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I'm still chewing over the issue of 'settling'.

My mother, and my aunts, understand what the word "settle" means, but the colloquial phrase, as used by Gottlieb, and understood by both me and the people who posted on this thread here, was not familiar to them. They were, of course, expected to marry; they were, of course, expected not to have sex until they were married; they were expected to be good girls, and they had the usual contemptible and completely enraging words for the not good girls.

(My mother and I had a number of arguments, debates, and all-out screaming fights when I was a young teenager because she'd raised me to be relatively practical and relatively logical, and some of those phrases struck me as sexist, hugely gender-biased, and entirely unfair. My father would very quietly pick up the newspaper and head out to the living room when we talked about these things because a) he had no opinions to offer and b) the words could easily become incendiary.)

But my mother's generation didn't use the term "settling" in the same way. And it occurs to me that there are reasons for that, one being that women were not considered capable of their own upkeep away from their parent's house; marriage wasn't a matter of romantic love; it was a matter of necessity, like finding a job. This, by the way, is not the way it was ever presented to me; this is hindsight. It was important to my mother that we all marry for love.

Yes, that was a digression.

What I am still wondering, however, is why "settling" has no real male counterpart. I asked my husband about it, and he understands and recognizes the term -- but it's a term that women use, and they apply it to other women. So I asked him what the male equivalent was. There was some silence and some thought, and then he admitted that no male equivalent came to mind.

So I asked him why.

He said that men in general don't talk to each other about relationships or relationship issues; they don't talk about their marriages, their wives, or, once they're no longer teenage boys, their sex life. If they're talking about relationship issues, they're almost always talking to women.

So... why is this? Is it just the cultural context, that leftover conditioning that still requires women to be in relationships to be happy? Men are often lonely; is it just the social pressure not to talk about these things that prevents them from entering the same types of conversations, or are these conversations inherently pointless or boring?

Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
ogre_san
Mar. 12th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
I don't pretend to know the real answer, if there is one, but this is what I believe based on my own experiences.

Part of it's social conditioning, but there's more to it: within many if not most male peer groups, conversation is often conducted as if it were a zero-sum game with winners and losers. Showing emotional vulnerability of any sort is "losing," so the conversations tend to be superficial by perceived necessity, even if that perception is mostly on a subconscious level. IE: It just isn't done.

You might see something closer to a "real" conversation between two very longtime friends or in a very small group, but even that's rare. Men often simply do not bond in that way.
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
You might see something closer to a "real" conversation between two very longtime friends or in a very small group, but even that's rare. Men often simply do not bond in that way.

That was my husband's take on it as well. In fact, he was nodding quietly at the observation about the zero-sum game. I can debate as if it's a zero-sum game, but I'm not used to thinking of conversation that way, I admit, so I have more to mull over.
phantom_wolfboy
Mar. 12th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
Growing up as a male geek, we talked about that sort of thing all the time. Maybe it was just the crowd I hung out with, I don't know.

I'm still a little unclear on the use of "settling" in this context, at least as a word on its own. Are we talking about "settling for"? "Settling" a newly discovered territory? "Settling" as one of those words that looks stranger and stranger the more times you type it? Could you unpack a bit?
msagara
Mar. 12th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
I'm still a little unclear on the use of "settling" in this context, at least as a word on its own. Are we talking about "settling for"? "Settling" a newly discovered territory? "Settling" as one of those words that looks stranger and stranger the more times you type it? Could you unpack a bit?

"Settling", the way Gottlieb uses it, and the way it's generally used, means you settle for someone who is not your ideal, and not Mr. Right, because it's -- one assumes -- better than nothing. It usually denotes marriage; you don't choose to "settle" for a boyfriend, but you might not marry a boyfriend because he's not Mr. Right, and staying with him would be settling.

If you read the Gottlieb article, and see how she uses the term, you'll probably have more unpacking than you can stomach *wry g*.
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
Growing up as a male geek, we talked about that sort of thing all the time. Maybe it was just the crowd I hung out with, I don't know.

