According to Dr. Rider in the year “2000, 54% of North American women were married and that 95% of women would eventually marry at least by the age 45”. (327) It leads one to believe that marriage is an important aspect of a woman’s life structure.
The exchange theory view is that those with the best resources will obtain the most suitable mates. Resources in an exchange theory would be “education, salary, appearance, property owned, etc.” (330) I am sure that there are some variations on mate preferences within ethnic groups and especially within genders. However, I think some of the ideal common preferences in a mate among all ethnic groups and gender groups are understanding, commitment, financially stable, emotionally healthy, intelligent, and athletic.
According to “Our Voices Psychology of Women” by Dr. Rider men rate physical attraction as very important in selecting a mate. (329) While, women rate emotional and financial stability as the most important in mate selection. I think it is especially true for women who want to have children. Most men equate physical appearance with good health and able to have children.
My mother gave me a piece of advice on obtaining the best selection in a mate. She told me “men are visual creatures and if you want to get the most suitable mate you must show a little skin, wear make up, do your hair, and for heavens sake try not to sound too smart”. I hope it is an isolated conversation and not a reflection on the women in my ethnic group. :o)
As children, we are gender typed into gender roles that lead us to create and believe a gender stereotype of what is a suitable mate. Perhaps part of it might be biological as in Darwin’s “natural selection” which he discussed in his book “The Origin of Species” as a possible reason for the need for species to select the most suitable mate as part of the survival of species. As in the familiar term coined by Herbert Spencer which is “survival of the fittest”.
I cannot help but think that it is also heavily influenced by our gender schemes. Men are led to believe that women are to be pretty, child bearing and if possible homemakers. Women are led to believe that men need to be hard working, strong, intelligent, financially and emotionally stable. The media has also played a major role on influencing genders perception of what is a suitable mate.
Societal norms also affect mate selection. There was a time due to homophobic views that having a same sex partner would be unthinkable. You were forced to conform and marry someone of the opposite sex or find yourself ostracized, ridiculed or even beaten.
We have come a long way but there is still too much heterosexism in this world. Now, whether you are an elective lesbian or primary lesbian you cannot only be a couple but form a family.
We can also now wait until our 40’s to get married without having to endure normalization by those around us. Society may not understand why we choose to stay single but we are not being pressured into marriage as we once were.
We can make a better selection in a mate if we want to get married. If we decide to remain single, we can still achieve self-actualization in our lives. The sky is the limit if we do not let others define who we are, and can be. I am glad I was born in this time and not during the Victorian age.
Darwin’s “Natural selection“:
Herbert Spencer’s “Survival of the fittest“