Remember Susan Patton?
Mother of two male Princeton undergraduates Patton had the temerity to recommend that female Princeton undergraduates use their college years to find themselves suitable husbands. Surely, it’s better than hooking up?
You may recall, these remarks produced a feminist freak out. Beginning with the Jezebelles and the estimable writers at Slate’s DoubleX blog, feminists denounced Patton for trying to consign young women to premature domestic drudgery and to abort their chances at career fulfillment.
Obviously, the cultural pressure to adopt what I have called the feminist life plan continues to oppress young women. And yet, a large majority of young women of college age believe that they must establish themselves in careers before getting down and dirty with the business of mating. It counts as one of second-wave feminism’s most conspicuous and dubious successes.
It was accomplished without legislation or regulation. It was supported by certain legislative and regulatory initiatives, but the fundamental notion that marrying young was bad for women was purely a cultural change in mating strategy.
Of course, feminists believed, a la Betty Friedan, that career was more important for a woman because working outside the home, a la men, was the only true path to personal fulfillment and self-actualization.
That this was grossly insulting to millions, if not billions of women around the world… no one cared. Nor did anyone notice that feminists had cleverly duped young women into thinking that once they established themselves in careers they would be MORE attractive to men. Being independent, autonomous and solvent, they would not be dependent on men and would be loved for themselves alone.
What could be more appealing? Many young women bought it.
To which Susan Patton responded that biology did not necessarily follow the rules laid down by ideology. Say what you will about social constructs, rail all you want about how biology is not destiny, insist all you will that there is no fundamental difference between men and women… the truth of the matter is that a woman’s fertility is a diminishing asset and that it diminishes faster than a man’s.
There are sound Darwinian reasons for this, but why belabor the obvious.
Among the consequences of following the feminist life plan… large numbers of women who wanted to have children could not do it, for having waited too long. Among others is the ascendance of reproductive endocrinology.
As for the logic behind the argument, one woman—I forget who—pointed out that if you follow the feminist life plan you will be the mother to toddlers at a time when your career is reaching its summit, during your late thirties and early forties.
Can it be done? Yes, it can.
Is it advisable? Probably not.
In this as in many other cases we want to hear what women have to say. In this case writer Jenny Bahn, a thirty-year old woman who wrote an article for xoJane, later reprinted in Time.
Bahn recounts the moment she discovered that, whereas a man’s career advancement makes him more attractive to women, a woman’s career advancement makes her less attractive to men.
Another minor detail, ignored by the feminists. To be fair, if you ask a Jezebelle about this gross disparity, she will surely tell you that it is a sign of rampant sexism.
The thirty-year-old Bahn recounts her breakup with her 38-year-old promising prospect. It isn’t quite fair to say that he was a boyfriend. They never got that far.
For the record, Bahn was formerly a fashion model. If you think that beauty matters, she certainly has it.
Anyway, Bahn explains:
At 40, a man is well into hitting his stride, something the guy I’m arguing with is all too aware of, as evidenced when he professes on multiple occasions, “I’m an amazing guy.” “We’re killing it. KILLING IT,” he tells me, while explaining that he’s been caught up in his rapidly expanding architecture firm.
Alex sees his stock rising. For a man, age brings success, wisdom and the Hollywood-approved wrinkles of Robert Redford. And, while I too find that my career is on the up, it doesn’t matter, because time, for a woman, is hardly as kind as it is to a man. My career successes, my triumphs as a human being, are trumped by the fact that my looks—and my ovaries—have a shelf life. Biology and Sociology 101.
Biology and sociology… who knew?
It’s this logic that has most of my 30-something guy friends dating girls fresh out of college. Girls who, in my experience, are less impressive, less striving, less volatile, less successful, less intimidating, less questioning, less pressing, less complex, less damaged, less opinionated, less powerful, less womanly. They are less, and, to a guy not ready for anything—like most of the guys I have dated in New York—less is more.
A 30-year-old woman is an undertaking, and it’s the real reason Alex has been putting me on the back burner for the past two months, telling me that I’m amazing and that he’s interested and then disappearing to hang out with a 23-year-old instead. Age ain’t nothing but a number, until it’s a number someone else doesn’t want to deal with.
Through this you can hear Bahn asking: how come no one told me this? How come I was led to believe that being older, wiser, more solvent, more substantial and more opinionated would make me a more desirable mate?
In brief, the theme of her column should be: Biology may not be destiny, but it is real. Why did they lie to me?