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Oh Dear, Does He Love Me For My Cash?!

January 20, 2010

image by laugh lady

It was hard to ignore this article in the New York Times yesterday, about new research from the Pew Center on earnings of women.

It’s a short and eclectic article (and a poorly reported one, I might add) that raises a few alarming and confusing points, but generally says: men are more often marrying women of superior education and salary.

Or, as I might put it in a more positive light: women are earning more, working more, and pursuing more education… and also getting married.

The article really only cites one real-life person: a well-to-do stylist who laments that her boyfriend just can’t hang with her hefty paychecks.  (The point being, girls, earn more at the risk of your boyfriend’s ego)

Then the author quotes a professor who says, “we’ve known for some time that men need marriage more than women from the standpoint of physical and mental well-being.”  Really?  We have?  I, for one, didn’t know that. (The point there being that men are getting an added bonus in marriage, now that women make more. Score!)

The author annoyingly refers to wealthy-stylist-lady as, “a victim of a role reversal that is profoundly affecting the pool of potential marriage partners.”  I don’t mean to blow it out of proportion, but the author is a male, and it’s pretty blatant in his writing.

I don’t think it’s necessary to refer to high earning women who are resented by their male partners as “victims.”  I think it’s the petty and close minded men who resent their successful wives who are  victims of the 21st century.

The Guardian portrayed this Pew research in a slightly clearer and more objective light, but it’s still irksome.  Why, just because women are now earning more and have better jobs, should we make the jump to assuming that men are marrying women because of their money, as this article also suggests?

It used to be said that men married for sex and women for money. But marriage is proving an increasingly profitable ­enterprise for a growing number of ­American men who earn less than a ­growing number of better educated spouses.

It’s sort of made to seem like we’re earning our own bride price these days.  Instead of spinning it so that the men who are angry at their high earning wives are petty and insecure, it is women who are being portrayed as the ones who must bear the brunt of this “earth shattering” role reversal.  In the words of Aunt Linda, I give it an “Oh Brother!” and a “Ghaa!”

The title of the NYT article, “More Men Marrying Wealthy Women,” gives the impression that the agency lies with men, who are seeking out wealthier women, when instead the research is meant to show that women are earning more and working better jobs.  Research has also shown that more educated women are more likely to be married, so we can expect that, generally, married women might have a shot at earning more than unmarried women  A marked difference there, to me.

I earn more money than my boyfriend by a long shot and he doesn’t have a problem with it, or at least isn’t chick enough to admit it to my face.  And of course many men don’t have a problem with their partners earning more.  We contribute equally to the relationship and it’s very possible to do that without making the same amount of money.

Admittedly, money is a sticky wicket and not easy on relationships, and of course money is a proxy for power.  But I think it both sells men short and sells women short to paint such a trite picture as the author does.

The research is interesting and can be uplifting, at least for me personally.  But the reporting on it so far has seemed dangerously trite and sexist. It seems we are relegated to eating pints of Ben & Jerry’s and watching reruns of “Twin Peaks” while we bemoan our lousy relationships due to our fat pockets.

We are now victims for earning more (instead of awesome kick-ass professionals) because it rocks the gender norm boat?  Feminism fail!

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