In my high school, admittedly an alternative school, we would often have these large, sprawling group discussions about sex and relationships, in which both genders of various sexualities (poly, Gay/Lesbian, hetero) would sit down and join in. And I think there is some part of me that considers this, or that feels that this is normal.
jennifer_dunne
Mar. 12th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
As used in the article, "settle" means wanting one thing, but accepting something less.

That is far, far different from wanting one thing, seeing another, and realizing that you didn't really want the first thing after all, you just thought you did. :-)

Women are used to the notion of settling, because societally, we're forced to do it in so many areas of our lives. Relationships are just one area where this happens. The "Superwomen" of the 80's who thought they could have everything they wanted without ever having to settle quickly burned out. Because the basic reason for settling is that, in accepting what someone else (or society) wants for you over what you want for yourself, you get their support. And you do need support in your life.

If you have ideal relationships, they'll support you as you go out on a limb for what you want, and never settle. But that's exceedingly rare.

And I think that's the double-whammy of why male culture doesn't have a word for this. Because first of all, it's culturally looked down upon to admit that you have accepted less than you wanted. And second of all, it's culturally looked down upon to admit that you need support.

(Keeping in mind, I'm not actually a male... but having grown up a tomboy with a circle of all-male friends, I picked up a lot of the mindset.)
surreul
Mar. 12th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Yes! I think this is a good explanation why guys wouldn't use the word choice 'settle' much.

Also, yes! Support is so very important. If you have great support in one area of your life (family for ex.) it become immeasurably easier to take risks in other areas.
surreul
Mar. 12th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC)
I think there is a male equivalent though I'm not sure that there is one word for it. Guys talk about making a rational choice when they talk about settling. They talk about objective criteria and about 'knowing what's out there' and who they can attract and her being a good choice. The framing is different because women talk about it in terms of once wanting the perfect love and now settling for less while men frame it as if love doesn't really come into and from the idea that once they wanted this accomplished goddess and are now settling for a flawed human being but I think the idea is very similar. Both conversations always bother me because I'm a proponent of appreciating the uniqueness of the particular person you're with but *shrug*.

I do think lots of guys don't talk about relationships because there is very strong social pressure on guys not to. Also, as men grow up with the idea that they're not supposed to have complex, confusing emotions they never acquire the vocabulary to talk about it which makes it more difficult to talk about it later as adults even if they find a good friend and wish to. I actually think the whole 'Men don't talk about that ' is a terribly destructive social norm.


msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
I actually think the whole 'Men don't talk about that ' is a terribly destructive social norm.

Agreed. Although sometimes cultural reserve plays a part in this as well, and I'm hesitant to call reserve a destructive social norm, which might say more about me than I though.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 19th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
settling
I think a lot of men in our culture consider commited monogomous relationships settling. ie.... They are no longer on the hunt prowling for whatever potential conquests are out there.This is a very immature societal norm, but face it, women in our society are supposed to "grow up faster" etc....while men are supposed to "play the field"......so that many men feel as if they are giving up something when they are in commited relationships (settling)
greenmtnboy18
Mar. 12th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
I'm not convinced the "settling" idea *doesn't* translate directly to men. I certainly know men who have described their relationship/dating status as a matter of "settling" for someone who is somehow not what they had in mind for themselves when they dreamed up an "ideal partner".

As for men not talking about relationships/sex, I think that varies a LOT depending on the guys. I hang out with mostly gay and bisexual men, and I do hear guys talking amongst themselves, and with me, about their relationships/sex lives. This is NOT to say that gay/bi guys are less emotionally shut down and closed off about these topics than straight guys, just that I do hear it occur. ;-) And there is definitely a lot of defining happiness as a relationship in my circles, by both men and women.

