Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Career women, downwardly mobile men, and ... misogyny?

John Tierney's latest column about women, men, higher education, and marriage (sadly, a prisoner of Times Select) is raising some hackles. Echidne of the Snakes, the feminist blogger who just the other day made mincemeat of a much-trumpeted new study of gender differences in Internet usage, accuses Tierney of nothing less than misogyny -- though she says this harsh judgment is also based on some earlier columns of his. She even urges readers to stop subscribing to the Times in protest against the "woman-bashing" dished out by Tierney and David Brooks, who the other day rhapsodized about the power and fulfillment enjoyed by stay-at-home moms.

At Salon.com's Broadsheet blog, Lori Leibovich is equally unimpressed.

So, what is this horrible thing John Tierney said?

Here are some excerpts from his column, titled "Male Pride and Female Prejudice":

When there are three women for every two men graduating from college, whom will the third woman marry?

This is not an academic question. Women, who were a minority on campuses a quarter-century ago, today make up 57 percent of undergraduates, and the gender gap is projected to reach a 60-40 ratio within a few years. So more women, especially black and Hispanic women, will be in a position to get better-paying, more prestigious jobs than their husbands...


Tierney notes that while some men are reluctant to marry a higher-earning woman out of masculine pride, such attitudes seem to be dwindling:

In 1996, for the first time, college men rated a potential mate's financial prospects as more important than her skills as a cook or a housekeeper.

In the National Survey of Families and Households conducted during the early 1990's, the average single man under 35 said he was quite willing to marry someone earning much more than he did. He wasn't as interested in marrying someone making much less than he did, and he was especially reluctant to marry a woman who was unlikely to hold a steady job.

Those findings jibe with what I've seen. I can't think of any friend who refused to date a woman because she made more money than he did. When friends have married women with bigger paychecks, the only financial complaints I've heard from them have come when a wife later decided to pursue a more meaningful - i.e., less lucrative - career.

Nor can I recall hearing guys insult a man, to his face or behind his back, for making less than his wife. The only snide comments I've heard have come from women talking about their friends' husbands. I've heard just a couple of hardened Manhattanites do that, but I wouldn't dismiss them as isolated reactionaries because you can see this prejudice in that national survey of singles under 35.

The women surveyed were less willing to marry down - marry someone with much lower earnings or less education - than the men were to marry up. ...

You may think that women's attitudes are changing as they get more college degrees and financial independence. A woman who's an executive can afford to marry a struggling musician. But that doesn't necessarily mean she wants to. Studies by David Buss of the University of Texas and others have shown that women with higher incomes, far from relaxing their standards, put more emphasis on a mate's financial resources.

....

"Of course, some women marry for love and find a man's resources irrelevant," Buss says. "It's just that the men women tend to fall in love with, on average, happen to have more resources."

Which means that, on average, college-educated women and high-school-educated men will have a harder time finding partners as long as educators keep ignoring the gender gap that starts long before college. Advocates for women have been so effective politically that high schools and colleges are still focusing on supposed discrimination against women: the shortage of women in science classes and on sports teams rather than the shortage of men, period. You could think of this as a victory for women's rights, but many of the victors will end up celebrating alone.


Tierney's conclusion is a bit snide and smacks of the "uppity women will end up as old maids" cliché. But is he really, as Echidne claims, warning of "the dangers that women face if they veer away from the path traditionalists hold as the ideal one for women"? Nowhere in his column is there a suggestion that men are likely to shun successful, ambitious, high-earning women -- quite the opposite! Nor is he saying that it would be a good idea for women to avoid a higher education because it might harm their marriage prospects. Rather, the main point of his column is that in celebrating female achievement, we should not disregard male underachievement. Echidne claims that Tierney is calling for "affirmative action for men in college admissions," but he's not. He specifically says that educators must tackle the male/female gap in academic proficiency long before college. (His column is a response to the recent Weekly Standard article by Melana Zyla Vickers, "Where the Boys Aren't: The gender gap on college campuses.")

What's so outrageous here? The problem of the partner shortage faced by college-educated black women due to the huge gender gap in college attendance among African-Americans (among black college graduates in recent years, women outnumber men two to one) has been a subject of a great deal of discussion, certainly not just among conservatives.

Echidne seems particularly put off by the suggestion that women marry for money. In a separate post, she writes:

One quote in Tierney's column struck me with unusual vividity. It is by an evolutionary psychologist David Buss:

"Of course, some women marry for love and find a man's resources irrelevant," Buss says.

