13 March 2012

"But No Man Will Want To Marry You!"

Some of my current students had yet to be born when I started teaching.  Just when I thought I'd heard everything, I realized I had. And that was part of the problem.

One of my students told me she wants to study aerospace engineering. That means she will have to transfer to another school.  It may also mean that getting a bachelor's degree won't be enough.

However, those aren't the reasons why her parents are trying to talk her out of her dream.  It's also not the expense her schooling would entail, or even what her job prospects would be.  (As an occupation, it's growing at about an average rate, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics.)  Rather, it's about what it would do to her social life and marriageability.

What's really disturbing is that her parents aren't religious fundamentalists from some country where women aren't allowed to do much besides have babies.  They were born and raised here, and are both teachers.  She tells me they want her to "be happy."  But, she says, "They don't understand that my happiness might be different from theirs."

Now, if they were concerned about her job prospects, I could understand:  As I understand, most aerospace engineers are white and male.  So, perhaps, she might encounter prejudice, albeit in more subtle ways than she would in other fields.  But I would think that if she were determined enough, she could make her place in such a field.

I thought the "no man will want to marry you" canard died out, at least in this country, by the time Sally Ride came along.  I guess I was wrong. 

I'm not against anyone getting married, if that's what he or she wants.  I'm also not against one spouse or partner staying home with the kids, as long as both spouses or partners agree to the arrangement and will make whatever sacrifices are necessary. However, unless being married is the most important thing in a person's life, I don't think he or she should choose a major or career on whatever marriage prospects it might or might not offer.

Ironically, though, her parents might be right, at least in one way. In some of the states in which one is most likely to find a job as an aerospace engineer, my student could not get married. At least, she wouldn't be able to marry anyone she would want to marry.  I wonder whether her parents know that about her.

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