Overall though, despite my experiences of it happening around me, I do believe men *are* less likely to talk about these topics, and less likely to willingly define their happiness through relationship status. Your question of why is this... this is only my opinion, obviously, but I think it's twofold. First, yes, in my experience I do believe a lot of it is rooted in cultural conditioning, socialization, social pressure. In a world that divides nurturing and power along gender lines, we're trained from a very early age as to what is considered weak, powerful, powerless, maculine, feminine, strong, vulnerable, emotional, etc., and there are values heavily assigned to each depending on gender. Sexism boxes men up, just in different ways. Men are trained around emotional expression both implicitly and explicitly, and it's hard to say which version of training is more insidious and damaging.

But at the same time, I do believe there are biological roots there as well. This isn't necessarily a popular opinion, but again it grows out of my direct experience. Men's and women's brains, generally speaking, are different. Significantly different. The hormones that men and women are influenced by, emotionally and psychologically, are also significantly different. Not better/worse, no value judgements assigned... simply different, with different results. Of course there are all kinds of exceptions to the rule, but speaking in gross generalizations, different phsysiologies result in different brain wiring.

And personally I've never seen anything wrong with that. Awareness of it is definitely a good thing, along with an ability to push oneself beyond those biological influences if they feel limiting, but in and of itself difference isn't a bad thing. Testosterone and estrogen affect brain chemistry in completely different ways, and I believe therein lies the root of a lot of basic gender differences -- particularly around emotional expression -- and then these become exacerbated when we grow up and are socialized in a sexist, patriarchal society/culture. Values are applied and value judgements place come into play, and things go downhill from there.

(continued below because I rambled too much)
greenmtnboy18
Mar. 12th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
Alex, continued
I don't believe conversations about relationships, or about this concept of settling and all the ensuing thoughts, are boring, but I also recognize I'm not exactly Joe Everyman. I know other guys I could easily have these conversations with who would also not find them boring. But I definitely know MORE women who I HAVE had conversations like this with, who are much more interested in the topic, and in analyzing the whys/hows/wherefores.

On the whole concept of relatinships = happiness, I do believe we are all -- men and women alike -- conditioned to think that coupledom is the be-all, end-all, and that the definition of coupledom that we are handed is often incredibly damaging. I think men are less likely to ADMIT that they believe coupledom = happiness, although here I do see a significant difference between gay and straight men. My gay friends are much more frank than my straight friends about wanting a relationship. And men are certainly offered a much larger variety of ways to define themselves in our patriarchal society than by their relationship status. I do believe women disproportionately suffer from the relationship-mania.

But when the truth bubbles up, even my straight friends are really expecting to find someone some day. And in all cases, I've heard discussion about settling versus waiting for The One. I read Gottleib's article when you linked it, and I read the ensuing conversation. I admit I did not read the interview, although I had planned to, but after reading the article I just found myself not liking Gottleib and not wanting to read the interview with her. I think your discussion of what she was saying was very close to my thoughts on finishing the article. Because while I dislike the societally-supported idea that all people must be in a relationship to be happy, I COMPLETELY believe that the human animal is a social animal, who functions best when in regular contact with supportive, affectional other human animals. Do I think we all need to be married or in romantic bliss to be happy? Absolutely not. Do I think a lot of people are lonely, and long for companionship? Absolutely.

I hated Gottleib's tone, although I think your husband is correct in his assessment that she was "trying to be funny." She wasn't. She was aiming for something, and she completely missed, imo. But I read her article and came away thinking "at the heart of it, when she's making those horrific statements about how all women want to married, what she's talking about is the human impulse to share our lives." And that's not only NOT a bad thing, it is certainly not something that is confined to women. Even the biggest introverts around (read... me) have the impulse and desire to be in contact with supportive, affectional humans. We thrive under human contact, and we often fade and wither without it. In no way shape or form should a high value on relationships be seen as a weakness, but so often it becomes narrowly focused down to "A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP" which again, I think has been twisted out of all recognition by our society/culture, and yes, by popular culture, however much I adore it.

I think the idea of reevaluating how we choose the people we surround ourselves with, and the relationships we form with them, is fantastic, and that it's way past time more people talked about it. I think that *may* be some of what Gottleib was trying to get at. The offensive and demeaning way she presented settling almost completely obscured it, however. I could read it between the lines in places, but her tone and style really got in the way.
sphericaltime
Mar. 13th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Alex, continued
My point of view is from a similar perspective to savvyjack, and I have to agree with him that I don't think that it's necessarily the case that that men don't have to settle.

