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MILLSY'S MIND: Are Men Intimidated by Smart Women? Featured

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MEET NADINE. She is 30 years old, dynamic, fun-loving and good-looking. She is heavily into the creative arts. Lately, she has been feeling a sense of impotence. It just does not make sense. Here she is, a woman who sets goals for herself, meets deadlines, accomplishes some of the things on her professional 'To Do' list, and yet she has missed a major 'To Do'.

She has a niggling problem ¬ no marriage, no main squeeze and no long-term relationship prospects.

What makes Nadine' s situation even more perplexing is that she seems to have all the qualifications for romantic success. She is pretty, smart, and accomplished. She works out and stays in shape. She is independent ¬ she is not looking for someone to take care of her. Although she may come across as a little intimidating because of her popularity and perky disposition, the question remains: Why aren't men attracted by her confidence and competence? She has a lot to offer, does't she?

Well, apparently not.

According to an informal ONE876 survey of 10 professional women in the over-30 age group, men are intimidated by independent women.

"I don't know what is wrong with some of these men. They will never admit it but they are afraid to approach me. I know this guy who I know likes me, sometimes I catch him looking at me, but always with a sort of respect, and I wish he would come over and say hi," says Nadine.

"The ones who are not intimidated by my success are the older and married ones, or the guys who liked me in the past but were always afraid to approach me until they were already ensconced in a relationship with someone else. The guys who I want are the guys who say 'Cho, Nadine nuh want me'."

Psychologist Dr. Leachim Semaj believes that "men are just intimidated by women who are smarter and earn more money than they do.
"Women are socialised to find men who are smarter, richer and taller than they are, but it is hard for the Jamaican woman to find a man who is smarter or more successful than her...and that makes for a sometimes unhappy

However, some men beg to differ.

"It's not a matter of intimidation really. It's just being realistic," says one 31-year-old advertising executive.

"After a while, you will find that these women will be the ones to quickly kick you to the curb if things get bad. They don't work as hard on relationships because they feel they don't have to. And if she makes more money than you, as soon as there is an argument, she will be first to remind you that this is 'her house' or 'her car' and so on."

Other men are at turns self-deprecating and dismissive of the idea of dating attractive and highly successful women. These men eliminate themselves even before the race starts, skipping the getting-to-know-yous and heading straight to the break-up.

"Well, first of all, since she can literally have just about any guy she wants, her standards are very, very high. In almost all cases, to have any chance with her, you have to be rich and powerful, or extremely handsome, or a celebrity, or all of the above. If you're going to get shot down, why bother? What are your chances?" asks a 32-year-old newspaper reporter.

He may have a point.

You know the dating rules: the heavies go out with the heavies. Ask yourself, how often do you meet a beautiful woman who is dating an average-looking, unemployed labourer?

Other men contend that they will not challenge their own perception of 'masculinity' to accommodate 'some woman'.

"Why should I subvert myself to a woman? Traditionally, men have been the breadwinners, so I am not going to put myself in a situation to be emasculated," says one man.

So what about all the frustrated, lonely women out there?

"Maybe they should be frustrated," he answers curtly. "They need to either lower their standards or open their minds."
The women are just as stubborn.

"If a man doesn't have balls enough to approach me, then to hell with him. He should be able to celebrate my success, and he is not worth my time if he feels I will emasculate him, or if he's intimidated enough to think he can't approach me."

So the battle lines have been clearly drawn. Still, it wasn't always the case.

In the 1960s, a college-educated woman who was in her late 20s or early 30s, and still single was a rarity. Today, a new paradigm is emerging.

A new breed of single woman has emerged, and in greater numbers, as the result of a confluence of two social trends. One is later age of entry into first marriage.

Young women today are marrying later in life than at any time in the past century. Moreover, the most dramatic changes in the age of first marriage have occurred in recent decades. Thus, over the past 30 years, the proportion of women who are single during the traditional 'marrying years' has risen dramatically.