Color me naive but I assumed that most people in the western world who marry do so at least believing that it is for love. Am I totally mistaken in this? Is it true that only "some women" marry for love and that the others, presumably, marry for money? I don't know a single case of anybody, man or woman, marrying for money amongst my acquaintances but perhaps my acquaintances are atypical?

Leibovcih, quoting Echidne, repeats the same point. But they are both quoting a truncated version of the Buss quote. The second half is:

"It's just that the men women tend to fall in love with, on average, happen to have more resources."

Or, to quote the old saw: "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man."

Now, I'm not David Buss's biggest fan. I read a lot of his articles while researching my book, Ceasefire (which has a chapter on sex differences), and I think he often tends to "spin" his findings in a way that magnifies male-female differences. But come on, folks. Is anyone going to seriously argue that a man's resources -- income, power, status -- are generally irrelevant to women's preferences in the mating game in modern-day American culture? That doesn't mean most women are calculating golddigers (as some men's rights folks like to depict them), but yes, women generally prefer not to "marry down," and not just in terms of money but also in terms of prestige, education and intelligence, for which a college degree is considered a marker. To deny this fact is, shall we say, not very reality-based. Unlike many conservatives, I'm not saying that this is the way it should be or the way it always will be. But for now, such a trend is definitely there.

Leibovich's reaction is especially puzzling because her magazine, Salon.com, has published several interesting articles by Ann Marlowe dealing with this very problem. In a passage particularly relevant to this discussion, Marlowe writes:

Yes, there are plenty of young women who decry marrying for money, but how many of them would marry a man they knew would never make as much money as they do? Money is too tied to power, and hence to our perceptions of sexiness, to be removed from the marital equation.

In another article, Marlowe notes:

We rarely examine the values implied by the kinds of remarks we let slip constantly -- "She married badly," "He's a meal ticket," "She's too high-maintenance." Very few women would react well if a man asked their price, but many will casually boast of their boyfriend's expensive presents or recent promotion, or imply that a lover's income offsets other less stellar qualities.


Marlowe, it should be noted, is a feminist who strongly believes that women can break these patterns. I personally think that she overstates her case somewhat and draws too stark a picture, and tends, not unlike the conservatives, to overgeneralize about women and men. But, in broad terms, she is certainly on to something. Another feminist who has addressed this is writer Peggy Orenstein, whose 2000 book, Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World, based on interviews with about 200 women in their twenties and thirties, makes it clear that most young women -- including ones with professed feminist values and aspirations -- place a very conscious value on a prospective husband's earning potential and ambition.

However, once again, it's not just about money. It's about status, intelligence, personal growth, if you will. A friend who teaches at a state university told me that she has noticed a pattern among female students from a working-class background: having gotten a college degree, or even some college education, they dump their boyfriends or husbands who have not continued their eudcation beyond high school, mainly because they feel that they have "outgrown" these men. I would add that, today, most college-educated men would probably not see a woman without a college degree as a suitable marriage partner -- whether or not her degree enhances her earnings.

So yes, the gender gap in college attendance is very likely to create a skewed marriage market (pardon the utilitarian terminology) in which educated, career-oriented women will face a shortage of marriageable men. It's hardly anti-feminist to acknowledge this fact.



By the way, Leibovich's post is followed by some very interesting reader comments discussing these issues.


48 comments:

Christopher said...

In the Salon comments you linked to, the unintentional comedy of having a Lexus ad inbetween every other comment is priceless, given the topic of discussion.

jw said...

In what I see, men have traditionally preferred to marry down and women to marry up. The men have changed, the women have not. Trouble. Simple really.

So, yes, obviously, women are now going to have marriage troubles. The problem of males not getting the proper preparation to enter college / university life is the bigger problem. Doubly so as there is so much opposition to doing anything to help any male.

We live in a culture which demands all "gender" problems be viewed gynocentrically. That must change or we will have far far more problems then we need to have. The universe is not a female only place: Too many people cannot understand that. There are good signs, Cathy Young among them, that things are changing, too slowly, but changing none-the-less.

christopher said...

Let me add that I think that almost everyone, men and women both, want to feel confident that they will be able to raise their children in a home and neighborhood equivilent or better than the one in which they were raised. Didn't the NYT run a series of articles about class and class mobility in the US a couple of monthes ago? Did it not say that people from different classes only rarely marry? I don't remember that this was controversial then, so why is it now?

Anonymous said...

