How Women Are Shooting Themselves in the Foot
by Welmer on May 20, 2010
I’ve written before about the decline of the matriarch, and how women used to have a high-status role within the family in traditional societies after they reached a certain age. This role of matriarch was, of course, partly dependent on the status of the husband (but not entirely), and therefore created a vested interest in cooperation between husband and wife throughout the many years of marriage. For example, if a man and woman got married while young, the husband would strive to work his way up to a position of stability and prosperity, and the wife had an interest in helping him do so, because she would share in that.
This is one reason homewreckers – younger women who used their youthful allure to steal older, more prosperous husbands – were held to be one of the worst examples of womanhood. Women who did this were cheating by leaping over all the hard work and dedication to jump directly into a position of affluence and comfort.
Today, however, women’s well-being has been severed from their husbands’ prosperity by government programs and family law. Although many women may see this as a liberating victory, all they are doing – in most cases – is trading in future stability and status for a short-lived power trip during their youthful, attractive years.
Some men may strike it rich while still young, but this is rarely the case. For the large majority of successful men, making their way to the top requires decades of uninterrupted dedication to their career. In their 20s and 30s, a lot of them are on a knife’s edge, and only well into middle age do they finally get a chance to rest on their laurels. All it takes is one misstep in the long path to success to derail them, and having a supportive, helpful wife throughout that journey is immensely helpful. Unfortunately, most wives no longer foot that bill. They are a dangerous liability rather than a rock of support. At any moment they could blow the entire thing apart and send the family and man’s career spiraling down in flames. Rather than partners, women have become land mines buried under the path to success.
The result of this is that the homewrecker type has become more and more the norm, as evidenced by the rash of scandals involving married, middle-aged politicians and single women. Rather than hanging in there for the long haul, women are going for the hail mary shot at the big time while they are still fertile and attractive. This has a lot to do with the lack of success younger men, who are still relatively unknown quantities, are confronting. Women figure that they have over a decade to keep shooting for the big time that could well be wasted on some guy who isn’t by any means sure to do well in life. In their minds, they are making a rational choice.
This contemporary reality is exacerbated by the fact that while young, women often make more money than men. In fact, in many parts of the country men’s and women’s salaries equalize in the 30s, and only in middle age do men begin to substantially out-earn women. Women’s greater social power when young and attractive does translate into higher salaries, but this boost wears out after the steep decline in fertility of middle age. Perhaps this explains why women are most likely to leave their husbands in their late 20s, when they feel that their status is higher than their husband’s.
Unfortunately for the women who pursue this strategy, it often doesn’t work out as well for them as they imagine. Nailing Mr. Big is out of the reach of most women, and although they may have a few passionate nights with those kinds of high-flyers, the successful men who fool around with ambitious women are usually smart enough to avoid entrapment, and very rarely marry a de facto tramp. Instead, these women end up having a string of relatively short relationships with men who know how to act the part of the alpha male, and when they hit their Wile E. Coyote moment end up in a decidedly lower status position than they would have had they married young and stuck with it for the long haul.
In coming years there will be a lot of washed up women out there working low-status jobs, unappreciated by any men, and without any financial support except their own. Men have been paying the price for a few decades now, but that isn’t going to last forever; we will adapt to the new reality and learn to avoid the walking bombs in our midst. No amount of shaming language will trump self-interest and economic reality, so cultural change is inevitable. My bet is that when the boomers start to lose power and economic clout, their outdated views will be rejected with alacrity, and there will be a return to normalcy in domestic relations. It’s a shame that they will have left so much wreckage in their wake, but human societies are known for fitful progress and reckless defiance of nature, or God if you will.