We have had this social construct beat into our heads that men should be the more dominant one in the relationship. It’s intimidation, plain and simple. A man sees these women and thinks (whether subconsciously or consciously), “How am I going to control her?”
I’ll declare myself a strong, confident woman and provide my take on this sterotype. First, strength and confidence can be labels that genuinely overbearing, bossy individuals hide behind. Very much like confusing power for leadership or authority, it’s easy to blur the lines between confidence and outspokenness. I don’t like loud, demanding people (men or women), and I am drawn to strength and confidence in people.
@marinelife Then you need to meet all my ex’s. All very strong confident women that truly turned out to be only concerned about themselves. 2 of the 3 I am thinking of both have told me they regretted our breakups. Plus you don’t have to date them to see through this veneer of confidence. Though I do know confident women and the real difference is they posses empathy. I am married to such a woman!
Great question. My feeling on this is that assertive women are not considered the “norm” in these men’s (the men who do do this, which isn’t all of them) world; it doesn’t fit their subconcious picture of what is feminine. Which is to say, perhaps these men think meekness is part of being feminine, which does not have to be true.
@Cruiser Strength and confidence = self-absorbed bitch?
Because they resent their Mother who was either very strong and confident (they were told “no” every once and a while) or incredibly easy to walk all over (they got whatever they wanted when they wanted).
You gals should have realized by now that it all comes down to our Mommies.
@Mariah – you hit the nail on the head with your answer! I truly feel my work environment and family culture brought me up in the belief for woman to play more of a subservient role in a relationship. No, I am not saying women should not have opinions, a voice, or make decisions, but I do feel very strongly about women in a relationship (with a man) taking a “back-seat” to some aspects of the relationship. No man I know wants his masculinity and pride deprived by a “stronger” woman that he is in a relationship with, especially in front of his co-workers, friends, or family.
@Josie, That is because no guy is going to go around ever saying he is intimidated by strong women. Instead they will just say describe strong women as bitches rather than say they are pussies.
The reality though is that strong men admire strong women. Its just that few want to take on a life time commitment with someone they will have to sometimes battle with on certain subjects. So they take on a woman who is easier to persuade.
Funny enough is weak men will sometimes take on a strong woman because they want to be guided through the relationship. (looking for mommy)
Then there is the average Joe. No mommy issues, not very strong or weak. But he has great confidence. He is the most likely to be compatible with the strong female. He is smart and knows how to smooth ruffle feathers. He also admires the strong female, but he admires most women. So he can usually be found to be attached to someone at an early age.
Those are usually the guys that women look at and say, “Why are all the good ones married.”
@Blondesjon I was going to disagree with you, because my mother is not a strong assertive person at all, but I realized it was my grandmother that was extremely strong and I spent alot of time with her.. She and I are a lot alike, so I kind of think it’s the women around when I was growing up, not just my mother. If a guy wants a strong woman and a give and take relationship he has to be willing to take as much as give.
I’m older than the mean, here, and I used to run into that a lot as I’ve always been self-sufficient. In the 70s, although the winds of change were already blowing sounds like a folk song… many men were still defining themselves by traditional roles and would get really upset and call me names if I wouldn’t let them fix stuff that I knew how to do better, or get upset because I owned and single-handed my own sail boat, and drove a Jeep (before there were such things as SUVs). I had my own little business detailing yachts and guys would hire me thinking it was some sort of front for a sex business (?????) and get upset when they found out it wasn’t… Crap, way too much here, sorry. I don’t see it so much now, but because of my age, fewer want to sleep with me so maybe that makes a difference.
@Mariah – please do not misunderstand. I am not a man who tell women what to do, and I encourage women’s assertiveness, strength, and confidence. In a relationship, the man should now have these traits too, but in a larger supply. Again, there is always give and take in any relationship, but in regards to certain situations in a relationship the man takes the lead; e.g. making a large purchase (home/car), setting up the home entertainment system, home improvements, etc.
I always look to my partner for input with the above situations, but know I will be the final authority when making decisions while keeping in mind what is best for both of us.
@Bill_Lumbergh I am asking these questions precisely to make sure I don’t misunderstand. Why is it important that the man take the lead on those things? Why is it important that the man be stronger and more confident than the woman? Why does the man get to be the final authority?
@Bill_Lumbergh : I find it interesting that you assume ”...but in regards to certain situations in a relationship the man takes the lead; e.g. making a large purchase (home/car), setting up the home entertainment system, home improvements, etc…” that the man would have more knowledge of what constitutes good judgment regarding the purchase of a car or a house, or why he is better qualified to set up the home entertainment center, etc.? I’ve been doing those things for decades and doing a damned fine job, as have many of my female peers.
