Eligible Women

The lack of eligible females is a common refrain heard at Harvard (and everywhere else). Yet I look around and see plenty of girls who are beautiful, brilliant, and determined. Even assuming an overly-generous evaluation on my part, there still seems to be a major discrepancy between the supply of dateable girls and the male perception of that supply.

Some of that discrepancy can be chalked up to bitterness on the male end (as the women of Harvard will be quick to point out), but the result still seems surprising. If you’re a nerd, there’s no better place to find a girlfriend than a school where people enjoy debating the relative merits of Python and Ruby and the relative demerits of Livy and Cicero. Your chances for a meaningful emotional and intellectual connection should be higher. Your complaints, if any, should be over things like looks.

It actually appears to be the opposite. Guys wax rhapsodic about high school girlfriends with whom they experienced true love, while blaming everything from the final clubs to the intellectual environment for producing a dating scene full of ice queens.

A feminist interpretation of this phenomenon might be that guys find themselves intimidated by savvy, ambitious women, or at least are reluctant to have them as girlfriends. Empirically, this is true; I’ve heard a lot of guys say they would not want to date high-powered investment bankers or corporate lawyers. But the reasons they give are more reflective of lifestyle choices than of insecurity; for instance, you would never get to see them.

Harvard guys like smart girls, respect smart girls, and want to be with them. So what’s the problem? Some of it is attributable to a line I heard from a friend. She said that she “didn’t need a man.”

All relationships, be they romantic or platonic, require some degree of vulnerability; an admission that your life is slightly improved or that some small hole is filled because you have them in it. So while it is technically true that no woman educated at Harvard and bequeathed all the legacies of American feminism “needs a man,” that doesn’t make it tactful to say or constructive to dwell upon. The fact that many girls at Harvard indeed give off this vibe is not a triumph over sexism, but rather a failure of our culture to emphasize everything human interactions bring outside of physical pleasure, financial gain, and professional advancement. It’s this blatant pragmatism that Harvard guys, a big chunk of whom fancy themselves romantics, are responding to.

My point is not that girls should stop being careerists to attract guys. Or that we need boyfriends to find fulfillment. It’s that the world is a big place to take on alone, even when the world is our oyster.