Hot on the heels of my previous Ruby Wildflower blog post about the attitude of men towards women, pops up Fairfax lifestyle columnist, Bettina Arndt, proving the points I was making about out of touch lifestyle writers making stupendous claims about men and women in their 30s. In Arndt’s case, making bald claims and spurious evidence to support her case. There are those on Twitter who immediately roll their eyes when Arndt’s name is mentioned – and say that writing about her just encourages her. I would argue the opposite – it is precisely because people don’t write detailed critiques of people like Arndt that she gets away with the absurdity. In addition, she has a far higher readership than pretty much every blogger in the country. So, here is a bit of a breakdown of what she wrote and just what is so breathtakingly wrong about it. Her article will be in italics.Why women lose the dating game
In the Arndt world, going on a date isn’t an activity designed to find people with which you have a connection – it’s a game. With winners and presumably, losers. This is not the actual purpose of a date – which should be about finding something unique, compatible and so on. But then again, I’m not a lifestyle columnist.
Even the ads by Google on the SMH article’s page add to this idea that romance and seeking relationships is a game with “secret” words and some kind of trick to “make Him fall for you”. Nothing about finding things in common.
The photo spells out the tone in which the article is composed – telling us that romance and dating is to be measured in financial terms
“The other” – making men seem like something mysterious and “other” rather than a fellow human being. It’s off to a good start.Naomi sat in the back row of Melbourne’s Grattan Institute, about to watch her fiance give a lecture. She was joined by three unfamiliar women – all attractive, well groomed, in their mid-30s. From their whispered chat, she quickly realised they weren’t there to hear about politics and economics but to meet her eligible man. Naomi explains: ”He’s 36 years old and is definitely someone who falls into the alpha-male category: excellent job in finance, PhD, high income, six feet two, sporty and very handsome. And he’s an utter sweetheart.” Arndt starts her piece with a startling image of the woman in her mid 30s. Not interested in politics or economics. Just interested in meeting a man. They are “well groomed” not because of a pride in their appearance or out of necessity in the professional world, but in order to attract a Man. Not just any man – an “alpha” male. What makes a man “alpha” presumably is a high paying job, a PhD, being sporty and handsome. I am imagining a man who is part Malcolm Turnbull, part Dr. Karl, part Buddy Franklin and part Jon Hamm. The type of man people meet all the time. It does make me wonder what would make him a “Beta” – maybe a humble Masters Degree, or if he doesn’t play sport, not particularly handsome, a lowly job as a public servant – or that unforgivable sin, being short. Maybe if he had a job as a high school teacher, was 5 foot 6, not good at sport and was fairly ordinary looking, he’d be an Omicron. Never mind how kind, intelligent or nurturing he may be. Let’s continue with this affirming, positive image of the modern woman. Naomi is an attractive 28-year-old PhD student. She has been in a relationship with her fiance for six years. Her new companions were very friendly and chatted to her during the break. But then her partner, who had been socialising at the front of the room, made eye contact with Naomi and smiled. ”The women saw this and it was like the room had suddenly frozen over. There was silence and then one of them asked me if I knew him. I wasn’t going to lie, so I told them he was my partner and how long we’d been together. It was amazing how they responded. They stopped smiling at me, shifted awkwardly in their seats and looked me up and down as if they were trying to figure out how a girl who still wears jeans and ballet flats could land a guy like that.” The women left before her man gave his speech. As soon as women in an economics lecture see that their dream man wants an intelligent woman in her 20s, that’s it for them. The sisterhood breaks part instantly. They are so shallow that can’t understand why their dream Alpha Male would want a woman who wears jeans and comfortable shoes. Everything makes sense to me now. Yes, women really are that shallow. That is everyone’s experience of women in their 30s – certainly, every woman I talk to in their thirties is not listening to what I say, but wondering if I’m sporty and hunky. These same women flee the room when my partner comes in, without makeup and with a pair of flats on. This is my experience every time. Actually, not really. If I do discover if a woman is like this, I run a mile. Not literally, because I’m not very sporty. But I would if I was an alpha male. Because I’m a Sigma, I just wait until I get a chance to mutter to myself how incredibly boring said person was. The same goes for men who have the same approach to the judging of women. I don’t discover this attitude that often, fortunately. Back to Bettina’s terribly representative example.
Naomi is stunned by the number of women in their 30s who throw themselves at her partner: the colleagues who sign emails with kisses; the female journalist who pointedly asked, post-interview, if he was married.
