Friday, October 06, 2006

Intermarriage Is Driven by the Guys

I believe there’s another twist to the intermarriage story. I am thinking there may very well be two parallel stories, the friction story discussed yesterday, and for some a revealed preference story that is asymmetrical between men and women, as follows. My impression is that the dynamic of intermarriage is driven by the guys. For one thing Jewish men have a reputation of being good and loyal husbands. Many non-Jewish women think Jewish men make particularly desirable mates and go after them. Even more important are the Jewish men who, for one reason or another, find Jewish females less attractive than their shiksa counterparts. These men would marry a non-Jewish woman even if they were surrounded by Jewish women. These preferences are based on feelings and attitudes that are for the most part pre-conscious or unconscious, and many are not aware of any such feelings. Hence it is important to focus on revealed preferences, what the men do, and not on stated preferences, what they say they want to do.

Once a significant number of Jewish men are into dating and marrying non-Jewish women, there’s this imbalance in the demographics, leaving the corresponding number of women without mates. When these women find themselves in their late twenties and thirties and with no Jewish guy in sight, they draw the appropriate conclusions and begin dating non-Jewish men. These women would prefer a Jewish man but the prospects seem hopeless, and the biological clock keeps ticking. Now of course there are many exceptions and variations, since all I’m offering is a generalization. Nevertheless, I think if correct, it’s something important to take into account in shaping the Jewish response to intermarriage. I don’t know that I am correct, but such is my very distinct impression, and this impression is confirmed when I talk to Hillel people who have first hand experience in this area.

I have found quite by accident some empirical data that suggests there is something to my hypothesis. The blogger Marginal Revolution in summarizing an academic paper entitled Mate Preferences and Matching Outcomes in Online Dating offers the following interesting result: 38% of all women on line, but only 18% of men say that they prefer to meet someone of their own ethnic background. Generalizing this finding we could say there is a greater proclivity of men than women to marry outside their ethnicity. Maybe that is all there is to be said on this topic. But my intuition is that a significant number of Jewish men would generally like to marry someone of their own religion but frequently would prefer a different ethnicity or background. They yearn for the shikse; they could do without her religion.

So in the interest of self flagellation I ask the question “Why do Jewish men have a greater need to distance themselves from their surroundings?” One common answer is that the proverbial Jewish mother is more suffocating and domineering than the Jewish father. Jewish men then associate Jewish women with their mothers, and run away in search of more gentle and docile females. The second idea is a variant of the first and locates the difficulty in the young women themselves. Jewish young women have a reputation for being high-strung, nudges, and aggressive.

It is true there has been a shift because of women’s lib towards more independent and self-sufficient women. Jewish liberal women have participated in this movement; but who can say how much is Jewish and how much is the way women are today. I think it was true around the turn of the twentieth century there were a considerable number of Jewish women who suffered from hysteria; at least that’s the impression I get from reading Freud. But it was a long time ago and there’s no reason to believe that Jewish women today are more high-strung than anyone else. Every ethnicity can produce their share of high-strung, high maintenance women, but the stereotype is that everyone but Jewish women has undergone twenty years of geisha training. I propose that thinking about the comparative reality is a hopeless task. It is impossible to say anything conclusive about the reality. There maybe small differentials between one ethnic group and the other, but it is not these small differentials that drive the process of intermarriage. The same comment applies to the question of whether Jewish mothers correspond to their stereotypes. It might be true that Jews tend to be somewhat more voluble and effervescent than repressed Victorian WASPs. Here again there’s no reason to believe that the reality of the stereotypes are the important variable.

The key variable in my opinion is the perception Jewish men might have of such differences, which magnify and distort the possible element of truth underneath these perceptions.
What can be done to alleviate this problem? I think the first thing is to ascertain it is true that Jewish men have this distorting perception. If it isn’t true, why drive anyone crazy? If it is true, I think there would be some value if young women became aware of these attitudes. The awareness they are perceived this way by their male counterparts should have a positive effect on the relationships.

