I have strong doubts that fewer people are getting married due to rising gender equality. It’s obvious that gender equality has impacted marriage and divorce rates in the past (no-fault divorce, women’s increased employment, etc.), but it is a diminishing part of the story of marriage trends today. We know that the gains of the feminist movement have actually stalled out over the last decade or so, but marriage rates have continued to decline (maybe somebody with fancier statistical skills can make me a graph demonstrating this point!). Also, you don’t have to look too far to see that weddings and marriage continue to be overpowered by gender roles.
There was an article going around Facebook this month contending that those who are against same-sex marriage are FOR sexism. Well, I’d have to broaden that argument – a lot of people are trapped in stereotypical marriage frameworks, not excluding those of us in favor of same-sex marriage. For example, the website Jezebel, which has been outspoken for same-sex marriage, assumes the heteronormative script that couples engage in proposals (pun intended), and that men do the proposing (while only taking issue with the spectacle and consumerism of the proposal): “If you're the person we decided we want to spend the rest of our lives with, as long as there's a little romance and maybe a splash of booze, it just doesn't fucking matter what you do.” The news Jezebel was critiquing actually perfectly represents the still very dominant expectation that men propose: a groom made headlines for spending $45,000 on a proposal. While making news because of the extravagance, lifelong romantic commitments continue to be a spectacle which centers men in the provider role and depicts women as longing to get married. A quote from this groom confirms this:
“Asked if the expense was worth it, Ogle replied that he was spending money on what was important. He said that men often didn't have control over what happened at their weddings but said he had total control over the proposal." (abcnews.go.com)
Does rising gender equality have something to do with the decline in marriage? Yes, but it certainly doesn't tell the whole story and I don’t think it accounts for current trends.