Friday 6 May 2011

Why do so many modern women want to achieve high status?


Three ideas - all, none, one or two of which might be correct:


1. Getting into proximity

Perhaps, as a reproductive strategy, women want high status positions to get closer to high status men so they can marry them.

However, this is not necessary.

In the past, when Oxford and Cambridge universities were male institutions, women got effectively close enough to high status men (and often married them) not by becoming undergraduates or dons; but by attending secretarial and language colleges in the same city, or training as nurses, or working at sociable jobs in public places such as shops and cafes, or attending churches and social events, or even working as servants.

Wherever the attractive women were, men would seek them out - if at all possible. (See The Double Helix by James D Watson for examples.)

So high status education, training and jobs are not necessary in order to meet and marry high status men - women merely need to be accessible.


Indeed, as we now realize, it is a counter-productive reproductive strategy to attain proximity by competing for status, since a woman attaining high status for herself strongly reduces the likelihood of her getting married and of having children.

Reasons include that the pool of men a woman finds both attractive and potentially a marriage partner will (on average) diminish as her status increases, because she is attracted (only) to men of higher status than herself - the higher her own status, the fewer such men she will encounter.

Furthermore, men are not much/ hardly at all attracted to status in women; but mainly to personality, intelligence and appearance (i.e. to an appearance which signal youthfulness and health - hence reproductive potential).

The process of attaining high status (education, training, working-up the hierarchy, building a business) usually takes a long time, and as the years roll past the woman will (on average) less attractive even as she becomes more selective concerning the men who she regards as suitable marriage partners.

Consequently, higher status women are less often married, more often have zero children. 


Still, it is quite possible that modern women falsely believe that they need to compete alongside men in the same institutions and work in order to get close enough to marry them (or have a satisfying relationship).

But why would modern women believe something so obviously wrong?

Answer: mass media brainwashing, probably.


2. Institution a proxy for family 

Perhaps women don't really want high status - they want the high status environment.

A high status environment (such as an Ivy League college, a top law firm, an elite hospital) might be subjectively perceived as equivalent to being married to a high status man, or living with a high status father.

But why would women be so mistaken about this; why would they perceive a high status institution to be equivalent to membership of a high status family?

Answer: mass media brainwashing, probably.


3. Pathology

Perhaps a few strange and unusual women really do want high status (even though it does not benefit them either biologically or psychologically) - and they want status for themselves for what are essentially pathological reasons: and then (from their positions of influence) this small minority of status-driven women encourage the mass of non-status-seeking women into emulating this pathological behaviour.

(Steve Moxon - in The Woman Racket - speculates that the rare situation of a genuinely status-seeking woman may be due to masculinization, maybe in the womb.)

These rare and abnormal status-seeking women may not just gather in high status institutions, but when they have the right set of abilities, actually do high status things: like becoming big time entrepreneurs or politicians, or creative intellectual geniuses/ near-geniuses.

Of course, being pathological does not stop status-seeking women from making a major societal contribution (or, at least, having a major effect on society). After all, the annals of genius are packed with crazies.

But how could a tiny cadre of genuinely status-seeking women manage to convince the mass of women to emulate their pathological behaviour?

Answer: mass media brainwashing, probably.


So, why do so many modern women want to achieve high status?

Whatever the answer, the mass media are surely necessary to this becoming a widespread condition.



Alex said...

A thoughtful and incisive commentary: You bring out the curious likelihood that the higher an intelligent woman climbs, the more likely she is to "affront her destiny". (I borrowed that phrase from Henry James.)

You tentatively blame the mass media for a modern woman's predicament, and that's plausible. But the content of such media brainwashing consists, I guess, in an uncritical dissemination of feminist ideology. This ideology (or propaganda) is very pervasive and persuasive, and it enters the modern woman's rational faculties in all sorts of formal ways - e.g. through the educational process. On an informal level - through friendships etc. - it also conditions a woman's emotional life.

Impressionable young women are subjected to a continuous barrage of rational messages and emotional manipulation intended to shape their 'life style'. It's a demonstration of how to misinform almost an entire population that Dr Göebbels would have envied.

Bruce Charlton said...



Could I just clarify a potential source misunderstanding?

"You tentatively blame the mass media for a modern woman's predicament,"

I believe that a mass media is *necessary* for the present situation - it is absolutely essential; but not, of course, the ultimate cause or impulse.

Another topic which I hope to flag up sometime is that the mass media seems to be, in some sense (overall and in the long-ish run) a feminizing force in society - since they affect women more fundamentally than men - are (on the one hand) able to change female behaviour more deeply than powerfully than male behavior and (on the other hand) are more a matter of catering to (gratifying) female than male psychology. This even goes back to the earliest mass media of novels and broadsheets.

(Which is perhaps not saying very much! Because, since men and women are psychologically different, it must affect one more than the other. Still, most analyses that I have seen tend to falsely regard the mass media as mostly a way that 'men' manipulate women.)

A truly male-dominated society (and there are plenty of past and current examples) would be hostile to mass media, or would control its content very strictly; since the default state would then be each male dominating 'his' females by threats and examples of physical coercion: this being enforced on each male by the peer pressure/ threats of other males who 'need' to control 'their' females - if you catch my drift.

The mass media therefore threatens male domination, since it provides women with a 'virtual' peer group who may dictate/ support 'rebellious' female behavior.

This point circles back to my understanding that the whole structure of political correctness depends utterly on the presence of a large and widely attended mass media - if, for any reason, the mass media collapses or is destroyed - that will be an end of PC.

Thursday said...

Sara Blaffer Hrdy has written about the pre-historic roots of the career woman.

The Crow said...

Mass media brainwashing?
Well yes.
Spend any time trying to watch something on television, especially in North America, and you will have to wade through endless in-yer-face adverts appealing to a woman's ego.
Ego, ego, ego, and in case you still didn't get it: more ego.
"Because you're important!"
"Because you're worth it!"
"Because men are dumb-ass boorish incompetents, and only you can save the planet!"
It's all about ego, because ego buys things that otherwise would be unsaleable.

A dedicated Reader said...

And nothing less than global diaster is going to take out the MSM. It always comes back to the mass media mind control

Bruce Charlton said...

" nothing less than global diaster is going to take out the MSM"

I think that PC will destroy the media, as it is destroying all other institutions. Of course this is suicidal, but that would not prevent it happening.

Brett Stevens said...

My cynical take on Generation X:

Women want careers as a justification.

They no longer believe that happy 1950s-style family life is accessible to them, and they feel under assault by a society that treats them like commodities.

Most of the reasonably attractive women I knew on my college campus were approached by those who wanted to use them in pornography. Some went for it; they were convinced they wouldn't find a faithful, loving man and stable family anyway.

What's left? Money, and buying stuff to fill the void inside.

steve moxon said...

Bruce's first hypothesis is the one I've put forward (in my book, The Woman Racket) -- not the third one attributed to me here. [I think Bruce just mis-remembered.]
It's also surely the case that women's roles (home-maker, wife, mother) have been so severely denuded (by labour-saving domestic devices, the great fall in the desired number of children, and the advent of the pill removing the obligation on men to marry shotgun style) as to leave work as the only place left for women to go. Yet most women don't want anything to do with work, either at all or no more than what fits with the rest of their lives. Only 10-15% of women see work as men do and expect to work full-time continuously. Of these only a quarter are careerists. That's <5% of all women.
It's possible that this small percentage could be accounted for by the natural extension of doing a job and progressing in it because the job becomes fulfilling for its own sake.
But it seems to me that the (likely non-conscious) desire to put themselves in the paths of high-status men is a major factor.
I suspect that it's a combination of these two reasons.