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Really Wise Women Pretend They're Not

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Last week a new book, Are We Getting Smarter claimed that, amongst other things, women are acquiring brains faster than guys.

Yes I know, I know. Tell you something you didn't know. However, this scientific victory for the fairer sex doesn't seem to be doing us any good at all. In fact it seems women are all but giving up on putting it to any use and would rather rely on old-fashioned looks and demurity.

Strong-minded, ambitious, independent, feisty females high-tailing it up the career ladder is no longer the way to go. Apparently.

This week The Sunday Times introduced us to the 'surrendered wife'. The likes of Kate Middleton, Kim Sears (Andy Murray's devoted other half) and Jamie Oliver's wife, Jools are leading the way for a new breed of young women, prepared to put their own ambitions to one side to make way for their man. Always beaming, always immaculate, always there, the 'supportive wives club' earns them adoration.

One columnist in The Independent called them PTL's (perfect trophy wives) but accused them of having a 'vacuous nature and lack of purpose.'

We also have the TV show Mad Men, which has cast the submissive fifties housewife in glamour. Add to this, high profile women like Anne Marie Slaughter with 'that' article in Atlantic Magazine, in which she let out the secret that having-it-all, kids and career, isn't possible after all.

So does this mean that feminism is coming full circle and we are returning to days where getting anywhere in life if you're a woman depends on how good you are at making a soufflé? Of course I want to shout no! Like most modern women, ambition and strength of character are traits I consider attractive. But in researching my next book into whether traditional long term partnerships are still desirable in a modern world, my results make me suspect that men do not concur.

I recently accompanied a so-called romance tour to Ukraine organised by the website AnastasiaDate.com. It's an international online dating site for men from affluent countries around the world to meet women from former Soviet States, Brazil and parts of Asia.

As well as an introductions agency, the website also offers organised tours for men from Europe and America to look for a wife. Yuk you might well think, with images of paunch men holding the hands of women a quarter of their age. But in fact what I found were a group of middle-class, educated, perfectly respectable men who had given up on the prospect of settling down with a western woman.

Most said that they had become disillusioned with 'over-ambitious women back home'. One 45 year old bachelor articulated it thus: "My ex would never dream of trimming the rose bushes. She'd say 'can't we just pay someone to do it.' That's not the mentality I want in a woman I want to raise a family with. Ukrainian women are born and bred to be wives and their family values are stronger. In Europe women want to go to college, get a job and break through glass ceilings. I'm not interested in a woman who is into her professional life."

Another 50 year old told me how, after a divorce, he finally found someone he loved again, but alas it could never work for him. "She was always busy. Travelling round Europe twice a month, always having to be fresh for an important meeting. If I'm with someone I don't want a once a week thing. I want to live with someone. What's the point of loving someone if you can't have all of them."

It was their disillusionment with headstrong women that had spurred them to join AnastasiaDate.com. They were certainly in the right place. The girls on the site are willing to take marriage as seriously as the men do: "Marriage is our sole purpose." Said one 26-year-old retail assistant. "I want to create a family more than anything. I want a good man to do this with."

Another pretty, bright 28 year-old said: "The man should be the head of the family. You should remain interesting to your man. If a man comes home after a hard day, he wants a nice environment. The woman should provide a shoulder for the man, good food, maybe a massage. If a woman has also had to work and wants to talk about her day, this is not interesting."

Thankfully I also come across many men who say the opposite - that a free-spirited intelligent woman with intellect that surpasses his own is a joy to be with and they welcome a truly egalitarian relationship. But there does seems to be a shift - the new, 'new man' who admits they find comfort in old fashioned gender-stereotyped relationships.

Throughout history and across cultures marriage and pair bonding has been functional. It's been about transferring wealth, creating political allegiances or forming a household with a practical gender division of chores. It's only recently, that we have the modern phenomenon of role-sharing. But with this comes subliminal competition and a faint, barely conscious, checking-off of duties (I've taken the bins out how many times?!) And even the potential for resentment bubbling under the surface.

If the product of feminism is that it is driving men to former Soviet countries for the fairytale happily-ever-after after, where the girls are pretty and the girls are putty, then the supportive wives clubs are perhaps the wisest of them all. As one AnastasiaDate.com lady profoundly claimed in her simply delicious seductive Russian accent: "If a woman is successful and has her own money and sees the world, she will find it very hard to meet her soul mate. A woman like that will always see a man's faults. She will raise her expectations and she will no longer need any man."