Mail Male Fail

Since yesterday’s post ended up an epically long graph-on-graph orgy, I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.

The Daily Mail‘s improperly interpreted study today is “Why modest men get the brush-off from women“. The first paragraph sets the tone:

Modest? Shy? Reluctant to tell everyone how brilliant you are? If you’re male, you can probably add ‘single’ to that list.

Now if that isn’t a Nice Guy dogwhistle, I don’t know what is.

Rather confusingly, they give Hugh Grant as an example of the modest man no-one ever wants to date, and Simon Cowell as the super-confident Casanova, which I’m fairly sure undermines their entire argument before the science even starts.

For you see, the study actually proves nothing of the sort. Instead, 200 people were shown videos of a man and a woman in a job interview; both actors read from exactly the same script, designed to make them sound modest and humble about their achievements. Afterwards, the viewers were asked to rate the actors for likeability, and and although they had the same dialogue, the woman was rated as more likeable than the man.

None of this demonstrates that modest men are going to be unsuccessful in love. First of all, a job interview is not the same as a relationship. People are expected to be self-aggrandising douchebags in a job interview in a way that, outside the office, would probably earn them a smack in the face from everyone in earshot.

Secondly, it doesn’t compare a modest man to an immodest man, it compares a modest man to a modest woman. Immodest men were never even mentioned in the study. While there are circumstances where a modest man and a modest woman might be competing for someone’s affections, given The Mail‘s well known disdain for bisexuals, I hardly think that’s what they meant by “modest men get the brush-off”.

Likeability is also not necessarily datability. While there’s a correlation, it’s entirely possible to like someone and not want to have sex with them, which makes The Mail‘s thesis feel like grasping at straws to pull something controversial from the study.

So let’s see what the scientist who carried out the study, Professor Laurie Rudman of Rutgers University, had to say when interviewed by the paper.

Professor Rudman added that pressure to be macho can be bad for men’s health.

‘Men are expected to be successful, powerful, and dominant, show no weaknesses or chinks in the armour, and avoid acting in ways that might be perceived as feminine,’ she said.

‘Men’s mental and physical health can suffer from adhering to masculine ideals.’

So shockingly, it turns out The Mail, by distorting this as “modesty makes men unsuccessful in love”, is contributing the problem itself. Thanks Mail!

And in case you wanted proof, these are some of the comments.

Yep, I gotta agree with that. Totally. 100%. Couldn’t have put it better myself. Dead right. Yes. Spot on.

Then the women discover that the arrogant types are really the nastiest partners, so the girls then go out looking for another partner…who is an arrogant type.

They do this while rejecting the nice guys. Then the girls blame the guys for the rotten relationships the girls get into.

Wow. Feminism just rocks, don’t it?

Through a lifetime of experience I have noticed that, in the main, the women that prefer cocky, arrogant and dominating men also tend to later become divorcees.
It’s a female trait that, to me, can only be explained by base instinct on par with men’s preoccupation with legs and boobs. In this day and age, both equally doomed to disaster.

…and thats why some men go to Thailand… surprise suprise.
Delightful.
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  1. #1 by ukenagashi on Monday, 7th June 2010 - 14:05 UTC

    See, I don’t believe that there’s any “lifetime of experience” behind any of these commenters’ views. It’s more like “a lifetime of reading the Mail and believing it blindly.”

    • #2 by atomicspin on Monday, 7th June 2010 - 14:18 UTC

      You just don’t understand his pain! You see, this one time, there was this girl he liked, and he pretended that he just wanted to be her friend, and then she thought he just wanted to be her friend! I know, what a bitch! Wasn’t her behaviour just disgraceful! No wonder she got divorced 30 years later!

      After that his heart turned to stone and he could never love again. Until he trafficked himself a woman from Thailand, anyway.

  2. #3 by wickedday on Monday, 7th June 2010 - 19:40 UTC

    Meh. I could counter-anecdote them, but everyone here is sensible enough to realise that even totally unbiased* (*because everyone is totally unbiased about their exes/never-weres) anecdata still doesn’t constitute proof.

    The professor mentions the harm that expectations of machoness do to guys, but not what expectations of modesty do to women. Okay, perhaps not relevant to the experiment at hand; but I would bet real money that with the experiment repeated with immodest, self-aggrandising scripts, the self-proud woman would get a hell of a worse reception than the man.

    People are scared as fuck of women who appear to think they may actually be good at stuff.

    • #4 by atomicspin on Monday, 7th June 2010 - 21:01 UTC

      Yeah, I wanted to avoid anecdata simply because I know confident people (of both genders) who are in relationships, modest people in relationships, confident people who remain single, modest people who remain single. Even if there is a correlation between self-promotion and relationship success, the sheer number of other variables (humility is certainly not the only facet of anyone’s personality) makes trying to actually use that data useless.

      Good point on the role reversal. Apparently the research was published in Psychology of Men and Masculinity, so it’s fair enough that the professor didn’t talk about it, but you’d think at least one of the two journalists it took to write 398 words would think of a way to tie it into The Mail‘s usual “working women are the greatest evil in the world” line.

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