Instead of "settle" for an imperfect relationship, men typically have to "settle down" and "grow up," and find the one woman that he will spend the rest of his life with. Based on my understanding of my parents generation, by the time a man finished college or soon thereafter he was expected to marry and stop sleeping around.

It's possible that this differentiation is driven by a biological difference: that men are biologically compelled to have sex with multiple partners while women are looking for stability and support.

In that sense, both sexes have to settle for different things based on their drives.

Interestingly, from my perspective as a gay male, this would certainly explain the skew that I see in male same sex couples that skew toward "open" relationships and lots of promiscuity in the younger years and female same sex couples that skew toward instant commitment to the point of sexual dissatisfaction.
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Alex, continued
Wow, Alex :D.

Thank you for this, and I have no issues at all with your version of rambling. I did think that the Gottlieb article was going to offend far more people than it enlightened, and that the offense would discourage discussion about some of the things that she obliquely brought up, and in general I've assumed it's a human impulse to want to be social, to have support and understanding, and to build partnerships.

But it occurred to me that the target audience Gottlieb appeared to be writing for were women, and yes, that made me start to think, and I'm happy that you stopped to post what is a very thoughtful and helpful comment.
dltallan
Mar. 12th, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)
I have been known to discuss relationships with other guys. However, the concept of "settling" in marriage is foreign to me.

I think it is because the concept of a Ms. Right isn't as prevalent as the concept of Mr. Right. It's not like guys are supposed to be spending their young adult life looking for Ms. Right. In terms of marriage, they're looking for someone they love and want to spend the rest of their life with. That's how it tends to be presented in literature, at least.

If you've found someone that you love and want to spend the rest of your life with, I wouldn't call it "settling". (I'd call it fortunate, at least if the feeling is mutual.)

In talking now with Tara and trying to explain it to her, her response was "So women are culturally led to look for the ONE guy, while men are led to believe there are a lot of potential wives?" and my response was "no".

The questions is framed differently for men than for women. (By "framed differently", I'm thinking about something I've heard a lot recently in political discussions-- that one of the reasons that the Right tends to do so much better than the Left is that they are much better at "framing the discussion", so the Left is at an immediate disadvantage, discussion the issues within the context and vocabulary set by ther Right.) Back to my point, our culture frames it differently for men than for women. For women, it is framed in terms of Mr. Right, Price Charming, the One True Love. It's about the person, and it's either that person or "settling". With men, it framed in terms of finding a woman whose qualities (be they beauty, grace, intelligence, wit, charm kindness, creativity, humour, moral strength or whatever-- they will differ from person to person) lead you to love her and want to spend the rest of your life with her. Either she has these or she doesn't. If she does, you are expected to propose. If she doesn't, you shouldn't. They question of "number" and "settling" don't come up. They can't, because the way the situation is framed.

Or so it seems to me.
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
In talking now with Tara and trying to explain it to her, her response was "So women are culturally led to look for the ONE guy, while men are led to believe there are a lot of potential wives?" and my response was "no".

You know this made me laugh out loud, don't you? Because that over-the-shoulder interplay about issues like these -- or almost any issue, really -- also happens all the time in this house; Thomas smiled at it, but also nodded some at the rest of the post.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 12th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
I think "settling" IS the male equivalent, it's just not used, perhaps, for relationships. Certainly men can talk about settling for jobs, or saying things like, "I wanted steak for dinner, but I'll settle for getting food in the next twenty minutes!"

