Subject to Debate/Posted September 29, 2005 (October 17, 2005 issue)
Desperate Housewives of the Ivy League?
September 20's prime target for press critics, social scientists and feminists was the New York Times front-page story "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood," by Louise Story (Yale '03). Through interviews and a questionnaire e-mailed to freshmen and senior women residents of two Yale colleges (dorms), Story claims to have found that 60 percent of these brainy and energetic young women plan to park their expensive diplomas in the bassinet and become stay-home mothers. Over at Slate, Jack Shafer slapped the Times for using weasel words ("many," "seems") to make a trend out of anecdotes and vague impressions: In fact, Story presents no evidence that more Ivy League undergrads today are planning to retire at 30 to the playground than ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Simultaneously, an armada of bloggers shredded her questionnaire as biased (hint: If you begin with "When you have children," you've already skewed your results) and denounced her interpretation of the answers as hype. What she actually found, as the writer Robin Herman noted in a crisp letter to the Times, was that 70 percent of those who answered planned to keep working full or part time through motherhood. Even by Judith Miller standards, the Story story was pretty flimsy. So great was the outcry that the author had to defend her methods in a follow-up on the Times website three days later.
With all that excellent insta-critiquing, I feared I'd lumber into print too late to add a new pebble to the sling. But I did find one place where the article is still Topic No. 1: Yale. "I sense that she had a story to tell, and she only wanted to tell it one way," Mary Miller, master of Saybrook, one of Story's targeted colleges, told me. Miller said Story met with whole suites of students and weeded out the women who didn't fit her thesis. Even among the ones she focused on, "I haven't found that the students' views are as hard and fast as Story portrayed them." (In a phone call Story defended her research methods, which she said her critics misunderstood, and referred me to her explanation on the web.) One supposed future homemaker of America posted an anonymous dissection of Story's piece at www.mediabistro.com. Another told me in an e-mail that while the article quoted her accurately, it "definitely did not turn out the way I thought it would after numerous conversations with Louise." That young person may be sadder but wiser--she declined to let me interview her or use her name--but history professor Cynthia Russett, quoted as saying that women are "turning realistic," is happy to go public with her outrage. Says Russett, "I may have used the word, but it was in the context of a harsh or forced realism that I deplored. She made it sound like this was a trend of which I approved. In fact, the first I heard of it was from Story, and I'm not convinced it exists." In two days of interviewing professors, grad students and undergrads, I didn't find one person who felt Story fairly represented women at Yale. Instead, I learned of women who had thrown Story's questionnaire away in disgust, heard a lot of complaints about Yale's lack of affordable childcare and read numerous scathing unpublished letters to the Times, including a particularly erudite one from a group of sociology graduate students. Physics professor Megan Urry had perhaps the best riposte: She polled her class of 120, using "clickers" (electronic polling devices used as a teaching tool). Of forty-five female students, how many said they planned "to be stay-at-home primary parent"? Two. Twenty-six, or 58 percent, said they planned to "work full time, share home responsibilities with partner"--and good luck to them, because 33 percent of the men said they wanted stay-home wives.
As usual, whenever gender neutralized feminists are challenged on their many fallacies regarding basic human nature; they immediately respond by attacking the messenger. The New York Times front-page story "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood," by Louise Story (Yale '03) is a perfect example of this tendency in action. Ms. Story supposedly ONLY took the responses that were favorable to her thesis: that women would stop working once they had children, and tossed out the other replies from women who felt they would continue working and share the child rearing burden with their husbands.
Whether or not she did or didn’t is probably a moot issue anyway; however, as I believe all of them are missing the main event here: which is that men (that critical other half of the equation that gender neutralized feminist always like to ignore), do not appear willing to marry and/or bear children with 30/35ish something career women. Thus it could be beside the point whether or not these women wish to stay home and/or work after they have children. The more important issue appears to be can they get men who appear willing to marry them after they have wasted the critical period when they were at the height of female attractiveness to the opposite sex? Once that happens then they can move on to the next stage, which is having children and deciding whether or not to stay home with them. But unless and until they first find the requisite interested male, the whole issue of staying at home versus continuing to work is a moot one.
Clearly the things that attract women to men do not work in reverse and translate into attracting men to women. Economic stability, ensuring that his children will be adequately cared for, appears to be something that most normal men can provide for themselves. So a man with a good income can and usually does look for other qualities in a woman.
Looking at it realistically most women probably wouldn’t want the beta male losers who would need to look for this anyway because they cannot provide it for themselves. As men who appear unable to reach at least one of the lower but still comfortable rungs on the American economic ladder (which is very, very, broad with plenty of room on it for newcomers) are probably the men who suffer from other lacks in their lives as well. For instance, they could be suffering from serious personality disorders, making it impossible for them to get along with their peers. Or even more severe lacks, either mental or physical, which might be passed along to any subsequent children they father.
Thus, we return to the irrefutable fact that most men appear to still be looking for the age-old standards of youth, beauty, peak physical condition, overall health (both physical and emotional), etc., which men have always looked for in their wives and the future mothers of their children. So whether or not a woman has reached the peak of her career potential, as the most powerful lawyer, politician, newsreporter, etc., does not appear to enhance her attractiveness to men or give her any additional access to the more accomplished male gene pool. Actually, it gains her nothing in that respect. If anything it appear to do the opposite and decrease a woman’s potential to get a mate, at least if Kay Bailey Hutchingson and Maureen Dowd are any example. Kay Bailey Hutchingson was reduced to having to do a single parent adoption of a Chinese orphan in order to have a family; and Maureen Dowd is still single and furious over it. Blaming it on the apparent tendency of men to look for less accomplished (and probably younger) women when looking for wives.
Again I think one thing that has become clear after the last four decades or so of continued attacks by gender neutralized feminists on the essential nature of humanity. That social engineering is not quite as easy to accomplished as they originally thought. AND that’s a good thing.