Professor says marriage has gone through drastic changes over a short period of time.
By Cassi Armstrong
World War II changed the stereotypical roles for U.S. men and women, which caused relationships and marriage to evolve, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University-San Antonio said Tuesday at this college.
Dr. Vicky Elias, who spoke as part of Coming Out Week, said American women worked outside the home while men fought overseas in the 1940s.
The divorce rate rose in post-war America, and gender roles continued to transform, she said.
That climate ultimately led to the acceptance of same-sex marriage.
“When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, people fell into two categories.
It was either, ‘Wow, we finally did this,’” or ‘Oh my God, the world is going to end. How did this happen?’ But ‘How did this happen?’ was really the question we all wanted to know.”
Elias discussed the major changes in the nation’s social and marital panorama.
Sociology is the study of human interactions; Elias said she focuses on sexuality, gender, marriage, family and equality.
“I try and link all of those things together,” Elias said.
Her speech began with the newest change, the legalization of same-sex marriage.
In general, people tend to think of the gay rights movement as a new concept, she said. Elias assured students that it isn’t.
Elias explained the movement began with a 1700s effort to stop the criminalization of homosexuality.
It wasn’t until 1963 that the topic of gay marriage was broached, she said
“That means that in 50 years we gained marriage rights,” Elias said. “After more than 200 years of just wanting decriminalization, we move from decriminalization to marriage. That is amazing; that is a rapid pace of social change that is unheard of.”
Gay marriage isn’t the only union that has changed in this country.
Heterosexual marriages are beginning to slow down, she said.
Elias asked students, “How many of you think that there is a rise in divorce rates here in the country?”
Most students agreed there is an increase in divorce.
Elias said it’s a myth and wondered why people believe divorce is rising today.
In fact, there is a major decrease in divorce because there is a large decrease in marriages, she said.
“We have to understand why people get married in the first place,” Elias said of understanding the statistics. “There is an accelerated race in social pace, and there is a reaction to the change.”
Historically, she said, people wed because of things like children, sexual access, property, duty and beneficial alignment with another family.
Marriage in the past wasn’t for love, but a union of teenagers to maintain or increase wealth between the two families.
“Love had barely been the basis of marriage; instead, love between married partners was seen as a serious threat to social order,” Elias said.
Elias says, now as a whole, people tend to tie the knot to either start a family or because they are in love.
The average age for marriage among U.S. women is now around 30, she said.
Women in modern times have changed their perspective from the older ways, such as getting married and having babies at a young age.
Young women are choosing to go to school to get an education or learn a trade, she said.
They gain independence and then later consider marriage.
“What did it mean when you got married? You had fulfilled your role as an adult,” Elias said. “Marriage now is the last thing you do now. It means that I am ready, I have arrived.”