Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The curse of the successful woman

This is why my husband is awesome (well one of the reasons): We were having a conversation about relationships and he said, "A real man doesn't need a woman to be weak so he can be strong."


Apparently, Mr. What Tami Said's is not the prevailing opinion among men, so says The New York Times. An article yesterday asked:
Is female empowerment killing romance?

Sexual attraction in the 21st century, it seems, still feeds on 20th-century stereotypes. Now, as more women match or overtake men in education and the labor market, they are also turning traditional gender roles on their head, with some profound consequences for relationship dynamics.

There is a growing army of successful women in their 30s who have trouble finding a mate and have been immortalized in S.A.T.C. and the Bridget Jones novels. There are the alpha-women who end up with alpha-men but then decide to put career second when the babies come. But there is also a third group: a small but growing number of women who out-earn their partners, giving rise to an assortment of behavioral contortions aimed at keeping the appearance of traditional gender roles intact.

Anne-Laure Kiechel is an investment banker in Paris who makes more than five times more than her boyfriend, a communications consultant. She keeps watch on their finances and pays for all big invisible expenses, like vacations.

But in public, it is he who insists on pulling out his credit card to avoid, he said, looking like a “gigolo.”

“It makes me laugh,” Ms. Kiechel said. “But if it pleases him, that’s fine.” (Not long ago, he asked her to book hotels in his name because he doesn’t like being referred to as “Mr. Kiechel” upon arrival; future bookings would be made in both names, she said.) Read more...
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.”
For the second time this week I have to ask: Is this really a thing? Oh, I know some men are threatened by successful women. But are these really the men that any woman wants to partner with? Well-adjusted, confident men are not threatened by their partner's success, but happy for it. These ubiquitous "men can't deal with your success, ladies" articles and books just encourage women to make themselves attractive to men who may not be the best mates. And they privilege the needs of insecure men over those who have their shit together.

For all you Real Housewives of Atlanta watchers, this kind of reminds me of "Doctor" Tiy-E Muhammad, who was shown lecturing a roomful of gullible women that to open a bottle of ketchup by oneself on a date was the height of emasculation. I thought, "Brother, if your manhood is tied to the opening of condiment containers, you need to be attending self-help sessions not leading them."

Patriarchy, quiet as it's kept, also strangles men by enforcing strict standards of masculinity. (And I suggest this is one reason more men should be active feminists.) I'm not saying that any man who ever experiences a feeling of doubt when dealing with a higher-achieving woman is a loser. Those feelings are real and understandable. But the solution is not to make women feel insecure about their successes. One solution is to push back against a society that judges men based on their dominance over women. Most of the couples in the article seem to have found another solution. Despite the internal struggle, these men chose to love and commit to successful, strong women. And, as couples, they are navigating what it means to live in a changing world where women have more options and the goal for healthy relationships is equal partnership not male dominance. (I would add that there are many women who struggle with this, too.)

To writer Katrin Bennhold's credit, she does talk to men and women for whom changing power dynamics are not a problem. But asking questions like "Is female empowerment killing romance?" puts undo blame and responsibility on women--once again--for a patriarchal system that victimizes us the most.

Photo credit: lust4lthr


Symphony said...

How about is male insecurities killing romance?

I also question if this, like many things that seem to hold our attention, really a thing.

Sometimes I feel the more attention something gets from the mainstream, the less of a "thing" it actually is.

As usual, thanks for giving me something good to read and ponder Tami.

sparkindarkness said...

Ugh I think these men need some sense of self worth pronto. Their worth as people is not based on their wallets - insecurities, they has them

It's almost sad and pitiable, but they're using their insecurities to strangle the women around them which rather detracts from the sympathy I can dredge up

k8dee said...

Thanks again, Tami! You have really been knocking them out this week, and all are inspiring good thought and conversation.

KimcheeBrown said...

Oh yes it's a thing. Yes, yes, yes yes, yes, yes, yes...absolutely. And it's infuriating.

Your still fabulously single 32 year-old lawyer cousin in New York


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