Tag Archives: puzzle

Why do ‘respectable’ women want dead husbands?

I find this hostile wife phenomenon pretty confusing for several reasons:

  1. Wanting other people dead is generally considered an evil character trait. Most people either don’t have such wishes or don’t admit to them. This is especially the case when the person you prefer dead is someone you are meant to be loyal to. Often this applies even if they are permanently unconscious. The ‘analogy’ between wanting someone dead and insisting they don’t get cryonics is too clear to be missed by anyone.
  2. People don’t usually seem to care much about abstract beliefs or what anybody is going to do in the distant future, except as far as these things imply character traits or group ties. If the fact your partner is likely to die at all in the distant future isn’t enough to scare you away, I can’t see how anything he might do after that can be disturbing.
  3. People tend to care a lot about romantic partners, compared to other things. They are often willing to change religion or overlook homocidal tendencies to be with the one they love. Romance is infamous for making people not care about whether the sky falls, or they catch deadly venerial diseases.
  4. The hostile wife phenomenon seems to be a mostly female thing, but doesn’t go with any especially strong female-specific characteristics I know of. Women overall don’t especially resist medical spending for instance, and are often criticized as a group for enjoying otherwise pointless expenditures too much.
  5. My surprise is probably somewhat exacerbated by pre-existing surprise over many people wanting to die ever, but that is another issue.

Partial explanations of the hostile wife phenomenon offered by Darwin, de Wolf and de Wolf, Quentin, C (#44), Robin Hanson, and others:

  • Women are more often hostile just because most interested parties are heterosexual men (This is presumably some part of the explanation, but not much – in around ninety cases of significant others interfering in cryonics arrangements recorded between 1978-86 I count four males, while roughly one quarter of Alcor’s members are women. It wouldn’t explain the strong opposition anyway, nor the fact that men are more interested in cryonics to begin with).
  • Women really don’t like looking strange (according to Darwin and the de Wolfs, women often claim deep embarrassment. This just raises the question of why it’s so embarrassing. Plenty of people have plenty of strange opinions about all sorts of far off things, and they can usually devote some resources to them before it becomes so problematic for their partner).
  • Cryonics looks like a one way ticket to somewhere else, where other women are, which also makes here and now less significant, shows the man could go on with life without the woman (this at least a cost in terms of something that usually matters in relationships. But why not go with him then? Why not divorce him over his excercize habits? Why wouldn’t men have similar concerns?)
  • Cost, perhaps specifically that it is selfish not to give money to more needy, or to the wife or family (But people put up with huge expense on other funeral rituals and last minute attempts to live longer. Perhaps cryonics just looks less likely to do what it is meant to do? Would it be more admissible if it weren’t meant to do anything? Why would women care about this more than men?)
  • Separation in whatever other afterlife the spouse has planned (this could only explain whatever proportion of religious people don’t believe you go to the same place eventually after living longer, and should apply to men also)
  • Cryonics is seen as a substitute to caring about raising family, since you don’t need genetic immortality if you have proper immortality (if genetic immortality is a common conscious reason to invest in a family I’m not aware of it, and this shouldn’t especially apply to women)
  • Wives object to their husband joining a boys’ club, and feel left out (this only makes sense for those heavily socially involved in a cryonics organization, and I understand this phenomenon is much broader)
  • Thinking styles: women don’t like risky things, ‘global solutions’, or the sort of innovative thinking required to appreciate cryonics (this is Darwin, and the de Wolf’s main answer. It is made of controversial assumptions and wouldn’t explain strong antagonism anyway, just lack of enthusiasm. Even if you aren’t a fan of risk, it’s generally considered better that complete failure).
  • Women either want to die, or have tenuously justified doing it, and resent being presented alternatives. This also explains why the answer to many of the above things is not to just sign up with your husband (But I see no evidence women want to die especially much, and while apparently many people have come to terms with their mortality enough to not fight it, I don’t think this is much higher among females than males)

None of these is satisfying. Got any more?

On the off chance the somewhat promising social disapproval hypothesis is correct, I warn any prospective hostile wives reading how deeply I disrespect them for preferring their husbands dead.