This Alpha Male is important – clearly, he has the Lynx Effect without having to buy the evil smelling concoction. Women of all levels of education – even journalists – lose all reason and dignity as he walks down the corridors. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that the article was written by a teenage boy fantasising about his power with the ladeez. It is then, however, we get the crux of the Arndt argument.
Yet given the plight of thirtysomething women seeking partners, it’s hardly surprising that her boyfriend is in their sights. We hear endless complaints from women about the lack of good men.
There is a plight, a disaster, a problem for women in the thirties seeking men. “We” – whoever that is, though I expect it’s Arndt and her circle of friends – can’t find a commodity they define as “good” men. I expect it’s the Alpha Male that we met earlier. You know – Dr. Malcolm Franklin – Hamm. And they are complaints that are endless. But why are these women going through this disastrous “good man drought”?
Women astonished that men don’t seem to be around when they decide it is time to settle down. Women telling men to ”man up” and stop shying away from commitment.
It’s the fault of women. They went off and had careers and then, when they decided to settle down (clearly, all of this planned), the men disappeared. Not only that, but it is women who scared these “good” men away. But I digress – as Bettina has. She did, after all, declare that her article was about “the man’s point of view”. So, after this amount of time establishing just what a good alpha man is and establishing the attitude of women in their 30s, we are introduced to this “point of view”.
But there is another conversation going on – a fascinating exchange about what is happening from the male point of view. Much of it thrives on the internet, in the so-called ”manosphere”. Here you will find men cheerfully, even triumphantly, blogging about their experience. They have cause for celebration, you see. They’ve discovered a profound change has taken place in the mating game and, to their surprise, they are the winners.
Here is a secret. When the dinner is cooked and I go into my home office, I call out to my partner “sorry, I can’t talk to you now, I’m on the manosphere”. I read all those blogs by men bragging about the Alphaness and how they are winning at the dating game. Blogs written by blokes in their 30s about their experiences like this one, with all the bragging graphs, this one with stuff about clubland, or the scene in NSW. Arndt helpfully provides her own examples, such as these:
Dalrock (dalrock.wordpress.com) is typical: ”Today’s unmarried twentysomething women have given men an ultimatum: I’ll marry when I’m ready, take it or leave it. This is, of course, their right. But ultimatums are a risky thing, because there is always a possibility the other side will decide to leave it. In the next decade we will witness the end result of this game of marriage chicken.”
The endgame Dalrock warns about is already in play for hordes of unmarried professional women – the well-coiffed lawyers, bankers and other success stories. Many thought they could put off marriage and families until their 30s, having devoted their 20s to education, establishing careers and playing the field. But was their decade of dating a strategic mistake?
Dalrock sounds like a prize wanker to me. And then I read his blog – you can be the judge of whether that opinion can be supported. He represents himself as a “happily married man in a post-feminist world” – whatever that is. It sounds to me that in his twenties that he met women who had heard some of the views he is currently expressing in his blog and they made up a reason to make him go away. Being a man who likes to make things sound better than they were, he talks about “marriage chicken”. Arndt has then read Dalrock’s bitter attitude towards women as a truth about women in their thirties. This provides a note to any aspiring columnists in lifestyle sections in mass circulation papers – if you want to make a spurious point, you will find a bizarre blog to support that point. Continuing with that theme, we have other “representative” men:Jamie, a 30-year-old Sydney barrister, thinks so: ”Women labour under the impression they can have it all. They can have the career, this carefree lifestyle and then, at the snap of their fingers, because they are so fabulous, find a man. But if they wait until their 30s they’re competing with women who are much younger and in various ways more attractive.” This raises the question – how many times have we heard the cliche “women think they can have it all”. It’s a phrase I have NEVER heard come from a real person. NEVER. If you know someone who actually uses that phrase, put a piece of tape across their mouth, because whatever will come out next won’t be worth listening to. Jamie is another in the wankosphere who clearly has had many rebuffs from many women and has said as a way on self-consolation “women in their 20s are so much more attractive”. He doesn’t say in what way they are “more attractive” – it sounds as if he hasn’t been out with women in their 30s or their 20s. If he did manage to “snag” a woman in her 20s, she would find very quickly that Jamie is a boring man who judges people according to age and uses cliches like “having it all”. Arndt has swallowed this phrase from the unacknowledged source as evidence of Man Attitude – but then has moved onto statistics. Nothing like good stats to support an argument, no?
The crisis for single women in this age group seeking a mate is very real. Almost one in three women aged 30 to 34 and a quarter of late-30s women do not have a partner, according to the 2006 census statistics. And this is a growing problem. The number of partnerless women in their 30s has almost doubled since 1986.
