Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Does a Woman's Success Damage Her Man's Pride?

I have been somewhat skeptical of these studies in the past, but the research seems to be more and more conclusive.

The results:

If a man and woman are involved in a relationship—let’s call it a marriage-- the woman’s success will demoralize the man and the man’s success will not demoralize the woman.

Another report arrived at the same conclusions, except that it saw the man’s success enhancing his wife’s self-esteem.

One should, at the least question these results. One thinks of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen. If Gisele’s success demoralized Tom, you would expect to see it on the football field. So far, no evidence has materialized.

Of course, Gisele’s career is so female-specific that one would not expect that any man would see himself competing with her. Would it be different if they were both corporate lawyers, competing for a partnership or a bonus?

For another example, take the case of Senator Ted Cruz. Since his wife is a managing director at Goldman Sachs she is clearly the main breadwinner in the family. Her position is obviously far better compensated than United States senators.

But, a United States senator has more power, more privilege and more prestige than a banker. If one wants to compare male and female success there is more to it than money.

Now, ask yourself this: has Cruz ever exhibited any signs that he was demoralized? Does he have good political instincts? Do his political strategies ever suggest desperation?

It’s food for thought.

In the meantime, the academic study also suggests that the men who feel demoralized by their wives’ success tend not to know it. Apparently, our culture has taught them to ignore their own feelings when their feelings have been labeled sexist. Surely, there’s a touch of irony in the fact that the culturally accepted attitude requires men to deny their feelings.

In the privacy of the therapist’s office, it’s a different story, said Jill Weber, a clinical psychologist in Tysons Corner. “It’s ...something that certainly clinicians and therapists see a lot.

What makes the new study so fascinating, Weber said, is that the men who participated weren’t even aware that their self-esteem was affected by their partners’ performance. This, she said, could cause problems later on. A man struggling on an unconscious level with a partner’s success might suddenly act out — distancing himself from his partner, becoming slow to return phone calls or being less attentive, said Weber….

This suggests that women who fail to “lean in” on the job or who choose occupations where they are not competing in a male-dominant arena are trying to preserve their relationships or their marriages.

At the least, it is not an ignoble motive.

I suspect that women did not need to read research studies to see the way men react to their success, whether in the classroom or the board room.

When it comes to performance in school, girls have clearly learned to forge ahead, ignoring the way boys react to them. Does this mean that they too have learned to deny their feelings?

According to lead researcher Kate Ratliff of the University of Florida men see their female partners’ success as a sign of their own failure. When involved in a marriage or a relationship with a woman, they see success as a zero-sum game. Men believe that women's success makes them look like failures.

To a rational individual the study identifies a difference between the sexes and an important aspect of marital relationships. It would appear that women who lean in will be demoralizing their husbands and be undermining their marriages. When women are not married, their ability to lean in will make it more difficult for them to get married.

Politically correct thinking rejects such gender stereotypes. It sees them as social constructs, to be deconstructed by cultural revolutionaries.

The Post reports:

“From a masculinity perspective, men are supposed to be the ones that succeed, and certainly for some men they think they should succeed more than women and be better than women,” said O’Neil, a professor of educational psychology. “Men are socialized to be competitive and to win and to succeed.”

Traditionally, men have been expected to take the lead in a relationship, especially financially, and to be the front-runner, said Aaron Rochlen, a professor who studies the psychology of men and masculinity at the University of Texas at Austin.

The article continues:

Men who react negatively to a partner’s success, Rochlen said, are probably hanging on to old-school ideas of what it means to be a man — what Rochlen called “the John Wayne model of masculinity” that a man should have control over a woman, restrict his emotions, avoid vulnerability and be in command at all times, attitudes that don’t square with living in today’s world or being psychologically healthy. Rochlen said such men are more likely than others to suffer broadly in relationships and beyond. He noted that there’s much research showing that holding on to outdated male stereotypes and behavior is a major predictor of high levels of substance abuse, acting out, depression, anxiety and other problems.

