and Gene Healy
go 'round on the extent to which wealth and status influence women's romantic choices. Allow me to muddy the waters ....
1. Consider that, from the time they are young girls, females tend to idolize wealthy and famous males. A girl of 11 or 12 will nearly wallpaper her room with photos of N'Sync or Nick Carter
or whatever guy is the flavor-of-the-month with the teen magazines. Yes, the guys are cute, but they are not merely
cute. They are singers or actors -- or, in the case of Prince William
-- British royalty, and thus presumably wealthy. At any rate, these "teen idols" are successful and/or accomplished. They are not just the guy-next-door. By comparison, guys drool over the Playboy Playmate without any regard as to whether she has any accomplishments, any career, or any wealth.
went from being counter girl at Dairy Queen to being Miss August 1979 in about a year. The millions of Playboy readers who admired Miss August cared nothing at all about Dorothy Stratten except for her physical beauty. They would have admired her no less had she been a high-school girl behind the counter of Dairy Queen.
Wealth and fame add substantially to a man's attractiveness, but add little or nothing to a woman's attractiveness. Some guys may be fans of Pamela Anderson
or Marilyn Monroe
, but merely because they are beautiful women -- talent, wealth or success have nothing to do with it. Whereas females will sometimes go wild for a guy who is not particularly good-looking, given that he is famous or successful. A classic case is Ringo Starr
. The Beatles drummer was the shortest and homeliest of the Fab Four, yet at the zenith of Beatlemania
(1964-65) perhaps the most popular, especially among American girls. There were perhaps millions upon millions of American guys at the time more handsome than Ringo, but it was the weallhy, famous guy who made girls scream.
Yes, there are females who fetishize "hunks," who put Chippendales
calendars in their office cubicles, who still carry a torch for David Soul
or John Schneider
or some other has-been pretty boy. But such women are exceptions proving the rule. Beauty is beauty, and all admire it -- but men who are not beautiful can gain admiration in ways that women cannot.
Consider Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger. If either one had been a shoe salesmen, his romantic options would have been quite limited; but because they were powerful men, Henry became a major-league babe magnet and 50-something Bubba had a 23-year-old intern flashing her panties at him. But you never heard of guys throwing themselves at Donna Shalala or Jeane Kirkpatrick, did you?
In fact, success may actually reduce a woman's romantic options. Many successful women, including quite attractive ones, complain that men are "intimidated" by them. Right-wing pundette Ann Coulter
, for example, has complained of a lack of suitable romantic companions. In New York City, home to many of the world's most accomplished women, the "man shortage" is a constant source of woe for upscale 30-something single ladies.
2. Marie's allowance that "some college-educated, middle-class American women still choose men primarily on the basis of money" hinges on the word "primarily." Women exhibit a tendency to "marry up," that is to have a husband (or other romantic partner) of superior socioeconomic status. This preference has long been recognized, and has been demonstrated by social research.
Women, I believe, tend to establish some baseline of status for mates; this baseline is unconscious but very real. A college-educated woman may, without actually thinking about it, restrict her pool of potential mates to college-educated males. Women may "marry down," but they usually don't marry too far
down: A woman with Ph.Ds may marry a fellow with only a bachelor's degree, but she is unlikely to marry a high-school dropout. But education is but one measure of status. A woman might limit her mating preferences to men with certain job statuses, or she may refuse dates from guys who drive ratty cars, or live at home with their mothers. At any rate, there is some threshold of status beneath which she will not consider a romantic involvement.
So it may seem
to be true that women are not choosing men "men primarily on the basis of money," even though a college-educated middle class woman may automatically (but unconsciously) eliminate from consideration as potential partners about 40 percent of available men. The female accountant would not consider dating the cab driver, the janitor, the short-order cook -- the very suggestion seems absurd to her. Once she is allowed to draw that baseline, however, it may be true that men who meet that minimum socioeconomic standard are not judged "primarily" on money; but she is choosing from a restricted field -- and the basis of that restriction is largely economic.
3. It is to be remembered that attraction and actual romantic involvement occupy distinct, if overlapping, spaces. A guy may be attracted to blue-eyed blondes, but marry a brunette. A man might be handsome, but if he is arrogant and selfish, a woman might refuse to date him. So what we actually do in terms of dating and marriage may be at odds with what our underlying attractions are.
Most of all, let us remember that few people are entirely rational in their romantic endeavors. Battered wives stay with their abusers, and a woman may be always willing to forgive her philandering husband, no matter how many times he strays. Not many years ago, the "family values" governor of Mississippi
bumped into his old junior high sweetheart, began an affair, eventually divorced his wife of 44 years and took up with his long-ago girlfriend. This entirely destroyed the governor's political career, and ruined the prospects of his party. Was this rational? Would any objective person think that the governor acted in his own best interests by this course of action? And while each of us criticizes the irrational romantic actions of others, we all cherish our own craziness.
Men may complain about women preferring rich men, but women know that those same men will go gaga for any chick with bleach-blonde hair and silicone implants. It is worth noting that among these complaining parties, none of the men are Bill Gates and none of the women are Pamela Anderson.