Women not having a partner is a Problem, according to Arndt. Therefore, the increased number of women without a partner over the years is a Growing Problem. Never mind the increase divorce rate, where women have, as a generation, felt more empowered to leave a relationship that isn’t working, but then not just hopping on the next male passing by. Also, never mind women who choose to live a fulfilling life that doesn’t need a man to make it feel Complete. Those women don’t exist in Arndtland.
The challenge is greatest for high-achieving women in their 30s looking for equally successful men. Analysis of 2006 census figures by the Monash University sociologist, Genevieve Heard, reveals that almost one in four of degree-educated women in their 30s will miss out on a man of similar age and educational achievement. There were only 68,000 unattached graduate men in their 30s for 88,000 single graduate women in the same age group.
Ah, in Arndtland we do have the Alpha Female – the “high achieving” woman. To her, these university educated women are rapidly seeing a decrease in university educated women. That’s because the measure of success for Arndt now is a university education. Those women and men who didn’t go to university aren’t high achieving. Possibly even Sigmas.
And the higher-education gap keeps widening. In the past year, the proportion of degree-educated women aged 25 to 34 rose from 37.7 per cent to 40.3 per cent, according to the Bureau of Statistics, while for males the figure remained below 30 per cent, having risen only 0.5 per cent in the past year.
It gets worse for these ridiculous women who sought to get a university degree – there’s now far too many of you, competing for a pool of university educated men that hasn’t changed. Clearly the Dr. Malcolm Franklin Hamm market hasn’t an endless elasticity of supply – demand has increased. Women should be dismayed by the demand / supply curve. (If I was Greg Jericho, I could produce a graph for you to look at that shows what that would look like, but I’m not, sadly. Mind you, if you were an Alpha Woman reading that graph, you wouldn’t be interested in looking at a graph like that. That’s because you would be busy thinking about your Alpha Man). Maybe it’s the fault of women who competed against men at high school and won the university places. In Arndtlogic, you should have paused and thought of the uni graduate marriage pool in your 30s before studying for the HSC / VCE / Uni Entrance Exam. This is confirmed in this paragraph from Arndt –
Although there are similar numbers of single men and women in their 30s overall – about 370,000 of each across Australia – half these available men had only high school education, 57 per cent earned $42,000 or less and 95,000 of them were unemployed.
There it is. Worthless Upsilon men who don’t earn much money or went to uni are your lot. Plus the unemployed. The unemployed – the Omegas of our society, in Arndtlogic. Why are women destined to a life spent with Upsilons and Omegas? Because it’s THEIR FAULT.
The high expectations of professional women are a big part of the story. Many high-achieving women simply are not interested in Mr Average, says Justin Parfitt, the owner of Australia’s fastest growing speed-dating organisation, Fast Impressions. Parfitt adds: ”They’ve swallowed the L’Oreal line: ‘Because you’re worth it!’ There’s a real sense of entitlement.”
Yes, the owner of a speed dating organisation is the authority on Men and the attitude of Women. In a perfect synergy, he uses the language of advertising to frame his point of view – in the way we all do when speaking about society. Let’s not let the spectre of exhaustive research hang over this piece – let’s hear more from Mr. Speed –
He finds many of his female members are determined to meet only men who are tall, attractive, wealthy and well educated. They want the alpha males. ”Most of the professional women rarely give out ‘yes’ votes to men who aren’t similarly successful,” reports Parfitt, who struggles to attract enough of these successful men to his speed-dating events. Sixty per cent of his members are female. Most are over 30.
Yes, men are so easy to judge in 5 minutes of mindless small talk in an absurd speed dating situation. Plus, so many women in society rely on speed dating to find their ideal partner. Again, I’ve never met anyone who think speed dating is nothing more than a massive giggle. I’d be interested if anyone found anyone remotely interesting at such things. However, Arndt uses this female pickiness at speed dating as a chance to make one of her more outlandish conclusions.
During their 20s, women compete for the most highly desirable men, the Mr Bigs. Many will readily share a bed with the sporty, attractive, confident men, while ordinary men miss out. As Whiskey puts it at whiskeysplace.wordpress.com: ”Joe Average Beta Male is about as desirable to women as a cold bowl of oatmeal.”
I went to Whiskey’s Place. Aside from declaring that “America is a Hard Left Nation, No Question About It”, he speaks of “Alpha male struck naïve Freshman girls” in a way that I wouldn’t necessarily advise you read. Arndt uses as support for her view a blog that is representative of nothing more than a Republican male confused about the world changing around him.
