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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Advice for Parents and Their Daughters

Interesting juxtaposition in the Weekend Wall Street Journal book review section:

BossyThe Saturday Essay:  Don't Call Us Bossy:

Confident girls are often called the other B-word, and it can keep them from reaching their full potential, write Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chávez.

Although the two of us come from different backgrounds, we both heard the same put-down. Call it the other B-word. Whether it is said directly or implied, girls get the message: Don't be bossy. Don't raise your hand too much. Keep your voice down. Don't lead.

Even our most successful and celebrated female leaders cannot rise above these insults. A foreign-policy adviser once described former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as "the bossy intrusive Englishwoman." Susan Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, was described as having a "bossy demeanor" by a fellow diplomat, while Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been described as "difficult" and "nasty" by lawyers.

The phrase "too ambitious" is leveled at female leaders from Madeleine Albright to Hillary Clinton and perpetuates our most damning stereotypes. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has a pillow in her California home that declares: "I'm not bossy. I just have better ideas."...

Despite earning the majority of college degrees, women make up just 19% of the U.S. Congress, 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 10% of heads of state. Most leadership positions are held by men, so society continues to expect leadership to look and act male and to react negatively when women lead.

The irony, of course, is that so-called bossy women make great leaders. And we need great leaders. Our economic growth depends upon having women fully engaged in the workforce. Our companies perform better with more women in management. And our homes are happier when men and women share responsibilities more equally.

It's time to end the gendered speech that discourages girls from an early age. So the next time you hear a girl called "bossy," do what CBS anchor Norah O'Donnell advised: Smile, take a deep breath and say, "That girl's not bossy. She has executive leadership skills."

Marry SmartCharlotte Allen, Battle Hymm of a Tiger Mother (reviewing Susan Patton, Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE (2014)):

If mating today is a game of winner-take-all, should women treat college as a time for husband hunting?

Susan Patton is the infamous "Princeton Mom." A graduate of Princeton (class of '77), with two Princeton sons, Ms. Patton wrote a letter last year to the campus newspaper advising female Tigers: "Find a husband on campus before you graduate." Her point was that never again would these high-achieving and highly ambitious young women have access to so large a pool of single young men who were their intellectual equals. After college, as these educated young women entered the workplace, they would discover that the most desirable men are usually already married. As the letter went viral online, feminists jumped all over Ms. Patton, accusing her of perpetuating archaic gender roles, meddling in her sons' romantic lives and chewing on sour grapes because her own marriage, to a non-Princeton man long after graduation, had ended in divorce after 25 years.

The current expectation for most women attending college, especially a top-ranked college, is to spend their 20s building their careers, experimenting with relationships, and not even thinking about wanting a husband and children until they reach age 30 or so. In "Marry Smart," essentially a book-length expansion of her Daily Princetonian letter, Ms. Patton forthrightly explains why this trajectory is all wrong. "Let's face it: By the time you are thirty years old, your marriage prospects will have diminished dramatically from what they were when you were twenty," she writes. "And when you're thirty and still hope to have children, a distinct panic will start to set in." 

For one thing, there is the matter of looks. "You'll never be more attractive than you are as a very young woman," Ms. Patton writes. This is true. If you want to see beautiful people, visit any college campus. Even the plain girls and the slovenly girls in their sweatpants and rubber shower sandals radiate vitality. They all may still look fine a decade later, but if mating is a game of winner-take-all—and Ms. Patton is quite sure it is—the question is whether men in their own age cohort will prefer their now-older selves to the younger competition.

Since men, even young college men, distinguish between the women they want to have casual sex with and the women they want to marry and have children with, Ms. Patton devotes much of her book to telling readers how to fall into the second category. Avoid the campus hookup scene—it's a waste of precious time. Don't binge-drink—you will do stupid things. Realistically assess your looks and act accordingly: If you are only a "six," that handsome "ten" knows he can do better than you and is probably out of your league. Lose excess weight. Act like a lady. Don't swear like a fishwife. Learn to cook. Don't be a whiny, moody, spoiled, entitled princess ("hothouse tomato" is Ms. Patton's term). Cultivate a generous spirit and a readiness to forgive. Don't chase after "bad boys," especially if they display traits such as drug abuse and physical violence. Don't be a gold-digger ("earn your own fortune").

For some young women, "Marry Smart" will be like a trip to the carwash, where the dust of antagonistic feminist doctrine about sex and marriage gets blasted off the windshield so they can see clearly. Ms. Patton's advice mirrors sociologist Peter Berger's observation that "the lightning shaft of Cupid seems to be guided rather strongly within very definite channels of class, income, education, racial and religious background." Although Ms. Patton's tone can seem snobbish and Ivy-centric, what she has to say is meant to apply equally to young women whose best educational prospects turn out to be a state school, a community college or perhaps no college at all: Start looking for a lifelong mate seriously and early on; don't waste time with jerks, criminals and, unless you are exceptionally beautiful, men outside your social class; and cultivate the moral qualities that will make you attractive to a man of moral quality.

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There’s an added advantage of not marrying a ’10’ when you’re a ‘6’ that applies to both men and women. Married of not, in today’s world that ’10’ will have no trouble attracted other ’10’s, even years later.
A friend of mine married a girl who was perhaps far too attractive for her own good and certainly his. She was still in high school and living with her single mother in a trailer park. He was an engineer with a good income and a fancy car. Soon after they were married, she was running around and the marriage ended in divorce.
Keep in mind something else. Those that most call a ’10’ look boringly alike. Think of beauty pageant contestants, for instance. Other that hair color, they’re as alike as peas in a pod. Cultivate a different taste for yourself, and let all the fools chase after that stereotypical ’10.’
Besides, personality matters more than looks in the long run. I recently heard Gloria Steinem speak. Even at just a few weeks shy of eighty, she still looks attractive. And yet at no time in her speech did she give any indication that she’d ever had an enduring and happy relationship with a man. In college, she may have looked like a ’10,’ but rated by success in relationships she apparently ranks a zero.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Mar 9, 2014 8:46:05 AM

The “Marry Smart” advice to young women to find a man in college would make a lot more sense if there were no divorce. No one can “lock in” a spouse and expect him to be there for life. How many men do you know who married in their 20s and left their wives in their 40s? How many of them then married younger women? Given the ease of divorce, I’m not sure it’s unwise to wait to marry a man who you’ve seen what he’s like after the first flush of youth has passed, and who isn’t drawn to you primarily for your youth.

Posted by: Anonymous1 | Mar 9, 2014 2:51:21 PM

@Michael Perry: Your statement that “at no time in [one recent] speech did [Gloria Steinem] give any indication that she’d ever had an enduring and happy relationship with a man. . . . [R]ated by success in relationships she apparently ranks a zero” reflects two fallacies. First, just because Ms. Steinem didn’t talk in the speech you saw about having had an enduring and happy relationship with a man doesn’t necessarily mean she hasn’t had one, it just means she didn’t mention it in her talk. Her talks aren’t focused on her personal life. She’s widowed, but that should be irrelevant. Second, even if she had never had a single relationship with a man, that doesn’t necessarily mean that men didn’t want her. It takes two to choose to have a relationship, after all.

Posted by: Anonymous1 | Mar 9, 2014 2:53:54 PM

Wasn't the tiger mother Amy Chua? I am a bit confused.

Posted by: Mattia Landoni | Mar 9, 2014 5:09:04 PM