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Shorter NY Times: Screw the stats, women are desperate

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 22:43 EDT
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I’ll confess; when this article came out in the NY Times about how more marriages are ones where the wife makes more/has more education, I didn’t read it. I thought, “Duh.” I read Matt write about it, and made fun of the wingnut in his comment thread who tried to claim that women don’t pay taxes, and then went off on a baffling attempt to backtrack while still maintaining that women are an inferior sex who shouldn’t earn money. I appreciated the graphs Matt put up that demonstrated that equality is far from here:

I noted that the headline of the Times article implied that women sit on a shelf waiting to be picked, while men are the only ones making active choices: “More Men Marrying Wealthier Women “. We’ll marry anyone who asks, amirite, ladies? Gotta get that validation bling! But I thought to myself, “Well, they need an active verb, and headlines are hard to write, and so whatever.” Should have realized that even when the actual story contradicts their anti-feminist narrative, the NY Times will trot out an anti-feminist narrative.

So, while the story should have been, “Turns out some men aren’t such huge wimps that they need to have a woman around who is purposefully subjugated in order to make them feel big.” The story is, “These stupid statistics say that a lot of men are perfectly capable of accepting that women have money, education, and ambition, but we don’t believe those stupid numbers.” Every single woman they interview for the anecdotal color aspects of the story is a single woman whose intelligence, income, and education supposedly prevents her from dating. So the conclusion is, “Don’t believe the numbers. You can have love or your career, but you can’t have both, ladies.”

If you think I’m kidding, that’s literally the conclusion paragraph in the story:

Ms. Zielinski, the fashion stylist, said her best friend, a man, told her once: “ ‘You are confident, have good credit, own your own business, travel around the world and are self-sufficient. What man is going to want you?’ He laughed, but I found that pretty depressing.”

They even managed to work in the implication that this woman is stuck in the Friend Zone, though honestly my experience is that women with lots of male friends tend not to want for dates, though of course, YMMV.

The author Sam Roberts did manage to interview Stephanie Coontz as the voice of reason, and she pointed out obvious stuff, such as men benefit when their wives make more money, because their standard of living goes up as well. And that women with college degrees are more, not less likely to get married. And that men generally benefit more from marriage and logically want marriage more. And then basically Roberts argues that’s not what he’s hearing—trust in stereotypes about lonely cat ladies whose college degrees may have seemed like a good idea, but don’t keep you warm at night.

But some women find that the dating pressures are intense. Syreeta McFadden, a 35-year-old Columbia and Sarah Lawrence graduate who is between jobs after working in real estate development, said: “With men of any ethnic group, it’s a little intimidating for them to encounter smart women. Money is tricky.

“But, I think for me, it comes down to compatibility,” Ms. McFadden said. “Can you grow with me? Or as my genius friend the textile designer says, she asks on first dates or meeting men in bars, ‘Do you have a passport and a library card?’ ”

Elaine Richardson, who is in her 50s, is divorced and owns a health care consulting firm in Westchester, said that men “call you high maintenance if you look like you don’t need anyone to take care of you.”

Thus, the problem with the game of anecdotal evidence—it’s always more vivid and always on hand. Education and money make you more eligible as a rule, but that doesn’t mean everyone who has it is beating ‘em off with a stick. And so you can totally find someone who thinks that they aren’t getting the action they believe they should, and use them as a counterpoint. And since the human mind is more attracted to narrative than statistics, most people who read this story, a week out, will probably remember it being about how women with college educations can’t find mates.

There was another way to write up this story. I’ll bet you could find more than one educated, high-earning woman who bought the hype that she was selling out her love life for her ambition, only to find her true love who thought that her education and her status made her a catch. Or you could find a couple where the wife’s high-earning job made it possible for the husband to rethink his career path, take some risks and go without making money for awhile, and have him talk about that with gratitude. Or you could interview a stay-at-home dad. You could interview random dudes who say that they’d find it a drag to have to pay for every date. These people aren’t any harder to find than someone who’ll complain that her heavy wallet makes her hard to date. I’ll bet a lot of them are actually pretty easy to find.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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