Ah, to be a writer for Salon and be so sure of myself and my friends and acquaintances.The thing I realized around the time I turned 40 was just how many women I knew were in relationships and/or marriages for less than the loftiest of reasons. It happens. The shock, given we live in a society where women's earnings plummet once that have children, is that it doesn't happen more often. I suspect Leibovich, Triaster, et,al. need to live a few more years and hang out around a few less journalists.

As for Tierny's column, I do wish he had found a better way to address our educational systems disdain for the physical and emotional energy of boys. That's ultimately a much more important (albeit less sexy) issue than whether, say, some female lawyers would rather not date the office janitor.

Lori Heine said...

Why do some men's rights groups persist in disparaging women who won't "marry down" as gold-diggers, when men seem not to have relaxed one bit their obsession with marrying the best-looking gals they can find?

Women have a (probably-evolutionary-driven) tendency to seek the most security they can obtain for their offspring. Their desire to "marry up," or at least to marry equal, at least takes into account the well-being of people other than themselves. What lies behind mens' looksism, expect for their own self-gratification? And please don't tell me it's motivated by their need for pretty children.

As I lesbian, I personally have no real stake in the issue. (Lesbians want to marry up, too, so I can relate to the competitiveness many men feel in striving to earn the best mates.) But not only can I understand the pressure to compete for a mate who expects me to earn as much money as possible, I can also very well understand the motives of those potential mates.

beAzl said...

Saying that women should lower their expectations is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. To the degree that there are boys in high school and earlier who are motivated by being good marriage material, this would further lessen their incentive to study hard.

If you are easily offended by sweeping generalizations, please skip the rest of this message. I have neither the time nor the patience to back any of this up with data or the appropriate qualifiers. I just know it's true.

The problem is that young boys and girls are not driven by long term considerations. They respond to short term incentives. Girls, particularly the ones looking for a fling, are not attracted to young Bill Gates's - instead they are attracted to the big dumb jocks or the guy with a motorcycle who skips class, who don't have much career potential.
As for what boys want - well there's a famous song that indicates what that is.

So the solutions are then obvious:


*Replace high school football matches with math competitions, spelling bees, debate competitions, etc. Winning schools get a free trip to Disneyland for everyone.

*Just say no to affirmative action for men - it is a drug that retards, rather than encourages, achievement, and diminishes the satisfaction and prestige associated with recognition of accomplishment. And it's for wimps.

*Make admissions to all colleges and universities tough, based on universal entrance exams - people going to college should at the least perform at a twelfth grade level.

*Eliminate remedial classes and programs at colleges and universities.

*Universities should weed out students not performing up to snuff, based on universal exams each year. No exceptions.

*Universities should create dorms that students can choose to live in which "alternative lifestyles" are encouraged. For example, allow coeds to room together if they choose. Create dorms with communal, coed showers. Enforce a 50/50 ratio. Heavily subsidize these dorms. If there is a waiting list, give preference to the good students, based on gpa. Gay dorms could also be created, with tough admissions standards.

*University faculty and administrators should defend graduate students and professors who engage in non-academic coed socializing with the same vigor they used in Bill Clinton’s defense.


I guarantee that with these simple measures, boys’ test scores will go up dramatically, and we will pump the economy with a million Bill Gates's every year (not to put any aspersions on his moral character), ready to settle down, and fully verse in the finer arts of lovemaking.

Anonymous said...

"Those findings jibe with what I've seen. I can't think of any friend who refused to date a woman because she made more money than he did. When friends have married women with bigger paychecks, the only financial complaints I've heard from them have come when a wife later decided to pursue a more meaningful - i.e., less lucrative - career."

New here. Great blog, Cathy.

Glad to hear that your observations have been similar to mine. I lived in the world of professional singles until I married at 35, and I've never once met a man who would blow off an attractive, pleasant and encouraging woman because she was "too successful." Even my husband, who is more essentialist than I am in his ideas about what men and women are like, always laughs at that myth. He's an old-fashioned guy in many ways, but his attitude was always: "If she makes more than me, great. We'll just get to retirement that much faster."

"Women have a (probably-evolutionary-driven) tendency to seek the most security they can obtain for their offspring. Their desire to "marry up," or at least to marry equal, at least takes into account the well-being of people other than themselves. What lies behind mens' looksism, expect for their own self-gratification? And please don't tell me it's motivated by their need for pretty children."

