Time for a Quick Rant! Today’s Rant: Women’s Success and Men’s Self-Esteem


Welcome to a Quick Rant.  It’s like a rant, but quicker.

This article, in the University Herald, is headlined, “Young Men’s Self-Esteem Hurt by Female Companion’s Success” (sic, unless they intend to suggest that inadequate feeling young men all share a single companion).  The article reports on a study (link is to a .pdf) published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Kate Ratliff and Shigehiro Oishi that describes how men and women respond differently to a romantic partner’s success.  Super-brief overview: they found that men were more likely than women to exhibit lower self-esteem when their partner experienced more success than they did.

This is my "low self-esteem" face.  Some people don't have a low self-esteem face and I believe they need to be knocked down a peg.
This is my “low self-esteem” face. Now that you’ve seen my face, you know why I have low self-esteem.  Some people don’t have a low self-esteem face and I believe they need to be knocked down a peg.

First, I don’t have a problem with the study itself.  Rather, I take exception to the article’s interpretation and reporting of the study.  The self-esteem of the men who participated in the study isn’t hurt by womens’ success.  It’s hurt by their own inability to appreciate and/or cope with their partners’ success.  Let’s keep the responsibility for men’s feelings where it belongs – women who work hard and have success aren’t responsible for men’s feelings of inadequacy.  Society, and men themselves, are responsible for ever expecting that women shouldn’t be as successful.  Just because reality doesn’t always pan out in line with people’s dim view of women’s abilities doesn’t mean women’s success hurts men.

As a stay-at-home dad, I’m not immune to the prevailing notion that my work isn’t as important as my wife’s.  When I was working outside the home, I wasn’t immune to the occasional feelings of awkwardness that Wendy’s salary far exceeded mine.  But it wouldn’t have occurred to me to suggest that this was her fault or to say that her success made me feel inadequate.  So, fellow dads and primary caregivers of all stripes, if you’re feeling a bit inadequate that your partner brings home more money, just remember that that’s just the man trying to keep you down, that not all transactions are financial, and that success comes in more flavors than simple finances.  And men, if you’re feeling like your partner’s success is responsible for your feelings of inadequacy, man up and claim responsibility for your own emotions.