Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Maureen Dowd’s op-ed piece, “Men Just Want Mommy” published in yesterday’s New York Times is getting a lot of attention. I’ve had a half a dozen friends email it to me with notes attached at the bottom that vary from outrage to despair.
Ms. Dowd says she is noticing a trend that successful men become involved with young women whose job it is to take care of them in some way. This trend is echoed in the plot lines of recent films in which men think the ideal woman is their secretary, flight attendant or maid, rather than the female partner in the firm. The question is whether these narratives reflect reality. Ms. Dowd writes, “art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection, rather than affection.”
A recent study by Dr. Stephanie Brown at the University of Michigan seems to provide some empirical support for such a claim. Dr. Brown summarized her findings as follows, “powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less-accomplished women.” The reason given for this is “evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own.” According to Dr. Brown, men believe that women who are highly educated and professionally successful are more likely to have extra-marital affairs.
Now, the sample size in this particular study is extremely small (120 male undergraduates) and ultimately inconclusive, in my opinion. But, the study’s results are supported by a second study at four British universities which also suggests that intelligent men with challenging jobs prefer “old-fashioned wives, like their mums” instead of women who are their equals. The British study indicated that high I.Q. decreases a woman’s chance for marriage by as much as 40% for every 16 point rise, while high I.Q. increases marriage prospects for men.
Ms. Dowd’s piece conflates several issues, which I think are quite distinct: intelligence, professional success, and caretaking. It is obviously problematic to equate a lack of professional ambition with minimal intelligence or to judge a successul career as the disinclination to make a home and nurture. Still, the basic conclusion is that a man would rather marry a subordinate. Where do Mormon men come down on this? Of course, we know that LDS women are counseled not to postpone marriage or childbearing and to stay home with their children once they come, so it is perhaps rare that single LDS women are in the law firm, board room, or science labs in the first place. But, to the extent that they are, or could be, what do Mormon men think? How do you actually feel about dating and marrying your intellectual or professional equals? Perhaps all of you happily married men out there believe that you and your spouse are equally yoked where native intelligence is concerned.
But, what if your wife were better educated than you?
What if your wife consistently made more money than you or had a more prestigious position than you?
When you were dating (or if you still are) were (are) you attracted to women who had (have) ambitious professional goals?
Is intellectual parity less threatening than professional parity? If so, why?
The study suggests that “expressions of vulnerablity enhance female attractiveness.” Is this more true, less true or not true for Mormon men as a group?