Sunday, October 30, 2005
Dowd discusses the criteria and behavior that women and men use today in mate selection and how deep-seated biological evolutionary strategies are playing out in our modern society, one which offers more lifestyle choices for women. I applaud Ms. Dowd for recognizing that some mating tendencies are more than just cultural, even as I am disappointed in her tolerance for female artifice and her not really taking on women's expectations for men to pay for joint activities during courtship.
Women and men have co-evolved since the era of purely group or tribal unclothed living, when females would go into prominent periodic estrus -- with obvious engorged vulva, probably spewing pheromones as well -- and would approach males aggressively for sex, receiving them in order of their status in the group. After our species began pursuing a strategy of larger brains and longer maturation and acculturation, better attention by males to the increasing needs of rearing such offspring was secured by evolving strong pair-bonds between the birthing female and one male, who understandably became even more insistent that he be the biological father. This evolution saw an increasingly clothed female abandon her purely estrus-based attractions in favor of focus on face, figure, looks in general, and continuous sexual receptivity to and solicitude toward one male, to better secure his contribution to their offspring. Love and marriage became the most successful strategy.
A Modern Girl today can get pregnant through impersonal scientific techniques and can raise children through some combination of her own market labor, day care, child support, and welfare. She can even blend with this greater autonomy a reversion to the earlier pattern of mating with many males. But many, if not most, women come to miss the instinctual satisfaction of the later pattern: an enduring partnership with a male. The "rub" for Dowd is that women tend to persist in looking to mate upwards in terms of success and resources, even later in life, as though still looking for a good provider. Not surprisingly, successful men seem to mate with women who look up to them, believing more in a woman's devotion and sexual exclusivity when she is more dependent on his success. These latter women are often younger as well.
Lifelong marriage is less universal now; and some of those beyond youth without a partner are trying to meet their needs for intimacy in ways heretofore frowned-upon, for example: sluttiness, homo- or bi-sexuality, and robbing the cradle. But for most older singles, an understanding of what they do not really need anymore can improve their focus on what they still do need: a kind, attentive friend and generous, undemanding lover with whom to share much of their remaining life. Wisdom, attitude, and soul more than make up for a few wrinkles and a few extra pounds.
Unlike Maureen Dowd, I prefer the no-makeup look and look askance at women who feel unable to face the world without six kinds of makeup applied to their faces, to compete or to conceal the signs of age. Like her, though, I think nice and even sexy clothes, hose, and heels are way better than unisex -- for evening wear, though, not for work.
But let me also say that a woman who pays her share to the best of her ability makes a deep favorable impression on me. That is the kind of truly noble woman who makes me feel kingly to indulge. If you can tolerate plain speaking and polemic, Matthew Fitzgerald has an article on the "who pays" topic here.
Another thing a Modern Girl can do today is be more forward to the men she finds attractive rather than expecting men to court all the risk of rejection. Of course a woman would like a demonstration that a man is "into" her; but a wise man looks for the same sign from a woman. A conversational opening to a more reticent man may be more productive than piling on the glamour aids and getting hit on by pickup artists telling her she's everything she's always dreamed of being.
Men have never stopped paying attention to women, whether young and hot or older and personally engaging; and we do judge them not only on how they look but also on how they conduct themselves. Men -- mature, smart, independent men, who may even be "cute" or at least distinguished-looking men (not stuck on stupid or just plain lying men) -- have had time to develop some rules themselves. Here's an example of Fitzgerald's.
Now this personally to Maureen: the black lace hosiery and red spike-heel pumps you wore in that picture Matt Drudge posted are hot, but I think they give mixed signals worn with business attire. I'll tell you more of what I think about your fine self when you interview me. LOL
UPDATE: Professor David Buss has posted a wealth of social science papers online on sexual psychology. This is a great resource. Take advantage of it. Save the link in your favorites and enjoy when time permits.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
I still recall an article titled "Who's Having the Children," written many years ago by an educator wondering why standardized test scores had fallen in the United States and advancing the explanation that having children had begun to be negatively correlated with intelligence.
Unlike the Baby Boom era, when more of a cross-section of Americans produced offspring, Baby Boomers themselves tended more to use birth control and to embark on odysseys of self-realization.
But the Catholic Reagan era brought about the alliance of the Republican Party with fundamentalist Christians' anti-abortionism and pro-natalism, which appealed especially to the "weaker" sex's ticking biological clocks and instincts for nurturance and biological "immortality" but which also brought with it the side-effect of increased bastardy.
Now we have a "born-again" President telling Muslims they misunderstand their own religion's injunction to either convert or kill infidels, perhaps because debunking the Muslim belief in Paradise for suicide bombers is off the table, given the beliefs of Americans shown in this recent poll:
The latest FOX News poll finds that more than nine in 10 Americans (91 percent) believe in God and almost as many believe in heaven (87 percent).
