"I know a lot of women like you," said my date, admitting he was trying to figure out why a 'great girl' like me was still single. "They are also single, no kids. But you know, they're career women like you are." Then, in a way to make himself sound less judgmental, he added: "My best friend is a career woman."
"Why are we 'career women' but you're just a guy who hasn't been lucky in love?" I replied.
"I don't know... You know what I mean. You work. You have other priorities." he said losing his macho grip on the conversation.
"I don't think I know what you mean." I said. "Having a job is not a choice for women who are single, and it's often not a choice for married or coupled women either. In fact, it's not even a choice for many mothers these days." Fifty-five percent of moms are working moms.
When a man over age 35 is single, no kids, he's called a bachelor. When a woman is over age 35, single, no kids, she's called a 'career woman.' The implication is that she's chosen career over having a family life. I personally do not know one woman who made that choice. And I live in New York City where that choice is welcome by companies eager to squeeze every last working hour out of its executives. Instead, I've seen women leave lucrative jobs in industries like banking for occupations in industries like education that give them more flexibility to date and potentially have a family.
Now it's true that some women do prefer to focus their energy on their career. And there are many women who are childfree by choice. And it's also true that many women today get married later than their mothers did -- only 26 percent of women ages 20-29 were married in 2008, compared with 68 percent in 1960. But they are marrying men of relative age, so presumably the men are just as career-oriented as the women are.
But that doesn't stop people from labeling single women with no kids as having prioritized career over family, pointing a finger of blame with a less obvious derogatory label than 'spinster.'
By saying 'career woman' there's an implication of heartlessness and apathy for family life.
Women work, just like men do, to pay the rent et al. Do they try to choose career paths that they enjoy the most? Yes. Do they work as hard and as many long hours as men do in same or similar occupations? Yes. Do they do their utmost to excel at their jobs? Yes. Are we implying that women should not have a career that exercises their potential? I hope not.
"I'm not a 'career woman," I corrected my date. "I'm looking for love."
He wasn't it.