Bill Maher is one of my favorite human beings.
About a decade ago I started watching Real Time, Maher’s show on HBO, but that was before I ever had a real grasp on politics or anything any of his guests were talking about. I mostly watched because I thought Maher was hilarious, even though neither of my parents could stand him. (Probably because he’s a huge liberal.)
Last Friday he featured author Rebecca Traister, to discuss the rise of women in America. Below is the full segment, with some transcription that kicks in around the 1:30 mark:
Maher: When I was first doing the show in the 90’s, you know, I had to, like, stick up for the idea of being single is normal. You’re not a weird person if you don’t get married. And now whenever I tell people I’ve never been married they’re like ‘good for you. How’d you do it, man?’ I mean it’s like a badge of honor.
Traister: There are now more unmarried people in the United States by about a percentage point.
Maher: Right. We are a single majority nation.
Traister: And it’s not just some weird trend or quirk. For women especially, who historically have been economically dependent on men, have been sexually dependent on men, in eras where they couldn’t control their reproduction through birth control or abortion. Have been dependent on men if they wanted to have socially sanctioned families.
The fact that circumstances have changed and that now they can be earners, they can participate in public and political life, they can have liberated sex lives, they can have families without being married. What that means, it displaces marriage as the organizing institution — that organizes gendered power among other things. And it creates all kinds of new paths for women. It remaps women’s adulthood in a way that’s totally unprecedented. And it is discomforting to a lot of people.
Now, obviously I’m not a woman. And women’s rights have rarely, if ever, been a focal point of anything I’ve written about. Again, I can only assume this is because I’m both (a) a man and (b) because 90% of what I discuss on this blog revolves around sports, politics, and gambling. Just like the tagline reads.
This Maher segment is a callback to one of my other favorite human beings, ever, the late Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens was originally a Marxist, and was part of various socialist parties in his younger days. He also frequented Real Time, which should come as no real surprise since the two of them are (or were, in Christopher’s case) champions of liberal causes. If you feel like it you can see the two of them in action here, here and here.
The reason I give enough of a shit to mention Hitchens in this is because he had a unique view of the role of women around the world. Below is a video from November, 2010 — about a year before his much too early death — where Hitchens speaks at a church in Plano, Texas. Probably the last place in America you would expect a liberal to peddle such revolutionary ideas:
We all know there is a cure for poverty. It’s a rudimentary one, it does work though. It works everywhere, and for the same reason. It’s colloquially called the empowerment of women.
It’s the only thing that does work. If you allow women some control over their cycle of reproduction, so that they’re not chained by their husbands or by village custom to annual animal type pregnancies, early death, disease, so forth. If you will free them from that, give them some basic health of that sort, and if you are generous enough to throw in perhaps a handful of seeds and a bit of credit, the whole floor culturally, socially, medically, economically, of that village will rise. It works every time.
It’s worth disclosing that I do not assume any guilt for being a man, or more specifically a white man, for whom almost every economic and social advantage in the United States has been handed to me on a silver platter. The rules were written long ago, and I can’t help my disposition.
But it’s also important that I am not blind to that fact. When I think about women’s rights, it always comes back to my mom. She’s the hardest worker I’ve known, the most caring and loving and all those other virtuous qualities. She generally makes good money — very good money for a woman — but if she were a man she would probably earn double what she does now. I know this because I used to work with a lot of the fuckfaces who make a shit-ton more than she does.
To that end, I do feel for the struggle. And I must be a super-liberal millennial for holding Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens in such high esteem. Even though the ideas are different, the sentiment remains the same: The more power you give women, the better the society.
I won’t deny that I still hold some chauvinistic images in my head. I mean, of course the dream is to have so much goddamn money that my future wife won’t have to work, but it’s less to do with taking care of children and cleaning the house and cooking dinner than it is my own ego. I want to prove that I could do that, if I wanted, even I don’t wish my future lover such a confined reality.
And really, my worldview isn’t so antiquated. I’ve told my best friend Trey so many times that ambition is all I look for in people, so the thought that the woman I end up with would be OK with a life at home makes absolutely no sense to me. It’s cool in theory, but it’s a deal-breaker in reality. Because there’s just no way I would end up with such a person.
America is turning into what many Western European countries have already caught onto long ago. Marriage is less of an institution, religion is less of an institution, and so we’re destined to have more single atheists rejecting the old ways.
This is a surprisingly smart advancement for a country that seems so backwards much of the time.