Read it and weep; and if that is not enough, add in the results of another recent poll:
Most Americans do not accept the theory of evolution. Instead, 51 percent of Americans say God created humans in their present form, and another three in 10 say that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent say humans evolved, and that God was not involved.
The "intelligent" design forces are now moving in on government schools; and scientists are warning of dire consequences:
Scientists bemoan the lack of qualified U.S. candidates for postgraduate and doctoral studies at American universities and currently fill around a third of available science and engineering slots with foreign students.
So in an era when America has lost manufacturing jobs to other countries and even high-tech industries are beginning to outsource abroad, what will we have left in the future to sustain our economy?
Sunday, October 02, 2005
George Will wrote in a recent syndicated column:
Liberalism's post-Katrina fearlessness in discovering the obvious — if an inner city is inundated, the victims will be disproportionately minorities — stopped short of indelicately noting how many of the victims were women with children but not husbands.
He prefaced this observation with three rules for avoiding poverty:
Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager.
The appearance of this column in my local newspaper resulted in an outraged letter to the editor; but a few days later, an article in the same paper reported a speech by Louis Farrakhan in downtown Memphis:
Many of the older people in the audience stood up to clap when Farrakhan said, "When our grandparents should be enjoying the twilight of their lives, they're having to raise their children's children. ...
"Our society is sick," he said.
An erudite black woman, Federal Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, gave a speech in 2000 while she was on the California Supreme Court, in which she related:
Lionel Tiger, in a provocative new book called The Decline of Males, posits a brilliant and disturbing new paradigm. He notes we used to think of a family as a man, a woman, and a child. Now, a remarkable new family pattern has emerged which he labels "bureaugamy." A new trinity: a woman, a child, and a bureaucrat." Professor Tiger contends that most, if not all, of the gender gap that elected Bill Clinton to a second term in 1996 is explained by this phenomenon. According to Tiger, women moved in overwhelming numbers to the Democratic party as the party most likely to implement policies and programs which will support these new reproductive strategies.
Professor Tiger is not critical of these strategies. He views this trend as the triumph of reproduction over production; the triumph of Darwinism over Marxism; and he advocates broad political changes to accommodate it.
Others do not see these changes as quite so benign or culturally neutral. Jacques Barzan finds the Central Western notion of emancipation has been devalued. It has now come to mean that "nothing stands in the way of every wish." The result is a decadent age — an era in which "there are no clear lines of advance"; "when people accept futility and the absurd as normal[,] the culture is decadent."
I found another source of the three rules for avoiding poverty in a recent William Raspberry column, Poor Women's 'Magical Outlook':
I recalled what William Galston, a University of Maryland professor of public policy, once called his "favorite statistic": that finishing high school, reaching age 21 and getting married before having the first child dramatically reduces the odds that the child will experience poverty.
So, I wondered, what does he make of the "Promises" findings?
"If I were a woman in a community like the one they describe, and the pool of men I was looking at involved dropouts with criminal records and abusive patterns, I wouldn't marry either. But that omits the prior question: Why would I allow such a man to impregnate me?"
In short, it isn't simply the decoupling of marriage from children, he said, but the decoupling of the decision to have a child from the rest of your life.
Raspberry gave an additional source for the three rules in a column a few weeks earlier, Poverty and the Father Factor.
In another recent article, The Hallmark of the Underclass, Charles Murray wrote:
Why has the proportion of unsocialized young males risen so relentlessly? In large part, I would argue, because the proportion of young males who have grown up without fathers has also risen relentlessly. The indicator here is the illegitimacy ratio--the percentage of live births that occur to single women. It was a minuscule 4% in the early 1950s, and it has risen substantially in every subsequent decade. The ratio reached the 25% milestone in 1988 and the 33% milestone in 1999. As of 2003, the figure was 35%--of all births, including whites. The black illegitimacy ratio in 2003 was 68%. By way of comparison: The illegitimacy ratio that caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to proclaim the breakdown of the black family in the early 1960s was 24%.
The full text of Murray's short 1999 book, The Underclass Revisited, can be downloaded free from this page. Another relevant Murray article can be found here and offers evidence for his assertion that:
The bottom line for this accumulation of experience in America is that it is impossible to make up for parenting deficits through outside interventions.
So there we have similar observations by two black men, one black woman, and two white men. Can we talk about this problem and do something about it now?
UPDATE: Marriage: A social justice issue
UPDATE: Mixed feelings on Father's Day
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Consulting the handy Mirriam-Webster online dictionary for "superstition," we find:
1 a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition
2 : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
Listening to a hit Stevie Wonder song, we hear:
When you believe in things that you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way
People along the Mississippi have periodically been subject to floods, and at least some have been under no illusions about it, as this verse from a 1929 recording by Memphis Minnie shows:
Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move
In fact, blues singers of the Delta like Son House sometimes provided more stark counterpoint to prevailing mythology:
Oh, there ain't no heaven, now, there ain't no burnin' hell
Oh, where I'm going when I die, can't nobody tell