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Men Send Mixed Signals on Attitudes

April 27, 1986|JANICE MALL

Is it possible people fib a bit about their attitudes toward the opposite sex when they answer the phone and find the Virginia Slims American Women's Opinion pollster on the line? Or perhaps many people just don't think what we thought they think--for example, that men's and women's admiration for members of the opposite sex is most often for intellect.

The latest issue publicized by the national poll conducted by the Roper Organization involved questions to both men and women about the qualities they value most in the opposite sex. According to the poll results, men overwhelmingly said that the quality they value most in women is intelligence. In second through fifth places among qualities they most admire in a woman were a sense of humor, being able to express feelings, gentleness, sensitivity to the feelings of others and self-control. Sex appeal came in sixth. But it was far more important to men than to women, with 31% of men and only 10% of women citing sex appeal among 13 qualities they admired most in the opposite sex.

It was unclear what kind of intelligence most men said they prized so highly in women or how they recognize it, because the qualities the fewest men admired in women were competence, independence, competitiveness, leadership ability and frankness in speaking out on opinions.

These, it happens, were qualities men do admire in other men. When asked about qualities they value most in men, intelligence also came in first, but in contrast to what men said they admired in women, leadership ability and frankness in expressing opinions were qualities men particularly valued in each other.

The majority of women who were polled also said that intelligence was the quality they most admired in men and in other women. Both sexes similarly valued a sense of humor and self-control, and the women appeared to agree with the men's indifference to female leadership, independence, competence, frankness and competitiveness, with the fewest female respondents naming these qualities as important in other women. However, unlike the men, women also rated these qualities as ones they least valued in men as well.

The Virginia Slims poll is designed to measure changes in women's status, and so contrasted the new figures with its poll on the same issue in 1974 (similar polls on a variety of attitudes having to do with women's status in careers, society and the family have been taken in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1980).

Most of the findings in the questionnaire about what people admire in others changed very little over more than 10 years. For example, the same numbers of women and men had put intelligence in first place as an admired quality in 1974 as in the current poll, and there was almost no change in the value both sexes place on a sense of humor.

However, there were a few notable changes in opinion over the years. The comparison found that more women than before value independence in other women--36% in 1985 compared to 24% in 1974. Many more women said that sensitivity to others' feelings is the quality they admire most in a man than said so in 1974. (Men, however, thought this quality less important in men than they did in 1974.) Self-control is valued less in both sexes by both sexes than it was a decade ago. And larger numbers of both men and women named sex appeal as a desired quality in the new poll than had in 1974.

Nancy Floyd was 12 years old when her brother James was killed in Vietnam in 1969.

Now 29, she has spent the last three years with the memories, putting together the James M. Floyd Memorial Exhibit, a collection of letters, photographs and memorabilia that illustrate the impact on one family, this one from a small town in the Texas Panhandle, of such a loss. "In creating this collection, my brother's story, I'm sharing a part of one person's life and impact on us all," said Floyd, a teacher in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Her exhibit will be on view during California Veterans Week, Tuesday to May 3, in the Eisenhower Room of Patriotic Hall. The sponsor is Vietnam Veterans Post No. 8 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The post carefully screens all claims by or about Vietnam veterans, Post Commander Jay Morales said. "We don't defile our history." Thus the post looked into the information surrounding the Floyd exhibit and found it "real, authentic, touching, dramatic and a mystery," Morales said.

Floyd's family has never gotten an explanation of his death, Morales said. James Floyd volunteered an additional six months past his hitch in Vietnam, and was killed in the last month of his service there. "The letters from the Defense Department said he died on a helicopter test mission," Morales said, but there has never been an explanation of how Floyd was killed or an acknowledgment that he died in combat. Morales said that Floyd's letters home indicate he was a machine gunner on a search-and-rescue helicopter operating in areas where troops "shouldn't have been."

"There was no purple heart, no body. There is no resolution. To this day the family never reconciled it. The exhibit almost makes you cry. It's seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl. She's grown up, and to this day there's no answer."

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