SWANS and their swains

Good news, ladies! If you’re smart and make money, there’s still hope for you! You may be married by the time you’re 44! This is the topic of New York columnist Christine B. Whelan’s book Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. Written as a rebuttal to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's 2005 book Are Men Necessary? Ms Whelan, 29, says that success won't scupper your chances of finding Mr Right.

The recurring acronym in the book is SWANS (Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse). Most of these SWANS were taken from a pool of about 100 successful women in nine major US cities, whom Whelan interviewed. She discovers that women with graduate degrees and/or high incomes still get married... just a little bit later in life. She takes 256 pages to come to this mind-blowing conclusion.

Ms Whelan interviewed numerous men as well. What she found was that a better educated woman with a career makes a more appealing wife. Men are looking for a peer rather than a subordinate. Seems pretty obvious. But what annoyed me about this book was that these supposedly "smart" women repeatedly "dumbed" themselves down to draw men in. Regardless of age, race, creed or profession, the one consistency (other then the term SWANS) was that women didn’t feel comfortable about their success. Whether they were speed dating, approaching men in bars or making small talk in an airport, most women lied about the Ivy League school they attended or the high-powered job they held. They were afraid they would intimidate the men. But, hey, we’ve always been told to accentuate the positive, not lie about it!

The best line of the whole book came from one of the SWANS, Zara. A business school student, Zara said she used to hide her educational background. Now she uses it to eliminate ineligibles. "If someone is intimidated, I don’t want to talk to them anyway."

Thanks to the Sexual Revolution, we live in a Sex In The City society where women are depicted as callous, manipulative and ruthless. While some of us are, women are also feminine and nurturing. It’s perfectly OK for us to have a PhD, be CEO of a company and be married. It’s also perfectly OK for us to leave the working world behind and focus on having a family. In fact, Ms. Whelan found that many of these SWANS did just that. At a certain point in their lives, many SWANS become SWAMs (Strong Woman Affectionate Moms) and a whole new chapter in their lives begins.

To add fuel to the feminist fire, a recent study by two renowned University of Virginia sociologists, Bradford Wilcox and Steven Nock, found that women are far happier in marriages that have a traditional division of labour. Looking at a National Survey of Families and Households, Wilcox and Nock found that women are more contented when they can stay at home and devote themselves to their families. Homemakers also expressed greater emotional satisfaction with their husbands. And speaking of a Sex In The City society, Wilcox and Nock’s research also suggested that social changes such as decline in church attendance, premarital sex and divorce, have had a significant effect on women's happiness. Notice that all these things became more commonplace after the Sexual Revolution.

In essence, ladies, skip Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. As former SWANS Cynthia stated, "I read all those advice books. Those books sell, but 99 per cent of them are crap. Just be yourself." Use the time you’d spend reading this book by chatting with a nice gentleman who isn’t intimidated by your intelligence and success.

Guiomar Barbi lives in Washington DC. From 2001 to 2003, she lived in Rome and worked at the US Embassy to the Holy See.


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