Comment on the following stretches of text
1) Love ruins you for casual sex.
2) … if fidelity wasn’t difficult it wouldn’t be worthwhile.
3) What I find attractive is the person who isn’t easy, who plays it so you don’t know if you’re getting through that layer of magnificent otherness.
4) I’ve been lucky in that my marriage is unrestricting and I haven’t had to behave like a 1950s housewife.
5) Marriage is like signing up for a religious faith.
1) How did Rowan Pelling happen to fall in love with a man she didn’t know at all? Was it love at first sight? What was there about the man that attracted her?
2) What factor (attractiveness, similarity of background, or views of life etc) do you think is the most important for bringing men and women together? Illustrate your argumentation by evidence from the text under discussion and your life experience.
3) What made Rowan realize that it was a true love? How did she tell it from her previous relationships with men? Can you name the “symptoms” of love?
4) Why does R. Pelling compare marriage with signing up for a religious faith? Do you share her opinion?
5) Would you agree that a happy marriage is based on compromise?
6) Is it important that one’s marriage should be unrestricting? What does it exactly mean in your opinion?
7) Do you find the article What’s Wrong with Marrying for Love convincing enough? Do you agree with the opinion stated there? If you don’t, try to challenge the author’s arguments.
8) What is the best foundation for a happy marriage in your opinion?
9) Comment on the saying Marriages are made in heaven.
THE DOWNSIZED MALE
Sometimes it's hard to be a man
Even feminists feel sorry for the state of men today. It must be bad.
“I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed,” declared Doris Lessing, whose novels turned her into a feminist icon in the 1960s, in a speech earlier this year. “Men seem to be so cowed,” she continued, “that they can't fight back, and it is time they did.”
The appeal to the downtrodden male to have courage, rise up and throw off his shackles is spreading. In Britain, there were cheers of congratulation for boys earlier this year when it emerged that, in nationwide examinations, the gap by which girls outperformed them had narrowed. All over America, there is a loose mass of men's groups, urging men to stand up for their rights over bias in the family courts or the all-male draft.
Agonizing about the male predicament has become a fashionable hobby for both men and women. Just reading the dizzying list of titles devoted to the subject is enough to provoke anxiety: On Men: Masculinity in Crisis; The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex; A Man's World: How Real is Male Privilege and How High is its Price?; Stiffed: the Betrayal of the American Man. If that is not enough, try this from Anthony Clare, a British psychiatrist and author of On Men:
“At the beginning of this century it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that men are in serious trouble. Throughout the world, developed and developing, antisocial behaviour is essentially male. Violence, sexual abuse of children, illicit drug use, alcohol misuse, gambling, all are overwhelmingly male activities. The courts and prisons bulge with men. When it comes to risk taking, aggression, delinquent behaviour and social mayhem, men win gold.”
With a big dollop of generalization, male angst can be reduced to three grievances. Men have been emasculated by the loss of traditional functions, women have not; women have choices, men do not; men are emotionally illiterate, women are not.
Men, goes the first complaint, have been robbed of their traditional roles as providers, protectors and even procreators. The heavy muscular jobs—building ships, digging coal, banging metal — from which men derived an assertive, productive masculinity have disappeared. They have been replaced by jobs that favour nimble fingers, flexible minds and ready smiles: answering telephones, assembling computers, scanning bar-codes. Not only have women snapped up these jobs, but such occupations seem unmanly.
Much of this lament is deeply nostalgic. “The shipyard represented a particular vintage of American masculinity, monumental in its pooled effort, indefatigable in its industry, and built on a sense of useful productivity,” gushes Susan Faludi in Stiffed, her 1999 chronicle of the masculinity crisis. In reality, few men are crying out to return to the pits.
Behind some of the more self-pitying writing on male victimhood lurk some serious points. Women are stealing up on men in the labour market. While the share of American women of working age who are economically active—meaning those who either have a job or seek one — has grown from 51% in 1973 to 71% in 2000, the share of economically active men has dropped from 86% to 84%. The trend is similar in Britain and France.
Since the surge in male inactivity is greatest among those with few or no skills, recent male educational performance supplies little comfort. Back in 1960, 66% of all American degrees were awarded to men; by 1997, though both sexes were earning more degrees, the male share of the total had dropped to 44%. In 1997, American women were graduating with nearly a third more masters' degrees and a quarter more college degrees than men. In Britain, since 1988, girls have outperformed boys at the national examinations taken at the age of 18; today, they outshine boys even in “male” subjects such as maths and economics.
For this predicament, blame whatever best fits your prejudices. Have newly assertive women, freed by contraception to postpone childbearing for careers, and liberated from material dependence on men, undermined contemporary manhood? Or has the shift from a blue-collar to a white-collar economy placed demands on all workers for “feminine” qualities such as flexibility, an ability to cope with uncertainty, and no expectation of power?
Whatever the cause, this diminished male, some argue, makes a poor mate. His wallet is thin, his self-esteem deflated, his masculinity shrunken. The argument echoes the survey made by sociologists and politicians about the breakdown of the black American family. With so many black men either out of work, away in the army, locked up in prison or roaming the streets in gangs, black women were hardly spoilt for choice. Hence marriage rates declined, argues William Julius Wilson, a black liberal sociologist at Harvard.
Now white men too seem to be losing their appeal. In England, according to a recent government report, an astonishing 10% of men aged between 30 and 34 were still living with their parents in 2000, compared with just 3% of women of that age. English baby-boomers of the 1960s are staying unmarried longer than any other generation since that born in 1916, whose marriages were delayed by the Second World War. Some of this can be explained by a rise in cohabitation, but not all of it. Women no longer need men even for reproduction.
If current trends continue, 16% of English men born in 1964 will neither have married nor be cohabiting by the time they are in their 50s—double the share of those who were born in 1946. “At your age,” says the female lead to Johnny Downs, a single 30-something New Yorker in The Catsitters, a recent novel by James Wolcott, cultural critic of Vanity Fair, “women suspect that if you haven't gotten married or at least engaged, there may be something wrong with you.” Unsurprisingly, male health too is under stress. According to a recent British government report, men are more likely than women to commit suicide, suffer from coronary heart disease, have a serious accident or drink too much alcohol.
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