Tallgirlification: it's over for girlbosses
All the Single Ladies, All the Single Ladies; would you like to be ten inches taller?
That’s right. Another one of these posts detailing an idiotic feature of the Sexual Revolution and why it’s actually a much more important topic than you think. Consider how this stuff gets PhDs published in Bloomberg Opinion— they are wrong in an old-hat way of course—but what was once tawdry and unserious is finally being recognized as quite serious for the West’s future societies & economies.
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I hope everyone had a Happy Valentine’s Day, especially my paid subscribers 😘
Sometimes you see something so funny your laughter makes you sympathize with fentanyl addicts. Today, I’ve had the fortune of seeing two such things.
Fig 1. An airplane schematic covered in red dots
Here’s a piece in Bloomberg Opinion by Kara Alaimo, a professor at Hofstra:
The piece starts out with an (unintentional?) bit of hilarity:
There’s been a huge shift in the way people date and marry in recent decades.
If they gave prizes for understatement, this would be a finalist. But it quickly reveals itself to be another run-of-the-mill entry in a litany of screeds whose main message is something like “Feminism would work if it weren’t for men!”
According to a 2020 Pew survey, just 38 percent of single American women are looking for dates or a relationship. But if women are seeking romantic relationships and they’re uber-successful, they often have to choose between career success and romantic success. To change this ugly part of our culture, we need to radically rethink our conceptions of masculinity.
Oh yes. In this late hour of the Occident, the one thing we haven’t done is rethink masculinity, perfectly preserved in amber, unchanged from the Cambrian period.
Part of the problem is that many men don’t want to be in relationships with women who they perceive as smarter than they are. A 2006 speed-dating experiment involving heterosexual Columbia University graduate students found that when a man thinks a woman is smarter than he is, he becomes less interested in dating her. (Happy Valentine’s Day!)
We examine causes and consequences of relative income within households. We establish that gender identity – in particular, an aversion to the wife earning more than the husband - impacts marriage formation, the wife's labor force participation, the wife's income conditional on working, marriage satisfaction, likelihood of divorce, and the division of home production. The distribution of the share of household income earned by the wife exhibits a sharp cliff at 0.5, which suggests that a couple is less willing to match if her income exceeds his. Within marriage markets, when a randomly chosen woman becomes more likely to earn more than a randomly chosen man, marriage rates decline
The actual paper’s data source is not, as Kara’s language suggests, pigheaded Big Men on Campus in a room turning their noses up at perfectly marriageable, wonderful young women if they—Heaven’s to Betsy!—make good grades. No, it’s the 2008→2010 3-year aggregate American Community Survey (a tragically discontinued data product, which you should write your Congressman about):
Notice the sharp dislocation in (a), indeed, at 0.5, the threshold where a woman outearns a man, where a rising likelihood of marriage (possibly related to the correlates of higher education, IQ, and religiosity also found to protect from marital dissolution) inflects into a decreasing likelihood of marriage. Kara goes on to cite other studies showing similar outcomes when incomes change, and then proceeds to give a perfectly standard misinterpretation of reality:
And women who are hugely successful in their careers have said they think it hurts their romantic prospects. As Maureen Dowd wrote in her book “Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide,” the day one of her friends won the Pulitzer, the woman called her "in tears," saying that as a result, she'd "never get a date." Federal judge Frederic Block wrote in his book that Sonia Sotomayor considered turning down her nomination to the Supreme Court because she knew it would hurt her dating life. To state the obvious, successful men don't tend to have this problem.
Sotomayor was nominated to the Court in 2009. If we’re being honest (as this Politico article confirms), she was nominated as a quota-judge. And as goes dating, if we’re being honest, this is what she looked like in 2009 at 55 years old:
Even if we were to accept the proposition that accomplished (seriously, read what Lawrence Tribe wrote about Sotomayor) older women being way too smart for these idiot men is the reason for the lack of their dating dividends, why don’t successful men have the problem of achievements stymieing their romantic life?
If Kara had kept looking in studies-show land, she might have found out why:
With women now surpassing men in educational attainment, and the most educated women more likely to be married, it seems reasonable to assume that a husband’s income would be less important to the marriage contract than in the past, particularly for women with advanced degrees. But recent research indicates that is not the case: male breadwinning continues to be central to not only marriage formation but also marital stability.
A new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family adds to this research by examining how women’s educational advancements in recent decades have impacted marriage patterns among newlywed heterosexual couples. It found that “the tendency for women to marry men with higher incomes has persisted.”
Whoops. Turns out women who break through the glass ceiling to get degrees…
…as they have been for decades…still want to marry bread-winner men with jobs.
Wouldn’t you know, in tandem with a mass-push to get women into college, there was a mass-push to get women in the workforce. And just like male enrollment in college, male labor force participation and wages declined:
Female incomes also declined in this period (actually, across the board, people who work for a living have been doing worse since the 70s as those who own their labor have been doing better), but men largely don’t care about that.
How come none of this occurred to Kara? Because she’s a woman with a PhD who got married to a physician (guys who don’t grow on trees by the way, ladies):
They also satisfy an essential requirement each has for a partner: possession of Global Entry and TSA Precheck to facilitate faster movement through airports.
