What is hypergamy? Secular relational practice, explained – .

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What is hypergamy? Secular relational practice, explained – .


Hollywood loves a hypergamous heroine. Take, for example, Vivian Ward, Carrie Bradshaw and, more recently, Daphne Bridgerton. But it’s not just an adult fare – dozens of Disney movies sold the idea to a whole generation of young women that their happy endings depended on courtesy and marriage, not just anyone. man, but of a prince.

But even as society has become more egalitarian, with women rejecting the archaic ideals of previous generations, outnumbering their male counterparts on college campuses and in convening rooms, and leaning into everything from side scuffles to C suites. , many single women still desire pairing.

Wait, what exactly is hypergamy?

According to the strictest definition, hypergamy is the act or practice of courting or marrying a person of a higher socio-economic or social class than one’s own. Translation: Dating or getting married.

Hypergamy as a means of women’s social advancement is nothing new. In fact, the practice has been around for as long as women and men have engaged in the social entanglements that have evolved into modern dating and marriage. “The phenomenon of women looking for partners with financial means and / or higher status, mainly to obtain economic security but also upward social mobility, has existed for centuries,” explains Dr Natasha Sharma, founder of The 8-Hour Therapist program and author of The Kindness Journal. “For most of human history, women simply did not have the ability, access or legal rights in many (if not most) places of the world to have power over their own well-being and to create financial independence. So they were counting on a “good marriage” to ensure their prosperity and their prospects (and those of their children) ”.

Despite the progress women have made over the past 50 to 100 years, Sharma continues, “There is still an element of this phenomenon – whether conscious or unconscious – that exists for some people today. “

Women can no longer need hypergamous relationships, but they’re still looking for them.

Although the practice is centuries old, hypergamy has become a fashionable social trend with everyone from self-proclaimed YouTube gurus to Instagram influencers touting its benefits. In a May 2020 YouTube live stream titled Men should pay it all, women should be hypergamous racking up nearly 400,000 views, self-proclaimed lifestyle coach and dating guru Kevin Samuels asked frankly, “Ladies, do you want to be forced to work to pay big bills? A steady stream of “no” poured in.

Shameless hypergamous women tend to get a bad rap and are often seen as exploitative and unambitious. They are labeled “gold diggers” and seen as materialistic and superficial. But the truth is that women of all walks of life seek hypergamy to some extent.

In fact, although women earn more university degrees than men, they are still 93% more likely to marry men with higher incomes, according to a 2016 study conducted by the University of British Columbia. And while higher incomes don’t necessarily equate to higher social class, financial security is one of the main drivers of female hypergamy.

It can be an evolving reminder of the prehistoric woman’s need for a capable provider. “There are hereditary tendencies [for some women] being attracted to men with more money, which goes back to our roots as hunter-gatherers. Likewise, some men tend to feel attracted to women who appear more fertile (eg, wide hips, long hair), ”notes Sharma. “That said, we are the only species that has the capacity to be aware of these trends, and we have overtaken them as the primary drivers of mating in today’s more modern world. “

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Like any dating practice, hypergamy appeals to some and repels others.

For many women, “one of the most important aspects of thriving in society is feeling safe and protected,” says Dr Patrice N. Douglas, licensed therapist and founder of the Pop Culture Therapy Podcast. “While the company paints [hypergamy] as being money-driven… being taken care of is what enables women to tap the most into their nurturing side. Douglas also notes that societal pressure to “wear it all,” particularly prevalent among black women, can set up problems, such as negative effects on mental health.

Yet hypergamy is not without its fair share of criticism. Many women may view dating and / or marrying as a form of self-prioritization, but others see it as a form of disempowerment. Sharma is the latter: “For the most part in Canada [and the United States]- with the exception of the only women who have tried to create their independence and who have failed at the expense of their own survival – the deliberate act of ‘dating or marrying’ by an otherwise capable and privileged woman is crippling – not just for her as an individual, but for the entire women’s movement towards equality and self-efficacy. Noting that pay inequity, for example, is a “systemic challenge,” Sharma believes hypergamy can also prevent the company from moving forward on issues affecting all women.

Even so, she recognizes that the strategic pursuit of a woman’s hypergamy is a very personal choice, and it’s up to her to make it. But Sharma reiterates that there could be a cultural downside as “the spillover effect of large-scale hypergamy would send a distorted message to women about their own capacity for self-sufficiency.” Sharma adds that a cultural surge in hypergamy is particularly worrying “as couples today undertake more things like marriage contracts (prenuptial agreements) than previous generations, leaving the partner” unpaid “vulnerable”.

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The conflict of ideas around the promotion of women and hypergamy is undeniable.

But it’s important to recognize its patriarchal roots and how they continue to play out in modern dating and marriage practices. Although hypergamy is no longer a necessity, we still live in a patriarchal society that literally devalues ​​women a lot. In the United States, for example, women are typically paid 82 cents for every dollar a man earns for the same job, and the pay gap is even larger for black women, Indigenous women and other women in the United States. color, according to the American Association of University Women.

Often, a woman’s worth is more related to youth and perceived beauty. Why then could a woman not exchange this very valuable currency on her own terms? After all, social and cultural developments have not significantly changed the way men choose their partners. So why the women?

Women are not the only ones to benefit from or seek hypergamous unions.

The practice of hypergamy is not reserved for heterosexual couples either. Douglas says that “men can benefit from [hypergamy] by meeting their physical and emotional needs without having to stress their partner for financial burdens. She adds that some men culturally appreciate being the support and support of their partner.

At the end of the day, it’s about choices. Women have never had the freedom to exercise their agency as much as they do today. And as society trudges on, that reality is reflected in modern heroines who don’t just set tables, but build them. And while some might see this as a signal for women to move further away from dependence on men, there are still a large number of women who choose to continue playing under the oldest rules of the game. trade: use what you have to get what you want.

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