I have never been attracted to the “poor lil me” type of woman. I have always sought out the sort of woman who can stand at my back and hack ‘em down when they come at us from that direction, then after the battle’s over, go to bed with me so we can just tear each other UP! LOL!
@CaptainHarley Indeed, I find physically strong women to be a turn on. I’ve dated burly brutes and dainty waifs, and the blood definitely gets pumpin’ much more when I can wrestle around with ones that can hold their own ;)
I grew up in the South where women are basically raised to defer to men on many things, like changing tires. When I got married, I got 2 pieces of advice that, regardless of the day and age, I find to be accurate. 1. Whatever you do or accept your first year of marriage, be prepared to do and accept for the rest of your marriage, and 2. Allow your guy to protect you when he wants to.
My first reaction to #2 was, yeah right raspberry. But, as I get older, I’ve realized there’s some truth in that. Men LIKE to protect- it’s DNA-wired into them. Protection is not superiority, it’s a deep-set survival instinct- they protect what they care about (their woman, cars, investment funds). Women (not all, I know), instinctively protect their family, kids, animals.
I do wonder what others think… do you think this is a DNA-wired thing that 1970-now has not had time to evolutionize?
I had a man tell me a few years ago that he thought men were intimidated by me. lol
He meant it in a very positive light, meaning that I exude an aura of confidence and it is obvious I won’t be taking on the subservient little woman role.
Do NOT ask me to carry your slippers in my teeth and fetch the paper for you, iron your clothes, ‘serve’ you out of some warped sense of ‘duty.’ Nope!
I love to be sharing and caring, but once it becomes an expectation, better adjust your BVDS boys.
Coloma only gets on all fours for great sex, not to bow to any master. hahaha
Seriously, something about the men of my generation, the expectations of the ‘bring home the bacon, be the Penthouse forum fantasy girl, take on the lions share of the domestic duties and don’t forget, I’m still the big Kahuna!”
Bah humbug…been there done that, and this little Squaw does not do tribal chief mentalities anymore.
Chieffy Wieffy can send off for a mail order bride if he wants a simpering servant. lol
It’s not that men have a problem with strong women, it’s that some people have problems with strong partners. Considering that I only date gamers and nerds, I am the strong partner in most of my relationships. It’s not that my male partners are subservient to me, it’s that they prefer for me to be more active in such things as making plans, initiating contact and even making some big decisions in the relationship. I rarely have contact with men who have issues with strong women because most of the men I hang out with have something of a beta personality, whereas I have very much an alpha personality. I do agree with @Bill_Lumbergh in that one partner should be chiefly responsible for making certain bigger decisions, but I do not think that the man should always be the last word on these decisions. I also do not necessarily think that it should be the same partner every time. Each partner may be qualified to make different decisions and s/he should be the last word on those deicions.
@Mariah Nothing wrong. Like I said everyone has their own cup of tea. But I think when a man is intimated by a stronger woman, he must be even stronger to take lead of that stronger woman. There is no right or wrong.
@Mariah – there is an implied “expertise” with men when it comes to these situations, and it is imperative that a man continue to uphold his reputation and sense of pride when accomplishing these tasks. Yes, not all men are experts when it comes to certain things, and I will certainly bow out to my spouse in situations where I have no knowledge/training; e.g. gardening, cooking/baking, organization, etc. We all play our strengths, and look to others for our weaknesses.
@JilltheTooth – I never said that women cannot do these things; I’m implying that statistically men have been shown to take the lead in these situations.
@FutureMemory – I do not treat my spouse like a child, in fact it is I that is sometimes “childish”.
Hmm, I’ve never witnessed a pattern of this. Over the years, I’ve worked with a boatload of the old school men’s club men, and it isn’t limited to the older generation, although it seems to have gotten better, at least in the US.
What’s interesting is to meet and chat with their wives. On the surface, they may appear more subservient, as they are often housewives. They can afford to stay at home and bring up the children. Getting to know them a bit better, I often find that they are what we call in the South, Steel Magnolias. They look as fragile as a Magnolia bloom, which bruises at the slightest touch, but they tend to be the backbone of the relationship. They are often strong women, and as @Cruiser mentioned, they have empathy.
