Thursday, January 13, 2005

Buying a Meal Ticket

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Men Just Want Mommy

"Powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less-accomplished women." Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them....there are evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own." men with demanding jobs would rather have old-fashioned wives, like their mums, than equals. The study found that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise. So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? The more women achieve, the less desirable they are? Women want to be in a relationship with guys they can seriously talk to - unfortunately, a lot of those guys want to be in relationships with women they don't have to talk to.

As with all sociobiological explanations there's probably something to it but it misses the point. With every 16 point rise in IQ there's that much less reason for women to get married--particularly since men look for ego-stroking and support services. When I was growing up the only way to get a place of your own was by getting married. The only alternative was to be an old maid schoolteacher and take care of your aging parents until they died and you inherited the house. When I was an undergraduate, Miss Cowler, the English professor who instilled my lifelong passion for the Enlightenment (which she, and everyone else at the time called "The Eighteenth Century") invited me to her house for drinks. I still remember the beautiful cylindrical glasses with false bottoms in which she served liqueurs and my amazement at the fact that she, an unmarried women, actually lived in a house on her own. I thought there was some law against it.

My mother's view was that a man was, as she put it, a "meal ticket." You got married to get a house of your own and a man to pay the mortgage, take out the trash and do odd jobs. It was also the ticket out of the labor force, where there were no options for women other than dead-end drudgery at low wages. As my mother said of my cousin Joan, who had taught elementary school, "she couldn't stand dealing with those 30 little stinkers so she got pregnant as soon as possible." Coming from this I wondered why any woman who could get a good job and make enough money to buy a house, get nice liqueur glasses, and pay for handyman services, would get married.

It always amazed me that feminists by and large bought into the male picture of the traditional arrangement according to which women were subservient and oppressed. According to the traditional female picture men were dumb animals with strong backs and weak brains whom women manipulated. My mother told me the story of a remote ancestor, apparently domiciled in Silas Marner country around the time of the Industrial Revolution. He had a loom in his cottage which he worked lying on the floor underneath it. When he tried to come up for a break, pulling backward to sit up, his wife would grab him by the ankles, drag him back under the loom and force him to keep working. Did traditional men ever get the idea that traditional women were using them---flattering their vanity, soothing their egos and providing small services in order to get houses of their own, financial support and household maintenance? Did they ever realize that it was traditional women, not feminists, who were contemptuous of them?

I don't practice what I preach--married very young and now married for 32 years, I wanted a relationship with someone I could talk to and a real Dick-and-Jane family in the suburbs--and I fell in love. But none of my friends are married. Why bother? If you have a decent job and aren't looking for a bail out, if you can buy a house on your own salary and afford to hire a handyman, if you can get the things you want without sucking up, playing games, flattering and doing little services for a male companion, why bother?


Anonymous said...

I have been married for 13 years and I'm married because I realized at some point that "the things I want" were not THINGS at all. When I read the article I wondered how a "demanding job" presumably outside the home makes a man somehow superior to his "old-fashioned wife". How is she not his equal? Because she is not like him? Because she does not participate in the construct called, work week and career? How did the measure of a person become reduced to nothing more than a job title or salary? Or is it just that our materialistic world has twisted what constitutes success, failure, worth and equality. Mozart died penniless and was buried in a paupers grave, vanGogh was derided and ignored...perhaps those who willingly sell their lives an hour at a time to buy a bunch of crap and to ensure the success of others are not as smart as they may believe. I recently overheard a woman I know claim that being a stay at home mother is demeaning...of course she gets botulism injected into her face and spends her days "sucking up, playing games, flattering and doing little services" for a man that's not even paying her mortgage so that she can be "equal"...not demeaning at all. It amazes me that women think that we are no longer buying into male arrangements and that somehow that going to work means we are no longer subservient and oppressed...we may have wanted real equality but we have accepted an ersatz facsimile...

Anonymous said...

When I read the article in the Times I couldn't help but think of a Yiddish saying that my poppy was fond of. The girl who can't dance, says the band can't play. Perhaps these women need to take a closer look at why they are undesirable, and I don't think it's because they are too brilliant and wonderful. As for the "less accomplished women" it sounds as if they are accomplishing quite a bit!

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