Recently a friend brought up the very common sentiment, "Men are intimidated by a woman who can support herself." I was too distracted by everything to think about it, and I didn't want to dismiss it with a blanketing, "You're WRONG!" For one thing, technically, she's not entirely wrong; a small percentage of men are intimidated by self-sufficient women. But for most men, "intimidated" is the wrong word.
I think most men are conflicted by self-supporting women, and the inner conflict can put them on the defensive. It makes them leery of getting involved, and it can exacerbate future relationship stresses. In our female-dominated society, men are probably just annoyed by the attitude of most self-supporting women. For men, supporting oneself is hardly heroic, it's very nearly the minimum standard. For feminists though, it's the be-all end-all of human existence; they treat it like it's a big deal, and perhaps to them it is. But to men it's about as exciting as breathing. They just do it.
What women don't know about female financial independence, is that men aren't attracted to it. It's convenient, and these days it's foolish to marry a woman who can't support herself, but it's not a turn-on. It must be quite lowering for an accomplished woman to encounter an overwhelming masculine "Meh, that's cool I guess," in the face of what she sees as her greatest achievements.
Open a magazine. Read a newspaper. Turn on the TV. Try to leave your home without encountering the message that Empowered Women Are Awesome! Yaaay! How can the average woman NOT expect her every accomplishment to be celebrated? Yet most men's instinctive response is: "So what? I can do that. My friends can do that too, and guess what - I don't want to have sex with them." ("Now, if she looks good naked, THAT I can get excited about!") This is in direct contradiction to men's conscious understanding that self-suffiency is indeed a useful trait in a woman - and it beats the hell out of perpetual dependence. But it's not Feminine, and men are attracted to femininity. No, seriously. Men really are.
In our species, the role of men is to protect the tribe and to hunt the woolly mammoth; the role of women is to turn that sucker into meals, clothing and tools, and to gather and store supplemental food, while raising children. We are biologically programmed to be attracted to mates who display these abilities, and the majority of us following this path has led us out of caves and into skyscrapers. I'd say it's a pretty solid formula.
Men can respect female independence, but it doesn't inspire awe or lust. I suspect most men feel vaguely bewildered by grown women who are essentially asking to be awarded emotional gold medals, just for "participating." Those men who explore the source of their bewilderment, probably find "You Go Grrrl" crowing to be tiresome. Then the majority of men, being well-trained White Knights, become ashamed of their insensitivity. They feel guilty for their instincts. "What kind of Neanderthal must I be, to desire femininity in a woman? I should desire her ability to do what men are designed to do!"
I think the ongoing subtle shame and internal conflict in men, is what women tend to dismiss as "intimidated." And nobody contradicts them because it's Just Wrong to suggest that women weren't really meant to be men with tits. Sorry grrlz, gender is real, not a social construct to be manipulated for the hell of it.