So it's not that there's no word, but (as the last poster said, perhaps) men don't have a relationship status that they consider to be "settling."
battle_of_one
Mar. 12th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
I tend to think - only generally speaking, so take it with a large dose of salt - that it's a combination of hardwiring and social conditioning, and then just toss in someone's individual personality. I'm female but I'm not big on massive emotional talk either.
shanrina
Mar. 13th, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)
I don't feel like I need to be in a relationship to be happy at all, but I think a lot of it might be cultural conditioning, especially related to children. Men can still have kids at age 50, 60, whatever, but women have a much shorter time span and it seems like a decent percentage of the media that's directed at women plays upon the fears of a woman's "eggs drying up" or of a biological clock that's ticking. I don't know how much effect that has firsthand because I'm not the maternal type at all and neither are most of my close friends, but I'm starting to wonder if part of "settling" is from women who want to have kids but feel like time's running out to find the right person to have them with. *hopes this makes sense*
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
but I'm starting to wonder if part of "settling" is from women who want to have kids but feel like time's running out to find the right person to have them with. *hopes this makes sense*

It absolutely makes sense, and I think that's probably who Gottlieb had in mind when she was writing the article. It's not a position I've personally been in, possibly because what Gottlieb wanted and what I wanted out of a marriage were two very different things, and I married before the biological clock started ticking.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 13th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
traditionally
the social gender distinction is between "do I say yes?" and "can I ask?"

"Settle" is a description of an outlook for answering "do I say yes?" when the question has become immediate; the meta-question behind it is "will someone better ask?" and the viewpoint behind "settle" is "probably not" or "be realistic about what is tangibly possible" or something like that.

"Can I ask?" (and its diverse relatives, along the lines of "do I want to ask?" and "will she laugh?" and "am I good enough to expect a yes?" for a plethora of varieties of "good") can't be answered with "settle", as an outlook; this is the sort of question which produces "a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" and the various myths of the efficacy of love and boldness. (Most romantic stories from the guy side are "if you are brave enough, she'll say yes" if you boil them down far enough.)

So there's no male structural equivalent, in the sense of "should I say yes?" not being a culturally male question quite yet; in the sense of there being an equivalent question, I think that's "can I ask?", and I've certainly heard that one discussed in male social contexts.

Generally elliptically and cryptically, but, well. That was hardly unique to the specific emotional subject.

-- Graydon
barbarienne
Mar. 13th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
Re: traditionally
I think you're onto something here.

This dynamic comes down to a "women are selling it, men are buying it" arrangement. Looked at that way, women want to command the best price, but if the offers are few, they'll "settle" for a lower bid. Men, conversely, are looking for the best bargain and consequently might feel they've "settled" for the cheaper item, when they might have been able to afford better.

But all this more or less requires that people be selling/shopping in the first place. I think women more often feel they've "settled" because many women feel pressure to find a husband and start having babies. They don't care who they marry--they just need to marry someone! When the pressure gets high, the seller will take whatever price she can get.

I think the original article correctly identified that common phenomenon. However, the author assumes that (a) this feeling is universal, and (b) it is right and should be encouraged rather than thoughtfully addressed.
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
Re: traditionally
By the way. I read the first sentence of this post and said "This person sounds a lot like Graydon."

And thank you, because for some reason, I didn't think of this; I didn't equate "settling" with "saying yes" in the wider social context, and, well, it's not really the way I interact conversationally when issues are important (this would cover things like marriage, etc.), although you have probably not failed to notice this.

Sometimes I can be perceptive, but sometimes I am trapped inside my own head.
(Deleted comment)
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
Re: My $0.02
Dumping "men" and "women" into two well delineated categories as if you're sorting ones and zeroes is pretty dumb. We're a big techicolour rainbow gradient. Social pressures are going to shift things around but saying that men don't settle or that men don't have a concept for settling is like saying that women are hysterical or irrational or can't do heavy lifting.

/bonk

I don't think I was dumping men into a well delineated category so much as trying to understand what the male equivalent on something like the Gottlieb article would be, which I think is a valid line of enquiry, given that the responses here were all from women, except for radiotelescope who clearly stated that he was articulating a response to advice that was given him by a female friend. Any response or conversation on LJ is going to be annecdotal because of the size of the group. I take as a given that a general question deals with generalities, and I was possibly (well, okay, entirely) less than perfectly clear about the origin of the thought, which was that no one male had ventured much of an opinion about it here.

