More Women Attracted To Jobless Men

A recent survey by online dating site, Zoosk.com, shows women are becoming more open to dating unemployed men. Is the dating landscape changing to keep pace with economic times? Host Michel Martin goes into the Beauty Shop for a woman's perspective on this and other happenings in pop culture and politics. Weighing in on the discussion are Danielle Belton, author of the blog "The Black Snob", GQ magazine Washington correspondent Ana Marie Cox and J.C. Davies, author of the book, "I Got the Fever."

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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

Coming up, we'll talk about how to reinvent the holiday meal without alienating your entire family and friends. Plus, we'll have a Wisdom Watch conversation with another of our MacArthur fellows, winners of that prestigious fellowship that allows creative people to have $500,000 over the course of five years to do whatever they want. We'll meet Carlos Bustamante. That's coming up.

But, first, it's time to make our way to the Beauty Shop where we talk about issues in the news that could use a woman's touch. Joining us today in our Washington, D.C. studio are Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for GQ magazine, Danielle Belton, author of the blog BlackSnob.com and from our bureau in New York, author and blogger J.C. Davies. She's a former Wall Street money manager who considers herself an expert on interracial dating. She's the author of a new book on that topic called "I Got the Fever." That's relevant because we're going to be talking about some intriguing issues around dating in these difficult economic times. So, welcome to everybody. Thanks for joining us.

ANA MARIE COX: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Well, we'll start with the dating story because a recent survey says that women are changing their perspective on dating men who are unemployed. That's not exactly an ancient proverb. No romance without finance, but it's close enough. But I think it's just commonly understood that women will not find a man attractive if he is sans employment. But the online dating site Zoosk.com recently surveyed its members and it found that 60 percent of the women they surveyed said that they would be open to dating an unemployed man.

That's a substantial increase from when they did this survey just a year ago when only 52 percent of women said that. So, we were wondering whether this is some sort of - kind of a change in the culture that's changing our kind of sense of these things.

So, Danielle, I'd like to ask you, you're a single gal.

DANIELLE BELTON: I don't know if it's so much a change in the culture, I think it's just more adapting to the current new reality, just the current environment. We have a recession going on, you know, I think unemployment with men fluctuates between 9 and 10 percent range nationally. So the chances of you meeting a man who might fit your needs in a lot of ways might be the right kind of education background you want, might come from the same family background similar to your own. Someone who you might be attracted to, you know, just might not happen to have a job, because a lot of people just don't happen to have a job.

So, what you're basing it on, I think now is more so on a potential. You know, do you have an idea of career? Do you have a plan? Do you have a future? Women are, like, OK, I can work with that.

MARTIN: But could you take him home for Christmas is the question.

BELTON: Yes.

MARTIN: Without your daddy saying, I didn't raise you to have a man sitting on your couch. Why did you do that?

BELTON: I think there's different kinds of unemployed, you know. I feel like if my - if I brought home an unemployed doctor or an unemployed, you know, writer who had a career going towards unemployed graduate of an Ivy, I think my father would be, like, well, OK, like, maybe something will happen here. I'm going to be nice for a while.

DAVIES: If you brought him someone who wasn't supposed to be unemployed.

BELTON: Yeah. Yeah. Like, someone who - given if there wasn't a recession going on and things weren't so brutal, you know, they'd normally have a job. I think my dad would cut him some slack.

MARTIN: Now, J.C., let me ask you this, because as we said, you've written a book about dating men of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and I have to say, the book is very provocative. I mean it's the kind of thing that most of us wouldn't discuss without a couple of drinks and perhaps not even then. And so I wanted to ask - but you do go right there. You do actually take on the question of whether men of different backgrounds, in your experience, feel differently about their even willingness to be in the dating pool if they aren't employed. What did you find out? And please try to not lose me my license.

DAVIES: OK. I'll be on my best behavior.

MARTIN: Thank you.

DAVIES: Yeah. I think of all the different cultures I discuss in the book, Latinos, Indian-Asians, blacks and Jewish, there is a definitely difference as to whether or not they would even consider pursuing women if they're unemployed, particular, Asians and Indians. It's just not something they would do. There's actually a section in my book that's called - an Asian section that's called, You Are What You Do. So, therefore, if you don't have a job, there's really no way to approach people.