On the other hand, I’ve worked with three women who had very strong personalities and came across as confident, but after getting to know them a bit better, they were covering up for a lack of confidence. Everyone tip-toed around them, male or female, including their supervisors. If there is a female stereotype that would intimidate any man, these women were the poster children for it.
I’ve also worked and been friends with a few men that fall into what I call the Ashley Wilkes Category. If you have ever seen or read Gone With The Wind, you might know what I am talking about. They avoid confrontation and prefer a more gentle and intellectual lifestyle versus a turbulent one. While they may respect the strong, confident woman, they are not attracted to her as a life partner. @Pandora also mentions that this type of man pairs up with a dominant woman. I’ve only seen that in one personal case. He might be happy…I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, just that they have been married for many years.
@Blackberry If you are correct in that this is a philosophy that has become ingrained in many men (and I believe that you are correct), then we need to figure out how to put a stop to it. The secret to a successful relationship is in finding a partner that brings out the best in both of you. The challenge in any new relationship is when one or both put on a stereotypical front that doesn’t apply to their personality.
@Pandora, according to your definition of the Average Joe, I found one. There was no sugar-coating on the front end that needed to be found out later in the relationship. We walk down the path of life together hand-in-hand. There are times one one takes the lead and the other follows. Then the roles get reversed when it is better that the other take the lead. I suspect though that this applies to any successful relationship. The leading and following are just different for every couple.
So, dear @Jude and others, it really comes down to this: If we were all attracted to the same type of person, life would be even messier than it already is. Thank goodness for diversity when it comes to attraction. As for men having a problem with strong, confident women, I’d like to agree with @josie…more women are sensitive to or make assumptions about it than actually happens. I sure hope he is right.
@CaptainHarley: I agree wholeheartedly with that. I would even add a caveat to number 2: Habit. Since I am so used to being the more dominant partner in the relationship, you can imagine my great surprise when my ex-boyfriend would take charge in situations in which I had previously been the lead with former boyfriends. I think this must be much worse with men who are much more used to taking control in more aspects of romance and, as you pointed out, culturally trained and pressured to take the lead in general.
@Bill_Lumbergh So it is mainly a social thing? A need for men to show their friends they’re manly enough to install a TV? Or is it more personal; men need to prove to themselves that they’re manly enough to install TVs? Do you feel that if your wife happens to also be good at these things, that somehow makes you less manly? Why is it that the situations you defer to your wife are very stereotypically feminine ones? Do you two just happen to have very stereotypical gendered skills, or is there another reason why the work is split up that way? What if your wife were an engineer, would you defer to her on technical things then, or do you still need to do the technical things in order to prove something?
@Mariah – As I said before, we play to our strengths. My wife and I happen to have these “stereotypical gendered skills” and we are content with each of our roles in the relationship, but she is always my first pick when we all play flag football with friends. Yes, she plays flag football with me, and she is no pushover! Just because my wife decides to do “stereotypical gendered” tasks in our relationship, doesn’t mean she is not a strong woman. (Perhaps you simply assumed)
@Bill_Lumbergh: To be fair, you did say in a previous answer that you think men should take the lead in certain things like buying a car. You did not say that you do this in your relationship, but that you think all men should do this.
Partially like @KatawaGrey, I think that some people are naturally inclined to want to be in charge within their relationships. I don’t think this is based on sex, so much as on individual characteristics. Perhaps because of gender roles, men are more likely to want to take on the more powerful role within the relationship, but really, I think it can go either way.
@Bill_Lumbergh I did not say anything about whether or not your wife is a strong woman.
It’s all well and good that your wife and you fit so comfortably into those roles that happen to also follow societal norms, but as @KatawaGrey pointed out, I am not understanding why you think that the man should always take charge of those particular activities. It makes sense in situations such as yours in which he’s the more skilled of the couple in those areas, but what if she is? Should he still do the car buying and electronics installing anyway due to some need to prove to his friends that he’s manly enough (or, that he has dominance over his wife)?
@lucillelucillelucille – I don’t think we help it any when we compare threatened men to pussies. Language really makes a difference and by comparing weakness to a female body part, we reinforce the connection most misinformed people make between weakness and women thereby leading to the very phenomenon the OP asked about in the first place.
Most men I know prefer their partner to be strong, confident and interesting as well as a go-getter, intense and fun to be with. Men I know want dimensionality not the 1950’s. I’m lucky to know these men. All the couple of them who are straight or interested in women.
