        Your comment grieves me, revealing, as it does, how little you know the one you profess to be your Savior. Wake up, brother. If you believe that Jesus endorsed being mean, or speaking nastily to one’s enemies, as opposed to loving and serving them, you may be closer to that brood of vipers than you care to believe.

    • Traditional Mom

      It seems to me that you are projecting your own feelings onto this article. I didn’t feel that Rachel was being judgmental at all. I also don’t believe that Rachel was insulting in her comments on Kate Bolick’s appearance. She doesn’t say that the lady is ugly, only that she is “pensive,” “unsmiling,” and “looks unhappy.” Those are all things that Ms. Bolick can control, and it is not unkind to note them.

      You say in your article that Christians are notoriously bad at listening to what people like Ms. Bolick have to say about issues like gender, marriage, etc. I suspect that’s because of two things: 1) We know we can’t allow them to change our views. (Frankly, you’re right — I’m not interested in anything they have to say about marriage and gender roles.) I have settled that for myself without their help. 2) We know they don’t want a response from us. Just as you accuse Christians of doing, these people don’t think that we could possibly have anything to add to the conversation. They don’t ask us to join in a conversation. They just want to tell us we’re wrong.

      • Anonymous

        Traditional Mom,
        Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you! Your feedback prompted me to write some more on the topic of listening and evangelism, which I’ve just posted to my weblog, should you be interested.

        God Bless.

    • Brad Robson

      So what!! We need to quit hiding behind proper “images and face the faces that Jesus was beaten and hung naked!! So much for image.One man of God stood up the Nazis and died in a death camp!!!! Many Christians who were muslims are beaten and killed !!!Remember Jesus said to Peter” Get behind me Satan!” Jesus was not a wimp what about you are worried about how you look in the worlds eyes?

  • Path

    words of wisdom for my arabic and english speaking brothers and sisters. May we all be guided to the path of broader knowledge and righteousness

  • Mo

    Wow. You are completely missing the point of Ms. Bolick’s article. She is not judging your choice to marry and bare children. She just doesn’t want the expectation of marriage and children to be shoved down every young girl’s throat. Marriage isn’t for everyone and that is ok. And those of you who want to be married – hey that’s okay too. Let people be who they want to be and live the life that best suits them without getting your panties in a knot.