Men threatened by women's success, study finds
Why does a woman's earned success bring out the sad puppy in a dude?
By Irene Jay
Who runs the world? Women — and apparently men don't like it. A new study revealed that a woman's success makes her man feel self-conscious, while she feels better about her relationship when her man succeeds.
For all those times that your man took you out to celebrate your promotion or work award, turns out he was probably enjoying your success at the cost of his own ego. The research, performed at the University of South Florida, showed that a straight man's self-esteem dropped following his romantic partner's success.
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In the study, researchers found that when they gave men a test to determine how they felt about their partners' achievements subconsciously, it was clear that every man whose partner performed well experienced a drop in self-worth. While the researchers say this could all be due to the fact that men are more competitive than women, for a woman, the cold hard facts still sting.
In the workplace — and in life — I've never met a woman who hasn't gone over the top to get a report in ahead of time or pick up the check when out to drink with friends. Sure, it doesn't happen every time, but I think it's safe to say that the days of taking a backseat to a man (and the male ego) are long gone — which is why the latest study feels like a huge step in the wrong direction for so many committed women.
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Study author Kate Ratliff offers her own explanation, saying, "Self-esteem might be impacted when one fails to fulfill the roles ascribed to one's gender," in the study's published report. However, if that held true, wouldn't a man just be disappointed in himself? Why does it take a woman's earned success to bring out the sad puppy for a dude? We already make less than men (women on average make only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men), have to work harder to prove ourselves, deal with sexism daily in the workplace (in some locales, women deal with it every hour on the hour) and now should we also feel guilty that our success derails our man's self-esteem?
Do high-profile women like Beyonce and Angelina Jolie think twice before accepting an award, scheduling a world tour or directing an Oscar-winning movie? Do women say no to promotions and career advancements so that their men feel like the true breadwinners? Are we sacrificing our own paychecks and benefits and positions so that our men can climb the ladder at the office higher than we can? Have we time-traveled back to the 1950s? No, no, no and no. We haven't, we won't and we shouldn't.
But what's the most disappointing is that for women in relationships with successful men, their ego, self-worth and self-esteem remain unchanged. When researchers measured how women felt, they found that "Women reported feeling happier about the relationship when men succeeded." And as a woman, I'm not sure what to feel: Relieved that a man's workplace achievements don't make me feel crappy about myself, or ashamed that somewhere along the line I've taken a backseat to my boyfriend's good news, keeping my own success a secret.
After reading the research, my first thought was to feel guilty about the times my successes have overshadowed my partner's. I'm asking myself: Have I made him feel small? Have I shattered his ego? But I know better than to worry over that. If he does feel belittled, small or lacking in self-worth (which, he shouldn't, because I know that was not my intention — nor was it any other woman's who was proud of her promotion), then he should work harder. His success is as welcomed as my own.
And if he can work harder, he damned better believe that so can I.
Photo: Fabrice LEROUGE/Getty Images
love: friendships, dating, sex & marriage
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