I was thinking about the post and responses regarding my last Nice Guy blog entry and came across this article at the Big Think entitled “The Curious Appeal, and Rise, of the ‘Mean’ Girlfriend.” The author did a decent job of describing why men might be attracted to “mean girls”:
It’s hard to say, or generalize. But I think it has something to do with desirable spousal traits in an age of optional marriage, and diminished dependency between husband and wife. When we don’t need to marry, and don’t need each other as much within marriage to play complementary roles, our criteria for mates naturally change a little.
And if nothing else, meanness proves a girlfriend’s minimal dependency and insouciance toward commitment. Of course, there are nice women galore who are independent. It’s not as if “self-reliant” equals “mean.” But with a surly girlfriend, the man’s got proof. That’s my hypothesis about her secret seduction. He knows that she’s not clingy, because she’s capable of treating him so carelessly. Subconsciously, it’s a weird security blanket, to be treated abrasively. This woman won’t need him that much, or place too many demands on him….
This marriage-centric woman is slightly out of step in the cultural mainstream today. If men once selected for “boobs,” as Betty Friedan joked, as proof of femininity, today maybe some of them select for meanness, as proof of non-needy autonomy. It’s just that sometimes they go overboard, and choose someone a little too mean.
This is an interesting analysis, but perhaps there is more to the equation. Maybe mean girls are seen as more fun, maybe they are more adventurous, or have other attractive qualities — but it could be that meanness as noted by the author above is equated with autonomy and that is something that a man might want, given the current political and legal climate. But is it true: are mean girls more autonomous or are they just mean? What about a woman who is nice but autonomous? Surely some must exist.