Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Attraction of Power/The Power of Attraction

I recently wrote about the Emanuel brothers, three very intelligent, successful, and powerful men. Ken tells me that I seem to be developing a bit of an obsession with Rahm. Does that mean I can't get this shirt, Honey? Ha ha! I wouldn't call it an obsession so much as a fascination with the appeal of power. Although I've never felt that I was all that susceptible to powerful men, many women are, and I wondered if men find powerful women as appealing. I thank you all for your comments, and I would like to expound upon a few. Let me say upfront that I don't mean to generalize, and I realize that there are exceptions to everything. I don't like it when people make general statements about women, and I won't do the same about men. My opinions come from my experiences, but nothing is ever 100%.

Myra said...
Could depend on the age & maturity of the man. I mean some men don't care what's on your on your mind, they only see the exterior...but who wants that type of man?? When we are smart, we're labeled as bitches. Unfortunately, its still very much a man's world, and maybe that is the problem!

I think Myra is right on a couple of counts. Age and maturity is definitely a factor, and the younger the guy, the more fixated they are upon the package rather than the contents. With age and experience comes an appreciation for depth and knowledge, and a desire to delve deeper into a person's mind. I have to disagree, though, with believing that if women are smart, we are labeled as bitches. I'm sure there have been those who think that I'm a bitch, but I've never really had to deal with that too much from guys. I'll get more into that in a moment.

Mark said...
First, do you have single sisters? I have found that my being able to add intimidates some folks ... but it does depend on where you fish, too.

No, Mark, my sisters are older than me and both married! Your phrase "depends on where you fish" is dead-on. If you (meaning people in general) are seeking an empty head, that's what you will get. If you want more, you'll learn to weed those types out.

Jamie said...
I think men want their women to be intelligent enough to have a conversation with at the very least.

Again, depends on what they're looking for. A "hm-hm" buddy or a relationship?

LJ said...
well, for some men, all they want is a breathing female who will put out and cook.

Very true. There are men like that. They aren't my type, though. Not by a long shot!

Cathy said...
You know what'll happen Beth? The men who DO blog won't answer that question anyway, for the same reason they think powerful women are castrating bioches. What they'll say out loud however is, "I love women who know what they want, can support themselves, speak their minds" etc, ad nauseum. Men don't want equals, they want a saint as a wife and mother, and a whore in bed. Same ole story.

I think that's a sort of cynical view, but I can understand why some women feel that way. Actions speak louder than words, and we've all been subjected to that sort of attitude.

Marty said...
Interesting question. I value intelligence and have little patience for stupidity (well, OK, it depends on the circumstances ... everyone does stupid things once in a while). This is going to sound sexist, but I'll say it anyway: I work with loads of highly intelligent, highly driven women here in Hollywood and -- while I respect a lot of them quite a bit -- some strike me as "bitchy." Sometimes it seems like they have to work that much harder, be that much more "difficult/demanding" to get ahead. Conversely, their male counterparts in similar jobs -- while equally driven or cut-throat -- don't seem as "tightly wound." So, I'm attracted by intelligence but, in my opinion, the smartest of the smart are the women who manage to rise to the top while remaining comfortable in their own skin.

Marty proved Cathy wrong by leaving an honest comment. As I replied to Marty, it's a very fine line for women...sometimes aggressiveness and power does come across as bitchy, so how do we juggle being competent, capable, and powerful, all the while remaining comfortable in our own skin (as Marty put it)?

Miss Ginger said...
Funny how many of your female readers responded to your question about men's opinion of powerful women, and how few male readers responded!. I feel I have sort of a unique perspective (lol!) My experience is that men like their women flirty, cute, silly, sexy, and a little risque. I have been to many, many, MANY, happy hours and cocktail parties where the men and women are discussing stimulating, intellectual, thought provoking topics with interest and respect from both sides. But as soon as "little miss bimbo" shows up rattling the cubes in her empty glass, then men all scrape their knuckles on the floor running to get her a new one, and by the time they get back the conversation has deteriorated to brain rot. And the men are all grinning like village idiots!

Also true. I bet I'm not the only one who has seen that happen, or has been the woman who got ignored when a leggy bobblehead gave a flirty wink. (I'm talkin' to YOU, Sarah Palin! Ha ha!) There are ways to get around that. More in a moment.

Anonymous said...
I don't think that power and intelligence necessarily have to go together. A truly intelligent person would not be involved in struggles involving power. However knowledge is power, but power does not incur knowledge.

