Women don't really want to be free, you see
I just got around to reading this article in Salon where a bunch of wives of men who contributed to a book on the subject of commitment get a chance to offer their side of the story. I'm sure it's an interesting book, and I hope to god it isn't as dedicated to trotting out the stereotype that men have to be cajoled, deceived, or forced into committed relationships with us lowly women as this article leads one to believe. One interviewee, Danielle Mattoon, seems to believe that women crave matrimony and men fear it.
Women find a sort of solace in a certain amount of solidity; they eagerly move toward these things that bind them to the world, like a husband and family. And men see it as a taking away of their freedoms; for them, each step is a reduction of their liberties, whereas women find certain amount of liberation in knowing where they stand.
You know, it would be interesting to gather up an informal survey asking people who are married or in committed relationships who pushed for commitment. I'll bet you'd find that it's not nearly as much woman-pushing/men-fleeing as you'd think. I'd hazard a guess that half of people would say that no one pushed, it just happened. And the other half would be divided up evenly between who was the one who asked for a commitment and who was the one who agreed. Though I wouldn't call it pushing--my boyfriend "pushed" for the commitment from me, but it's not like I was fighting him on it or anything.
If you're a single woman and you want to get a rise out of people (and do, it's fun), tell them that you don't think of yourself as a settling down type. This is especially funny to do to a man who is fixing to take a drink of beer. Well, if you're a mean person like I am, it's funny. Emphasize that you like to be "free". When you're a woman, people won't even pretend that being "free" from monogamy means anything but that you want to slut that shit all over town.
I'd almost rather hear people be upfront and spread the bullshit stereotype that men like to sleep around by nature while women like to knit over the fire. It's even more insulting to talk vaguely of freedom and say that men cherish it more. That means both that women stifle men and that women don't mind being stifled. Whatever--I assure you that women cherish their independence and their personal space as much as men do. And, to make it worse, a lot more women lose a lot more of their "freedom" to marriage than men, if only in free time, if nothing else. "A Room of One's Own" was written nearly a century ago and still people want to believe that women don't long for their freedom from domestic commitments.
And as for "freedom" as a euphemism for being able to sleep with whomever you please, well, truth is that it's human nature both to desire many different people and to want your partner to want and be with only you. These two feelings are not unrelated. However, good, old-fashioned male privilege has created a situation where men feel relatively free to express these desires where women have to toe the line a little more and be what men hope we are. And straight men, of course, hope that we don't have a roaming eye. And a few fools actually seem to believe the "rather be knitting" myth.
Male privilege in this department has been whittled down considerably over time. Men can pretty much no longer expect to get away with philandering while demanding fidelity from their wives, so that's a start. But there's still many bad attitudes that need rooting out. The myth that women crave marriage and men crave freedom helps reinforce male dominance in a way that's especially cruel, since it's so personal. After all, when negotiating the myriad of compromises that go on in committed relationships, it's awfully helpful to have your partner feel like she should be grateful that you even bothered to show up in the first place.