Data from American colleges show 20 per cent of males – the most attractive ones – get 80 per cent of the sex, according to an analysis by Susan Walsh, a former management consultant who wrote about the issue on her dating website, hookingupsmart.com.
If you visit “Hooking Up Smart“, another American site about dating there you get a number of the terms of reference that frame Arndt’s piece. The “manosphere” for a start, plus “MWALT – Most Women Are Like That” and other fascinating acronyms. The numbers look a bit strange to me – a bit even. Those 80 per cent of men are clearly Upsilons or Sigmas not getting sex in college. But they do in their 30s, I suppose, according to the logic. Let’s look at those sexless men.
That leaves a lot of beta men spending their 20s out in the cold. Greg, a 38-year-old writer from Melbourne, started adult life shy and lonely. ”In my 20s, the women had the total upper hand. They could make or break you with one look in a club or bar. They had the choice of men, sex was on tap and guys like me went home alone, red-faced, defeated and embarrassed. The girls only wanted to go for the cool guys, good looks, outgoing personalities, money, sporty types, the kind of guys who owned the room, while us quiet ones got ignored.”
He barely had a date through much of his 20s and gave up on women. But then he spent time overseas, gained more confidence, learnt how to dress well and hit his early 30s. ”I suddenly started to get asked out by women, aged 19 through to 40. The floodgates burst open for me. I actually dated five women at once, amazing my flatmates by often bedding three to four of my casual dates each week. It is a great time as a male in your 30s, when you start getting more female attention and sex than you could ever have dreamt of in your 20s.”
Greg, the writer in his 30s is getting a lot of sex, despite being a dreadful Beta. A representative man, clearly. He tried to “compete” with sporty men in his 20s and now he is in his 30s, he is getting sex. He WINS! Nothing is said that perhaps the women he was trying to date in his 20s didn’t share the same interests as him, or perhaps he sucked in the lie than many men believe in their 20s, which is “punching above your weight”, which translated actually means “go out with someone entirely wrong for you”.
Greg, to me, sounds like he’s another resident of the wankosphere. He can seem to be nice, friendly and personable to women in their 30s – but to Greg, it’s “sucked in, women! I am just sleeping with 5 of you at once! I am a WINNER!” Ah, no, Greg, you aren’t. You are someone boasting to Bettina Arndt. But I digress.
That’s when some men start behaving very badly – as the manosphere clearly shows. These internet sites are not for the faint-hearted. The voices are often crude and misogynist. But they tell it as they see it. There is Greenlander, an apparently successful engineer in his late 30s. In his early adult life, he was unable to ”get the time of day from women”. Now he’s interested only in women under 27.
”The women I know in their early 30s are just delusional,” he says. ”I sometimes seduce them and sleep with them just because I know how to play them so well. It’s just too easy. They’re tired of the cock carousel and they see a guy like me as the perfect beta to settle down with before their eggs dry out … when I get tired of them I just delete their numbers from my cell phone and stop taking their calls … It doesn’t really hurt them that much: at this point they’re used to pump & dump!”
Cock carousel. Pump and dump. Hmmm, delusional doesn’t apply to the women, “successful engineer”. Sounds like he’d be a delightful dinner companion.
It’s easy to dismiss such bile but Greenlander’s analysis is echoed by many Australian singles, both male and female.
Yes, it is easy to dismiss Greenlander, Bettina. But you don’t, because you have Conclusions to be Made.
”It’s wall-to-wall arseholes out there,” reports Penny, a 31-year-old lawyer. She is stunned by how hard it is to meet suitable men willing to commit. ”I’m horrified by the number of gorgeous, independent and successful women my age who can’t meet a decent man.”
Penny acknowledges part of the problem is her own expectations – that her generation of women was brought up wanting too much. ”We were told we were special, we could do anything and the world was our oyster.” And having spent her 20s dating alpha males, she expected them to be still around when she finally decided to get serious.
HORRIFIED! WE WERE WANTING TOO MUCH. WE WERE LIED TO BY THE FEMINISTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WANT A MAAAAAAAAN NOOOOOOOOW!!!! IT’S THE FEMINISTS FAULT THAT I CAN’T HAVE AN ALPHA MAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!
If anyone knows Penny, she needs support. She sounds a touch judgemental.
But these men go fast, many fishing outside their pond. The most attractive, successful men can take their pick from women their own age or from the Naomis, the younger women who are happy to settle early. Almost one in three degree-educated 35-year-old men marries or lives with women aged 30 or under, according to income, housing and marriage surveys by the Bureau of Statistics.
