A double standard.

I was thinking some more about Jill Filipovic’s post about Feminism  + Housewifery.  It was a thoughtful post in which she discussed, among other things, the way in which personal choices have societal consequences:

[M]any feminists, unfortunately, are complicit in supporting a choice model over an egalitarian one. While how one individual sets up her family may be private, the aggregate is not; and it’s tough to argue that the housewife model is simply a private choice made within families with no outside influence and no greater consequences.

The greater consequences entail women having less power, and she’s particularly frustrated with men who perpetuate this dynamic:

And we see it – women and men. We end up building our lives around it. I’ve spoken with many of the bright young single men who are on the receiving end of high-level male mentorship. They often express a desire to have kids and a stay-at-home wife, and they ALWAYS couch it in gender-neutral terms — “It’s not that I expect my wife to stay home, it’s that I think one parent needs to stay home with the kids when they’re very young. I don’t want my kids taken care of by strangers.” And when I would say, “Well then why don’t you stay home?” the response was, “Well I would, but at the point when I’m having kids I’m going to be at a crucial point in my career and I can’t just take off a few years, so it’s not about gender, it’s just about the fact that it would be impossible for me.” To which I would say, “Well what if she had a career too, and taking several years off would be damaging to her career?” To which they would say, “Well we would obviously talk about this long before we got married, and I just wouldn’t marry someone who was in that position. It’s not sexist — there are tons of women who would love to quit their jobs and stay home, and it’s their choice, and if both partners agree then how can you say it’s sexist? It’s a private family decision.”
It’s private. I choose my choice. She chooses her choice.
I do in fact reserve most of my anger and vitriol for the men in these scenarios…

What Jill is saying raises a question:  To what extent, and in what way, is it acceptable to criticize others for their personal decisions about the partner with whom they want to share a  relationship?  Because that’s what Jill is doing.  She’s angry with bright young high-status men who would prefer a stay-at-home wife.  She thinks they’re interested in the “wrong” women, and is not shy about saying so.  But this is a double standard.  Consider, for example, the imaginary conversation I had with Fake Amanda Marcotte last year, in which I criticized some of the personal relationship decisions made by women:

Amanda Marcotte:  But that’s up to her, Miguel.  If she wants to make shitty choices in who she dates, and “overvalue” confidence, or “social dominance,” or whatever, that’s her fucking choice.

Steve Buscemi:  She’s got a point, Miguel.  Her fuckin’ choice.

Amanda Marcotte:  And women aren’t obligated to shape their sexual desires to fit your social anxieties.

Miguel:  I’m not saying women have that obligation.

Amanda Marcotte:  Bullshit.  That’s exactly what you’re saying, you just don’t come out and say it explicitly.

But isn’t Jill asking successful men to shape their sexual desires and marry the “right” women?  (The “right” women being those who, like Jill, have successful careers.)  Frankly, I think it’s hard to reconcile what Jill says about men who want stay-at-home wives with what Fake Amanda Marcotte said about women who want to date assholes.  It’s a huge double standard, to which Julia Serano alluded:

I have heard many feminists critique men who prefer women that fulfill the sexual object stereotype.  Many of these critiques (rightly, I think) suggest that the man in question must be somewhat shallow or insecure if he’s willing to settle for someone whom he does not view as his intellectual or emotional equal.  What I have seen far less of are critiques of women who are attracted to sexually aggressive men.  Perhaps this stems in part from the belief that such comments might be misinterpreted as blaming women for enabling the sexual abuse they receive at the hands of men.  While I can understand this reluctance, I nevertheless feel that it is a mistake to ignore this issue, given the fact that many men become sexual aggressors primarily, if not solely, to attract the attention of women.  In fact, if heterosexual women suddenly decided en masse that “nice guys” are far sexier than “assholes,” it would create a huge shift in the predator/prey dynamic.