Which lead me to poke my husband, which led me to ask on LJ.

fiction_theory
Mar. 13th, 2008 01:25 am (UTC)
I understand exactly what "settling" means, and it's a term that I not only grew up with but saw taking place in real life.

I think the reason that there isn't a male equivalent of "settling" is because of social conditioning which holds that the man isn't the party who comes to the marriage table with their hat in their hand, taking what they can get. There is an idea that a woman is under a deadline, both biologically and socially, so she needs the marriage. Where as the man should get married, but he's got no time constraints.

I also think that there's this myth that women are looking for Mr. Right, but men aren't, in the same token, looking for Ms. Right. I think we have this idea that women need a man who's perfectly suited to them and tailored to their needs, but men can just make do. Because men aren't as "picky" as women. I hate that, because it makes it sound like women are fussy and petty when choosing partners, but there is a very practical (and evolutionary) intelligence to being discriminating and not "settling".

Evolutionarily speaking, men have no need to find a "perfect woman", because the investment they make in the conception of a child is minimal and they can do it several times a week, even. See also: every episode of Maury Povich ever. Where as a woman puts years and years and risks her own life for each and every child, so she better make sure it's worth it. She better make sure she picks the biggest, strongest, smartest, most worthy mate because if she's going to potentially die or be injured in the conception, gestating, birthing, and rearing of this kid, it had better be for the sake of a kid who's going to be able to make lots and lots more of themselves, thus replicating the genes.

Which means that a man is lucky if any woman deigns to give him the chance to pass on his genes. Where as a woman is being stupid if she goes for the first guy who's willing to lay down with her.

Of course, this is all evolutionary biology and since we're not just sex organs on legs, there are a lot of social and psychological components - and we can overcome our programming.

You also have to remember that we're the heirs of a society that, once upon a time, brokered marriages like we broker stock deals. Because marriage was once upon a time were just as much economic affairs as anything else. So there is an idea that a woman better take the bargain that's on the table.
towersofgrey
Mar. 13th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
*De-lurking*

First off, I want to state that bobafet states is right on, in terms of gradient. There is no one definition of "maleness" and that depending on the male various types of conversations can occur.

To answer your question, though, I think we phrase it differently. Growing up with my friends over the years, seeing all of us date, sometimes with disastrous results;) and then some of us getting married, the one thing that all of them said to me, at one point or another was the fact that they had found someone who they wanted to be the mother of their children. This came from guys who didn't even want children, still don't have any, etc. I think its a way of saying settling that works for a guy.

Its admitting the strength of the partner. They are saying that there is something that they admire so much in their spouse, that they want their children to have some part of that character/soul/being. At that point, imperfections don't matter, that undefinable thing is more than enough.

I also think that it has something to do with the fact that MFEO myth (made for each other) is not really directed at the male in terms of marketing. We aren't constantly saturated with that demand for perfection in a mate so there is in a sense, no settling to occur, because we just don't view relationships that way. Which is not to say there aren't some other really negative attitudes marketed to us that can cause havoc with long-term relationships such as the madonna/whore dualism. I just think in this area its less of an issue.

Thanks for letting me comment!
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
the one thing that all of them said to me, at one point or another was the fact that they had found someone who they wanted to be the mother of their children.

Wait, this one, I have heard. I hadn't ever thought of it in the context of settling, but it's an interesting observation because it's a comment I've heard various male friends made over the years.

Which is not to say there aren't some other really negative attitudes marketed to us that can cause havoc with long-term relationships such as the madonna/whore dualism.

If I go there, I will be there all day, and the size of the rant will dwarf all but one of my novels. I absolutely, wholeheartedly, emphatically agree with this, though.

Thanks for letting me comment!

Thanks are due in entirely the opposite direction -- the thing that makes LJ, for me, is the external opinions and the give-and-take of threads of conversation. So, thank you :)

Edited at 2008-03-13 06:57 pm (UTC)
radiotelescope
Mar. 13th, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
I wonder if this is sort of a second-order outcome of earlier times, in which a marriage was culturally understood as dominated by the husband. In which, therefore, an *unhappy* marriage was most likely to be an unhappy woman coupled with an oblivious (even if not abusive) man.

