THE GLASS CEILING IN RELATIONSHIPS
In this era of enlightenment and recognition of
gender equality, we would think a great deal has changed. Are women being
welcomed into the areas once reserved exclusively for men? Well, it’s
disheartening to realize that the changes are, judging by the data, minimal.
Take for instance a study, GENDER DIFFERENCES IN MATE
SELECTION: EVIDENCE FROM A SPEED DATING EXPERIMENT, conducted by Raymond Fishman, Sheena S. Iyengar, Emir Kamenica,
Itamar Simonson. “…The events were conducted over weekday evenings during
2002-2004; data from fourteen of these sessions are utilized in this study.”…
The study produced results that might surprise a lot of you.
“We study dating behavior using data from a Speed Dating
experiment where we generate random matching of subjects and create random
variation in the number of potential partners. Our design allows us to directly
observe individual decisions rather than just final matches. Women put greater
weight on the intelligence and the race of partner, while men respond more to
physical attractiveness. Moreover, men do not value women’s intelligence or
ambition when it exceeds their own. Also, we find that women exhibit a
preference for men who grew up in affluent neighborhoods. Finally, male
selectivity is invariant to group size, while female selectivity is increasing
in group size.”
What? Men respond more to beauty and don’t appreciate women
if they exhibit more intelligence or ambition than their own? Is this possible?
Isn’t this outdated? Even though I’ve suspected these conclusions for a long
time, I allowed for the possibility I was wrong. Many people told me my
instincts were off-track. But are they?
Of course, there are some changes, but it appears that the
glass ceiling in business extends into relationships. Perhaps the difference we’ve
experienced is essentially that there is now an allowance for a degree of
intelligence in women where a few years ago even a small demonstration of
smarts was a no-no. Bimboism was the rule of thumb.
In this blog I’ll deal with male attitudes and how it
affects interaction between the sexes. What I see is that we’ve come a short
Where does a study like the one mentioned leave women? Do
women have to hold back their true intelligence and ambition to attract and
keep a man? Do they become more desirable if they are secretaries rather than
lawyers or doctors, flight attendants rather than pilots? The fact that we are
still asking these questions shows that we have regressed to an earlier time
when women were told never to beat a man at tennis or let him know she can do
A single woman I know who is in her late thirties asked me
if she should allow a man to carry her packages to appear more helpless. She
had read a book on how to get a man, and that was one of the suggestions –
appear to need him.
Another woman I know who is highly intelligent recently told
me that men have to be manipulated in order to “catch” and keep them happy. Men
have to feel adored and be the smarter ones even if they aren’t. She insisted
that it’s up to the woman to create the illusion of male superiority even if
the females are pulling the strings. In other words, play the game, otherwise
prepare to never find a mate.
I responded by giving her my theory on the inherent problems
this type of behavior produces. Here it is. At some point, it is more than
likely a woman will tire of game playing and lose respect for the man she is
manipulating. In order to hold on to the attraction she initially felt, she
might begin to feel tremendous pressure to intensify the game. Although she
started the relationship in this way, she might have hoped to bring him up to a
level of maturity where she’d be able to back off somewhat. That usually
doesn’t happen. A kind of mother/son relationship is likely to occur and, under
these circumstances, she has become his
She represses her own needs in order to cajole and give him
unconditional love. Resentment can set in because she is doing all the work in
order to make him feel superior. She might ultimately see the man she is
manipulating as hopeless, lame and incapable of a stable relationship. Even
though he might go along with the program, it’s not uncommon for him to see her
behavior as nagging. Although he might complain to his friends, he won’t stop
it because he is the center of her world and her efforts are focused on him. It
can develop into love/hate, like with any parent.
This has to have impact on the bedroom. How then can he want
to make love with a woman (probably unconsciously) he associates with a mother
raising her child? Deceit takes a huge amount of energy, needs a constant
awareness. Spontaneity is restrained since it might reveal more than the female
wants her mate to know.
Once these behavioral patterns are established, they are
very hard to break. In other words, if you don’t start the relationship on a
more or less equal footing with both people mature, considerate and civil, in
all probability, you will run into big trouble. I have yet to see a happy
relationship where the woman becomes the “mom” and he the “little boy” who is
In view of the findings in GENDER DIFFERENCES IN MATE
SELECTION: EVIDENCE FROM A SPEED DATING EXPERIMENT, it is easier to see why
men, overall, prefer a woman who is more lukewarm sexually – not a hot babe.
Perhaps he can’t handle a woman who is more passionate either. Do women have to
dumb down in every aspect of a relationship? It could be one of the many
reasons so many marriages end in divorce.
Why, after all these years where numerous studies have been
conducted and psychological theorizing is prevalent are we no closer to finding
a flexible formula for successful relationships? Or, if we do have the answers
to great relationships, why can’t we put it into practice, openly and honestly?
Lack of gender equality is much more subtle these days. We have to cut through
the rhetoric to see what’s really going on. It makes me think that the glass
ceiling has become so highly polished that we keep smashing into it, thinking
it doesn’t exist. Like birds that are prone to flying into glass panes, we can hurt
The sexy G