If you buy into the evolutionary view of gender differences and believe that women are hard-wired to look for males with the most resources, it's equally plausible to say that men are hard-wired to look for the females with the most indicators of fertility (youth, beauty, certain body type, etc.). But more important than any of that, it seems to me, is that we all want partners, people of similar education and background to whom we can relate. Like does tend to attract like, which is why, even if you believe women tend to value income and men tend to value looks, people don't often marry outside their overall socioeconomic classes.

Anne

reader_iam said...

Cathy:

This is a bit off the top of my head, and I will admit to reading post & comments even faster than usual due to deadlines and such. For this reason, and because this is a comment, not a post, I'm going to broad-brush here. (I do get the broader complications and implications.)

I think we may be accidentally dancing around a central issue: and that has to do with women's greater investment in the concept of keeping open options and choices and not getting "caught" in a path that can't really be changed much, or not without great difficulty and disruption. I think highly educated and/or very career-oriented women haven't really accepted the idea that their commitment to work and a specific career path is truly permanent and may be irreversible due to outside commitments in the way in which men do, and always have. (Whether that's good or bad is a different issue.)

Let's say a man has a great career, economically speaking, but sometimes dreams of changing to something else not so remunerative, or whatever. He marries someone with an equal, or even lesser, career, but decidedly someone who's pursuing a high-powered one. She later decides to drop out or to pursue a different path (for all the reasons we've seen elucidated in other contexts). In so many cases, he'll just keep on, keepin' on. He might resent not having as much income, or not; he might wish he could take the path less taken; but he's still more likely, even today, to accept the situation and make the best of it. Most won't consider it oppression or personal thwarting.

Now consider the situation with the genders reversed.

I think that in the sense that many women--NOT ALL, and I don't know nor am positing a specific percentage--but many woman who might not care about "marrying down" in the here and now are uncomfortable with marrying someone whose education, skills and marketability is such that at a later date economic roles could not be switched relatively (RELATIVELY, I said) easily. Women, I don't think, like options being shut off (and I can certainly understand this!), and they're not as likely to accept those rules even in a professional, economic context--which, I think, men have been conditioned to do for a very long time.

I'm not putting it precisely or succinctly (still thinking it through), but truly think this slightly different take might be worth pondering.

What do you think?

I don't

Revenant said...

What lies behind mens' looksism, expect for their own self-gratification? And please don't tell me it's motivated by their need for pretty children.

Actually the evolutionary motivation may be exactly that. This is oversimplifying, but: men who have sex with good-looking women sire good-looking female children, who in turn are more likely to attract men and have more kids. In the long run, sex with a good-looking person nets you a greater number of descendants than sex with an ugly person does. It doesn't matter what "ugly" and "pretty" are -- once the inclination is there, both the trait itself AND a desire for those possessing the trait start being selected for. Think of attraction to seemingly pointless physical characteristics -- whether its large breats on a woman or big tail feathers in a peacock -- as the additive result of countless generations of positive feedback.

I think you're wrong in saying that men are obsessed with marrying the best-looking women they can find, by the way. Men value looks in sex partners, but other traits trake higher priority when the woman is viewed as a prospective spouse. Much of the perception that men care more about looks stems from the fact that men on average place a higher value on casual sex.

aprilpnw said...

Just curious, since we've been discussing gender issues and work..

Has anyone come across any feminists/bloggers ect.. decrying the gender imbalance of the 12 miners recently killed in the mining accident? After all - not a woman to found among them.

I'm not going to hold my breath, but I do frequently find that the holy grail of a 50/50, perfect gender balance in the workplace doesn't look so appealing when dirty and dangerous jobs are considered.

If anyone knows anything about affirmative action in the mining industry, I'd love to hear about it. After all, are these not some of the highest paid jobs in the area?

Anonymous said...

Cathy:

Thanks for putting together this excellent post on a topic that needs more frank discussion.

As a 38 year-old, single, male, corporate attorney, often dating women who make as much or more money than I do, I think women's motivation for marrying-up derives from common sense more than anything else, and the increasing tendency of states to use community property law in dividing assets 50/50 in the event of a dissolution. In marrying down, the richer party stands to lose much more under a community property regime.

I also get the sense that however much of a cliche it may seem, perceptions remain that many men who marry-up do so in order to ride the gravy train. One woman I dated recently used those exact words when I told her that my ex-girlfriend had bought a house shortly before we broke-up. Before I could say another word, she said, "Wow, you were really riding the gravy train there for a while." Needless to say, I never actually lived in the house.

