Meadville Tribune

Opinion

September 10, 2012

Slate: Good news for women who want men who cook and clean

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

It's tricky to disprove the notion that some human trait is the result of evolution. The logic is circular: if some trait exists, it must not have been fatal to our ancestors and it may have helped them reproduce. To critique a claim of evolutionary privilege, you have to show that the trait has no genetic component and therefore can't be inherited, or demonstrate that the trait is instilled by culture, not necessarily biology.

And that's why my favorite paper of the week is "Stepping Out of the Caveman's Shadow: Nations' Gender Gap Predicts Degree of Sex Differentiation in Mate Preferences." Marcel Zentner and Klaudia Mitura of the University of York, Great Britain, asked more than 3,000 people in 10 countries what they valued in a mate. On a four-point scale, people rated the importance of various qualities: chastity, ambition, financial prospects, good looks, etc. — all identified by Buss and his likeminded peers as being qualities that only men or only women are evolutionarily predisposed to seek out.

The researchers used a World Economic Forum measure of gender equality to rank the 10 countries as (a) relatively gender-equal, (b) backwards but improving, or (c) screamingly sexist (my terms, not theirs). And the results were clear: The more egalitarian the country, the less likely men and women were to value traditional qualities that Buss and co. believe to be innate.

In Germany, women said they'd very much like a man who is a good housekeeper. In Finland, men were more likely than women to prefer a mate a bit smarter than themselves. In the United States, women ranked chastity as more important than men did.

At the other end of the scale, in Turkey and South Korea, women wanted mates with good financial prospects and men valued good cooks.

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