Men are fishermen. And they are marrying younger women. Not that the phenomenon of an age gap of 5 years isn’t a cultural norm or anything. That maturity levels between a 30 year old woman and a 35 year old man might be pretty even. No, let’s not let that idea enter the Arndt thesis that women in their 30s are in the wrong pond.
”I can’t believe how many men my age are only interested in younger women,” wails Gail, a 34-year-old advertising executive as she describes her first search through men’s profiles on the RSVP internet dating site. She is shocked to find many mid-30s men have set up their profiles to refuse mail from women their own age.
Wails Gail – nice rhyme. Anecdotal evidence of RSVP is another tool here – and those men in their 30s who go on RSVP seeking young trophy girlfriends are representative of, um, men who are probably delusional enough to think that women in their 20s will “want” them. That the idea of “punching above their weight” hasn’t died as it should have when they were 21. Maybe, possibly, perhaps. Not that the idea is entertained here.
Talking to many women like her, it’s intriguing how many look back on past relationships where they let good men get away because they weren’t ready. American journalist Kate Bolick wrote recently in The Atlantic about breaking off her three-year relationship with a man she described as ”intelligent, good-looking, loyal and kind”. She acknowledged ”there was no good reason to end things”, yet, at the time, she was convinced something was missing in the relationship. That was 11 years ago. She’s is now 39 and facing grim choices.
”We arrived at the top of the staircase,” Bolick wrote, ”finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up – and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.”
Those cheese munching men are clearly something to avoid. How dare they leer at cheese. With the assent of her fellow writer, Arndt comes in with the punch.
So, many women are missing out on their fairytale ending – their assumption that when the time was right the dream man would be waiting. The 30s are worrying years for high-achieving women who long for marriage and children – of course, not all do – as they face their rapidly closing reproductive window surrounded by men who see no rush to settle down.
The clock is ticking. Because that is what all women desire and want. As well, men in their thirties just all want to go out and score women in their 20s. So say RSVP users and American bloggers – so it must be true.
And, of course, many women eventually do find a mate, often ending up with divorced men. There are complications with that second-marriage market, in which men come complete with former wives and children. That was never part of the plan.
Oh, DEAR! How dare they. DIVORCED MEN!!!! Is there a letter lower than Omega? And those messy CHILDREN from another relationship. How terrible. Women can’t possibly bond with such spawn, can they? Actually, as I have seen many times, they can. With beautiful results. I find that conclusion one of the most personally offensive, in terms of men who are “second” hand goods. That’s because, apparently, life has follow a plan and be a fairytale. And divorce isn’t a part of it, despite its prevalence. A prevalence not dealt with in the sharp statistical analysis with which Arndt has written up until now. Talking of sharp, now a summary of one of the millions of self help books –
Many really struggle with the fact that they aren’t in a position to be too choosy. American author Lori Gottlieb gives a painfully honest account of that process in her book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough.
”Maybe we need to get over ourselves,” she writes. The 40-year-old single mother enlisted a team of advisers who helped her realise that while she was conducting her long search for the perfect man – Prince Charming or nobody – her market value had dropped through the floor.
”Our generation of women is constantly told to have high self-esteem, but it seems that the women themselves are at risk of ego-tripping themselves out of romantic connection,” she writes. She acknowledges she made a mistake not looking for a spouse in her 20s, when she was at her most desirable. She advises thirtysomething women to look for Mr Good Enough before they have even less choice. ”They are with an ‘8’ but they want a ’10’. But then suddenly they’re 40 and can only get a ‘5’!”
Yes. Marriage is a commodity. Men are to be compared on a numerical scale – which confused the heck out of me – it was Greek letters, now it’s numbers. Women should just be happy with the drecky cheese men. To finish with, we have a last word from the wankosphere –
Women delaying their search for a serious relationship have set up a very different dating and marriage market. The Sydney barrister, Jamie, finds himself spoilt for choice. Like many of his friends he’s finding women actively pursuing him, asking him out, cooking him elaborate meals, buying him presents. ”Oh, you’re a barrister,” they say.
While many of his mates are playing the field, determined to enjoy this unexpected attention, Jamie is ready to settle down. He’s very wary of Sex and the City types, women who are convinced they are so special, but he’s confident he will soon find someone with her feet on the ground.
”I’m lucky,” he says, ”to be in a buyer’s market.”
Yes, Jamie. He sounds like a keeper to me. A definite Dr. Malcolm Frankin – Hamm who definitely doesn’t leer at cheese.
Addendum – Check out the new Tumblr – People Who Leer At Cheese.