Are you a competent, successful woman who excels at a wide variety of tasks? You need to cease those activities at once, unless you want to make your man-friend feel super sad about himself.

According to a study recently published by the American Psychological Association, straight men exhibit lower self-esteem when their female partners succeed than when they fail, whether or not said women are succeeding at something the men do, too. Like, it doesn’t matter if you work at a school and he works at an art gallery…your promotion is still going to make him feel crappy inside. Depressing! Women, on the other hand, recorded neither positive or negative changes in self-esteem based on how their men were doing, although women felt better about their relationships when their men were doing well. Maybe they thought their men were feeling more confident, and confidence tends to lead to better relationships?

To find this out, couples at the University of Virginia were given a series of tests. First:

[They were given a] ‘test of problem solving and social intelligence’ and then told that their partner scored either in the top or bottom 12 percent of all university students. Hearing that their partner scored high or low on the test did not affect what the researchers called participants’ explicit self-esteem – i.e., how they said they felt.

But no man in his right mind would ever admit (even to himself) that his sweet, lovely girlfriend’s success makes him feel icky, because that is totally asinine and irrational. So the men were also given a subconscious test of self-esteem that tracked how quickly they’d associate both positive and negative words with themselves, and lo and behold, the men with “high achieving” girlfriends scored significantly lower.

Interestingly enough, these results mirror those of studies done in the Netherlands, which has one of the highest rates of gender equality in the world. Even in that merry, cheese-filled utopia, these kinds of attitudes run uncomfortably deep. It just goes to show you that while we are capable of choosing progress in the rational part of our brains, it can be hard to undo years of internalized gender norms. It also helps explain the enduring appeal of the incompetent woman in pop culture.

It’s hard to say what we are supposed to do about attitudes we do not welcome into our brains, but which are there nonetheless, but maybe men’s subconscious emotions will catch up to their rational brains with time. In the meantime, I suggest you mollify your man with a blow job each time you do something you’re proud of, because I’m pretty sure I’ve read other studies that say that makes men feel better about themselves. Proud of the blow job you’ve just given him? You are going to be busy for a while.

(Via The Cut)

Photo: WENN