I both agree and disagree with Anonymous's comment. Power definitely doesn't mean knowledge (I'm sure we can all think of a few current examples), but there are some fields in which intelligent people are involved in power struggles no matter what. Politics comes immediately to mind, but also health care. It happens all the time with doctors, and no matter what field you are in, there are often such struggles...some are more subtle, but you can find that undercurrent in almost any workplace.

I really enjoyed getting these perspectives on the issue, and it definitely is a thorny one. I thank you all for your input on this, and I think it's fun to have a frank discussion.

So here's my take on it. As I said, there will be exceptions, but I think that generally, men don't feel that powerful attraction to powerful women, and I don't see that changing. I think part of it is what a couple of readers touched upon--there are many times that powerful women are perceived as bitchy or manipulative, and sometime that's true. Yeah, I said it, but keep in mind that men can also be bitchy and manipulative! What slays me is that I know it doesn't have to be that way. Medical Technology and the laboratory field is one dominated by women, so I've had many female managers and supervisors. And I've had some damn good ones--women who were tough but fair and who knew their stuff so thoroughly that no one would really cross them or question their statements. That's a case where knowledge is definitely power.

I'd say there was usually enough respect there that the men didn't even think of the women that way. And that's the way it should be. I know that you can't take sexuality completely out of the workplace--we can't go against our wiring--but you should be able to stop objectifying people in such a way. Respect should be earned, no matter the manager's gender.

Outside of the workplace, it's just as thorny an issue. Miss Ginger is right--it's not uncommon to see men reduced to quivering blobs of empty-headed jelly by an equally empty-headed "little miss bimbo," as Miss G put it. Accept it and move on, ladies. Not every guy is like that, and it was my experience (in my younger, single days) that the ones you really want to hang with are the ones who want to hear some reasonably intelligent talk. It's been my luck in life that I have a deep-seated love of sports, and I was told more than once that I was the "perfect woman" because I loved sports so much! Ha! I'm far from perfect, believe me, but for many years, I was always more comfortable talking with guys than I was with women. I think I've kind of gotten beyond that, but I still remember get-togethers in my previous life when the wives were in the kitchen talking kids and food, and I was out with the guys debating various issues. At one particular party, I remember one of the women coming out and saying to me, "All us women are in the kitchen talking--maybe you'd be more comfortable in here with us!" Gee, do you think that was a subtle hint? I said, "Oh, I'm fine out here, but thanks anyway!"

That kind of attitude pisses me off as much as anything...that unspoken rule that thou shalt not talk with the husbands. Throw that at me, and I dig in. That was many years ago, and I've mellowed since then, but don't try to shove me into a niche of your own making, because I don't like being jammed into a tiny little spot that is way too small for me.

So why is it that many women are attracted to powerful men, but not vice versa? I think there is some genetic hard-wiring there that will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. In powerful, intelligent men, we see those who will provide for us and protect us. Women are expected to be the nurturers. For those of us to whom nurturing doesn't come naturally, it can be difficult to find our own pathways. My mantra for many years has been to be nothing but myself. I'm not an idiot and won't pretend to be one; I look okay and clean up well, and I'm not ashamed of that; I have opinions and I think that's a good thing, and I'm always happy to share! I could go on for a while about this, but this is already too long. Suffice it to say that I believe it is up to each of us to define our own lives and attitudes, and not merely accept the role that we have been handed. Who is assigning us to those roles, anyway?

We may not be able to escape our genetic blueprint, but what we do with it is up to us.


  1. two thumbs up. i got in on this one too late to respond, but there is some segement of the population like my ex who wanted me to be duplistic in nature: i.e. go out and earn the bacon and then come home and submissively fry it up in the pan, and the problem is that is he was not willing to be duplistic as well (work around the home, clean, cook, and do chores when he wasnt working full time which was like always....)

    i personally dont want it both ways. if being agressive makes me a ball breaker then i would rather be a ball breaker with respect for myself and my person then wasting my money and time on mascara and eye batting to meet a guy who wants me to submit to his manly authority.

    xxalainaxx who also would so rather be with the boys then in the kitchen!

  2. Very well stated, and quite a mix of opinions!

  3. I'm sorry I missed out on this little discussion. I certainly agree with Miss Gingers comment, I have had that happen to me, where I was in a discussion with a "male" friend and all of a sudden his eyes would drift away from mine because some bimbo walked in. THAT is so disrespectful and degrading. I walked away and ended that.
    Great entry Beth, thanks.