Apparently, the only healthy men are metrosexuals who are in touch with their feminine side, are less competitive and who accept a diminished place in the world.

Rochen does not consider the possibility that we live in a culture that actively punishes men who seek to live out an “outmoded” model of masculinity. It’s not just that these men are losing out in favor of women—thus, that competition has now become a zero-sum game—but that the game seems increasingly to be rigged in favor of women.

Thus, men end up demoralized and depressed, just as the study predicts. Yet, all that testosterone does not just disappear because someone has waved a magic wand.

Manly instincts that are not allowed a constructive expression are channeled into more destructive activities: criminal activity, gang violence and promiscuity. Machismo has traditionally been associated with female dominant culture.

What we see is what we would expect when a group of individuals suffers discrimination for having innate characteristics that it cannot change.


Sam L. said...

I would think that a man, confident in himself, would have no problem with a wife doing well. Perhaps I'm a dreamer, or misinformed.

Anonymous said...

Answer: No. That is, if the man has achieved success in his own way, and is confident of the value of his contribution. Most men aren't clear about what they value and what they're here for, so they compare themselves to their woman and the digits on her W-2. Sad, but true.


David Foster said...

There was an article in Atlantic recently in which the author and some of her friends contemptuously referred to their stay-at-home husbands as their "kitchen bitches."(IIRC, they had *wanted* stay-at-home husbands)

Perhaps some of the men who found their wives/girlfriends success to be threatening had encountered or heard of similar attitudes, and his influenced their reactions.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine the outcry if a man ever publicly called his stay-at-home wife a "kitchen bitch" in a mainstream publication? That is a statement of pure contempt. Is this Atlantic writer's husband still married to this rotten woman? If yes, the monicker is true. How disgusting.

If such talk among "successful" women is indeed normal, then women would seem at some level biologically wired to cruelly emasculate their husbands. If that's what they think of kitchen work, they would also look down on their own mothers and grandmothers, treating traditional female contributions to maintaining household as a pejorative. Modern society has become so materially decadent that we don't even recognize how to run an efficient household. It's easy to put down home economics when one doesn't even understand it. Good grief! If two people cannot mutually agree how they will arrange and support a family without all this nonsense, I fear women's stated fancy for equality and mutual respect is destined for doom in the lomg-term. Nobody, regardless of gender, wants to be demeaned.

I also cannot help but attribute the "bitches" language to anything other than the mainstreaming of rap gangsta culture. The word used to have meaning as a forceful expletive. Now it is thrown around as a mainstream demeaning term. Hence, men can now be "bitches," and it's somehow funny. When I grew up, calling a woman a bitch was never funny... it was stated for effect and with intent. Now it is all too common.



P.S.: I suppose a Democrat can say "kitchen bitch," because they "only made an insensitive attempt to be funny" or their remarks were "taken out of context." After all, it's the intention that matters, not the result.

David Foster said...

Here's one Atlantic article by this awful woman:


...in which she uses the "kitchen bitch" term

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, David. I look forward to reading it.

Dennis said...

There was a time when I started believing a bit of the feminist drivel so I decided I would give my wife more help at home. We both worked and it seemed like the right thing to do. It was the worse two weeks of my life. I learned that women like respect for what they do, but the last thing they want is you to interfere in what they consider their bailiwick. If they ask for help give it, but otherwise stay out of it.
A man has a number of functions, skills, abilities et al to add to a marriage and it is not becoming a woman or acting a woman's part. One was born a man for a reason. I can see where the "kitchen bitches" comes from. It is not much different from what men label women who act out male responsibilities and start to lose that all important femininity.
I agree with Sam L that there should be no reason why one's wife's success should be a problem. My wife's success made it easier for me to set the conditions of my own success. There were a number of things I did not have to worry about. The problem comes when two people place more emphasis on their work life instead of their married life. What happens at work stays at work.

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