And I remember having this conversation with a good friend of mine that's really intelligent and he said - and I said, you know, you should be a entrepreneur. And he says, oh yeah, like, anyone's going to date an unemployed bald Indian guy. So, I mean that's sort of the mentality that they have. They just really wouldn't even approach a woman if they didn't have a job.

MARTIN: OK. I'm scared, but I'm - we're kind of skating to the line of stereotype. We're skating to the line of stereotype, but we're going to sort of push through it. And, OK, I feel - Danielle is African-American - we're a diverse group here. Danielle is African-American. Ana Marie is - she's married, so she and I are both...

MARIE COX: Yeah, I'm staying out of this discussion.

MARTIN: We're both - we're out of the dating pool and happy to be out, but...

BELTON: You lucky two.

MARIE COX: I know.

MARTIN: So, what about - what did you find with Latino men and African-American men?

DAVIES: Well, I mean, with, you know, with the sisters, I mean, they're really not going to put up with the brother that's unemployed. So, I mean maybe they need to start considering dating white women or something because I think that that's going to be a really tough sell. So, you know, true for Asian women, too. I mean there's just certain cultures where the women are not going to sort of put up with joblessness, where I think, you know, people that are part of the general American culture, white people...

MARTIN: You mean white. You mean white - is what you meant.

DAVIES: Yeah, white people. Yeah. White people are more, I think, a little bit more forgiving because of exactly what Danielle said about how everybody's unemployed, you know.

MARTIN: Well, you know, but I have to tell you, the unemployment - we've discussed this so many times, unemployment among African-American men, African- Americans in general is so much more severe than among the general population.

BELTON: Yeah, high for years.

MARTIN: And the unemployment rate among black men with college degrees is twice that of white men with college degrees, even though it's far less than the general population, it's, you know, something like 8 percent as opposed to 4 percent of white men with college degrees. So it would seem to me the opposite - that there would be much more tolerance and understanding among African- Americans about the fact that...

DAVIES: I think that they're tired, you know. I mean I think it's a thing that they have to deal with all the time and they're frustrated and so their tolerance is lower because they have to deal with it so much.

MARIE COX: I wanted to - I know a place that's called Zoosk.com probably has very high survey standards, a very scientific approach to what they were doing.

MARTIN: I'm sure they don't.

MARIE COX: But I just actually was wondering about the survey. Two things: One, what is - how did they define date? Because I think that's actually pretty important to the discussion. There's lots of different levels of dating and lots of different things that would be acceptable. I mean, there's taking someone home to meet the parents, which is pretty serious.

MARTIN: That's very serious.

MARIE COX: And then there's, you know, handsome guy at a bar. You know, if I have to buy him a couple drinks maybe that's OK. And then, also, I wanted to say that I think one way to look at the survey is that maybe women both are being realistic about, you know, who's out there and what the employment rate is. And also saying, you know, maybe I don't need a guy to have a job. Maybe, like, I'm confident enough in my own future or confident enough that, you know, that I can exist on my own.

That I don't need to have a breadwinner be my partner, which I think is maybe just a different way to kind of view the survey results, not just insofar as, like, are we lowering our standards or are we, you know, or what does it say about the men? But what does it say about the women that are willing to do this? It might actually be a positive thing in some ways.

MARTIN: Hmm. So, J.C., final thought from you on this question. Do you feel that there's a broader cultural shift at work here or do you think it's kind of - because you started working on this book before the recession really took hold. Well, you say that you're a veteran of 20 years of interracial dating across all these ethnic groups. I'm just wondering if you think a broader cultural shift has taken hold, where it's not as big of a deal as it used to be.

DAVIES: Yeah. I mean, I think that's happening in general. You see that a lot of these cultures that are very strong, like, for example, like, Indians - there's not a lot of, you know, there hasn't been sort of a lot of interracial dating. There hasn't been a lot of sort of, like, Americanizing or whatever and so it's a little bit more difficult for them to be accepting of these kinds of things. But the more sort of Americanized people get and the more that they get into the culture, I think the less likely they're tied to these.

I find a lot of people that hold on their cultural type are just very old- fashioned in every way. So it's not just that the man has to make the money. I mean, you have to call them Mr. and Mrs. You have to wear very conservative clothes. In general, I think the more people hold onto their old-fashioned style cultures, the more they are in sort of that older mentality. And that, I think, across America, is changing for the better. But I think it really just gets back to what Danielle said is that it's happening to everyone now. So, it's not a point of personal shame.