Yes Means Yes, Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti, Seal Press, 2008, p. 237

In other words, what Jill is saying about men marrying stay-at-home moms — how they set up their families may be private, the aggregate effect is not — applies, mutatis mutandis, to women who date assholes.  Aggregate effects of personal decisions shape the culture.  In fact, many of these bright young men who so aggravate Jill are probably unwilling to damage their careers with the “daddy track” precisely because the aggregate effects of preferences shown by women has convinced them that risking their high-powered careers would be a blindingly stupid move.  You can’t make economic success the test of whether someone is a man or a “boy” and then be surprised when men get nervous at the prospect of damaging their careers.  In other words, a man isn’t going to give up The Power if he suspects that The Power is the reason you’ve taken notice of him in the first place.

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13 Responses to A double standard.

  1. Feckless says:

    This is driving me kind of mad every time I see the word power mentioned. Power. What is that power. How is power defined in this context? Having a well paid job?

  2. AnonymousDog says:

    When people with socially conservative viewpoints critique other people’s lifestyle choices and the effect that those choices might, in the aggregate, have on society generally, why, they’re just intolerant jerks, etc., etc.. But when feminists do the same thing, it’s OK.

  3. Well, here’s the thing, Anonymous Dog. I do in fact critique the feminists’ critique of men’s sexual choices. But — and this is important — I try to do it in a respectful way that will initiate dialogue. The tone of your comment makes me think you look at this as more of a point-scoring exercise.

  4. Danny says:

    But the thing is Miguel this “point scoring” doesn’t seem to be much of a problem when feminists are the ones scoring. I understand you wanting to have a civil conversation but I think AnonymousDog has a bit of a point. They want a level of respect shown to them that they are not willing to show in return.

    In this bit you borrow from Serano:
    What I have seen far less of are critiques of women who are attracted to sexually aggressive men. Perhaps this stems in part from the belief that such comments might be misinterpreted as blaming women for enabling the sexual abuse they receive at the hands of men. Perhaps this stems in part from the belief that such comments might be misinterpreted as blaming women for enabling the sexual abuse they receive at the hands of men.
    All this worry about the appearance of blaming women for enabling sexual abuse but no worry about the appearance of saying men are shallow and insecure?

  5. the answer is simple, Jill can find an unemployed guy who is cool with being a stay at home dad while she climbs the corporate ladder….

  6. from the article…

    “And we judge men’s life choices all time –

    ….who date women the same age as their daughters…..

    Well, if women have agency, why doesn’t she judge women who go out with men who are old enough to be their dads when there are plenty of guys their own age who are single…..

  7. Eurosabra says:

    Power in this context is the economic status to feed, clothe, shelter ineself and one’s family, to have an athletic and xultural life if one wishes, and importantly the capacity to provide for ones children, for young straight men being chosen by young straight women who want to have children. Shockingly obvious to those who have dated, or tried to date, as sensitive or low-stautus men.

  8. sasori says:

    I know it’s sort of off topic from the point but.
    Perhaps it was the article she was referencing in the OP but I didn’t really get the sense that she was aware that state power can be used to reorganise the working situation of rich people (and everybody else) so that they work fewer hours (and the rich people get paid less) and have parental leave (which in many Scandinavian countries is staggered between parents).
    Other things like cheep but excellent childcare facilities, promoting a culture of involved fatherhood and programs to help mothers returning to the job market exist in many European countries, I am pretty sure that feminists in those countries fought for them knowing they would improve the lives of parents and didn’t reach for the giant shame cannon to solve every problem.

    I find it worrying that the only effect people think they can have on society is to subject others to shame for the aggregate effects of their (fairly understandable, the long hours that these people work are highly conducive to a division of labour in childrearing) choices.
    The question should be how can you alter working environments to be more parent friendly.
    I’m pretty sure that NOW or any organisation that chose to advocate for the kinds of labour market policy prescriptions common in northern Europe would get massive suppourt from most people.
    Also I remain unconvinced that having more women CEO’s and law partners will have any effect whatsoever on the lives of ordinary people. Does anyone think that a woman CEO would hesitate choosing company policy’s that harmed women as a whole, or women in her company, if she did I’m sure she wouldn’t be CEO for long.
    Thirdly I am pretty sure that the backbone of the Republican party have been the stay-at-home wives of rich business men since time immoral, so it’s not like many of these women are not involved in politics.