How many women who were ‘single’ for as long as it takes to get a PhD and have a taste for frequent international travel are the sort that men want to marry?
Kara’s misdiagnosis stems from a highly unique personal experience:
Where are the Hollywood rom-coms about men who romantically pursue women CEOs? Their absence is a problem, because men privately say they feel pressured to live up to our society’s conceptions of masculinity, even when they don’t like or agree with them.
The solution starts with recognizing the problem. Once we appreciate what successful women are up against, we can look to men to treat them differently — and change our cultural tropes about masculinity and strength. Then more men might have a change of heart about relationships with successful women, and making them work.
How many unmarried women CEOs (or PhDs) will accept being romantically pursued by men who are not more financially (or academically) successful?
The reality is accomplished women do marry, but by settling or ‘marrying down’:
As Kate Bolick wrote in a much-discussed article in The Atlantic last fall, American women face “a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be ‘marriageable’ men — those who are better educated and earn more than they do.”
ONE of the dire predictions about educated women is true: today, more of them are “marrying down.” Almost 30 percent of wives today have more education than their husbands, while less than 20 percent of husbands have more education than their wives, almost the exact reverse of the percentages in 1970.
But there is not a shred of evidence that such marriages are any less satisfying than marriages in which men have equal or higher education than their wives. Indeed, they have many benefits for women.
Recall the top-down schematic of returned B-26 Marauders, shrapnel as red dots.
“I'm a big bag hunter with the bow”
We learned about preference falsification previously. Here’s another lie which ‘people are good at pretending they believe because it keeps the peace’:
“Things which make men attractive to women make women attractive to men.”
Furthermore, what this lie also obscures is that women pursuing things which make men more suitable for more women has a paradoxical effect in them, and not just because those stupid pig-headed men are ‘intimidated by them’.
It’s because women themselves don’t want to feel ‘big’—ultimately, responsible.
Now, listen, ladies, I’m not trying to drag you, so let’s try out an analogy; height.
See how lovely that is?
Right? Now, look, we love Dennis Kucinich and all our Short Kings (who, frequently, apparently themselves have a thing for Tall Queens) but let’s be real, there’s an evolved female preference for height that exists in tandem with men’s.
Men in general are reportedly most satisfied with women just a little shorter than them. Women, when they themselves are much shorter than their partner (almost eight inches shorter!) This means dating can be brutal for Short Kings:
By the way, West Elm Caleb? 6'4”. But why would women have this preference?
Simply put, women admire men, men adore women. Women love upwardly, loving to admire their man, men love downward, adoring and cherishing women. Women do not want to feel like their man’s mother. They don’t want him to feel like their little brother. They don’t want to be financially responsible for him. They don’t want to tower over him. (Mothers do this compared to their young sons). As with the usual procedure for exploding socially convenient lies, just compare this to your innermost. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Tall women, those Two Standard Deviations Above Tall Queens, often face difficulties as adolescents because their growth spurts mean they dwarf most men, and they sometimes don’t feel too small and feminine and attractive. (And that’s just plain wrong, like we love our Short Kings, we love our Tall Queens.)
Now, imagine a single woman who gradually grows in height during college.
Imagine that she’s 5’9’’ at the beginning of freshman year, which is already kind of tall for a woman, but that she wakes up after receiving her diploma to be 6’8”.
Would get easier for her? Would she enjoy marrying a short man of 5’10’’?
What’s happened with education and earning is a kind of Tallgirlification, a metamorphosis of the dainty and petite into the large footed and long legged, economically and financially. In fact, we’ve gotten to where women in their 20s typically out-earn men in their 20s, a pattern that only reverses by the 30s. Does that seem likely to encourage people to partner up as husband & wife in youth?
There’s no escape. It will end up being political.
The second thing thing I saw which made me guffaw (though this one makes me feel bad), was this post. It’s truly a work of art. I’ve archived it here:
Ms. Hunt, whom I won’t gratuitously quote, tells us on Valentine’s Day she’s 28 and running for Congress and it may hurt her chances of finding a man or keeping one but WHO CARES because if a man needs a wife, she’d divorce his ass in a heartbeat. But there’s another reason she might have trouble finding a man to marry her, in my humble opinion, and I just can’t make this next bit up:
It’s tragic. Ms. Hunt is clearly a bright woman who wants some kind of cause, and that’s as human a disposition as any other. But was this it? Was stripping? I believe her when she says she’s motivated by ‘radical love’ despite being single.
Maybe we should just tell young women to stop shooting themselves in the foot and lock down a good guy in college (Lori Gottlieb recommended this and was hounded for it). Maybe we need explicit affirmative action for men in college and early career workforces despite a return to a gender gap. What we can’t pretend is that the status quo leads to anything but human misery for most while bringing some great pleasure. We can’t make men decide they actually want to pursue women who spend a lot of time getting educated and those who spend lot of hours working, any more than we can make women stop desiring men who are taller than they are and earn more money than they do themselves.
We can’t make men into women, nor make women into men—we remain human. But perhaps we could look at our arrangements just a few decades earlier around education, around the workforce, and the human flourishing that was enjoyed, and hand down a different set of aspirations and norms to the kids.