MARTIN: And what about you, J.C., before we move on this topic? You have a steady boyfriend now, right? From what I understand.

DAVIES: I do, yeah.

MARTIN: Does he have a job?

DAVIES: He does have a job. I mean, he's a Jewish accountant. Sorry, not to be stereotypical, but that just is the truth. And so, yeah, he has a job and his job is important to him. And we were actually talking about that today. Like, you know, how do Jewish men think about dating. And I think the main issue for them is - and I think this is true for some of the other men you're talking about - is that as long as they have significant savings and they feel comfortable and they're confident in their life, then whether or not they have a job at that moment is not really as much of an issue.

MARTIN: And would you go out with somebody who was unemployed yourself?

DAVIES: Absolutely. I have. You know, I mean, I worked on Wall Street. We're unemployed, like, every other week. So, I mean if Wall Street women took that kind of tact, it would be kind of hard to find a guy.

MARTIN: OK. Well, I hope we stayed on the right side of the stereotype line. I'm not sure we did. But, you know, you got to, you know, what can I say, you got to break eggs if you want to make an omelet.

So, if you're just joining us, I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having our weekly visit to the Beauty Shop and we're getting a woman's perspective on issues in the news, pop culture and politics. With us are Danielle Belton of BlackSnob.com, that's a blog; Ana Marie Cox - she's the Washington correspondent for GQ magazine; and author J.C. Davies.

So talking about cultural shift here, I wanted to talk about John Boehner. Who's expected to be elected as speaker of the House come January. And the crying thing has just gotten so much attention. I'll tell you, having covered politics for a long time, I didn't know that he was such a crier. And apparently he is. So, I'll just play, you know, and apparently his wife knows that. He had this interview with "60 Minutes" over the weekend. Correspondent Lesley Stahl asked John Boehner's wife about this. This is what she said.

LESLEY STAHL: He cries all the time?

DEBBIE BOEHNER: No.

STAHL: No?

BOEHNER: No. But he's going through an emotional period too. I mean this isn't, you know, as you said, this is not any ordinary job. Whoever would've thought that he'd be in this position? He was a janitor on the night shift when I met him.

STAHL: He's come a long way.

MARTIN: So, Ana Marie, I wanted to ask you this first. Well, what do you make of this? I mean the conversation that we've really had about this so far, that I've been reading, like, the blogs on Slate and DoubleXs, a lot of women were saying, you know, that's fine. But you try that as a woman and get away with that. Try that as a woman.

MARIE COX: It's true. I mean, you know, Nancy Pelosi could not get away with those sort of number of times that he has cried in public in the same way, or over the same things. I mean that's actually also kind of - it's one thing to be a sensitive guy. And I actually thought, you know, like, on election night, well, all right, it's a big deal, you know. He probably, who knows, maybe he really never thought he'd be speaker of the House and this is an emotional moment.

But just the mention of children, apparently, just gets to him, you know. It's very - on the one hand, I kind of want to be supportive of the idea that people and men and general should be able to share their emotions and not be considered weak for doing it. But I just find this whole thing odd. I mean I just - there's no other way to put it. Like, it's like - it's not that he's just, also, it's that he's emotional. 'Cause in every other sort of register of emotion, he doesn't really show a lot. He doesn't seem to have a lot of anger. He doesn't really joke around. He doesn't, like, there's no other register he has except besides, like, wooden and crying.

MARTIN: Danielle, what do you think?

BELTON: Well, it's amazing to me, 'cause, like, Ana Marie was saying, I feel like there's such a double standard. I mean, women when they're going into any type of position, whether they're going into the workforce, whether they're going into position of power or they work in finance, when they work in the military, you cannot cry. If you cry as a woman, I can remember just, you know, crying as a kid in high school and getting screamed at 'cause, like, OK, you're not emotionally capable of dealing with things. That's the problem with women. You're weak and you're all emotional.

But the thing is in politics now, where these, you know, a man like Boehner gets upset and cries, or even when other male politicians have, you know, shed a few tears in the past. It's, like, oh, he's showing his sensitive side. That's wonderful. And while, you know, I agree, we should encourage everyone to be in touch with their feelings, that's wonderful, I really bristle at the double standard 'cause I know that as a professional woman I cannot burst into tears at work.