One potential problem I see with successful woman marrying-up, at least in parts of the country with higher wages and cost of living index (such as San Francisco), is that they're liable to find a shortage of men who fit this bill. In fact, this is exactly the problem that many women face in San Francisco. I know this from experience in getting rejected by women for precisely this reason, even though I earn about 150K.

Lori Heine said...

Let me put it this way. Men do not always, one hundred percent of the time, marry for looks. But it is generally true that they are more likely to make it a priority than women are. Women do not marry for money all the time, either, but generally it tends to be a bigger deal to us than it does to men.

Evolution certainly did have a lot to do with this. But we are no longer swinging around in the trees. We can make at least some modifications in our behavior and choices if convinced there's a good enough reason for it.

The general tendency of men to marry for looks will probably not change in any foreseeable eon. Nor, perhaps, is there any particular urgency for them to change. But it certainly sounds lame when they cry "foul" because women tend to pick the most successful men they can. Women should probably reexamine the tendency to place such a high value on how much a man earns -- that's fair enough. But it doesn't hurt for men to have some sort of intelligent understanding of why we tend to be that way.

Am I sorry my mother didn't marry a ditch digger? No, I honestly can't say that I am. I'm also glad my dad was a good-looking guy, and that my mom was an attractive lady. But when I was growing up, I think it was more important that there was a good, sound roof over my head and enough groceries in the fridge than that I had inherited good genes.

Starving probably wouldn't be much fun. I can only spend so much time looking in the mirror.

reader_iam said...

I assume my meaning is clear even with the one skipped word (not) in the 4th to last graf and the entirely extraneous (didn't delete) last two words that make up that last graf?

Adrienne said...

Wow, thank you, Cathy.

I am marrying a 6-yrs-younger man with less education than myself (although who is finally getting his B.A.), and who will probably never earn as much as I will.

My best friend from high school recently married a guy who just made partner at his law firm. Her wedding alone cost $60K, and I'm guessing her engagement ring cost around $10-20K alone.

With his money they bought an expensive brownstone in Brooklyn and are refurbishing it. She no longer has to work full-time to support herself, either, and is one of Hirshman's "traitors" as she now does low-paying community service work full-time.

I have to admit to feeling jealous of her "catch" compared to mine on many occasions. Now I can just reassure myself that I'm being a more "modern" non-traditional and feminist woman who is happily marrying down. ;-)

Revenant said...

Let me put it this way. Men do not always, one hundred percent of the time, marry for looks. But it is generally true that they are more likely to make it a priority than women are

True, but neither gender makes it a high priority in marriage. Ninety percent of Americans marry at some point in their lives, and the rate is slightly higher for women than men. If men placed a high value on looks in a wife that wouldn't be possible. Of course, women do give themselves an edge by devoting more time to artificially improving their appearance.

Evolution certainly did have a lot to do with this. But we are no longer swinging around in the trees. We can make at least some modifications in our behavior and choices if convinced there's a good enough reason for it.

Maybe. That isn't necessarily as easy as it seems -- humans are good at many things, but we're *great* at convincing ourselves we have rational reasons for doing what comes naturally. Think about how utterly irrational cheating on your spouse is in the modern era, and that most married couples have at least one unfaithful partner anyway. It is amazing how often people just happen to have reasons for doing the sorts of things that animals do *without* reasons. :)

mythago said...

I don't know about "anti-feminist," Cathy, but it's simplistic and silly to say that there are three female college graduates to every two males, therefore we have (yet another) (imaginary) marriage crisis.

Tierney's essay assumes that all college education is fungible, and that any woman with college under her belt will have more status and money than a man who doesn't. I trust I don't need to drive a truck through this hole in his logic.

jw said...

lori heine: Lookism ... hmmmm. It will get a woman a first date. That's all. There must be something else or the first date will be all there is.

mythago: Yes, men are more common in the skilled trades which do indeed pay well. That said, university educated women do not go out looking for a plumber. While the salary of a plumber might well be much more than that of a human-resources director ... the social differences do not line up well. Women need to ignore the social implications. Some do: More need to.

It worries me that so few are worried about our culture's males. We are creating a permanent underclass of males, say about 25% of the male population. This is a stupid and sexist thing to do. It is also a bloody expensive thing to do as those underclass males will get involved in drugs/violence/gangs as the only employment solution available to them.

Cathy Young said...

mythago: I don't believe that a significant portion of the men who aren't going to college are launching computer companies and the like. The college attendance gap isn't in the middle class; it's primarily among minorities and working-class whites.

