Monday, 8 April 2013

Get Me to the Church on Time

Lisa the Iconoclast2
 Not Sure if Miss Hoover Attended Princeton...

Lisa, this is nothing but dead white male bashing from a PC thug.  It's women like you who keep the rest of us from landing a husband

Came across this op-ed in the NY Times this weekend by the redoubtable Ross Douthat.  In his piece, Douthat points his analysing eye at a recent kerfuffle at Princeton University.  One of its alumnae wrote a letter to the Daily Princetonian, in which she offers the following advice:

Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out — here’s what you really need to know that nobody is telling you.
For years (decades, really) we have been bombarded with advice on professional advancement, breaking through that glass ceiling and achieving work-life balance. We can figure that out — we are Princeton women. If anyone can overcome professional obstacles, it will be our brilliant, resourceful, very well-educated selves.
The letter generated the usual intramural food fight about the patriarchy, proper "gender" (sic) roles, sexism, and the like.  We can (and probably will) argue about what women "want" until the end of time.  I thought that the Mel Gibson movie might be dispositive, but then Mel sort of imploded in a froth, so...

But Douthat actually raises the more interesting and truthful discussion.

That women now have more choices than they did 50 (or even 25) years ago is undeniable.  Few - including the writer of the letter, a Susan Patton - would argue that a woman needs to be married to lead a fulfilling life, which is the straw man (straw woman?) self-identified feminists raise.  But few people want to spend their lives single, even "strong women."

Take a quick survey of your closest friends and colleagues - how many of them, all else being equal, would choose to remain single?  Any hands up?

In my admittedly selective sample space, I know of very, very few woman who want to be with a partner who is less educated than they are.  Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, once commented something to the effect that no Chinese man wants to marry a woman with more education than he has.

In the US, it seems that the converse is true - few women are willing to marry a man of lower social stature than she has.

As another quick thought exercise - think of the entire set of female friends and colleagues who surround you.  How many of them married "down" - to a man with less education, less social stature, and frankly, less financial earning potential?  Any hands still up?

What that means to the undergrads at Princeton (and Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc.) is both obvious and determined.  These people see themselves, right or wrong, as a sort of elite, master class.  Thus, by necessity, for a Princeton alumna to marry someone of her own social class rules out the overwhelming majority of potential mates.  And thus, Patton's statement - that if a Princeton alumna wants to get married, her single best set of prospects surrounds her during her time as an undergrad.  This fact should be spectacularly uncontroversial to anyone who spends more than three seconds considering it.

Douthat raises this point, and then takes it further into an exposition on class and status in the US.  The replies on the comments page attacking him essentially prove the point that Patton was making.

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