Coontz, Stephanie. “Mating Games.” Christian Century 25 January, 2012, pp. 22-25.
1. Objectives – The purpose of this paper is to discuss ways in which the power has shifted in male-female relationships, and ways in which the relationships remain much the same.
2. Article Domain – This article is written for the general public.
3. Audience – The audience for this article is members of American society and culture.
C. Brief Summary
1. Problem being addressed: The marital relationship has undergone significant changes over the course of history. Even now, the relationship takes on different forms, depending on the cultural context. Some marital relationships demonstrate polygamy and even polyandry, as with the Maasai tribe. Others focus on the monogamous male-female relationship as the central form of marriage, while still others focus on a partnership of two people, whether the people are of different genders or are of the same sex. The power balance within the relationship, no matter how many people are involved, has long been a point of contention. The male has traditionally had the balance of the power in the situation, with few exceptions.
D. Contributions -- However, as the article “Mating Games” indicates, the playing field is becoming more even, particularly with regard to socioeconomic power. The tragedy, of course, is that women are not taking advantage of their newfound equality to demand better treatment from the men in their lives.
E. Foundation -- The research contributions to “Mating Games” are largely anecdotal, based on generalities from history with which most people are familiar. There are some sidebar pieces to the article that contain stories from researchers with the Westminster Foundation and the Wesley Foundation; however, there are no analytical or statistical studies that support the claims of the article at large. This does not mean that the points are unsound; based on the anecdotal evidence that is presented, it seems likely that the conclusions presented are taking place.
F. Alignment with Class Materials -- ?????
G. Critique -- The problem is that this means that very little of the article has findings to present that are not already part of common knowledge, except for the opinion of the author. For example, the piece describes the disadvantages related to “hooking up” – having sex on a casual basis with a partner. In the past, according to the author, sex was the goal of an elaborate courtship process. The male would put a lot of energy into trying to win the affections of the female, but in the time when courtship was expected to lead to engagement and marriage in a short matter of time, this placed a high degree of importance on the sex act, from an emotional standpoint. Some men, even though they had been pressing rather intently for sex before marriage, would then look down on their girlfriends when that sex took place before nuptials, thinking that if their girl would give in for them, they would give in for other guys too. Other men would simply lose interest after they had gotten what they wanted. Having a situation such as hooking up, in which there are no relational expectations beyond the physical, takes all of the commitment anxiety out of the sex, making it a purely physical interaction which, the thinking goes, both partners could enjoy without getting too serious about things in general. The author of this article then goes on to assert that most of the “hooking up” going on happens between students who are in college and more likely to formulate long-term marital relationships with a partner – eventually. The author also asserts that it was easier to keep a marriage going by following gender stereotypes fifty years ago than it is now, because men and women needed more from each other – men needed women to prepare meals and iron their shirts, while women needed men to provide a salary. The author, though, presents no research supporting the claims about the segment of the population that is actually “hooking up.” Also, there is no support for the fact that marriages were stronger. If one were to conduct a series of interviews with children growing up in those homes might indicate that the patterns of abuse, both verbal and physical, that were prevalent in many households in which traditional gender stereotypes were upheld, one might find that those families were not any stronger than ones today, except for the fact that they had fear gluing them together – not the stuff of which healthy childhoods are made. So, on the basis of the research conducted, this article makes many unfounded assumptions.
H. Issues -- The theories on which this article is based have to do with the silliest form of nostalgia for life in the “good old days.” While it is true that divorce and unwed pregnancy were much less common in those days than they are today, it may also be true that the marriages that are working today have a higher level of satisfaction than those did back then. The author admits that “deep mutual understanding between partners and good negotiating skills are much more necessary than they used to bein a successful marriage, education and friendship are central in ways they were not a half century ago” (Coontz, p. 24). This statement either takes a dim view of marriage fifty years ago or assumes that women in those days were not of the intellectual capacity that they are today. In either case, the author does so with no support. The idea that women still are behind in the power game, as shown by their willingness to go along with such male foolishness as attending university parties dressed like sluts, as their invitations suggested, is worth discussion, but the flawed assumptions elsewhere reveal that this author has not done much but type out known facts and make flawed generalizations based on an extrapolation of those facts.
I. Questions -- The unresolved issues in this article have to do with the author’s view of marriage and gender relations – both then and now. It would be worth performing some interview-based research, or at the very least reading back to find out if such research has been done – to see if the author’s grim description of married life back then. There may well be existing studies that have been performed; given the amount of time that has passed since then, those studies might be more helpful than interviews done today of people who have been married for five or six decades, as their memories may well have faded somewhat over time. At the very least, some exploration into marital relations at that time, with specific and concrete comparisons to marital relationships in our own time, based on research rather than supposition, would be quite helpful. Another area in which research is still missing is the degree to which men and women still feel like there is a power gap reflected in the mores of modern dating. An attitudinal survey in this area would also be quite helpful.
While this article makes for some interesting reading, ultimately it offers little to the discussion of gender relations in modern times. The facts that it presents are based on very common knowledge, but the suppositions to which it goes are not based in demonstrable fact; instead, they are based on a conservative view of gender relations that both takes a dim view of both June Cleaver and Sarah Palin, whose definitions of motherhood could not have been more opposed.