I also think that jw is right; I can see a female executive or lawyer marrying, say, a college-educated free-lance writer far more readily than marrying than a plumber who makes five times the money. But I think that this attitude is fairly common among men, too. A male executive who will marry a kindergarten teacher, or a free-lance writer, is very unlikely to regard a cleaning woman as a suitable marriage partner.

John Howard said...

it's simplistic and silly to say that there are three female college graduates to every two males, therefore we have (yet another) (imaginary) marriage crisis.

Right, because there are older successful men who will happily divorce their housewife wives to marry a younger college grad. That Laura McKenna post that wanted to punish men for marrying bimbos with names that end in "i" and work at Hooters implies that if the woman is not a bimbo, if she's instead a college educated professional (like, presumably Laura McKenna) then it's fine for her to go and steal a nice rich husband who is stuck in an unhappy marraige. And, as a bonus, it will punish the homemaker for her choices and help dismantle traditional marriage.

Lori Heine said...

I return to my original point, which is that a woman's motivation for finding a spouse with a successful job is at least partially motivated by the practical desire to provide well for the future of any offspring she/they may have. There is not a woman in this world who needs to apologize for this.

I myself am looking for a pretty wife. Hey, I want a real babe! I can certainly understand why this would be a premium for men. But again, it's more important that my kids have clothes to wear, food to eat and a chance to go to college.

Whether I desire this because my grandma and grandpa a bazillion "greats" ago were apes in the jungle or not is, at this point, very frankly irrelevant.

Revenant said...

There is not a woman in this world who needs to apologize for [wanting to marry up]

Of course they don't need to apologize for it, and I don't think anyone was asking that they do so. Although I do think that women who would rather be single mothers than marry a lower-status partner are justly deserving of criticism.

Whether I desire this because my grandma and grandpa a bazillion "greats" ago were apes in the jungle or not is, at this point, very frankly irrelevant.

It isn't irrelevant from a societal standpoint. If a preference for marrying up is genetically ingrained in women then female marital happiness will unavoidably decline as the gap between average male and female wealth and status decreases, because fewer and fewer women will be able to meet their genetic goals. Even if women learn to settle for suboptimal partners, that feeling of dissatisfaction will remain. If, on the other hand, the desire is cultural, then the problem will be solved (albeit slowly) through changes in individual attitudes towards marriage.

William R. Barker said...

As the father of an 18 year old female college student all I can say is that I hope and pray my daughter finds the man of her dreams... her true soulmate... the ultimate love of her life whom she will love, honor and cherish (with said sentiments fully returned!) till death do they part.

I also hope that he's a rich and successful S.O.B. with a trust fund somewhere in the eight-figure range! (And generous as hell towards his in-laws!)

(*GRIN*)

Most of all... seriously... I hope he's a man of character and conviction, I man I can be proud to call my son-in-law.

mythago said...

That said, university educated women do not go out looking for a plumber.

Like Tierney, you're making the error of lumping all colleges into the four-year, upper-middle-class mold.

College includes an awful lot of different kinds of colleges and degrees. A female Wellsley grad might not marry a plumber, but a woman who graduated from community college and went into court reporting sure might. A state-college B.A. grad might also marry a man who dropped out of college after two years to go work for his dad's business.

All I'm saying is it's simplistic to AGAIN bang the gong about how all those uppity wimmins with their book-larnin' will find themselves lonely old spinsters and THEN they'll be sorry! And to assume that people are so rigid in their choices--that because our parents' generation was shocked at the idea of a woman earning her own paycheck, that our children's will be.

(I'd also note that the women-making-more bias tends to be a middle-class thing. When you're poor, it doesn't matter where the money comes from.)

Revenant said...

Like Tierney, you're making the error of lumping all colleges into the four-year, upper-middle-class mold.

It isn't a mistake; the gender gap exists at four-year universities. And a woman with a degree from a four-year university isn't much more likely to settle for a guy with a community college degree than she is to settle for a plumber.

A female Wellsley grad might not marry a plumber, but a woman who graduated from community college and went into court reporting sure might. A state-college B.A. grad might also marry a man who dropped out of college after two years to go work for his dad's business.

Yes, they might. They just seldom do, or want to. Obviously it is possible to imagine scenarios in which a person without a degree is more attractive as a potential spouse than a person without one, or with an inferior one, is. But such scenarios aren't common in real life. The typical person who drops out of college doesn't have a job with the family firm all lined up. The typical female court reporter probably has her eye on the rich lawyers she's constantly surrounded by, not on the guy who fixes her toilet. And so on.

