The International Herald Tribune and the New York Times are concerned. Concerned about women. Specifically, concerned women who are successful will fail to fulfill their ultimate goal and purpose in life, which is obviously to attach herself to a man so that he can fulfill his ultimate goal and purpose in life of taking care of her. This is how the world is supposed to work and now that feminism has messed everything up, women are paying the price of being SINGLE FOR GOD SAKES and men’s EGOS ARE BEING CRUSHED and we should all take a moment to bemoan this new modern reality because, really, the world just might end.
Or, at least that’s what I took from Katrin Bennhold’s ridiculous contribution to the International Herald Tribune’s ‘The Female Factor,’ which endeavors to explore where women stand in the early 21st century. In pursuit of this goal, all Bennhold could manage to ask was, “Is female empowerment killing romance?” Of course, the backlash to feminism isn’t new and if we looked hard enough and had a strong stomach, we could find the exact same question asked by some concern troll columnist every decade since women got the vote. (I’d rather keep my lunch down – if you do the research, goddess bless you and send me a link!)
In this 2010 incarnation, Bennhold takes us through horror stories of the various ways that successful women scare away men and introduces us to a few men, kind souls, who are willing to make the sacrifice to date successful women as long as they get to drive. But, THANKFULLY, Bennhold also lists three things women MUST DO order to mitigate the impact of their bank balance on their love life:
Leave the snazzy company car at home on the first date; find your life partner in your 20s, rather than your 30s, before you’ve become too successful. And go after men who draw their confidence from sources other than money, like academics and artists.
Ok, ew. I’ll drop the sarcasm for a minute to say that, yes, there certainly are men who shrink at the thought of dating a woman who makes more than him. While it might be easy to write these guys off as unenlightened douches, this inferiority complex is a good example of one of the many ways that sexism and gender roles hurt men too. In this case, men are told their worth is based on their ability to financially support a woman rather than on being emotionally supportive and an egalitarian partner or an equal parent, if one choose the have children. In reality, these experiences should be open to and encouraged in all humans of both genders and the fact that some men miss out on them is yet another reason men should be clamoring to sign up for the feminist revolution.
If the question must be asked how the fact that some women – usually white and straight and a far smaller percentage than authors of these articles are ever willing to mention – are now making more than men impacts on heterosexual courtship, the focus should be on why we hold so tight to the gender roles that might make the question relevant in the first place. Why are men still made to feel they have to be the breadwinner and women feel they have to downplay their success? How can we change these patterns at a personal, political and social level? Are the women who are making more than their male partners still working the double shift (in many cases, yes) and are men becoming more equal inside the home as women become more equal outside of it (in many cases, no)?
I also can’t help but note that while Bennhold’s piece is centered around European experiences, the New York Times gave it credence less than two weeks after the US Senate refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and rectify the fact that white women make 77 cents, Black women make 61 cents, and Latina women make 52 cents to the white male dollar. And while Bennhold and many others tout the fact that women have overtaken men in college enrollment, few ever note that this in large part due to the fact that women are more likely to go back to college because they’ve found that they need it to support their families, because it’s still harder for women than most men to find higher paying employment without a college degree. So, along with being pointless, condescending, and based on the assumption all women want to find a man, it’s yet more column inches devoted to a few straight, (mostly) white women and their romantic problems rather than the far more pressing problems stemming from inequality faced by the majority of women.
Sigh. In answer to the question as to the state of women in the early 21st century: both women AND men still have a long, long way to go.