As she approaches 40, Kate Bolick has come to a profound insight: that she – and many American women like her – might never marry. But revealing that fact in the Atlantic magazine caused an outbreak of soul-searching and frenzied comment. Here, she talks to Lisa O’Kelly
Your piece went viral as soon as it was published in the Atlantic magazine in the US in October , sparking a slew of reaction pieces in online magazines such as Slate and the Huffington Post, not to mention 30,000 likes on Facebook. Were you surprised at the scale of the response?
I was really surprised. I had no idea the piece would attract that kind of attention. It’s the second most popular story of the year for the Atlantic and I’ve been asked to do a ton of radio and television; each phone-in programme I’ve done, the lines have been flooded. There have been countless articles about the article. I haven’t even read all of them. It’s a really surreal experience being written about in this way. The reaction has been across the board, from positive to negative. I’m still getting hundreds of emails from men and women of all ages all over the world and those run the gamut. Predominantly, though, I’m hearing from single people who are feeling happy and relieved to hear about this growing demographic and to read someone who is speaking to their experience. I’ve also had love letters and quite a few marriage proposals. That has been really funny.
Why do you think there has been such a tremendous response to the piece?
I’ve been trying to figure it out and I think the main reason is that we are in a very conservative moment socially. This is surprising since there has been so much progress on same-sex marriage, which makes it seem as though we are at a progressive moment for gender relations, but in the heterosexual world we’re in a very conservative place. The fact that a single heterosexual woman simply questioning the primacy of marriage should create such a storm is proof enough of that.
Apparently you have annoyed some male readers.
Yes – I think a lot of men are feeling vulnerable and scared at the moment because their economic power and influence is dwindling and I don’t think I was sensitive enough to that when I was writing the article. I was coming at it from a female standpoint, because that was what I was asked to do and that was how I felt most comfortable writing. But I’d like to see a male equivalent of my article now.
Have any of your exes commented on the article?
Yes, but only in a positive way. They are all very excited by the reaction.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I do, yes.
What does that mean in 2011?
In essence, the old-school feminist principles such as equal pay, equal rights, a woman’s right to be in control of her own body and her own life – these things still hold true today for everyone. But because of the way the arguments are sometimes framed, there is a lot of misperception of what feminism is now. People say they’re not feminists but then if you ask them if they agree with equal pay they’ll say yes. I wanted to discuss these ideas in a way that was open and accessible. A lot of feminist discourse can be alienating because it is more polemic.
There are now plans to turn the piece into a TV series.
I am beyond excited about it. I was approached by Josh Berman, creator of Drop Dead Diva [a hit US drama series about a pretty twentysomething actress who dies and is reincarnated as an older, frumpy lawyer] who loved the ideas in the article and convinced his executives at Sony that he could turn it into a scripted series, not a reality show. I don’t know Josh but I’ve seen an episode of Drop Dead Diva and I really liked the way it dealt with women’s body issues in a comic but intelligent way. I’m going to be a co-producer and creative consultant once it gets off the ground.
Who will play you?
I have no idea! But it’s quite fun to think about who would be my ideal choice to play the 30-year-old me, who would be the 40-year-old me and so on. I can’t decide.
Tags: conservative place, heterosexual world, idea, marriage proposals, moment, reaction, run the gamut, same sex marriage, series, USA, way
Categories: The Western Press