All I'm saying is it's simplistic to AGAIN bang the gong about how all those uppity wimmins with their book-larnin' will find themselves lonely old spinsters and THEN they'll be sorry!

The problem with your little rant is that we're neck-deep in books and articles written by highly successful women about how impossible it is to find a satisfactory partner. Apparently many of the "uppity women", as you call them, really *are* worried about being lonely old spinsters. Suggesting that they might want to broaden the range of mates they find desirable is entirely fair and reasonable, and for the life of me I can't imagine why you're complaining about it.

Cal said...

How completely annoying. Mythago has made most of my points for me, leaving me nothing to do but add in one that she implied but didn't state directly:

Most pink collar jobs now require a college degree. Most blue collar jobs do not.

Speculation as to why: Girls are more likely to get good grades (a completely meaningless marker, btw), and so, in the middle and working classes, more likely to go to college than they were 50 years ago.

But they aren't any brighter than they were 50 years ago, and so quite a lot of them are getting college degrees that aren't the equivalent of those obtained by the kids that always would have been college bound. (Result--we're devaluing a college degree, and in a few years it's going to be as worthless as a high school degree is now, but that's a different story.)

Anyway, with so many "college educated" young women, the pink collar occupations got boosted up the educational requirements ladder. Secretarial positions, court reporters, paralegals, and the like, now all require college degrees. But these women are still the same women that married plumbers, contractors, and policement in years past, and that's who they're marrying now.

As Cathy says in a comment (but barely mentions in the post), the shortage is primarily in black and Hispanic populations, and also by class. In incomes 70K and up, the gender gap is gone.

The "college gender gap" is just an excuse to get worked up about the "femininization" of schools. I'm certainly not in favor of feminists, but this is a manufactured problem using statistics that have been stable for 20 years.

Cathy Young said...

Don't have the time to reply to everyone right now, but...

Anne:

Glad to hear that your observations have been similar to mine.

The line you quoted was not mine but Tierney's.

reader_iam:

Women, I don't think, like options being shut off (and I can certainly understand this!), and they're not as likely to accept those rules even in a professional, economic context--which, I think, men have been conditioned to do for a very long time.

I think you're definitely on to something there.

mythago:

All I'm saying is it's simplistic to AGAIN bang the gong about how all those uppity wimmins with their book-larnin' will find themselves lonely old spinsters and THEN they'll be sorry! And to assume that people are so rigid in their choices--that because our parents' generation was shocked at the idea of a woman earning her own paycheck, that our children's will be.


But I don't think that's what Tierney's saying at all. He's not knocking education for women, he wants to see more of it for men. And I don't see anyone saying that women shouldn't earn their own paycheck -- I think this is a rather unfair caricature of the argument being made.

Also: I do think that college is a marker of prestige in our culture, and women with a college education, even in jobs that once didn't require a diploma, may see themselves as having "outgrown" the non-college-educated men from the same background as themselves. That was what my friend who teaches at a state university observed.

Rev:

The problem with your little rant is that we're neck-deep in books and articles written by highly successful women about how impossible it is to find a satisfactory partner.

What, Maureen Dowd has written more than one book? *EG*

Seriously, I think this is a bit of an exaggeration. Also, may I respectfully suggest that phrases like "your little rant" do very little to improve the quality of discussion? *G*

One more thought: It seems to me that people with progressive social values ought to be agitating for remedying the gender imbalance in college attendance, because college plays a major role in inculcating liberal social values.

mythago said...

He's not knocking education for women, he wants to see more of it for men.

Because if there isn't more of it for men, all those overeducated lasses will never find husbands. It doesn't occur to Tierney that the real problem is that college shouldn't have to be a ticket to a living wage, and "woman financially dependent on man" is not the immutable, perfect family model.

The problem with your little rant is that we're neck-deep in books and articles written by highly successful women about how impossible it is to find a satisfactory partner.

You work in a bookstore and you're having to shelve Maureen Dowd's latest? Because I can't otherwise think of any other books where the author writes about how she's too successful to marry.

Cathy, college education is a status symbol depending on where you went to college, and why. Again, you and Tierney are thinking "four-year upper-middle-class institution" when you think "college". How much prestige do you think a community-college degree carries?

drumgurl said...

Maureen Dowd would be a lot happier if she just banged a young, broke college student. Or a young, broke waiter. She could have tons of guys. I don't know why she complains.

