Ted Fischer
Professor of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University
01:52

Are We All Gold Diggers and Cradle Robbers?

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The Vanderbilt anthropologist describes what we look for in a mate.

Ted Fischer

Edward (Ted) Fischer is the Director of Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University.

Fischer studies cultural anthropology, specializing in matters of economics and moralities. Most of his fieldwork has been in Guatemala (with the Maya) but he has also worked in and written on Germany and the United States. His books include “Cultural Logics and Global Economies,” “Maya Cultural Activism,” and “Broccoli and Desire.” With Peter Benson he is now working on a project titled “Markets and Moralities.” He also has a video series out from The Teaching Co. titled “Peoples and Cultures of the World.”

He received his PhD, in anthropology at Tulane University and his undergraduate degree from University of Alabama at Birmingham after studying at Birmingham-Southern College.

Transcript

Question: What do we look for in a mate?

Ted Fischer: Men it is argued tend to like younger women, tend to like particular figures, like large hips, because they’re good for childbearing, and large breasts that are good for breastfeeding.  And women tend to like strong, masculine, big-shouldered men, who can take care of their child and them.  And there may be some truth to that kind of thing.  I think it’s too neat of a system.  There are lots of popular books written that way.  Lots of -- when I teach undergraduates, they love those socio-biological notions, because it’s just a nice neat little system.  But I think it’s too neat.  I think that -- and it varies from culture to culture.  At different points in our own culture we’ve put on a pedestal more corpulent women.  And Andean cultures, for example, the perfect body style for a woman is not the hourglass figure, but more a squat square figure.  So it’s too easy for us to extrapolate from current cultural norms and the say this is some sort of evolutionary propensity.  There do seem to be more pairings of older wealthy men and younger women, which evolutionary theory would lead us to believe. But you also, I’m always struck by newspaper reports of older women going out with younger men, and you see more and more that these days.  And that’s not at all what evolution would have us think.


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