Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gender Norms Live

Nothing about this story is especially surprising. Certain leftist radicals have been beating people over the head about their sexism for decades now. Lo and behold, real human beings, when they go on dating sites like OK Cupid, present themselves in ways that are consistent with traditional gender norms.

One Darin Hawley went through nearly 100,000 dating profiles to see which words occurred most often when prospective daters described themselves.

The Atlantic summarizes the results:

When Hawley analyzed the words appearing more on male profiles than female ones, he discovered an overwhelming use of terms describing professional occupations, including “engineer,” “software,” “musician,” and “construction.” (“Ladies” does, however, take the top spot.)

Conversely, the words that appeared more on female profiles than male ones emphasized appearance and personality traits, with far fewer professional terms cracking the list. Instead, words like “girly,” “sassy,” and “curves,” dominated. “Nurse” was the sole exception.

Note that both sexes are equally invested in gender norms. If I may I would recommend that young men not place too much emphasis on their "software."

The conclusion is fairly obvious:

Men, by placing a profession at the forefront of their appeals, are seemingly responding to the expectation that they can contribute financially to a relationship, while women elect to highlight their looks and femininity. The pattern in this data suggests that people, at a macro level, advertise themselves in a way that still plays into long-held societal norms—that women look for rich men with stable jobs and men for beautiful women.

And also,

The data also hints at the endurance of another norm—the belief that men’s work is integral to their identities and women’s work is more of an ancillary characteristic.

Could it be that this norm endures because it reflects something basic about the difference between the sexes? Why do we imagine that the history of human behavior is wrong, but that we, enlightened souls, are right?

I close on one point that seems slightly unclear. The word that appeared most often in men’s profiles was “ladies.”

I will make a leap of faith and say that these men were not describing themselves as “ladies.” I suspect that they were trying to signify what they were looking for in women. They seemed to value women who were ladylike, who were not trainwrecks, who were not hookup queens, and who were not ideologically driven feminists.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is not only calculation about income that makes women interested in men's occupations. Much of it is that male accomplishment is attractive in the visceral way that something like male height is. The common male use of "musician" especially supports this.

And vice versa: A man might be interested in a woman's occupation and income potential. His attraction for "feminine" or "girly" is something he feels in his guts.

It's symmetrical: Men have trouble understanding the attraction of occupational accomplishment for women, because they lack it. Women have trouble understanding men's lack of interests in their occupational achievements because they feel it attracting them to men.

I've heard the sudden interst in women's voices when I mention "guitar".