We see all around us that women are more in control of their personal lives than ever before. We’ve made it very clear that we can dominate any arena we set our minds to – whether that be our careers, our families, or our passions and hobbies.
And this is great role modeling for girls who are growing into women.
Yet one aspect remains conspicuously unchanged, as well as somewhat unchallenged – the tired gender roles and expectations of the dating world – which is really bad role modeling for young women.
And we need to get the word out to these young women who are foraying into the dating world that gender roles – yes, even in expectations around dating – are bullshit.
And since no one else seems to want to do it, I guess I will.
Girls, you’ve probably noticed that women aren’t exactly sitting by the phone waiting for Mr. Right anymore, but that men are still expected to take the lead when it comes to initiating relationships. Principally, you may have noticed that the belief persists that men have to be the ones who ask women out.
And, of course, not all women date men. But the assumption that masculinity should be in the driver’s seat trickles down into other communities as well – which is how this dynamic is also prominent in queer circles, particularly in the form of butch/femme relationships. And that’s a topic that will be explored in a future article.
Right now, I’m asking this: Why is there such a stigma around a woman who wants to be bold and make the first move in her relationship with a man?
It seems like arbitrary grade school dynamics when you think about it.
However, when you look at the cultural messages we’re sending, it’s easy to understand why many girls are reluctant to ask boys out.
Particularly if you’re young and looking to break into the dating scene, all of these supposed roles might feel daunting.
Fear not – I’m here to tell you that in this case, rules are meant to be broken.
So let’s take a look at some of the reasons why women hesitate to proposition men for dating – and why you shouldn’t be afraid to put yourself out there anyway!
1. We Teach You That Asking Guys Out Makes You Masculine
We frequently conflate assertiveness with aggression in women.
The ideal woman, we learn, is passive to a certain degree and always knows when to let a man take the lead. She knows to sit back and wait for him to come to her.
As a result, girls learn that boys determine relationships and if you’re too pushy, you’ll drive him away.
Girls taking the initiative to ask boys out directly contradicts everything we know about gender roles in relationships. She is making the first romantic overtures and asking the man to follow her plan.
This is still a big taboo because when a woman takes charge of anything, she’s automatically coded as masculine, which makes the dynamic “unnatural” from the outset because she is allegedly taking the man’s role.
In reality, masculinity and femininity have no gender. The categorization of certain characteristics as “masculine” or “feminine” is arbitrary. Whether someone or something appears more masculine or feminine is all about personal preference and perception.
Women and girls shouldn’t fear being masculine because it shouldn’t have any impact on their womanhood whatsoever.
Masculinity isn’t a negative trait to have. Being assertive in a situation doesn’t make you masculine because you’re a woman. It just means that you have agency and you’re self-assured, which are traits that we falsely presume only men are allowed to have.
I don’t understand why a woman asking a man out makes the relationship weird or doomed to fail. Maybe the guy isn’t sure if he has feelings for her! Maybe he’s not sure if she has feelings for him!
And trust me, sometimes waiting for boys to do something it is like waiting for a glacier to melt. It’s better to just rip off the Band-Aid and spare yourself the frustration.
Either way, if he’s too shy and you bite your tongue out of respect for traditional femininity, all you’re left with is an awkward bond between two people who don’t know how to communicate or articulate their feelings.
Asking a guy out doesn’t make you masculine. In fact, a lot of them find it really sexy.
You have nothing to lose from at least attempting, and if you’re worried that he might reject you for flipping the script, that’s probably a sign that he isn’t the best romantic option to begin with.
2. We Teach You That Asking Guys Out Emasculates Men
How often do you hear the phrase “Who wears the pants?” as a derogatory commentary on a heterosexual relationship?
(Hint: It better be the guy, lest you both face jeering.)
Even mentioning the notion of who wears the pants in the relationship conjures up the image of a poor, henpecked guy cowering in the corner as his girlfriend lords over him. Honestly, it’s downright cartoonish.
Women learn that if they ask guys out, any hope of romance is already dead in the water because you’re essentially stealing their natural role as masculine leader. You’re basically handing his genitals to him on a silver platter.
The popular conception of men’s ability to retain masculinity is so fragile, I’m surprised it doesn’t blow away in the spring breeze.
I feel like girls are especially hesitant to stomp on the egos of teen boys. Honey, trust me, the sooner they learn the world doesn’t revolve around them, the better. If anything, you’re doing them a favor.
No man who is worth dating is going to be this insecure.
In fact, plenty of men will be relieved that you’re the one taking the initiative and therefore taking the pressure off of them.
The myth that women who make the first move are irrevocably ruining true maleness and implicitly deserve to be punished with lack of fulfillment or rejection is just a silly, outdated way of attempting to police women’s behavior.
3. We Teach You That Asking Guys Out Means You’re Desperate
Whenever a woman asks a guy out in TV or film, she’s always portrayed as ugly or a borderline stalker.
