One of our commenters, Christine, saw this one coming…
The Economist recently published a short article that leads off with the following:
IMAGINE that the world consists of 20 men and 20 women, all of them heterosexual and in search of a mate. Since the numbers are even, everyone can find a partner. But what happens if you take away one man? You might not think this would make much difference. You would be wrong, argues Tim Harford, a British economist, in a book called “The Logic of Life”. With 20 women pursuing 19 men, one woman faces the prospect of spinsterhood. So she ups her game. Perhaps she dresses more seductively. Perhaps she makes an extra effort to be obliging. Somehow or other, she “steals” a man from one of her fellow women. That newly single woman then ups her game, too, to steal a man from someone else. A chain reaction ensues. Before long, every woman has to try harder, and every man can relax a little.
Appropriately, the entire piece is titled: “Sex and the single black woman: How the mass incarceration of black men hurts black women.” Go ahead and read it before you read this reaction from The Last Psychiatrist, and understand what excuse I have for this having anything to do with China.
I won’t rehash The Last Psychiatrist’s point(s)1 and will skip directly to where we piggy-back:
If a paucity of black men cause women to “up their game,” settle, and be alone; and men to assume a cavalier, non-committal posture, one might ask what happens to a society with too many men.
Apparently, not the opposite. Why hasn’t it become true that Chinese women are protected, elevated, catered to? That Chinese men have to “up their game” or settle?
How you react to this, whether in agreement or “wait, what?” confusion, will tell us quite a bit about you and your experiences with China2.
Did you agree, remembering Chinese people’s preferences for sons over daughters or thinking of Chinese male chauvinism, of men of means harboring multiple mistresses? Or did you pause for a moment, remembering Shanghai princesses and women demanding a house and car before agreeing to suitors and marriage?
You’ll realize by this moment that, well, you’ve now thought of both, and that both are true…but maybe the former is a bit more representative of the overall situation in China where men are slated to outnumber women by 30-35 million in 20203. Apart from bizarro mirror universes like Shanghai where the men are expected to cook, clean, and rear the children, most of China is still relatively patriarchal, where women don’t really hold up half the sky despite Mao’s communist efforts, and they’re still bullied around as second-class citizens…right?
If you’re still not sure, you’re probably right.
If you’re questioning what The Last Psychiatrist finds “apparent” about Chinese society, you’re probably not wrong.
There’s something odd about his question, isn’t there? Did you see what he did there?
An interesting comment though — again for a moment — you might hesitate to agree that it’s true:
From an evolutionary and economic perspective, it’s been argued that women would fare best under polygamy. This allows multiple women to share the genes and resources of a single “alpha” male, instead of “settling” for the leftovers. Married men with kept women are a demonstration of the idea that half of the king is better than all of the pauper. This is the worst situation for most men, however, which is arguably why men have outlawed it.
Don’t miss the prologue either.
Photo credit: sasanf on Flickr.
- …which in more ways than one, always boils back down to one thing: narcissism. [↩]
- …or at least those that stood out to you, which may not actually be representative of your experiences, and thus also says a lot about you with regards to what you notice and why. Fun, eh? [↩]
- And Peter Hitchens is a wanker. [↩]