This is perhaps the same idea as previous commenters were saying about women being required to marry. But from the other end. Women in that era would have a very clear notion of the woman in the "this is what I've got, and it's all I'm going to get" life. The first-order reaction to that is feminism, but that doesn't obviate the notion of that life as the thing to avoid.

(Note: all speculation. I grew up in the 70s/80s, and I've never been married. I don't even want to extrapolate from my own life here, because I am not typical and so my position probably doesn't reflect general culture. Even *my* general culture, meaning geek types.)
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
(Note: all speculation. I grew up in the 70s/80s, and I've never been married. I don't even want to extrapolate from my own life here, because I am not typical and so my position probably doesn't reflect general culture. Even *my* general culture, meaning geek types.)

It's my general culture as well, but I pull from other sources & influences around the edges.

I would quibble a bit with The first-order reaction to that is feminism, but that doesn't obviate the notion of that life as the thing to avoid., although I think I understand the contextual use of the statement -- but I also grew up in the 70's/80's, when feminism did not mean "bitchy man-hating lesbian" to the vast majority of high school kids.

In a social structure where your very survival depended on having a husband, the concept of settling as it is given us by Gottlieb didn't exist. You were expected to marry. You married as well as you could (in theory, hormones and wisdom being what they have always been). I see marriage in that context like getting a job.

When you need to put food on the table, in the end, a job is better than no job, and how many of us have taken jobs that we do not love because we have responsibilities to put food on the table?

But there's no romance in that view, and it's the clash of the romantic vs. the practical that produces the concept, I think.
burger_eater
Mar. 13th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
Traditionally, men chase women. Not every guy chases the ideal 19-year-old supermodel with a PhD, but they do go after the women they think they can get. That's the male equivalent of "settling."

As for talking about relationship problems, I know friends who have done it, but it has to be *very* serious to go there. We talk about problems, but if it's a problem with our spouse, it'd be a betrayal of our relationship.

That's what annoyed me about Gottlieb, honestly. She treated her friends, who just needed to vent about the usual everyday annoyances that come from living with someone for years, as if they'd "settled." Has she never had a relationship? Even the best of them, between Mr. and Ms. Right For Each Other, have stresses and points of conflict. Sometimes people need to vent safely to their friends.

But Gottlieb reacted with "Send him to me if you don't want him!" and didn't seem to understand why her married friends were giving her That Look.

Clueless.

Edited at 2008-03-13 05:57 pm (UTC)
msagara
Mar. 13th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
As for talking about relationship problems, I know friends who have done it, but it has to be *very* serious to go there. We talk about problems, but if it's a problem with our spouse, it'd be a betrayal of our relationship.

This I definitely have seen, and now that you mention it, I do think it skews slightly by gender. There are other factors as well -- but there's less reticence, I think, among my female friends over the small details (i.e. My Husband who Forgot to take out the Garbage.)

That's what annoyed me about Gottlieb, honestly. She treated her friends, who just needed to vent about the usual everyday annoyances that come from living with someone for years, as if they'd "settled." Has she never had a relationship? Even the best of them, between Mr. and Ms. Right For Each Other, have stresses and points of conflict. Sometimes people need to vent safely to their friends.

I have to think a little bit about this, because you're absolutely right, but that's not what I took out of the article.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 17th, 2008 07:13 am (UTC)
Troubled Relationships
My experiance has been that when my wife or women in general complain about something in the relationship, she feels that she is sharing something. She is sharing how she feels. She wants to talk about it and let me know how she is feeling. And while she would like to have whatever it is worked on, the main point of the whole thing isn't necessarily about fixing the problem. Whatever that problem may be. Its about sharing and understanding. Although fixing it isn't something to be spurned and is neccessary at times, its not the be all ending of the conversation.