It’s played for laughs most of the time, and the humor stems from the fact that the audience is supposed to laugh that this foolish woman thought she deserved our shiny protagonist.
Mmm, smells like stale scent of the desperation stereotype!
Girls are taught from a young age that pursuing boys is a bad thing, and yet girls are supposed to be simultaneously boy-obsessed. Talk about mixed messaging!
Women are discouraged from pursuing men because that suggests impatience or force. She has to go out hunting on her own since she’s not attractive or coy enough to wait for men to flock to her.
Again, a woman deserves to be humiliated for taking an active role because then she’s trying to force the man of her dreams into the passive role – or maybe even into an object for consumption. That’s ridiculous because we all know that manhood must emerge unscathed!
On the flip side, there have been countless portrayals of overeager men pursuing women long after she blatantly asks him to stop. Rather than a sign of creepiness or desperation, this is meant to be perceived as endearing. Talk about double standards.
You’re not desperate for wanting to ask him out.
You know what you want, and that’s really cool. Don’t let tired media clichés hold you back.
4. We Teach You That Boys Are Supposed to Have Control Over Relationship Decisions
Given the widespread assumption that men should be the leader in romantic relationships, the logic follows that this tone should be set from the beginning.
Much of men’s authority in relationships is derived from having the final say on relationship decisions. For example, it’s still considered odd for a woman to propose to a man, because that’s viewed as a traditional male duty.
If you want your relationship to start out on the right foot and be sure that you have a “real man,” you should wait for him to ask you out. Or at least, that’s what people think.
I understand that there are some advantages to deferring to your boyfriend when it comes to certain decisions. With that said, depending on your guy to determine whether or not you even have a relationship might be a little excessive.
It’s important to recognize and understand that not every relationship lasts forever. You don’t have to vet every potential relationship partner against all your dreams spouse requirements. Try not to take everything so seriously.
Preconceived notions of what your dating life or relationships should look like are only going to hinder their growth. If you’ve made up your mind that you want to ask him out, just take the plunge and do it!
Remember, liking a guy who takes charge isn’t the same thing as waiting on him to make every decision for you. It takes a lot of guts to decide to ask someone out. Idealized gender roles should not impede or diminish your confidence.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll have plenty of decisions to make together down the line if your proposition is successful and a relationship does develop. Celebrate your own decision-making power for deciding to ask him out in the first place!
5. We Teach You That Female Agency Isn’t Sexy
Women in positions of authority are presented as bitchy, sexless, and coldhearted – but nothing could be further from the truth!
Women think that displaying any kind of gumption or assertiveness demolishes their sex appeal. In reality, it augments your allure. It illustrates that you’re passionate and not afraid to take risks.
Your desire to have agency over a situation and your desire to have a relationship don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Our society needs to stop romanticizing female passivity because that fosters difficulties for both men and women. Communication across genders can’t happen if women are taught to always be quiet.
Start praising yourself for having clear goals and ambitions. Female agency is powerful and hot as hell, so you deserve to be confident when you approach men.
At the end of the day, “sexiness” is all in the eye of the beholder. Lots of people find plenty of different things sexy. It’s not so much about conforming to one particular standard of attractiveness as it is finding someone who finds you sexy for you are.
6. We Teach You That It’s Rude to Articulate Your Desires
Finally and most importantly, we need to stop conditioning women to punish or guilt trip themselves for wanting things!
You’re perfectly entitled to speak your mind, particularly in your own self-interest. Yeah, that’s right, I’m giving you a free pass to be selfish once in awhile.
You’re not imposing on anyone by admitting to the world that you – gasp – actually want something for yourself. As long as you’re not forcing anyone to conform to your demands, it’s perfectly within your right to ask for things.
And, hello, men have the right to say no. It’s not like we’re proposing to you sight unseen. We’re just asking you out for coffee!
Pursuing your desires is never a bad thing, and you shouldn’t apologize for it. If you want that guy, go out there and get him – or at least ask him if he’s interested. No one should shame you for making a move.
Women are taught to be naturally self-sacrificing and altruistic, but there’s no point in relegating yourself to the background if you’re unhappy. You could be missing out on great connections and opportunities just because you think you have to defer to others.
And if you’re starting out your foray into the dating world holding onto this sexist baggage, then you could be setting yourself up for a lifetime of dating weirdness.
Obviously, you can’t always get everything you want and you have to accept the possibility of rejection, especially where romance is involved.
But you shouldn’t let your fear or discomfort stop you from trying.
Erin Tatum is a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. She’s a feminist, queer theory lover, and television enthusiast living in Pennsylvania. She is particularly interested in examining the representation of marginalized identities in media. In addition to Everyday Feminism, she’s also a weekly contributor to B*tch Flicks. Follow her on Twitter @ErinTatum91.