Stand By Your Man: No Matter What?

We all heard the report of a prisoner escaping after his wife shot and killed the correctional officer transferring him to another jail.

What would motivate a woman to kill someone and let her actions render her vulnerable to the death penalty - for a few hours with "her man?" Was he so incredibly special that death was preferable to living without him for a few years?

If the positions were reversed, would he have risked the ultimate penalty to aid in her escape? Or would he have shrugged and moved on to a new partner?

We are all aware of glaring differences in the psychological makeup of men and women (aside from the often enormous individual differences within any one gender). But where do these differences come from?

Men go to jail and women wait patiently, often for years, until they return home. Women regularly visit their boyfriends and husbands, traveling for hours, undergoing the humiliation of personal searches and pat downs, and wait with inexhaustible patience for a few minutes on a telephone in a cramped prison visiting room. For women prisoners, the only visitors after the first few weeks are family and that is infrequent. The men, who are often the cause of their incarceration, are long gone.

For several months, I worked in a State office building across from the County Jail. There would occasionally be some men seen entering on women's visiting days. But on the evening set aside for visiting male prisoners, hundreds of women formed a line encircling the block and spilling onto the side streets.

Why are we women so loyal? So faithful? So patient? So forgiving? So needy?

Biologically, we are wired for monogamy, stability, and singular devotion as a means to protect the young and allow the species to survive. Through centuries of cultural evolution, we have gradually empowered ourselves so that we no longer serve as the slave of our lovers and husbands and no longer have to settle for second-sex status.

Yet within our liberated midst are thousands who never took that step to independence. The victims of domestic violence who refuse to leave a toxic relationship. The Mormon brides who cheerfully share their husband with his other wives. The women who fight over scrawny, ill-kempt, and semi-retarded boyfriends on Jerry Springer. The bright students who give up their own career dreams to pour their energy into getting their husbands through Law or Medical school (and get dumped later when no longer needed).

For centuries, men left home to go to war, to explore the world, to find fortune, to pursue adventure. And the women waited.

Now, at the dawn of the Twenty-First Century, despite the continued expansion of opportunities and rights for women, we are still waiting.

Virginia Bola is a licensed clinical psychologist with deep interests in Social Psychology and politics. She has performed therapeutic services for more than 20 years and has studied the effects of cultural forces and employment on the individual. The author of an interactive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://drvirginiabola.blogspot.com

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