It’s a story as old as second-wave feminism (OLD): Successful women can’t find good men. Female empowerment is killing romance! Poor men, sometimes their girlfriends pay for vacations, and sometimes their wives make more money. That must be hard. Some couples manage it, somehow — she pays for all of the big expenses, but when they’re in public he pulls out his credit card so that it doesn’t look like she’s paying. She may be the one filling the joint bank account, but when the check comes, he lays down the cash. And he always drives.
Of course, women like Bridget Jones and Miranda on Sex & the City were rejected for their success, so that is probably also the case for all 20- and 30-something women (who also all exclusively date men and define “success” as “making a lot of money” and are also mostly successful). Right? Don’t Bridget Jones and SATC have their manicured fingers on the pulse of The Lives of Getting-To-Be-Not-So-Young-Anymore Women?
Dated cultural references aside, it’s not a myth that some men (a lot of men, even) are really, really intimidated by women who make more money than them, or who are more highly-educated than them. Yes, reader, I’ve seen it first-hand. It’s true! I have said “I’m a lawyer” and have had men literally turn and walk away from me in bars (although maybe that marks them as more intelligent than I). But more men that I meet — and I’m definitely dealing with an edited pool, since the “I’m a feminist blogger” thing tends to come up relatively early and weeds out the predictable weeds — want to spend time with women who are intelligent and interesting and aren’t looking for a wallet on legs. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman has to be traditionally successful in the makes-a-lot-of-money way, but most men I know seem to want someone who likes what she does and has passions and interests that require some brainpower.
Of course, some also run in the other direction when it comes out that no, I don’t want babies in the next few years (yikes); some run in the other direction when it comes out that I’m a lawyer (understandable). So, you know, the “I’m ok with success” thing can come with strings — success is fine, and intelligence is good, but the other signs of traditional femininity had better be there. A lady with a big paycheck who also shaves her legs and wears skirts and puts on mascara and smiles a lot and downplays her intelligence is less intimidating than a lady with a big paycheck who doesn’t do those things. A lady who is successful at work but will take her husband’s last name and stay home for a few years when kids come is less intimidating than a lady who is successful at work but won’t do those things. You bet that men put “intimidating” on a sliding scale; even a lot of the more liberal-minded ones who wouldn’t think twice about a partner with a demanding and well-remunerated career will balk if you suggest that, say, you think your kids should have your last name if you’re the one to gestate and birth them (yes reader I have gotten into that fight, and it was nasty).
But wait, ladies! There are ways to earn big and still score in the mate department:
Ms. Domscheit-Berg, who is also active in the European Women’s Management Development International Network, has three bits of advice for well-paid women: 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.
In all seriousness, that is terrible advice, especially the part about finding your life partner “before you’ve become too successful.” College-educated women are the most likely to have happy marriages, and are the least likely to view marriage as primarily a source of financial security. Men and women who marry later have lower divorce rates and more stable marriages. Financial difficulties put a lot of strain on marriage, and are a leading reason for divorce. And statistics aside, do you really want to end up with a man who is threatened by a successful woman? This is just anecdotal, but from what I’ve seen, insecure, gender-traditional misogynists don’t make the best of partners (weird). Let’s not whitewash the reality that a lot of men are intimidated by successful women, to varying degrees, but enough aren’t that it really isn’t so impossible to find someone pretty great. (Even Miranda did it, right girls?) Or at least, it doesn’t require partnering up early to make sure you snag someone before you could possibly start to intimidate him with your ever-growing lady-brain. It definitely doesn’t require hiding your car (or even painting that shit pink).
Plus, boycotting relationships with intimidated-by-women men will eventually edge them out of the gene pool (and will edge their mentality out of our culture). That wouldn’t be so bad.
- Where Have All the Good Men Gone? by Jill February 21, 2011
- David Brooks has a question. by Jill March 30, 2010
- Are Men Intimidated By Successful Women? by Jill April 5, 2006
- One woman’s whinefest is another woman’s tragedy by zuzu September 25, 2007
- So it turns out that the gays are going to ruin your marriage after all. by Jill September 20, 2008