MARTIN: But is that his fault, though, that there's a double standard?

BELTON: No. It's not necessarily his fault. But it is annoying to me to hear people talk about it as if, oh, it's so wonderful or interesting, or, OK, if he does it, but not necessarily...

MARTIN: J.C., what do you think?

DAVIES: Well, I mean, I think crying is very powerful and I'm pro it, again, for sure. And I also think that, I mean, I remembered all the years, like, when I was a kid growing up in the '70s where men couldn't cry and that was really terrible. So, I mean, I'm glad that they can. But, you know, watching him on TV, it's really kind of a crazy looking crying. And it sort of reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where he was dating that woman where every time she would do something, like, drop a hot dog, she would start crying, you know.

I mean it just seems like it's very excessive. And I think crying should be saved for when you really feel it. And I just - it just seems a little bit bizarre to me.

MARTIN: I'll be very interested to see how this changes the way people deal with him come January, when he has a lot of power as speaker. And I don't know that it will at all, just because he does have real power.

DAVIES: And I should point out that the people I've talked to that have worked with him in the past, he's apparently always been this way. His wife was...

MARTIN: We just didn't know.

DAVIES: Yeah. He just wasn't on camera as much. He's always been kind of like - he gets teared up.

MARTIN: But does that make it, but does it create more space for women? That's the other question I have. Is because he's such an important...

DAVIES: I don't think it does.

BELTON: Well, I think, if anything, it'll make it worse is if he does cry that often, he's not going to help the, you know, the male stigma about crying. It'll eventually become an issue where people go, like, dude, you stubbed your toe, your lunch came back wrong, why are you crying? Like, this is not good. You can't cry about everything.

DAVIES: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BELTON: You know, so I don't think in the end, in the long run, I don't know if it necessarily helps.

DAVIES: And, also, he shows empathy about the strangest things.

BELTON: Yeah.

MARTIN: Well, not strange to many people's view. But...

DAVIES: You know, like, unemployment benefits, who cares? But, you know, oh, the children. Oh, the children.

MARTIN: I don't know.

DAVIES: I mean, it's a very strange thing to have, like, so much...

MARTIN: I cry over children.

DAVIES: Well, so much empathy and so much, like, empathy for yourself, I guess, on election night. That, like, when it comes to, like, the hard truth about the country and, like, economic problems, eh, not so much.

MARTIN: Well, we'll see. I don't know. We'll see. We'll see. I'm am crier, so I'm kind of sympathetic. I used to... But then again, some of that is, you know, hormonal. Like, when I had children and, you know, you're, I'll just be blunt, you know, when you're breast feeding and your hormone levels are all over the place. I mean, a Sprint commercial would make me cry.

I just - there were certain news stories I could not watch because I could not handle it, like, about, you know, Beslan, for example, when these children at the elementary school were taken hostage at Beslan. I had a very hard time because that was a big story in the news. And, you know, obviously you're expected to know about these things. I was just devastated. And on the other - so, I don't know. I will be interested to see whether maybe he creates some space, some new connection for people. I don't know. J.C.?

DAVIES: And, honestly, you know, I don't think it's bad for women as people say. I mean, I just - I think of one example, when I was in graduate school at Harvard, we had to do this sort of weird thing in this leadership class and I had to do a speech. And I gave this speech and in the midst of this speech I started crying and I just couldn't, like, sort of stop myself. I was so sort of mad at this class, it was very kind of, like, racist and sexist and they were always saying these terrible things.

And it was funny because I, you know, I was kind of embarrassed and I went to sit down and I thought, oh, this is, you know, everyone's going to make fun of me or they're going to just avoid it like it didn't happen. And, in fact, I became like - somehow was a champion for women's rights because I had cried in front of this 300, you know, person class at Harvard. And, you know, men - and I was the biggest topic of conversation.

MARTIN: Well, so it worked out. So it worked out. That's interesting. OK, well, we'll see. That's something to keep an eye on. That was J.C. Davies. She's the author of the book "I Got the Fever." It's a book about her experiences and interracial dating over the years. Her experiences, write the letters to her. She joined us from our bureau in New York. With us here in Washington, Danielle Belton, author of the blog BlackSnob.com. And Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for GQ magazine. Ladies, thank you so much, and happy holidays to you.

MARIE COX: Happy holidays.

BELTON: Thank you.

DAVIES: Thank you.

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