For me, and most men I know, if I had a problem with our relationship so grating that I had to openly complain to others and big enough that I had to put an emotional stress on my wife and also demanded immediate time and attention towards the problem. Then the problem would have to be a big one. I wouldn't be mainly looking to share and understand all the issues involved. Although I'd accept that, as a potentially necessary step, in order to get what I was mainly wanting. Which is in short the problem fixed and co-jointly important, not revisted. Ideally not ever again but likely I'd settle for a year or more without revisitation.

Now my wife gets very mad at me sometimes, because she will raise to my attention a problem or complaint and I'll do my best to fix that problem. Then move on, saying its fixed to the best of our abilities (assuing it really is as far as I can tell). And she honestly doesn't understand my frustration with going over the same issue again and again.


To me if there is a problem and its not fixed, and we keep revisiting it again and To her she is sharing and undersanding and working on the problem and in her mind that's important because it means things aren't getting worse and are most likely getting better.
again it then becomes a real danger. Meaning we have a bigger problem than I thought and a potentially unsolvable one. Which to my way of thinking and feeling is a bigger threat to my future harmony and continuing relationship than several complaints all of which occured in a row, one after the other, but which have all been successfully resolved.



I think in a general sense women want to share and understand and work through a relationship problem and men want to fix and resolve and end a relationship problem. If the man is unwilling to put some time and effort into understanding the problem then the women isn't going to be happy, despite all the fixing in the world. But by the same token if the woman is unwilling to eventually seek closure and drop an issue, then the man will be unhappy, no matter how well he understand the problem and all the improvments that have been made on the issue.

In short the way I see it, is that men have an. If its not broke don't fix it way of looking at things. Meaning unless its a threat to the relationship its not a big problem and doesn't need to be truely stressed on. However if there is a problem then it needs fixing or else its a big problem and a threat to the relationship.

But hey that's just me and what I've seen. I could very well be all wrong and way off regarding things in general. Always keeping in mind that each and every individual is a special and unique butterfly, unable to be neatly categorized and boxed into a blanket generalization.


The Deposed King
khixan
Apr. 5th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
I just stumbled across your journal after putting up a post referring someone to your work for her research paper on female characters in scifi/fantasy literature. She's doing a piece on gender roles. Now I gotta go back and refer her to this too. :)

I did 5 years of psych research with Dr. F. L. Geis on gender/role/status theory at U of DE. In her memory, I just conducted some quick "research" using my brothers/sisters and some of their friends as subjects. My siblings and I span over 25 years in age ranges. Not very scientific, but fun.

I made 28 people sit and read this whole thread using my cooking as a bribe (never ceases to amaze me what I can get folks to do for my chile and guacamole). In a nutshell, here's what I learned by age group:

30's - Women and men both understood the topics discussed, and related on some personal level to the posts contributed. Several women felt the need to emphasize that the whole "settling" concept had been overcome/broken. It was a lively discussion.

20's - Men and women framed their discussion in terms of "things they learned about in school" (i.e. history/social studies classes). It was mainly a discussion about "the past". Men were able to relate on a more current and personal level to the posts, especially the "zero-sum" communication. The only topic the women touched on at a personal level was the ticking baby time clock, and that almost immediately turned into a discussion about medical technology/health, and the differences between now and way back THEN (LOL - I so felt like a dinosaur serving food and drinks at the ripe age of 37 by the end of that night!).

11 to 18 - Let me sum it up with few quotes, "What are these people talking about?", "Why is this relevant NOW?", "Do they really still believe this stuff?", "Why does a man have to do the proposing; why can't I propose to someone?" (11 year old girl - from the mouth of babes comes wisdom as always...), and "I don't understand why people used to think these things." I sat back, smiled, and found this the most GLORIOUS evening of all!

Cheers to progress all :)
msagara
Apr. 6th, 2008 02:52 am (UTC)
I sat back, smiled, and found this the most GLORIOUS evening of all!

Cheers to progress all :)


Thank you so much for sharing this! I think it is a snapshot concept, in that my mother's generation didn't have it so codified, either.
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