An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Question of the Day: Are many bright, confident, articulate women unmarried at age 30 because men fear bright, confident, articulate women? Or is it because a woman who is single until age 30 has more opportunity to develop these attributes through education, work, and travel?

In Mormon culture—which for decades has urged 21-year-old boys returning from missions to marry— women who haven’t snared a man by that age are likely to still be single at age 30. Now, marrying young needn’t preclude a woman from further education and a stimulating career—unless her culture also prescribes motherhood within a year of marriage.

A consequence of a culture that effectively limits many women’s education and professional development is a dearth of bright, confident, articulate women. I can think of only three dynamic women speakers in recent Mormon history: Sheri Dew, Chieko Okasaki, and Ardith Kapp—all career women.

I wonder if they would have developed the abilities which gave them so much credibility with Mormon women had they become wives at age 19 and mothers at age 20. While it’s not impossible for married women with children to continue their education or to pursue professional careers, it is more difficult—especially if the wife is forced to drop out of school and work a low-paying job to pay for her husband’s education.

But, back to my question. I think it’s pretty obvious than single women do have more opportunities to develop their brains and self-confidence than women who are supporting spouse and/or feeding babies and potty-training toddlers. (And I don’t have anything against babies and toddlers. I enjoyed my own—but I am glad they didn’t arrive until I had time to learn a few other things.)

The real question boils down to:  Are men turned off by brainy, assertive women? According to David Brooks book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, high-achieving men tend to marry women from the same prestigious universities which they attended—producing highly intelligent children who will be given all the advantages which bright, successful parents can provide. These children, in turn, will have access to the best universities where they will meet their future spouse—essentially creating an intelligent, elite upper-class which is closed to everyone else.

I doubt if the phenomena of brainy men selecting brainy wives from the same educational institutions applies to many Mormon men. Physical attraction plays a role in selection of mates, of course. And a Mormon male who have been acculturated to see himself as the main provider for his future family may be unconcerned with a woman’s brains if he sees her role as essentially providing him with sex and children. When I taught junior high in an affluent Wasatch-front neighborhood, I dealt with fathers who, as successful, professional men, could not understand why their child struggled with school. I suppressed the urge to say, “Well, Lumpford must take after his mother.”

A Huffington Post blog ran a piece today about the issue of men fearing brainy women. Essentially, their advice was for smart women to not assert themselves in relationships the same way they assert themselves on the job—and to not demand perfection in a potential spouse. Good advice for men, too, I might add.

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