December 14, 2004

The love of subordinate women.

The NYT reports that the University of Michigan "reports" that "men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, and evolution may be to blame." Go to the link and read how scientists devised a study and indulged in some speculation.
The findings, which seem to confirm an uncomfortable number of male stereotypes and many mothers' admonitions to their daughters, reflect more than male vanity and insecurity, the researchers argue. Dr. Brown and her co-author, Brian Lewis of the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote that "pressures associated with the threat of paternal uncertainty" shaped the men's decisions.

In other words, a subordinate woman might be less likely to fool around, and "female infidelity is a severe reproductive threat to males" in long-term relationships, the researchers wrote.

Scientists who engage in this sort of speculation seem to focus an awful lot on knowing you're the father of your mate's children. I'm not sure how good that reasoning is. In any case, why are "subordinate" women less likely to cheat? Wouldn't they tend to yield to other men?

That study reminded me of this interview with the Nobelist Elfriede Jelinek:
I describe the relationship between man and woman as a Hegelian relationship between master and slave. As long as men are able to increase their sexual value through work, fame or wealth, while women are only powerful through their body, beauty and youth, nothing will change.

How can you cling to such dated stereotypes when you yourself are acclaimed internationally for your intellect?

A woman who becomes famous through her work reduces her erotic value. A woman is permitted to chat or babble, but speaking in public with authority is still the greatest transgression.

You're suggesting that your achievements, like winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, detract from your overall appeal.

Certainly! A woman's artistic output makes her monstrous to men if she does not know to make herself small at the same time and present herself as a commodity. At best people are afraid of her.

I think Jelinek has a better grasp of human behavior than the scientist who speculates about evolution. But the scientist may be trying to explain why the human mind got to be the way it is, while Jelinek is understanding that mind as it is. Of course, both may be wrong, and it's pretty clear that both are leaving out something important and portraying humanity in a way that is too dark and degrading.

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