Once again, feminism ruins your love life.

Photobucket

Last week the NYTimes took a few creative liberties in constructing what Amanda Hess called the “bogus trend triple threat,” aka, putting together trends with loosely related information and making sweeping generalizations about this loosely related, poorly researched, barely proven data. One of these three stories that got the most attention was of course about the death of romance for those in the female empowered set. Female independence, it turns out, is a major boner killer.

Some men have more fundamental issues. One 38-year-old Italian manager complained that her boyfriend suggested she change jobs because he no longer felt able to “seduce her” after her salary rose above his. A French management consultant said her husband, a teacher, stopped coming to parties with her because he felt inadequate every time anyone asked him what he did. A German banker said one reason her ex-husband left her for a physiotherapist was “because she would have more time for him.”

“It is amazing how even many liberal-minded men end up having sexual and emotional difficulties being with more obviously successful women,” said Sasha Havlicek, the 35-year-old chief executive of a London research group. A high-flying friend of hers resorted to ritually feigning helplessness with her partner to promote his sense of masculinity. “The male ego can be a more fragile thing than the female ego, which is used to a regular battering and has hence developed a sense of humor!”

What we have here is a 21st century feminist dating kannnnandrum. As a single dater, I am constantly facing the woes of the, “I’m not good enough,” dude who has internalized the ethos of failed masculinity thereby precluding him from dating what he perceives as powerful women. In all honesty, we can say, we won’t date that person or you don’t want to date someone like that anyway, but we all know it is more complicated than that. Everyone is impacted by expectations of gender and unless there was a redefining masculinity revolution that impacted more than a handful of guys, I think we are kinda shit out of luck with this one. Basically, we have our work cut out for us.

Bennhold’s article concludes that in order to prevent this 21st century dating conundrum and not end up alone with a dried up vagina and 700 cats is to, “Leave the snazzy company car at home on the first date; find your life partner in your 20s, rather than your 30s, before you’ve become too successful. And go after men who draw their confidence from sources other than money, like academics and artists.” This weak and most likely ineffective advice doesn’t really address the true matter at hand which is that models of romance are changing and instead of supporting antiquated ideas of romance that don’t line up to people’s lived realities, we should be supporting and showcasing a new model, one that doesn’t rely on women’s inferiority to men. Trust me, even sad, “I’m not good enough dude,” will come around to this view point.

I know, its scary to think you may die alone. Trust me, we all wrangle with this fear. But this type of fear-mongering won’t actually lead you to happier romantic relationships. What leads to happier relationships is being empowered, being honest, intentional and clear about what you want. Feminism is constructed in the mainstream as a boner killer and is very effective in keeping young women disinterested in it, but in the long-run, feminism actually makes your love life better. And incorporating and prioritizing your own needs into your romantic life means sometimes running the risk of being single for a little while and it means having some standards and it means not settling, but the truth is we have too much to lose any other way.

My mentor and friend Malkia offered me some pretty amazing advice recently on how romance is one of the most fundamental and important things we have to fight against a world that is pulling us apart and breaking up our communities. As our lives become increasingly isolated, loving is one of the most radical ways for us to resist forced upon social, economic and political circumstances. Resisting romantic expectations, redefining romance for ourselves and creating the kinds of relationships that will be truly satisfying for who we are, today, it turns out is as radical as it was before and as important for us to do as ever before.

Hess concludes in her piece that these stories are more harmful then just charting bogus trends. She writes,

These stories make light of our most basic identities as women—they tell us how our civil rights are ruining our interpersonal relationships, how our wombs are interfering with our higher education, and whether our basic body types are currently socially acceptable. Let’s conveniently gloss over the supporting figures: Even one inflated female trend piece in the NYT is one too many.

So, basically we can’t let the fear-mongering win. The numbers are wrong. As Tracy Clark-Flory wrote at Broadsheet, there are more guys that are cool with new models of romance and femininity than we realize and that number is only growing. Dare I sound too much like a hopeless romantic, but I think we just have to have a little faith and a little bit of hope, that things are in fact changing.



. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

15 Comments

  1. Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    It is wholly much better to be alone, be independent and feminist than it is to be taken by a weak misogynist male (note I say MALE, not “man”) who cannot handle strong women. I know this, because after years of being alone without a partner, I’ve finally met an amazing, intelligent man who supports feminism and loves strong women. It’s totally worth being single and waiting for the RIGHT MAN (or woman) to appear in your life than to be desperate and randomly going out with a dude who’ll give you the time of his day.

    “My mentor and friend Malkia offered me some pretty amazing advice recently on how romance is one of the most fundamental and important things we have to fight against a world that is pulling us apart and breaking up our communities. As our lives become increasingly isolated, loving is one of the most radical ways for us to resist forced upon social, economic and political circumstances. Resisting romantic expectations, redefining romance for ourselves and creating the kinds of relationships that will be truly satisfying for who we are, today, it turns out is as radical as it was before and as important for us to do as ever before.”

    my favourite part of this post.

  2. Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    These NYT trend pieces are growing increasingly retrograde, aren’t they? Are they being ghostwritten by the Eagle Forum?

  3. Posted December 6, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    The men that can produce the masculine revolution are there. It’s just going to take enough of us to have the courage to seem “unmanly” by advocating for massive changes in the way things always have been. No one wants to risk being smeared as gay or weak, both of which are unpardonable offenses in male code.

    Back in the day, the second-wavers were criticized by other women for being unfeminine. It’s just a bit different here because of historic attitudes of privilege, which makes a difficult challenge even more so.

  4. Posted December 6, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    This gets to the nail on the head, as it were. Women should continue to change how men think and create new models for living. Same goes for the “sex is no big deal” crowd who are rejected by good men due to a prolific sexual past. If men have no choice and want to get married, well, stay single or accept or leave the country. Its a sad state of affairs.

  5. Posted December 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I’ve run into someone before who responded to the scenario of being with a woman who out-earned him as “a problem that he’d work hard to fix.” Then he endured much fun at his expense for exposing that particular weakness. In my little world, being intimidated by a woman who earns more or is better educated looks quaint and weak. So it seems silly to me that so many women would have trouble finding men who aren’t intimidated by a more successful partner. It seems even sillier to me that successful women would settle for a guy who’s intimidated by success. In my dating life I’ve tried to avoid women without a real career or profession, and prefer successful women who earn at least near six figures or preferably even out-earn me.
    My fragile male ego rests much easier knowing that my partner may respect my career and success, but is entirely financially secure on her own. I’d like to think that I can seduce my partner with my personality and rugged stylings. I’d feel pretty lame if I needed an income disparity to appear sexy to my partner.

    I say all that, but I really don’t know where the rest of the country is at. I also don’t understand people who watch TV news, and there are a lot of those. Maybe there really are more successful women than there are men drawn to successful women. I tend to think that douchier guys just put themselves out there more extensively, and that strong successful women need to take it a step further and pursue what they want. Maybe we also need to look at the way that address these issues. Should we look at this “trend” as “successful women having a hard time finding love” or “a surprising number of guys who lack the balls to date women who earn more than themselves?” Should we be telling women not to bring their corporate car to a first date, or men to man up and not be intimidated by a woman with a more expensive car?”

    • Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      I absolutely agree with your last point. The author, as you mention, ignorantly stresses the wrong tragedy. It’s not a tragedy that some women out-earn their partners. It’s a tragedy that there are men who are actually emasculated by the economic success of their female partners. It’s a tragedy that women are encouraged to feel guilty for their partner’s selfish (not to mention sexist) insecurities. It is true that some women who have climbed the corporate ladder have a hard time finding love, but is that indicative of their own wrongdoing or does it point to the larger issue of cripplingly narrow definitions of masculinity? I think anyone who believes in the former explanation demonstrates a severe weakness in character and should not be tolerated.

      • Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        ” It is true that some women who have climbed the corporate ladder have a hard time finding love, but is that indicative of their own wrongdoing or does it point to the larger issue of cripplingly narrow definitions of masculinity? I think anyone who believes in the former explanation demonstrates a severe weakness in character and should not be tolerated.”

        Couldn’t it be possible that it is neither of the positions you state, both, or some combination of many possibilities that are contributing to a difficulty for some successful women in finding love? The other question I have is if its really more difficult for successful women to find love? I have heard lots of anecdotal evidence, but also enough anecdotal evidence that its difficult for women who don’t fit in that category to find love. Are there any stats out there that suggest women with a certain level of professional standing have a harder time? Before its possible to effectively tackle the problem, an accurate idea of what the problem is is important. For example, if the problem is men’s insecurities, thats a cultural problem that we can try to change. If, say, the example was, successful woman are spending more time at work and that was making it much harder to find and maintain relationships, it would have a different solution than the first problem.

        All of that being said, it is a tragedy for those women quoted in the article having relationships end because their partner couldn’t handle their success.

        • Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          This research indicates that much of the hand wringing here is misguided. Well educated and economically successful women are actually marrying more and divorcing less, and their marriage happiness is staying fairly high.

          Recent data indicates that, for the college educated, the
          institution of marriage may actually have strengthened. It once
          was the case that college-educated women married at a lower rate
          than their less educated peers. Indeed, marriage rates for collegeeducated women were lower well into the late twentieth century.
          Since around 1980, however, this situation has reversed. Collegeeducated women are now marrying at a higher rate than their
          peers.

          Not only that, but the divorce rate among these women
          is relatively low and has been dropping. This may be due partly
          to the fact that college-educated women, once the leaders of the
          divorce revolution, now hold a more restrictive view of divorce
          than less well educated women.

          The out-of-wedlock childbearing of college-educated women has always been well below that
          of other segments of the population. Now, among those women
          who delay marriage past age 30, college-educated women are the
          only ones becoming more likely to have children after marriage
          rather than before.

          There is more good news. The marriages of the college educated have become better matched than ever, in the sense that
          husbands and wives are matched more equally in their educational
          and economic backgrounds.

          As icing on the cake, all of this may
          add up to greater marital happiness. The percentage of spouses
          among this group who rate their marriage as “very happy” has
          held fairly steady over recent decades, whereas for other parts of
          the population the percentage has dropped significantly.

        • Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
    • Posted December 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      sex-toy-james – I object to your gender stereotyped shaming language.

      guys who lack the balls to date women who earn more than themselves
      to man up and not be intimidated by a woman with a more expensive car

      This type of language is exploiting a gendered stereotype to shame and coerce men to do something they may not want to do or that they perceive as contrary to their best interests.

      The first instance of shaming language implies that the only reason a man may not want to date a more successful woman is that he is sexually deficient. And of course we all know to scorn and insult a sexually deficient man, don’t we? Because what value do they without testicles?

      The “man up” shaming language is even more objectionable. “Man up” is the favorite tool of anyone using rigid gender stereotypes to coerce a certain behavior out of a man. Why should any man feel the need to “man up” to your gender expectations, or anyone else’s?

      Returning to the context of this post, sexual and romantic attraction is a complex and mysterious thing, encompassing a person’s culture, upbringing, previous experience, genetics, and their own personal biology. I don’t think it is anyone’s business to judge the romantic attraction of other individuals. Some men may be attracted to financially successful women, some may not be. It is presumptuous of you to not only judge that attraction, but to engage in very gendered insults of those whose choices you do not approve of.

      • Posted December 9, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        By the way, thank you for the data that you posted. That was a very valuable contribution to the conversation.