  9. AlekNovy says:

    It’s very simple.

    When women overvalue dating confidence, social skills, assertiveness and a bold ability to show and display interest, this is a typical situation.

    -> Jane overvalues dating confidence, social skills, assertiveness and a bold ability to show and display interest

    -> Jane meets Bob And Charlie, two men who are equally attractive to her on a physical level

    -> Bob and Charlie are equally interested in Jane. Physically she’s interested in both of them equally

    -> Bob cheats, lies and and doesn’t believe in egalitarianism. He’s known to insult and berate his girlfriends and he believes women should do all of the houswork

    -> Charlie is a genuinely kind and altruistic progressive man who has never cheated or lied in his life. He also believes in doing half of the houswork.

    -> Bob confindently and smugly flirts with Jane while assertively displaying his interest in her. He makes great eye-contact and has a hollywood-like smile. He persists past any indecision on Jane’s part and smoothly persists. When Jane shows a neutral or (possibly) disinterested reaction, he smoothly and comfortably proceeds to make moves with optimism

    -> Charlie is shy and is worried about not offending Jane. He waits for her to show the first sign because he wants to make sure he’s not like one of those guys women complain about being offend by moving too fast. He shows interest in her as a person, and waits for her to show sexual interest first (lest not be deemed a creep). He has been taught by feminists that its “better to err on the side of caution” – so he is cautious and he waits for a clear signal, but it never comes… In fact, she hooks up with and later marries Bob.

    While Jane is the typical woman (in what she values to get together with a man), bob and charlie are not typical, I’m only using them as examples to illustrate a point. In general women over-value assertiveness and dating confidence as the criteria SO MUCH that it overrides other qualities they claim to favor.

    Between a shy waiting-for-permission and erring-on-the-side of caution good man* and an assertive bold and assertive, comfortable, fun and charming bad man*, in most cases the woman will end up with the bad man.

    *-> When I say bad man and good man, I am not using the criteria of the men themselves. So this is not some “self-proclaimed nice guy” stuff”. I am saying that even by the WOMAN’S OWN CRITERIA – between two men of whom one fits HER on-paper definition of a bad man and good man – she’ll get together with the bad man more readily if he is better at courting.

    NONE OF WHAT IS SAY IS PRESCRIPTIVE – I am not saying women should or shouldn’t value dating confidence and assertiveness. I’m simply demonstrating that WOMEN’S PRIORITIES HIERARCHY leads to a situation where so called “bad men” can be rewarded with love, sex, affection and progeny. And again, I’m using the woman’s own definition of bad men.

    Whether feminists like it or not, dating is a marketplace, and people will put effort where it has a better ROI. Amanda Marcotte constantly complains about men not investing enough in self-development, but she says nothing of the female gender which doesn’t reward this self-development.

    Time is a limited commodity. Effort is a limited commodity. If a man gets reward more (from women) by improving his dating skills than he does by improving his character… why would most men work on their character?

    Again, I am not saying its wrong that women value those traits so highly – I just want it to be clear that THEY (women) shape the men on offer. Men will offer what women reward.

    Will a “good man” who’s also calm, confident, charming and comfortable get the BEST results? YES. OFCOURSE. A good confident man will get better results than a bad confident man.

    The thing to point out though is that resources and time are limited. If women prioritize a man’s dating skills over his character, men will prioritize working on their dating skills rather than their character.

    The amanda-ilk is asking that all men become perfect, but isn’t asking women to change their part (change the demand to change the supply).

  10. AlekNovy says:

    The amanda-ilk is asking that all men become perfect, but isn’t asking women to change their part (change the demand to change the supply).

    Put differently, she’s saying:

    – Men, stop doing what gets dates (assertiveness) unless you’re a good man

    But she’s not saying

    – Women don’t grant dates to men who are bad men just because they’re assertive

    It’s like me saying to a restaurant “Stop making delicious food that has low nutritional value” instead of telling the obese person “you need to prioritize nutritional value over taste”.

