29 Sep Review: Why Women Shouldn’t Marry by Cynthia S. Smith
Why Women Shouldn’t Marry is a thought-provoking work. This is actually the second edition; the first was released in 1988. The first edition was written by Cynthia S. Smith, a widow. She tapped her divorced daughter, Hillary B. Smith, to provide a cross-generational approach for this new edition. The duo has written an interesting relationship guide for women.
The authors offer a number of reasons why women shouldn’t marry. Basically it all boils down to freedom of choice. Modern women are self-sufficient, and therefore don’t need a man to take care of them. Many of the financial reasons for marriage are simply moot points in the twenty-first century. Acceptance of nontraditional living arrangements seems to be another key point. The Smiths frequently point out that living with a man is now a socially accepted way of life.
Why Women Shouldn’t Marry offers anecdotal evidence of how women are living happy, fulfilling lives while remaining single. They cover the full spectrum of subgroups including widows, divorcees, and never-marrieds. The Smiths have clearly interviewed a number of women for this book, but I would have liked to see more than just anecdotal evidence. There are numerous published studies on this topic, and their inclusion would have lent some credibility to this book.
The concept for this book is interesting, but I felt like it was lacking the necessary degree of substance. I know that it’s perfectly fine to be single, but it seems like the Smiths try a little too hard to prove their point. Being single isn’t for everyone, nor is marriage. There is also a loophole in their definition of “single.” A number of the women interviewed were actually in long-term relationships; they simply weren’t married. This seems like it is stretching the definition of “single” to accommodate their viewpoint. They also found so many people with negative views of marriage that their evidence seems very biased.
One of the problems that I often find with this sort of work is that the authors tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time tearing down the opposing social structures. It almost makes you feel like some sort of anti-feminist if you have no problem with the idea of marriage. Many of the women interviewed for the book already had negative views of marriage, so the evidence is certainly suspect. Without empirical evidence, the book really walks the line between relationship guide and feminist rant. Fortunately, it does stay in relationship guide territory.
There is also an unnecessary chapter at the end where the authors include letters from readers of the first edition. It’s nice that Cynthia Smith received so much positive feedback, but the chapter is annoying. It seems like the authors are saying, “Our point is valid. Look at all the people we’ve helped.” Positive feedback is great, but it doesn’t need to be included in the second edition.
The message in Why Women Shouldn’t Marry is simple: don’t marry for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, the authors never acknowledge a valid reason for marriage. It is certainly an interesting book, but I don’t think the Smiths’ advice or technique will appeal to everyone.
Why Women Shouldn’t Marry
By Cynthia S. Smith and Hillary B. Smith
Paperback, 216 pages
April 25, 2008
Reviewed by Cynthia Murphy