Research from TCD sociologist Dr. Margret Fine-Davis has revealed that educated women are more likely to be single and less happy than their uneducated female counterparts. The book, Changing Gender Roles and Attitudes to Family Formation in Ireland reveals that singledom for older women is still stigmatised in Irish culture and was featured in today's Irish Times.
Fine-Davis, in her research, highlights the socialization of gender roles in Ireland that limits Irish women:
In spite of the pressure on women to get married they do not have equal access to one of the main routes to meeting people in Ireland...The perception that a man can go into a pub by himself and be comfortable whereas a woman cannot . . . is one that exists despite women’s increased equality in the work place...Clearly this constraint must in itself contribute to social isolation and the difficulty of single women – especially those in older age groups – to find partners.
A worrying pattern continues of women not being able to go out alone because of the stigma attached to 'lone women'. You can visit any local pub and find men of all ages sitting at the bar and enjoying a pint but hardly ever a woman. Fine-Davis mentions that men in their 30s have an "endless supply" of possible relationships as it is socially acceptable for them to date younger women.
In terms of jobs and families, according to Fine-Davis women in relationships are still trapped between a housewife and career status whereas a man's “change of relationship status” will impinge less on his time.In a moment that reminds us of the characters of Jane Eyre, Bridget Jones or the dreaded single cat lady Fine-Davis finds "better-educated women, particularly those over 35, are finding it more difficult to find a partner” and single women who are passed a certain age "have less wellbeing" and are more isolated.
Of those featured in the study, Fine-Davis found that 44% of people who were seeing someone were happier than the 56% who were single and “It is clear that being in a steady relationship leads to the highest levels of happiness.” The biological clock is, of course, mentioned:
Women are caught between their biological clocks and their wish to continue actively in the labour market. It is apparent these factors are contributing to delays in couple formation, delays in marriage, postponement of first birth, an increase in the proportion of single people and an increase in childlessness.
Ladies, it's not the system holding you back, it's yourselves. Stop trying to educate yourself, have a career and be happy. Your place is in the home making a sandwich and figuring out whether or not the weather is good for drying. Now, go pretend your IQ is that of a sparrow and find yourself a
cat man with ease.
It's not the first time the world has reminded us that women are going to die alone because of their education and or independence. Does anyone remember the term "spinster"? Perchance, is it time we openly discuss how gender roles are played out in Irish society and how their lack thereof in policies and upper-level decision-making might actually be an issue?