The Clooney Effect (Snort, chuckle, guffaw)
The good folks at The Atlantic recently typed this article about a study from Helen Fisher that was funded by Match.com. (Trigger warning: advocacy research). There is no mention of how the data was collected, there is only mention of the 5,600 that were surveyed. Is that the number of responses or the number of people who decided to respond to the survey.
Problem #1 – The study was funded by Match.com, part of a huge online dating conglomerate. It’s in Match.com’s vested financial interest to have data that encourages singles to sign up for new accounts or keep renewing their existing accounts.
Problem #2 – The people who respond to such surveys cannot be counted as a “norm”. People who decide to respond are of a certain personality type. Can we trust that the respondees be representational of the population of singles at large?
Problem #3 – There is no breakdown of age and location in the results presented. Are these boomers, Gen X or Y?, Millenials? The devil is in the details.
Fisher’s findings offer a solution to a classic problem in economic mating theory: Are men afraid of over-educated women?
Fisher offers a resounding “no” to that question, using pop culture as validation. In what she amusingly calls the Clooney Effect, Fisher describes the phenomenon of men wanting to marry women who were independent and self-reliant in relationships. “When even a lifelong bachelor like George Clooney settles down, you know things are changing,” writes Fisher of her tongue-in-cheek term, which recalls the actor’s marriage to Amal Alamuddin, an accomplished human-rights barrister.
Never use pop culture as an example. George Clooney is hardly representational of middle aged single guys. #Eyeroll. Clooney is a one-off. How about the millions of ordinary guys? The comparison to Clooney makes me believe that the study’s results are for a female audience hoping that a Clooney-type man will message them on Match.com and he’ll be her soulmate and rescue her from all her problems.
That women can be better educated than men in a relationship flies in the face of a demographic debate on marital sorting instigated by the late economist Gary Becker. In a chapter he wrote for a volume on family economics, Becker argued that men and women are more likely to be in relationships with their physical and intellectual peers, at least in theory. He believed that it’s economically advantageous for us to find our intellectual equal: The benefits are a long, healthy, satisfying partnership; the cost is a partnership that falls apart, separation, maybe divorce.
But this theory wasn’t exactly palatable to some critics, who found reality to differ from Becker’s ivy tower surmising. One such critic, William Goode, wrote in a postscript to Becker’s chapter,
… For a man with little education, a wife with very much education is not worth as much as one would suppose from her money value on the larger market. She is a less-fit wife for him … and he would be supported in this low evaluation by his social circle.
Becker’s theory of equality of spouses was perhaps ahead of its time. “Over-educated” females were often doomed for spinsterhood, as men were frightened and/or turned off by an intellectually superior woman. Women of previous generations had to choose between a husband or further education, and, until the Baby Boomers came of age and reversed the male dominance in higher education, societal expectations often made marriage the only palatable choice for females. Women, in other words, could not have it all.
Um, no one can “have it all”. That fairy tale keeps being repeated, especially when it relates to online dating. That fairy tale is nothing more than emotional pornography. Men are not “frightened” by educated women. Men will boink ’em but are simply hesitant to commit to them. Women will not want to commit to them because of hypergamy.
Frankly, that survey is about the economics of dating, not the reality of attraction.
Fisher’s statistics are indicative of a social countercurrent, one that radically changes the gendered roles in traditional marriages and creates an altered image of what modern marriage is held to be. Women who are empowered, independent, and smart expect the same from their partner: 89 percent want a partner who is independent, 86 percent want a partner who is at least as intelligent as they are, 55 percent aren’t willing to support their partner financially, and 61 percent claim not being as intelligent as them is an automatic deal killer, according to the Match.com findings.
“When even a lifelong bachelor like George Clooney settles down, you know things are changing.”
What’s fascinating is the men’s responses to these questions gives credence to Becker’s theory, and then some: 87 percent of men would date a woman who makes more money, 90 percent like it when the woman makes the first move and asks them out, 87 percent would date a woman perceived more intelligent than them, 86 percent are turned on by a “confident” woman.
86% of men claim to want a confident woman because so many women claim to be confident. Men are not stupid. They market themselves to be more attractive to women. It’s a vicious circle and no one gets what they want in the attraction and dating game.
Why is it that men are more willing to have a smarter woman by their side and woman won’t settle for someone less than intellectually ideal? In short, women can demand more, and know it. The apocalyptic threats by old-school mothers of shortages of men as women crept towards their 30s have become less threatening. Men don’t desire damsels in distress, and women don’t want breadwinners. Modern marriage is a partnership, and both men and women expect their partners to be their equal intellectually and personally.
Actually, women do want bread-winners, they are just afraid to say it because of current social expectations and they don’t want to be perceived as gold-diggers. But I read the online dating profiles. So many women want a financially secure guy. They state it flat-out in their profiles. They also state that they are financially independent in the same profile! Cognitive dissonance much? Go ahead guys, lose a job. Watch how quickly a woman pulls back. Women demand security. This is why they insist on a taller guy. This is hypergamy. This is biology. This is how it works.
That’s not to say that Fisher’s Clooney Effect is flawless. Any psychologist will state that appearance is still the number one factor in bringing two people together, and that it takes more than a singular trait (in this case, intelligence) to create a strong, long-lasting bond.
Well, that’s right, to a point. Clooney is a good-looking and incredibly successful guy in the public spotlight. Good for him. His new bride is a good-looking and successful dame in her own right. But he’s higher up the social food chain. Again, this is hypergamy. This is all women. The one you are dating is not a special snowflake. All women are like this. Every. Single. One. Once a guy with better prospects than you shows up, she’s gone and you’re done. Charisma works for a bit, to be sure, but if you can’t provide that security she demands then you’re useless to her.
Nevertheless, Fisher’s is a revolutionary view of marriage, one that for millennia has focused its attention on women as the objectified party with little to offer beyond children and caring for a household. Men, according to this study, want their wives—partners, really—to be able to take on the world, live their lives, and have an identity that doesn’t necessarily mean adopting their last name.
This is a study funded by an online dating company. In order to make money, the study’s results has to encourage those monthly subscription fees. Here’s the real secret – women want a successful, confident man. So, through the awesome power of psychological projection – they assume that men want the same in women. “I’m a strong and independent woman” reads the countless profiles. Men, not being stupid, write that they desire a strong and independent woman. Hey, that’s what all the dames are claiming. Consider this, the study indicates that 55% of women wont support a man, or so they claim. Damn, it’s not always easy to separate words from actions, but it’s possible.
After all, as the Clooney Effect’s name suggests, it’s George who gained from marrying the beautiful, smart, independent Amal. As a commentator noted on Time after the couple made their first post-marriage appearance at this year’s Golden Globes, “We always thought that she was the woman who finally snared George Clooney, but it’s the other way around. And we’re all better off for it.”
No, she gained. She married the most elusive bachelor on the planet. She married the man who no woman could lock down. Granted, he’s a fucking idiot of doing so but it’s her value that increased. She now has the ultimate bragging rights. And bragging rights are a huge part of what women want… every… single… woman.
TL, DR – In online dating profiles, men state that they want strong and financially independent women. That’s because women state that they are strong and independent. In the economics of attraction and dating, this is the current landscape.
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