    Which isn’t a problem in and of itself. The issue with this approach is that it ONLY WORKS if EVERY restaurant in the ENTIRE CITY is banned from making delicious food all at the same time.

    But if I (a restaurant) voluntarily choose to stop making delicious food in favor of more nutritious food that sells less, I go out of business BECAUSE the obese person will simply go to the restaurant down the street which hasn’t made this voluntary choice and still sells nutritionally poor, but tasty food.

    Same thing with Amanda’s suggestion to men. She says men need to focus on becoming more nutritionally valuable even if it hurts their dating life (fucking privileged male pigi, how dare you care about getting dates, it’s your duty to focus on being nutritionally good for the woman)..

    She says men need to VOLUNTARILY focus on being more nutritionally better for the woman, even though the woman will dump them and just go for the more delicious bad boy.

  11. “The more delicious bad boy.” Hmmm. Actually, I don’t think Amanda’s dating advice would actually *hurt* a man who followed it. It just wouldn’t help a lot.
    At any rate, Alek, I have a question: Are you at all interested in politics? What is your opinion about Occupy Wall Street?

  12. AlekNovy says:

    Hmmm. Actually, I don’t think Amanda’s dating advice would actually *hurt* a man who followed it.

    I never discussed nor touched upon “amanda’s dating advice” let alone to discuss whether it hurts or helps men.

    I am only interested in her shaming of nice guys and her emotional bullying of men who aren’t good at the male dating script. She shames men for failing at the male dating script, but she never acknowledge that women impose this script on men.

  13. AlekNovy says:

    Wait, I realize how I touched upon how her advice might hurt men. You’re right, I did imply that. There is a real way in which feminist-marcottian advice hurts a man. Mostly inexperienced men.

    Will Marcotte’s advice hurt a man who is already dating regularily? Nope, and it can actually help him. Her advice is actually good. (no really, I’m not sarcastic), but ONLY for men who ALREADY have a good dating life (i.e. men who know how to read singles, when to make a move, how to persist, how to make women comfortable and at ease etc etc).

    But if you get an inexperienced young man and give him feminist/marcotte advice, it WILL hurt him!

    1) Take an inexperienced dateless young man and tell him: – YOU ONLY NEED TO FOCUS ON BEING MORE NUTRITIOUS (oh, and never persist, and WAIT FOR 100000% certainty before making a single move, never ever move unless you are 10000% certain, err on the side of caution)

    2) Young man buys into lie that being nutritious is what sells a meal so he keeps working on it, working on it, working on it, and working on it (while not making moves since no women are giving 100000% clear signals. He assumes the reason no woman ever gives him blatant signals and permission is because he’s not nutritious enough. The feminists never informed him that in the real world women NEVER give 100% clear signals, EVER even if they have a crush on you, especially not then).

    3) Years later he’s celibate and he sees women drowning in bigmacs going “wtf, I thought women wanted substance, nutrition” I spent a decade building up all this nutrition, being a good man (not making moves unless certain)… I saw all these men grabbing women without permission, touching women without certainty, kissing women without permission and then the women go with THOSE men!?!?

    4) Feminist comes to him and says “you fucking idiot, the reason women don’t date you is because you’re not NUTRITIOUS ENOUGH” “stop blaming women!!! you’re the real asshole here!!!”

    5) He responds: “But I see women dating bigmacs all around me!?!?”

    6) Feminist: You entitled prick, you must completely rotten and your nutrition is probably fake and not real. You’re “health food” TM and not REALLY healthy

    7) Young man develops self-hatred, confusion and possibly misogyny

    If someone had come along and told the man in the meantime “Listen bro, women are fucking lazy, the one thing that determines how many dates you get is how many times you ASK, and most of the time women will fake disinterest and you have to persist with a smile”. – he would have had hundreds of dates.

    But since no feminist (marcottian-type feminist) EVER EVEN TOUCHES UPON the role of RISKY INITIATIVES (making moves) except to bash men who moves too soon or too fast or too much. This is how men can get stuck for years not making moves, having been told that they key to dates is becoming more nutritious.

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