  4. excellent entry lol ~ what's funny is that the gay/lesbian world is the same way!! the guys do the same thing to other guys about other guys and lesbians do the same thing to other lesbians about the "cutsy, young, firm ones" lol ~ not ALL mind you, but quite a few. hmmmmmm thinking on that one. Cindy has said in the past at times I intimidate her because she says that about some things I'm almost a genius. I don't see it that way, I know what I know and that is all there is to it. I'm "me". The intimidation that she speaks of isn't a "bad" intimidation, it's more she wishes she could converse with me on somethings like she'd like. I'm 10 years older than her and she loves it. LOL. Sorry if this has nothing to do with what you wrote in your mind ::grin:: it just did in mine. Blessings** Teresa

  5. Interesting discussion. Have nothing to add as I am content as I am, sort of. Lucy

  6. Well, this was a very interesting discussion. Many points to discuss, but I will bring up a few of particular interest.

    Men like bimbos, but love women. Get over it.

    'Powerful' women, abuse their power over men. Meaning that it isn't that she is making six figures to his five, but that she has forgotten how to treat an interested cat. Also, even if she wants to be coquettish, she fails to be considerate of materiel, and abilty to generate income. It doesn't have to be equitable, but relative to one's background and by how much they value the other's being in their life.

    That is part of why I sorta go on about what potential partners expect in a relationship with me. I think that it is rare to find someone who is cut out of our mental image of who we want. You have to put a value on what matters most, what can be dealt with, and what is objectionable. The ol' '80-20' rule is a good one to use ... but you have to remember that someone ELSE has their own '80-20', and how do you match up with that?

    I sorta think Cathy misses the point a little, as it goes into the 'where you fish' kind of thinking. Men, IMO, aren't 'bloggers'. Those that are, generally are either unavailable good guys ( yr Ken, for example) or flawed and a little damaged, with the shine off their bloom (yours truly), or, as tough as it is to say, kinda fit the stereotype of a pasty complexioned social introvert who can only express themselves through a medium and would not be able to manage to 'manifest' themselves in an actual physical sense.

    My ex wife did not understand the way partnership works ... she didn't try to get sports. One of my fave feminists, the lovely Cammie Paglia said the first woman president would know football ... which is to say, she would have a better, if not complete, understanding to how men think, and could appeal to them.

    A lot of 'knowing your enviroment' comes into play. But women don't know where they are at, spiritually as well as physically. The sneer and dismiss 'men things' and fail to grasp the understand of how men think.

    There is a lot of objectification in the way men think. Okay, I am going to say it again --GET OVER IT! It IS a chauvanist world, so DEAL. It isn't easy dealing with teenage girls ... or even into their mid twenties. Not to say that anything that happens between Mars and Venus is justified, but in my experience, women carry their immaturaties well into adulthood ... trying to see themselves as either a Sleeping Beauty or a Cinderella ... and it doesn't matter who is a girls character, there ISN'T a Prince Charming on a fine white charger to come and take you away ...

    Seems to me, a forgotten concept among women, that you can BUILD and make a life WITH someone. Men, IMO, go on, willing to do with what they have, and while the 'hole' created by not being able to share a life with someone is there, it is handled far, far differently than how women manage their bachelorette days.

    Drawing on personal experience, Mookie is 'waiting on someone' to happen, rather than 1) happening to herself and 2) building with a partner. Yeah, good luck with that! I think women, as some men (one of whom I know very closely and personally!), scarcely consider the consequence of their choices, their actions. And when they find themselves not in the ball park, let alone game, they are intimidated by the effort it would take to get back in. They accept their lot, and let that special, sneaky kind of misery in their lives ... may not consume them, may not make them unhappy ... but it is there.

    Sinatra sang it: "Regrets, I've had a few". So have we all.

  7. You make me think too much! :-)

  8. Interesting.Having worked most of my life in a technical field with men only, I've experienced those "wife" looks and comments. For some reason it always made me laugh. I had no time nor inclination to play that game with other women. I thought it was truly stupid. Sheesh, I don't know that I've changed my opinion on that even after all these years being out of the workforce. Oh well, I have a couple female friends I trust and still have a better rapport with men...always did. I'll blame my Dad because he thought I was his son for years ( ya know, sports, science math, blah, blah) instead of his eldest daughter. Heh.

  9. Very interesting, Beth. There are some extremely candid responses here.
    I never knew the 80-20% could go BOTH ways.
    But I have always subscribed to the "get over it" theory....Both ways.


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