        As arbiter of masculine practices it is proclaimed that manly men shall derive their sense of machismo from their own qualities and accomplishments and not upon the relative weakness of their partners. The manliness of men who derive their machismo from the relative shortcomings of their partners will be called into question by this court. Men who are resentful and bitter about their partner being more successful will be shamed. The court of manliness does not condone the subjugation of others to make oneself feel better, unless the partners involved in the relationship entered into the relationship because of their expressed intentional interest in a specific power imbalance.
        The idea that women have to feel bad about their success because it hurts their partners is just sad. Congratulations, you’re fabulously successful and have a great career. You win the guilt of making your spouse feel less masculine and more insecure. Weak.

  6. Posted December 6, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    “A man of quality is never threatened by a woman of equality.”
    — Jill Briscoe

    Alright. If a straight woman’s chances are ruined with some knuckle dragging, stuck in the 50′s misogynist loser, so what? (and even that sort will still try to get in your pants, if you’re single & really hard up for a “quick fix”. Though I don’t think it’s worth it even then.) I mean really, is not being able to partner with some overcompensating macho jerk really some grievous loss to any feminist? It’s worth it to hold out for a really amazing open-minded progressive guy you can relate to and enjoy the company of, than compromise yourself just so you’ll have a partner–any partner.

    Bottom line is that most people. male or female, feminist or not, are social creatures and seek connections with others, especially that partner who fulfills them not only mentally, emotionally and sexually, but in that elusive transcendent way that’s hard to really put in to words, so we shorthand it as “love” with elements of eros combined with agape(in it’s pre-Christian sense). Articles like this play on women’s very natural human fears of never making that connection, of loneliness, of lack of acceptance. It’s quite manipulative, and the thing they all neglect to mention is that if you’re compromising yourself just to land a partner, you’re never giving them a chance to truly love your actual Being, nor are you actively seeking the one who’s Being you can totally love and connect with, and ultimately that will leave both yourself and whoever you’re with unfulfilled and empty.

  7. Posted December 6, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    There are definitely men out there that are perfectly OK with a woman who earns more – but I’m inclined to think that they are the minority. It’s amazing how closely tied are a man’s sense of masculinity with his income power relative to his partner’s.

    I agree with sex-toy-james: If he can *only* seduce his partner with money, and not with his awesome personality and style, then that seems pretty lame. To me it implies that the man thinks he is lacking in everything else – almost as though the ONLY thing that defines him, and the ONLY thing he’s got going, is his income.

    I know a couple where the wife outearns the husband. He is 100% OK with her earning more, but insists on paying for 100% of the tabs. “Just don’t take *that* away from me,” he says….So while he’s ok with earning less, he maintains his feeling of masculinity by paying for everything (which he can easily afford anyhow, so it’s not a financial issue). It’s just fascinating…

  8. Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Like the other male posters, I find the thought of being intimidated by a woman’s income very foreign. I also want to be with a strong, independent woman.

    All of that being said, in part of the quoted text from the NYT article
    “A German banker said one reason her ex-husband left her for a physiotherapist was “because she would have more time for him.””
    seems reasonable to me. I would have a hard time being with someone who had no time for me, and I would expect a person not to be with me if I had no time for them. Of course we don’t get a perspective on how little time this couple spent together, and every couple is different in how much time they want/need to spend together to have a relationship that is happy for them. To me that quote, taken on its own, doesn’t seem to be related to the inferiority complex of the men of the other mentioned stories, but more about differing expectations in the relationship.

  9. Posted December 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Funny, my dating experience was pretty much the mirror of what is described here. The women who were interested in me all earned less money than I did. Those who earned more showed little interest in me. I was glad that I was financially privileged enough so that my dating prospects weren’t too limited.

    My own observations of my single feminist friends is that they still are a lot more impressed with a well-off guy than a poor one. They don’t say so directly, but it comes out as comments like “he really has is life together”, the evidence for which is his responsible (and well paid) job, his world travels, his two homes, etc.

    Meanwhile, sociologists are still reporting that women are most happy married to men who earn significantly more than them.

    My point is that these gendered expectations work both ways. It is not only men who need to change their expectations, but women too.

195 queries. 0.467 seconds