One of my co-workers (male) married for looks and he now regrets it. He and his wife (who doesn't work) fight constantly and are considering divorce. He says that if he marries again, he's not going to care what she looks like. He just wants her to be able to hold a conversation and have a decent job.

I guess I don't have a real point, other than that we all have to deal with the choices we make. Marrying for looks or money seem like pretty poor choices.

Revenant said...

Because if there isn't more of it for men, all those overeducated lasses will never find husbands.

Mythago, the fact that men are becoming less-educated than women does in fact mean that women will have a harder time finding husbands that THEY find acceptable. And yes, that will make those women unhappier, because the overwhelming majority of people WANT to eventually get married. So what's the point of your complaint?

Again, you and Tierney are thinking "four-year upper-middle-class institution" when you think "college".

Because the ratio problem exists at four-year universities, and women with four-year university degrees are not looking to marry some guy with a degree from East Lansing Community College.

mythago said...

Because the ratio problem exists at four-year universities

Then it's not "college-educated", it's "graduates of four-year universities", isn't it?

women will have a harder time finding husbands that THEY find acceptable

This song has been sung for, oh, as long as I can remember, and I was in college back when we had to chip our own laptops out of flint. Heck, I remember when some commentators suggested that women would have to agree to polygamy because sharing a man was better than no man. Yet there is no 'marriage crisis'.

Simple logic suggests that a woman who wants to marry badly enough will adjust her expectations. I realize that sociobiologists don't like the idea that women are not predestined to be unable to "marry down", but there you are. We don't live in a world where the tribe forbids us from making a living if we are unwed.

Susan said...

This must be an issue primarily on the coasts. I live in the Midwest, and its not at all unusual to see college educated women marrying men without degrees. I myself have a Bachelor's degree and even a few semesters of graduate school under my belt, while my dear husband would shudder at the thought of going to college. I could easily rattle off 10 couples that we socialize with on a regular basis where the woman has a BA or higher, while the man has no college education. (And if I actually put effort into it, I could probably list dozens.)

al fin said...

Excellent discussion! You know, anthropologist Lionel Tiger gave an edifying presentation of these issues in "The Decline of Males" published by ST. Martin's Griffin Press.

To help understand the evolutionary reasons why women and men approach these life issues differently, read (if you dare) Steven E. Rhoads' well documented book Taking Sex Differences Seriously.

Denying the differences so scrupulously documented by Rhoads leads into mythological thinking.

Reginleif said...

Denying the differences so scrupulously documented by Rhoads leads into mythological thinking.

You've got to be kidding. Rhoads substitutes his rigid, religion-influenced ideas about how all men should be and how all women should be for reality. Women like myself who don't conform to them have "high levels of testosterone." Presumably we should be given estrogen injections so we'll come to our senses and realize we're just a bunch of walking, talking incubators.

al fin said...

No, actually you have got to be kidding. Rhoads wrote a book, which bears no resemblance to your wild paraphrase. Can you at least try to be objective? No? Okay.

David C. Geary is an intelligent and prolific developmental psychologist who wrote quite a good book on evolved sex differences. Geary's book: Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences, discusses the evolutionary origins of modern day sex differences. Geary's technical and scientific approach to that issue is a useful addition to The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male and Female Brain by Simon Baron-Cohen, Sex on the Brain : The Biological Differences Between Men and Women by Deborah Blum.

Enough of the ad hominem arguments. That type of bullying is out of place in any environment.

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if you arent married past the age of 20 its your own damn fault, its your fault. this is america, land of instant-gratification. in this world there will always be those who lie, cheat, and steal in order to get what they want in life. there will always be gold-digging women and men. always. there will always be those who mary for love and happiness. there will always be an exception to everything. you all can continue to have your opinions please, none of you are changing the world.

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Wait a minute and see a bigger picture here, please. Women have been actively shut out of labor unions, which have higher paying salaries than a lot of white collar jobs. Not having any other choices for making a good salary, women have to go to college. If labor unions weren't so anti female, women would have other choices in the job market, that did not involve college. I think the shut out of women in unions is the biggest reason women head to college and not what happens in high school. Men can go to college or become an electrician and make the same money in many cases. Women don't have this choice. Unions that involve labor, actively keep women out, except for the token flagman/ person who is a women and will not be able to move up the food chain in a union. US politicians take money from unions and don't enforce any kind of equality in that job market... so college it is for many women who want to support themselves. What other choice do they have? Wait for a man to marry them and support them? That isn't okay with men today, so don't put this all on college, career women and grade school educations. Try looking at the fact that women are shut out of higher paying non college jobs.

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