The second demographic trend is the dramatic increase in college attainment among young women. Historically, men have vastly outnumbered women in institutions of higher learning, except in women's colleges.

However, in Jamaica today, three out of every four University of the West Indies graduates are women. Plus, more women than men have graduated from the University of Technology since 1988.

"The notion of masculinity is very narrow," says Hillary Nicholson of Women's Media Watch. "The notion is that a man must be financially successful, he must have status, and must prove himself by having things, and be in control of his life including his relationship with his women and children. So when a man encounters an independent and successful woman, it threatens his whole concept of masculinity."
Ms. Nicholson criticises society's concept of masculinity as being unfair to men who want to explore diverse ways of being a man. "Many men are threatened because they feel they must be in control, but how can they be when everything is changing. Men can be successful in different ways," she asserted.
"He doesn't always have to be top dog. This is a classist society with lots of unemployment for both men and women. A man should understand that there is some diversity to being a man."
While men struggle with their own identity crises, there are many lonely women in Jamaica yearning for attention.
Nadine has given up on dating, and instead hangs out with her single girlfriends on the weekends. "It's nice," she says, "we call it church."
"I am just exhausted by men who eliminate themselves beforehand by deciding to label me as a girl who would not want them. How can they decide what I want without even talking to me," she asks.
"I never scripted it this way, it just happened. I went to college, got a job, pursued my career, and I woke up one morning and I was alone. I don't know if I met Mr. Right already, and let him slip through my fingers, I just don't know. I still want to get married some day, but I wanted to make sure I was economically set first."
For many young adults, being economically set means paying off college loans, getting a professional job, and even buying a house. In addition, women admit that they have a strong desire for personal freedom and experience.
New patterns of schooling and work, as well as the changes in sexual and live-in partnerships, have created a new stage of life that comes between school and marriage for this generation of young women.
Whereas the previous generation of college-educated women married and then tried to find satisfying work, this generation of college-educated women is seeking satisfying work before trying to find someone to marry.
Social scientists refer to this trend as a 'postponement' of marriage. But the term may be misleading because in the dint of its argument, it seems to suggest that the change is occurring wholly at the discretion of the young women themselves.
"There is no guarantee that when they feel it is time to marry that they will meet the right guy. I am not sticking around for her. While she's busy with her career, I will just get a younger, sexier woman in her 20s who needs me, and who doesn't ignore me until she feels ready," says one thirtysomething-year-old man, a little peeved.
This represents a serious threat to career-oriented women because as women grow older, they lose the means by which they attract men ¬ their looks. But wait a minute, says Jamaican-born Joan Grant Cummings, past president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women in Canada (NAC),that's not the main argument.

"That sort of thinking is just fluff. It is really about power dynamics. Men are unwilling to give up power to women because they feel that if you are economically and socially stable, you are less likely to succumb to him exerting power over you," she argued.

"Growing up, it was encouraged that a woman marry up; what's wrong with a man marrying up? We need to unlearn some of those age-old concepts, and understand that culture is not static, and that it develops in many ways. There are lots of women having children later in life, and studies show they make better parents, and I am meeting more men who know the advantages of meeting women who are not relying on them to
provide for her and her children."

There is nothing wrong with being over 30 and being unmarried and childless, Ms. Cummings said, it is only a dilemma because we are socialised that way.

In Jamaica, there were 21,502 marriages in 1997. This figure reached a high of 29,155 in 1999 and has declined yearly since then to register 22,391 in 2001. The number of divorces has hovered consistently in the thousand-plus bracket, with a high of 1,691 divorces in 2001.

Among young adults, there is the pervasive fear of divorce. The generation that has come of age during the divorce revolution has now reached early adulthood, and its members are all too aware of the fragile stage of marriage.
The possibility of divorce is another reason for women's determination to invest in portable assets, like education and career, rather than to place their trust in the economic security of a long-lasting marriage.

Read 2739 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 00:57

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