"Fit," College Pathways, and Paying for the Party

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"Fit," College Pathways, and Paying for the Party Empty "Fit," College Pathways, and Paying for the Party

Post by kleenestar on Sun Nov 09, 2014 10:40 pm

I just read a really superb book that is not overtly about dating, but that gave me a lot of insight into some of the conversations that go on here. The book is Paying for the Party, by Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, and it's a book-length examination of the role of class and structural inequality in students' trajectories through a large midwestern "party school." While I don't expect you all to be as gripped by the topic as I was, there are three big things that seemed useful to me in talking to people about dating.

First, the authors focus a lot on the notion of "fit" between a student's resources and the trajectory they take through college. They identify three pathways - the party pathway, the mobility pathway, and the professional pathway - and show how none of these pathways actually gave students everything they needed to succeed. Students needed to "fit" the profile of the pathway in order for it to work for them, which in practice meant family money for the party pathway, getting into a special support program for the mobility pathway, and having a lot of expert parental advice for the professional pathway.

The reason this concept might be useful in talking to people about dating is because there are different dating pathways, just like there are different pathways through college. There's nothing inherently better or worse about any of them - the question is whether you can find a good fit between your personal capacities and social resources, and the dating pathways available to you. Finding a good fit is more important than being on a particular pathway. We could also think about trying to identify specific pathways to help people consider options they haven't thought of - not just online / warm approach / cold approach, but maybe some broader themes that help people decide when and how to use specific tactics.

Second, the book was very enlightening when it comes to the behavior of "party girls." Unlike the flood of bullshit you'll hear from MRAs, the book looks at their behavior from the inside - the authors lived with the girls for a full year, then followed up for five years afterwards. What's fascinating is seeing how MRAs got some very stupid ideas from some very real social phenomena, like the fact that the party pathway is really only workable for upper-class and wealthy upper-middle-class women, who are unlikely to be interested in dating "down" in terms of class. For women who don't fit that profile, the party pathway pushes them to make choices that set them up to be unable to support themselves, which means they are limited in who they can date and marry even if they wanted a broader dating pool. (Though, fascinatingly, the authors conclude that the men these women most want to marry are now starting to marry their high-earning, high-achieving female peers instead.) What's often described as typically female behavior is actually about one strategy for class reproduction and mobility - and it makes me really curious about the class backgrounds of the guys complaining about not having access to the "party girls" they'd like to date.

Finally, the book explained why a lot of guys feel like party girls are representative of all women - because the university infrastructure was set up to have a relatively small group of partiers (about 18% overall) be the most visible and rewarded, while actively isolating women who made other choices. The researchers lived on a floor in a "party dorm." Although the dorm was only about 50% partiers, every single woman interviewed who wasn't a partier thought she was the only one. If that's the case for women who share close physical proximity to other non-partying women, I can see how guys - particularly guys without great abilities to read social situations - might make a similar mistake.

Anyhow, the book was a pretty amazing read and I will be thinking about it a lot when having discussions here in the future. If anyone decides to read it, let me know!
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"Fit," College Pathways, and Paying for the Party Empty Re: "Fit," College Pathways, and Paying for the Party

Post by The Wisp on Sun Nov 09, 2014 11:58 pm

Interesting stuff! I think I've avoided the "everybody is college is always going to wild parties" belief, but that's only because I knew in advance that it was a false idea.

I wonder what you have in mind with dating pathways. I'm having a hard time thinking of any (of course I would, I have no dating experience! Razz).
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