Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fabulous Girls Part III: JAPs and Education Gaps

Intro to this series here.
Part I here.
Part II here.

Money and education are big factors in why Jewish women have a hard time finding Jewish mates. But the way they affect matters – the reason that these are important aspects of the dating game -- depends almost entirely on whether you ask the women ("it's hard to find someone as educated as I am") or the men ("Jewish women are only concerned about money and success").

But what it boils down to for the women is this: There aren't that many Jewish men who are "successful" enough to be appropriate mates for most Jewish women, and additionally the Jewish men who are appropriate are more likely to feel active antipathy toward Jewish women, or at the very least (unless they are Orthodox) to not mind dating non-Jews – which means that Jewish women are "competing" for those few men not just with other Jewish women but with gentile women as well. (I assume this is the case for American Jews but not for Israeli ones; I wrote my original story for an American audience.)

Let's start with the point of view which was generally presented with more objectivity and less emotion, the one that puts Jewish women in a more sympathetic light. As I wrote in my article:

Jews are among the most highly educated minorities in America. More than half of all Jewish adults (61 percent of men and 50 percent of women) have received a college degree, and a quarter (29 percent of men and 21 percent of women) have earned a graduate degree. Jews are almost twice as likely to hold a college degree than Americans generally and four times as likely to hold a graduate degree.

Unfortunately, their academic and professional success decreases their dating pool since, as Cohen says, “men want to ‘marry down’ and women want to ‘marry up.'"

. . . . Although no one is advocating that women avoid graduate school, Dr. Michael J. Salamon, a psychologist and the author of “The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures,” says “the problem [in the Jewish dating scene] is that women are overeducated and find the men boring. The men are intimidated. And the women are not getting what they want.”

He also notes that this phenomenon makes “in-marrying” a difficult proposition for Jewish men with low levels of education. Fishman goes a step further and says that many Jewish men are attracted to gentile women because non-Jewish women and their parents are perceived as easier to impress.

OK, let's unpack this.

First, let's look at the women's viewpoint. Let's say you are a Jewish woman in your late 20's or early 30's and you have a master's degree and a job that gives you a certain level of leadership or autonomy and/or financial success. You probably have the intelligence, professionalism, and people-skills that your education and professional success indicate. And so even if you really, truly don't need a husband who earns as much money as you do or has an equivalent education, you probably do want someone who has at least a college degree and who shares (or exceeds) your intelligence, professionalism, and people-skills.

The problem is that you are so highly educated and successful that a smaller proportion of men – even Jewish men, who are more educated than the population in general – will share or exceed your success. Again, maybe you don't care about money per se. Maybe you are open to marrying someone who never went to college but is astute and engaged with the world and knows what he is about. The point is that you want someone who can think and speak and interact with life in ways that are similar to yours. But what you are most likely to hear from, say, potential matchmakers, is "I'm sorry, but there aren't that many men who are smart enough for you." And so you are lonely.

As Dr. Cohen put it in a quote that didn't make it into the original article:

Given the hierarchical nature of marriage, higher-educated women are at a competitive disadvantage in the dating market, whereas for men, being highly educated gives them an advantage. Jewish women are among the most highly educated in America, so they are at a comparative disadvantage in the marriage market. On every social hierarchy, men tend to marry down, and women tend to marry up. It relates to age, height, social class, and social status. On every one, husbands tend to outscore their wives. The most high status women who are single have trouble finding men of their status who they find attractive, and they have trouble being attractive to many men, because you need reasonably secure men who are attracted to high-status women.

Now let's look at the point of view of the Jewish man who never went to college, or who isn't in a prestigious field. To you, the world of Jewish dating is simply a minefield of women who don't find you "good enough." You, too, are lonely because it's hard to find a Jewish woman who doesn't expect you to somehow be more than what you are. It probably seems to you that Jewish women are money-seeking and/or prestige-seeking and that the values of the Jewish community are out of whack. You might find yourself open to dating women who aren't Jewish, because, since they are less likely to have advanced degrees, they don't think of you as "less." It feels a lot nicer to be around people who appreciate you for what you are.

If you are a Jewish man who has an MBA and is VP of a Big Famous Company, things are easier for you. More of the Jewish women find you impressive and engaging and want to be with you. But you, too, might decide that they are not seeking your company, but rather your money and prestige. Perhaps you aren't considering the idea that the women you meet are excited to meet you because they see you as their intellectual and professional equals, not because they have dollar signs in their eyes. Or perhaps, as Fishman posits, you are transposing your ambivalence about your Jewishness onto Jewish women.