My sis became a university professor before she hit 35, has 2 MA’s, 2 BA’s- she’s short, but stocky, participates in runs and used to kickbox. She’s chaired committees, works internationally and run huge multi-university research projects. I’m no milquetoast either—
Our brother doesn’t talk to us unless he unconditionally has to. He has FOX News on 24 hrs, works for a Blackwater style corp, is friends with Rumsfield, married a Cambodia waitress who doesn’t speak English and is size 0—and during his wedding, he insisted that his Southern Baptist preacher include the “obey and honor” part of the vow (but not the other half the guy’s supposed to say about honoring his wife). His perception of women is clear, and unfortunately he is one of those that contribute to the stereotype.
I have no idea what his problem is with English speaking women…
@linguaphile – ah, well..this situation is quite common and does pertain to the question very much. Ordering wives from seeminly more traditional cultures is one way threatened men respond to seeing women have more rights than they’re used to. Tons have been written on this popular phenomenon that’s only expanding.
@Simone_De_Beauvoir That IS scary… I didn’t realize this was an expanding phenomenon- and it brings the discussion to the same question, but with a different angle…
WHY would a guy want to do this—find someone totally uncommunicative, subservient and obedient? And, what compels any woman to accept that role?
@linguaphile – They want to feel stronger, better, more organized aka in control of their lives. Why do you think so many men are into Real Dolls (look that up, if you need to)? As to what compels mail-order brides…well, that’s more complex and tied to economics rather than whatever they want to accept. To them, playing the subservient wife (and they most certainly know they’re playing one and usually aren’t actually subservient or what have you) is better than the opportunities (often sex trafficking) presented at home. They will suffer the insufferable sexist man but at least he (we assume) won’t beat them.
I’ve noticed something else in male/female relationships… it seems a lot of older men who have been through hell ( such as combat ) have less need to always be the dominant one in a relationship. Perhaps they have less to prove?
I am reminded of a femaie soldier I met on Okinawa during an Aikido class. I was watching her take on virtually everyone except the Instructor, and when she and I were matched, I was in the battle of my life! I eventually won, but it cost me. GOD, did that woman turn me on! LOL!
@FutureMemory: Point of interest: In one of my women’s studies classes, we actually learned that many foreign European women, mainly the Italians and the Irish, were actually in charge of the families when they came to the US. In order to fit in, however, the women would “play” at being subservient to their husbands, but in their own homes, momma was boss and even the men in the family knew that and did what she said.
I think it has to do with feelings about what it means to be a man. The idea such men follow is that a real man must lead the household. He must make the money and take care of everyone in the family. They are all subordinate to him, as a result.
His wife always backs him up and always defers to him in public (although not necessarily in private). Although, if she does speak up, some men think this is a questioning of their manhood and they will use force to cow the woman.
Usually it is men who doubt their manhood, I think, that feel they must have this rule as the man of the house. The man whose woman adores him and will do nothing without her permission. It is macho men who think that being behind a woman will make them look unmanly to other men.
It starts from the very beginning of dating, where virtually everyone, these days, thinks the male is the one who pays. The male is the one who initiates the date by asking the female out.
When I was growing up in the 70s, the women’s movement was fighting against this kind of thing. They wanted equality, and I always was a little confused about whether women wanted men to pay for them or if they wanted to assert equal standing and go dutch. In any case, I didn’t have any money, so I didn’t date. If I was out with someone, it was usually in a group and we all paid for ourselves. But after I got into college, it seemed like the equality thing was even more important.
Then again, I went to a college where everyone had to be a feminist (including the men), or they would be ostracized by everyone else. Didn’t much matter to me. My goal in life at that time was to be a lesbian.
It has been somewhat dismaying to find that things are back to what they were like in the 60s. If my daughter and her friends represent teenage girls these days, then the girls expect the boys to pay for them. Unquestionably. Young women, in general, seem to think that feminism is a dirty word. Many aspire to be housewives, subordinate to their husbands. Many believe in traditional relationships, and get very disappointed when their man can’t take care of them. They might have a law degree and be able to make big bucks on their own, but they still get really pissed that they have to earn a living.
My wife grew up in the same era as I did, and she was brought up to be able to take care of herself. What was the saying of the time? A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. So she became a lawyer, not because she liked law, but because she could support herself and a family doing that.
The idea that a woman can support herself, and therefore doesn’t have to agree with her husband, because if he doesn’t like it, he can’t threaten her with destitution, probably threatens a lot of men who think their only value is as a breadwinner. Really. A lot of men don’t know there is anything else they can do. They don’t know that a lot of women want to talk to someone, and share their emotions about things.
