Friday, January 14, 2005

He May Want to Marry Mommy, but Her Heart Belongs to Daddy

In her latest op-ed column in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd takes a bit of umbrage with men who marry below their social status--and she has some research to back it up. Overall, the reason seems to be that men are more interested in women who are subordinate to them and will serve them in the same manners that their mommies did.

But aren't women just a bit complicit, and of their own accord, in relationships of this sort? Isn't it a bit much to say that these powerful men of status are swooping in and taking women of lower status for the simple reason that they need a mommy rather than an equal?

Or is it maybe, like Marilyn Monroe once sang, that her heart belongs to daddy (of a sort)? Maybe it has to do with wanting a man who knows a bit more about the world than she does? And could it possibly be that the smart woman on the lower end of the socio-economic scale sees the advantages of marrying a socially better-situated daddy than a boy on her own social level?

Ms. Dowd's opinion also assumes that the women who appear to be lesser because of their social status actually are lesser--in intelligence, motivation, and will--than the powerful men who are proposing. Perhaps she is wrong in this account because she is watching too many movies and not talking with women who have actually done it. There are no statistics to show that the women who marry up, while not necessarily as formally educated as their higher-caliber mates, may actually be as smart as them...just not as credentialed.

It would be important for Ms. Dowd to also note that in much of the working class, whether they be fourth generationers or newly-immigrated, education for women is usually not a priority. Women's primary function still seems to be to bear the babies, cook the dinners and keep the houses for the glory of the men. And, from what I have observed, this has less to do with religious values inasmuch as it does with secular cultural values. In other words, smart women aren't needed in the working classes because they make the men look bad--and it has less to do with what Father So-and-So said in the pulpit than what Pop and Mom thinks at home.

So what's a poor, smart girl to go?

Sure, she can waive the feminist banner of independence, muddle thru, and get a big fancy education--bucking her family and her status on principle because she deserves the education. But if she doesn't know the social mores or the secret handshakes, and doesn't have the network for networking after graduation, she can find herself pretty much back where she started. And worst of all, far less desirable to the men she might have had a sliver of a chance with before she got the big education.

That still leaves the question of what is a smart, educated woman on the lower level of the socio-economic status to do? Perhaps she should set her sights on that perfect Daddy...ditch the Birkenstocks, wear some makeup, take up golf and skiing--and don't forget those old-fashioned family-style values because that well-situated Daddy will (according to Dowd anyway) still want to marry his Mommy.

--Tish G.
(crossposted on Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams where she contemplates her own lack of social status and Daddy fixation on a regular basis)

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