Lucy Snow: Marriage is about more than each other's pay cheque


I recently turned 21. Lovely day, but laced with panic – already one year into the big decade. A lot of stuff needs to get done before I'm 30. I have always assumed I will be married by then. I want to be. I have a nice boyfriend who might one day be willing. I also have a rather lovely church down my road and a lawn that is flat enough for a marquee.

So Kate Bolick's 5,200-word article reprinted in yesterday's Observer, "Why marriage is a declining option for many modern women", was something of a challenge to my romantic sensibilities. As the next generation and the supposed inheritor of this kind of post-feminism, I just don't buy it. Maybe I am a product of too much Living TV and not enough life experience, but I wholeheartedly subscribe to the institution of marriage, and refuse to accept that money is, and always has been, the most important dynamic within a relationship.

Because women are making more of it, so Bolick's argument goes, the pool of "marriageable" (and she specifies, "those who are better educated and earn more than they do") men has decreased, and more women will not get married because financial freedom renders it a choice rather than a necessity for security. Lucky me for being part of a generation "liberated from needing men the way we once did".

Aside from making mercenaries of entire generations of females, the idea that it is women's increased capacity as wage earners that leaves us free to pursue "pure relationships" in which the only motivation is intimacy, is absurd. Being an equal contributor to your marriage is not based on your wage packet. If the wife of a high-earning husband stays at home arranging flowers, does that relationship lose its legitimacy? Should that couple have to battle the assumption that there is some economic angle rather than the "pure" motives of intimacy and love? A dynamic of power based on wage becomes defunct if we refuse to make money the measuring stick for what each party brings to the table. Whilst the above scenario isn't my idea of a good time, I would be happy for my partner to earn more than me, because my economic productivity is not where I place my self-worth, and I hope he will judge his "value" in the same way.

Lucy Snow is an English literature student at the university of Leeds. Rebecca Armstrong is away.