There is a stereotype that men don’t do emotions. I think a lot of men don’t. So if they can’t be the breadwinner, what are they? Where do they fit. So many men who don’t have jobs and rely on their wive’s earnings feel emasculated. This can cause domestic violence among other things.
A strong woman can threaten the manhood of many men because they place the proof of their manhood primarily in being a breadwinner. Apparently, according to a study shown in another recent question here, another place men derive proof of masculinity from is by having lovers. Perhaps they might think of it as making conquests. According to that study, men who make less money than their wives are more likely to cheat on their wives than other men. The speculation is that this is because it is another way for men to demonstrate their masculinity and virility.
So the men who have a problem with strong women are those who feel less confident about their masculinity. These men believe they are men only if they fill traditional roles. A woman who won’t be the “little woman” presents a problem for them.
Really good answer, @wundayatta ! The truly strong man isn’t afraid of the fact that he has emotions. The truly strong man isn’t afraid to allow someone else to be in charge when it’s appropriate. The truly strong man knows that if push comes to shove, he can protect his family, especially if his partner stands by his side. : )
@CaptainHarley I’ve got a bone to pick about that. People always say ‘a true man’ isn’t afraid of this and that kind of thing associated with femininity but it seems that those other men who think they totally are ‘true men’ want nothing to do with any of it. So if you say they’re not ‘truly strong men’ aka ‘real men’ and they say you aren’t, how can either of you be right?
@Simone_De_Beauvoir What is a real man? Perhaps some of the images of what a real man is are incompatible. Does it matter if there is a right and wrong of it? Perhaps sometimes one model is better and at other times the other. Or maybe we need both models around all the time. I don’t see either type of man lacking for partners.
We can not say that one form works all the time. I don’t even know if we can say which form works better most of the time. I don’t even know what “better” would be. I suspect we’re talking about happiness and self-esteem and quality of relationships and probably other stuff. If relationships are important, I would think that the man who can express his emotions would be better. If fighting or earning is important, than I think that an aggressive man who sublimates his feelings on order to be competitive would be better off.
@wundayatta Well, that’s what I always ask! There is NO SUCH THING given that every person identifying as a man is a man regardless, to me, of their genitals, chromosomes, clothing, sexuality, etc. etc. Therefore, it makes no sense to me when I read ‘oh a true man does xyz or doesn’t do xyz’...hence, the bone to pick.
@Jude Why, does it help in not dealing with gender policing? ‘Cause from what I read of lesbian history and current shenanigans, it’s just as bad with ya’ll especially for transpeople, especially for FTMs who used to identify as dykes. I’ve been re-reading a lot of Patrick Califia, highly recommend his work.
I didn’t say “a true man.” I said a truly strong man; the man who is comfortable being in his own skin, the man who has no issues around his masculinity with which to deal, the man confident in his own personality.
@CaptainHarley : Excellent point, and if I may expand, a “truly strong man” could be changed to a “truly strong” person as this whole issue speaks to both parties referred to in the Q. I used to be called “macho” and “a real ball-buster”. Both designations amused me when I considered the source. Usually someone whom I wanted to ask: “Is that a peanut in your pocket or are you just happy to see me…”
@CaptainHarley@JilltheTooth So if I understand correctly, both of you are talking about a truly strong person as someone that is comfortable in their gender identity and its expression, regardless of gender?
@Simone_De_Beauvoir, this isn’t about your issues with gender identity, I just said that a truly strong person won’t have a problem with another person’s pre-conceived notions of what constitutes traditional roles. Hence the post: “Pretty clear, that.”
@JilltheTooth What does any of it have to do with my ‘issues with gender identity’. I am a scholar of gender issues and politics which extends beyond and is separated from my private life and my private struggles. Do not conflate the two. And do not condescend to provide me with simple definitions.
@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Interestingly enough, my momma is a scholar of getting shit done that needs doing regardless of physical limitations or the perceptions others hold about her. So far, she’s the leading expert in the field.
@Simone_De_Beauvoir :“Ok, so then people who are interested in policing other people about their gender identity or men who aren’t into strong, confident women are weak?” is a way over the top extrapolation of a fairly simple sentence and concept. Perhaps I should have said gender “politics” instead of “issues”. Tell you what, don’t put words in my mouth and I’ll try not to do the same. I provided you with the “simple definition” because you seemed to misunderstand my use of the word “person” in my post. As in human, gender notwithstanding.
@JilltheTooth I want to explore why concepts of strength and weakness are discussed when it comes to withstanding gendered norms. I find the connection interesting and therefore was extrapolating for a reason.