(An important statistic that Fishman has uncovered is that, although the intermarriage rates among Jewish men and women are pretty much the same, Jewish women who intermarry do so, on average, three years later than Jewish men who intermarry. The inference from this finding is that Jewish women are more likely to want to marry a Jew, and intermarry only when they "give up" on finding a Jewish partner.)

Please read this excerpt from the original article carefully:

Disproportionately, compared to non-Jewish men, American Jewish males harbor active antipathy toward Jewish women. They complain, Fishman and Parmer write, that dating Jewish women is more work than fun and that Jewish women are “demanding, overbearing, and best escaped.”

Fishman conducted studies in the late 1990’s in which groups of Jewish men, non-Jewish men, Jewish women and non-Jewish women in and around
Los Angeles were asked to choose, from among many photos of anonymous females, a “typical Jewish woman” and to describe her. They were then asked to describe the “ideal Jewish woman.”

The last three groups—male and female gentiles, as well as Jewish women
-- overwhelmingly described Jewish women in neutral or positive terms such as “smart,” “able to talk about anything,” “beautiful,” “voluptuous” and “well-read.” In describing the ideal Jewish woman, they used the same terms.

The responses of Jewish men were markedly different. They were likely to describe the typical Jewish woman as “talking too much,” “having to have an opinion about everything,” “obsessed with food,” “overweight” and “materialistic.” And when they described the “ideal” Jewish woman, they chose different photos
--of supermodels--and described them in opposite terms, as “quiet,” “not saying much” and “likes to listen.”

So, at a singles mixer, if a Jewish woman asks a man what he does for a living, “a Jewish man will interpret that question as hostile,” Fishman says. “They say ‘all Jewish woman care about is how much money I make,’ as if there is no other reason for a person to ask you what you do when they are getting to know you. If a non-Jewish woman asks the same question, it does not get interpreted that way.”

“These are self-image issues,” Fishman continues. “Men are ambivalent about their Jewishness, and they project that onto the women. They feel that if they are attached to a non-Jewish woman, it will break the curse.”

In other words, statistically, everyone likes, or feels neutral about, Jewish women except for Jewish men. Fishman, Cohen and Bayme all linked this antipathy to men's general ambivalence about their own Jewishness (as I'll discuss later, Judaism is generally more important to women than it is to men). But men themselves say it's because Jewish women are gold-diggers, JAPs, hostile, aggressive, etc.

Here are a few telling quotes from Evan Marc Katz, the dating expert (who, probably not coincidentally, was himself dating a non-Jewish woman when I interviewed him; however, to be fair, his goal in our interview was not to excoriate Jewish women --or men-- but rather to help women look practicality in the eye and take actions that lead to the results they want):

The answer is not to say “men are this, men are that.” Even if it’s true, you can’t change it. But a woman can say “given that there is a problem, what can I do?“ Maybe the answer is to date non-Jewish men. Maybe dating a clone of yourself is not a good idea. Maybe you need someone who is more balanced and has fewer demands. That’s for both Jewish women and Jewish men. In general we are not an easy people. If Jewish men find Jewish women to be difficult, then perhaps the answer for the women is to date men who are themselves easier. We have to either become more likable and more datable, or change our focus on what we are willing to date.

. . . . The stereotype about Jewish women is not from the media, it’s from people’s experiences. It’s from 3 years on Jdate.

. . . . We’re a bright people, a questioning people, but a neurotic, complaining, and negative people. Would you want to be around that? We’d be well-served to at least get aware of that and somewhat responsible for it, and not be too surprised if others aren’t responding well to it. We have a lot of meshugas. It’s no wonder we don’t want to marry each other. We’re very lucky when we find someone who loves us.

Interestingly, Dr. Salamon, too, suggested that Jewish women themselves "give off this vibe" (his words) which is off-putting to men, though he was a bit more kind in his theory as to why:

A woman feels she has invested so much time into her career, and now men don’t want her. It’s true from her own perspective. Outside the Orthodox world, the men are not put off by it, but they are put off by her anxiety. She is put off by herself.

Men are put off by the fact that the women are not confident about their decisions or themselves.

(Note the implication that in the Orthodox world, a woman's career success is, itself, off-putting to men, in addition to whatever anxiety the woman herself feels about it.)

So there you have it. On one side, you have Fishman, Bayme and Cohen saying that women often want to marry men who are as successful as they are; that men often are intimidated by women who are more successful than they are; that since Jewish women are very educated it creates an imbalance in the Jewish dating world; and that Jewish men often misinterpret women's interest in their education and jobs as greediness or aggression.

On the other side you have Katz and Salamon suggesting that Jewish women, for whatever reason, are in fact anxious, neurotic, or demanding, and that their negative vibes are off-putting to Jewish men.

Flip sides of the same coin?

Next: More About Intermarriage

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