The Mrs. Degree and Gender norms in the Deep South
As an Australian, the question I get asked most about the five months I spent in College in Alabama is, ‘so is it really like the movies?’, well the answer is yes and no.
Travelling to America I didn’t expect to experience any major cultural differences. In my naivety, I figured all native English speaking countries would be relatively similar in social values and in the way people act. Boy, was I wrong, States in the ‘Deep South’ or ‘Dixieland’ as the locals call it, are a whole different world. Hopping off the plane was like hopping out of a time machine into a simpler day and age. I was greeted as ma’am; people were kind, highly religious and life moved slowly.
The majority of Southerners, old and young hold onto strong, old fashioned ideas about gender norms. The men are believed to be the breadwinners and the women are to be housewives, whether they work until childbearing or stop work as soon as they met a man. These notions sparked many debates between myself and my southern friends, one of whom said “I don’t want my wife to work again after we have kids” and laughed when I asked “what if your wife earnt more than you?”. The idea of a woman earning more than a man was a crazy concept to most of the friends I made over there, this could be due to their idea of the traditional family unit. Another reason could be due to the large wage gap between men and women in the US, with data stating that women in Alabama earning 75c to every $1 that a man earns. With all this taken into consideration, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise for me to hear about women who went to college in the aspiration of obtaining a ‘Mrs. degree’.
What’s a Mrs. degree? Well urban dictionary defines it as
- A marriage as a result of attending a 4-year university with the sole purpose of getting married and consequently, not completing college.
- The attending of college, usually a 4-year university of moderate to high prestige, to get married to avoid independence or responsibility.
- To go from one’s parent’s home to the home of a spouse without achieving emotional or financial independence, or academic success.
Basically put, it is when a woman attends college for a degree they care very little about to try and find a young man with a high earning potential and good education.
Sound good? Here’s a few tips I learnt about the best way for a girl to graduate with a Mrs. Degree:
Firstly, you must be strategic about the college you choose to attend. You’ll need a large pool of men to fish from, so look for colleges with a high male to female ratio. Less fishermen – or women should I say, means a higher likelihood of you snagging your prize catch. You’ll also want to choose a college with a pool full of high quality fish; after all you want to be fed well for the rest of your life. If you catch a fish that isn’t pre-med/med, law, engineering or business, please throw the poor thing back; it’s not worth your time.
Once you’ve narrowed down the school, it’s time to choose a sorority to join.
All sororities and fraternities encourage dating and give you ample opportunity to meet ‘the one’. Sororities and fraternities both participate in weekly ‘date parties’ where you invite a date or be invited as a date to a themed party where you must be matching – #stressful. Another event encouraging mingling are ‘swaps’ where select Greek associations of the same calibre have exclusive parties to meet others. So picking a prestigious and highly ranked sorority is a must. Being a part of these exclusive associations can cost you anywhere between $4,000 – $10,000 USD (depending on prestige) extra per year on top of your tuition. A small cost for the chance to meet a man that will look after you and your arts degree for the rest of your life.
But don’t take my word for it, check out the highest prospect colleges for finding men here, highest ranked sororities here, tips on choosing a man with a good major here, and here are some pointers for tying him down.
In my time in the south, I did cross paths with a number of girls paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend college trying to undertake their Mrs. Degree however it’s reassuring to know that this was rare. The majority of women were actually there to get their degree however they did dream of meeting ‘the one’ at some point in the four years. In fact, women in America are actually more educated than men with 4 tertiary educated women to every 3 tertiary educated men. The statistics however do show women holding a work force participation rate in America of 57% compared to their male counterparts at 69.1%. So why are women more skilled than men but are not participating in the workforce? The low women workforce participation rate can be attributed to the idea of traditional gender roles, where women exit the workforce to default into a housewife role or don’t continue with their careers after child birth.