Years ago, I attended a local dating-related event where the audience was filled with single women and men. We talked about the usual dating topics: how to meet someone, what’s attractive, the challenges of dating online, etc. Some of the experts said some things I strongly disagreed with. However, the moderator made a quip that stuck with me:
“Guys Don’t Care about Your Career!”
I found it memorable for a few reasons. One, it’s an overgeneralization about men, and I’m not a fan of those. Not all men are the same! Two, it’s insulting to tell women their careers don’t matter. And three, and perhaps most perplexing, a part of me actually understood why he said that and what he was trying to convey. While many men do consider a woman’s career choice when evaluating her, let’s face it: it’s not as important to men as men’s careers are to women.
Fast forward a few years. A matchmaker I know — a woman — posted something interesting on Facebook. She stated that a potential male client told her he didn’t care one whit what his future female partner did for a living. This irritated my colleague. It made her feel like he’d just trivialized and insulted something that women work hard for and take very seriously.
A long and colorful debate commenced on Facebook. Sure enough. the moderator from that event years ago joined the debate, and made it clear his stance on the matter hadn’t changed at all. He claimed that no only do men not care about women’s careers, women shouldn’t care about men’s either.
And I thought about this. For weeks.
On the one hand, I saw his point. I’ve seen women focus too much on a guy’s job and use that as an index of his worth. Even online, men with high-paying, high-status jobs get more hits. This irritates me. Sure, a job can indicate a man’s ambition and financial stability, but it doesn’t guarantee either and it definitely doesn’t guarantee he has more substantive qualities that make a relationship work. I’d take a financially stable elementary school teacher over a self-absorbed physician or fiscally irresponsible trader any day. Hell, I did, back when I was single, and it worked.
Yet, on the other hand, to disregard a woman’s career and personal accomplishments is, as my colleague said, insulting. It’s like telling a woman that her hard work, her intellect, and her ambition aren’t important, that she’s nothing but her looks and, at best, her personality. How condescending! And what a great way to demonstrate a sexist attitude by showing no appreciation for the very things men value in themselves!
Then, it came to me. The source of the debate wasn’t about who was right or wrong, or whether career is important or not. The debate was about understanding that men and women differ… NOT just in the value they put on a date’s career, but in how they want to be valued.
Many women want men to value their careers and accomplishments because, historically, oppression and inequality barred women from such pursuits or otherwise frowned on them for it. Women want to be valued for what they do in the world, not just for their looks or their ability to bear children. On the other hand, men have always been valued for their careers, to the point where society (women included) has judged and ranked men by their job title. Now, men want to be valued for their other substantive traits.
The moderator and matchmaker had different perspectives, but they wanted the same thing: to be valued in the ways that mattered most to them. When you place no value on a woman’s career, it’s the same as placing too much on a man’s: it insults them and shows that, on some level, you’re still stuck in the past and adhering to old sexist views.
We need to be done with that shit.
Lecture over. Let the comments ensue.