Second, we have to recognize that this male perception of Jewish females is, to a large extent, caused by the weak self-image of Jewish males. One central aspect of this weak self-image is the economic difficulties young people have today in establishing a family. Jewish life is very expensive, Jewish men and women are upwardly mobile, and it is easy for Jewish men to project their fragilities in their economic struggles onto Jewish women. I think it’s an illusion to believe Jewish women are more high maintenance, more competitive and more JAPy as it were, than their non-Jewish counterparts. It’s the other way around. Jewish women are competent, flexible, and intelligent. They will try to do whatever it takes to enhance the welfare of their families. Does it follow that the stronger the Jewish male is in terms of self cohesion, self confidence etc. the more likely he is to marry a Jewish women? I believe so, everything else equal.

How is it possible to strengthen the Jewish man without suppressing the Jewish woman? Perhaps this thought might help: There are ways of expressing the careerist and other aspirations a person might have that sound competitive and shrill. And then again there are styles of expression that emphasize the cooperative aspects of marriage…the voyage a man and woman undertake to raise a family if they are so blessed, and to be there for each other no matter what life may bring. An outlook on life that emphasized the cooperative and mutually supportive aspects of a relationship, and minimized the excessive, egocentric career aspirations would be very helpful. Some men and women have mastered the art of supporting their spouses in their endeavors even when they are themselves engaged in full time mega careers. Others have not. It is a question of hashkafa, outlook on life, in the deepest psychological sense of the term. As for who is to blame for the lack of an appropriate hashkafa and the sin of excessive careerism, there are more than enough candidates… overly ambitious parents, the highly competitive Jewish community, the young people themselves.

Vetzarich iyun, the entire subject requires further thought.

Chag Sameach


At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the sin of excessive careerism" is due to high cost of living a Jewish lifestlye. Duh!

At 12:29 AM, Blogger mother in israel said...

"It might be true that Jews tend to be somewhat more voluble and effervescent than repressed Victorian WASPs."

Jewish men these days are marrying Asians, not white Protestants. I have three cousins that married Asian women in the last few years.

Thoughtful post as usual!!

At 11:55 PM, Blogger Mr A said...

Self hatred is a large reason for intermarriage, but that is ot gender specific. You should poll Jewish men who are regulars at jewish single events advertised as "upscale." The low status Jewish male need not apply. Not all are crass materialists and spoiled. But all seem to be detached from reality with perverse left wing militancies. Most consistant and polarizing is Gender Femanism (misandry) Poll the Jewish men, ask their political oritentation. Masculine Conservatives even with gelt need not apply. Non professionals need not apply. Even our girliemen are marrying out. if you want to stop femanism, raise our daughters to be in touch with reality, economically ecumenical, available (careerism often interferes) and man loving. We have to leave many Jewish women and single until the culture re-adjusts to some old values. In the meantime,myself and most of hte Jewish single party male alumni gravitated to Asian/American single parites. Most of us have Filipina wives. Jewish women will not save he Jewish people with their anti-male career first sentiments. I suggested to Chabad to set up Judaic educational centers in the provinces of the Philipinnes and Vietnam cus these are the women who will marry us. Be nice to Asian women, they are the fastest growing demographic in the Jewish community. We might want to convert them.

At 11:52 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

What you just wrote is scary. Irealize from looking at your blog that u have a position on this issue, but you may also be speaking for certain kinds of Jewish men, especially regarding the Asian connection. BTW do u have any many men have married Asians

At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Nice Jewish girl said...

You want to stop intermarriage, this community will have to start talking about things they don't want to talk about. 1) Dope and substance abuse. One of the reason I looked elsewhere was that my Jewish peers were big time into dope. Potheads, ludes.....Only the dope has changed these days. 2) Talk about affluenza, and use the word JAP if you have to. Don't try to change the subject that the word is insulting.... you gotta talk about it.
This is a small community and even if we have the same percentage of jerks as others, its a numbers game, there is less to choose from. I've been married to the same man for 23 yrs. I have no regrets


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