Newsweek strikes back

A few weeks ago I had a good conversation with Jessica Bennett, who was working on a story for Newsweek about “changing views on marriage.” After we talked, I sent her a chapter from my book-in-progress (The Family: Diversity Inequality and Social Change, available from W. W. Norton about 2013…) and a handful of articles.

The story came out yesterday, and my carefully parsed commentary was boiled down to this:

“The bottom line is that men, not women, are much happier when they’re married,” says Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina who studies marriage and family.

That’s the way it goes. I can’t deny saying it, but I also can’t remember exactly why I would have. Is it true? I don’t know. I did report, for example, that marriage seems to protect men more than women from committing suicide, so maybe that’s what we were talking about.

Bennett and her co-author, Jesse Ellison, write well and cover a lot. It’s an interesting read and good for getting a discussion going — though they take substantial liberties in expressing their perspective. Their bottom line:

Once upon a time, marriage made sense. It was how women ensured their financial security, got the fathers of their children to stick around, and gained access to a host of legal rights. But 40 years after the feminist movement established our rights in the workplace, a generation after the divorce rate peaked, and a decade after Sex and the City made singledom chic, marriage is—from a legal and practical standpoint, anyway—no longer necessary. … Which means that when we do tie the knot, we do it for love.

Andy Cherlin came up with a much better quote than me: “The question is not why fewer people are getting married, but why are so many still getting married?”


Filed under In the news, Me @ work

3 responses to “Newsweek strikes back

  1. Someone on the Newsweek site wrote: “Someone on the Newsweek site responds: “The American Black culture in the big cities is a perfect experiment to determine what the lack of both parents does to the rearing of a child. The child will grow up poor, uneducated, on drugs, and a member of a gang. They will be unemployable and likely die from violence at the hands of another black without two parents. In the suburban areas, similar scenarios develop for many kids of single parents: drugs, alcohol, a poor education, and unemployable. Clearly, this is the way of progressive Democrats. The US has just elected a drug user as a president. He’s from a dysfunctional family! He clearly is a liar and a corrupt politician. His handling of the oil spill is ludicrous. Things will get worse as Obama faces more crises! Many Americans will die. But as long as people without morals and two parents continue to vote for criminals, the US will continue to lose its world advantage. The US is on the way to being a third world country! We will have as many kids with only a single parent as Africa! and America will be dead!”


  2. Bill Bielby

    I’ve had several experiences with the press similar to yours. Michael Orey, a reporter for Business Week, spent ours with me for an article on expert testimony in discrimination cases. When he first called me, it was clear that had spent a lot of time talking to attorneys and social science experts who have worked on the other side, and he was understandably quite skeptical. In the end, he had a good grasp of the issues, and the article that appeared in Business Week was fair and balanced. But the magazine framed it as a story about “unconscious bias” and the headline screamed “White Men Can’t Help It,” which has had repercussions for me ever since. Here’s the link.


  3. HB

    First, way frustrating that one’s hard work and carefully considered research is reduced to copy that sounds sexy and sad.

    It’s kind of hilarious that the article would conclude by landing in the middle of another, less fixed target – she doesn’t “need” to get married but she gets married for love. Talk about sexy and sad.

    You have to figure it comes with the territory when trying to take the subject of gender inequality and make into something traceable. Even getting the conversation started: Why are we still getting married? is inflammatory enough, if you can’t quote a professor you’re doomed to the land of the misunderstood.

    It’s hard for me to see the academics of “inequality” from my intuitive, reactive, feelings about it. But, then again, I’m just a girl.

    Thanks for posting!



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