When I was a little girl, I remember being taught a narrative by adults and the media. It was: “Girls want to get married, and boys don’t.” This was largely true in the 1980’s, because women still weren’t allowed to do most jobs, and they were paid significantly less than men for the same work. They had to get married or face extreme poverty. Without any real choice, women got married.
During my lifetime, I have seen things change dramatically. Women have a choice now. The pay gap is still there in most fields, but it is smaller. And these days, there are very few jobs that still exclude women.
Of course, the pink tax is still holding women back. And, the lack of paid maternity leave and government daycare often places and unfair burden on women (who are still overwhelmingly doing all the childcare.)
However, we have come much closer to equality. As this has happened, there has also been a fundamental shift in the dating community and in which gender most hopes to get married.
According to recent studies, men benefit from marriage. They report higher levels of happiness, and they enjoy better health. Marriage is a good deal for men.
However, the opposite is true for women. Married women tend to be more overweight, and more likely to suffer from poor health and stress. In fact, divorcesource.com claims that 80% of all divorces are filed by women. This is in spite of the fact that changes in the law mean that women tend to get nothing in a divorce besides what they came into the marriage with.
So why are so many women refusing marriage, and so many more choosing divorce? To start with, studies show that male attitudes have not changed in spite of the shift in culture.
When I was a child, the bureau of labor reports that only about 50% of women were working. However, women are at nearly full employment now. (Excluding cults like the FLDS and the Quiverfull Movement which oppress women from childhood and force them into an endless cycle of pregnancy and birth until they die.)
What this means is that any women you date (if you are not in a cult) will be working full-time. Yet, studies show that men still expect women to do all of the unpaid emotional labor, housework, and cooking. A man who does any of these things in the course of a relationship sees it as him “helping out” instead of simply carrying his own weight like he should. The statistics get even worse once a couple has a child, and studies show that women do nearly all of the childcare, including taking days off when a child is sick.
This unequal power dynamic in relationships has caused serious problems. Women are tired of having to do the same amount of work as a man outside the home, and then being expected to do all of the work inside the home (while their male partner focuses on “guy time” and leisure activities such as video games and male-oriented outings.)
How does this change the politics of dating?
Well, men are far more hostile because they are rejecting equality. Some have blamed this on the Internet, but studies show that even when men meet a woman in-person, they are more hostile towards the woman and reject the idea of feminism in a majority of the cases.
Oddly, this narrative is pushed in culture exclusively by men. The idea that women want money and gifts from a man is mentioned with an 86% frequency among men (showing that nearly all men believe this outlandish claim.)
(Note: If you don’t read any of the other links, read that last one. It’s about a trend called “pigging” where men find a fat girl and pretend to love her until finally standing her up publicly while shaming her for her weight. Men go out of their way to hurt fat women while women go out of their way to make unattractive men feel comfortable.)
However, women felt completely differently.
When asked how women felt about dating and what they wanted in a mate, women overwhelmingly said they wanted someone who would treat them as an equal. They didn’t care that much about looks or money. They wanted men to do an equal share of the emotional labor in a relationship, and an equal share of household tasks. They also wanted to be valued and have their time considered as important as that of their mate. And not surprisingly, straight women complained about not enough orgasms.
(That last part is not new though, as the imbalance in orgasms in straight relationships has been an issue for most of history.)
Research suggests that this discrepancy in what men think women want and what women actually want is entirely based on a narrative pushed by men in culture. Men are the ones telling men that women want money and status. And, when a man is confronted with an actual woman telling him what she actually wants, they often refuse to accept it.
Why does it matter? Well, there are three main reasons that this really sucks:
1. It makes dating horrible. Men are aggressive and angry, and women are sad and disappointed. This makes for a host of bullshit from stealthing to ghosting, and an increase in people being stood up for dates. It is a toxic and hostile environment that makes us all dread dating.
2. The birth rate is falling fast. This may seem like a good thing since some would argue that it is better for the planet, but it is a demographic time bomb that will leave adults now with no one to care for them in their old age. It also points to serious economic issues in the future.
3. Single men who feel unable to woo a woman tend to act out in terrible ways. Rape, murder, and terrorist attacks are all too common ways that men attack women for their right to refuse a date. This creates an unfair burden on women, who are often terrified of being raped or murdered if they go on a date or refuse a date.
One study suggested that part of the bitterness in male culture in modern society is that men cannot produce their own offspring. While women do not need men to create a baby (sperm is cheap,) men do need women to make a baby. Therefore, in order to have offspring, a man must be able to successful woo a woman. This is very hard for many men, since they think that all women are gold-diggers who should have to do their laundry and cook for them.
The difference in expectations in not just an American problem. Women all over the world are rejecting the idea that they should have to be masters of the home and childcare, and they are asking for partners to treat them as equals.
In many countries, this has actually let to men buying wives from third world countries so that they have financial power over their wives and can force them into a tradition gender role from 100 years ago. However, many international organizations are really cracking down on sex trafficking. It is getting harder and harder for men to simply buy a wife that they can force into servitude.
So, what will the future hold for us? Will dating continue to be a cesspool of bullshit that frustrates us all and continues to perpetuate a useless gender war?
As far as scientists can tell, it seems unlikely that women will give up their newfound independence. They love working, living alone, and having freedom for the first time in human history. This means it will have to be the men who cave in and agree to treat women as equals if we want relationships to work in the future. (And honestly, if you are against equality you are wrong.)
For me, I feel that there is hope. In spite of Incels, Men’s Rights Activists, and other groups dedicated to the hate and oppression of women; I do think that men will come around. I think this because when I look at the dialog going on in each camp, I see similar themes.
Feminism is constantly suggesting that patriarchy hurts men as much as it does women, and citing the issue of men being told not to express emotions and instead to repress everything. This same thing is cited by men as something that they want to change. In fact, most things that feminists argue for are things that men say that they want. This means that if men stopped arguing for just a moment and listened to what women were saying, we could actually fix all the problems in society pretty quickly.
(Note: There is no female equivalent of an MRA. I just want to point that out because groups dedicated to hating women are big, and groups dedicated to hating men are not. Women, by and large, have simply moved on to cats and vibrators.)
As for me personally, I identify as male but I grew up in a female body.
This has forced me to see both sides of the issue in a great deal of detail. Most of my friends are men, and I form better relationships with men (women often seem to be competing with me over things I do not understand and it makes me uncomfortable.) However, there are some things that I cannot help but see as a woman because I have to pay the pink tax for my tampons.
I think a lot of queergender folks like myself- and a lot of transgender people- are seeing both sides of the “gender war” and realizing how silly it is. It’s like one of those episodes in a TV show where if everyone just talked to each other honestly, it could have all been solved in the first five minutes. However, because no one is being completely honest, things continue to get worse.
(I always hated those episodes of TV shows and found myself screaming at the TV “Just tell him/her the truth and get it over with!!)
I would urge you all to do some soul-searching the figure out what you really want out of a relationship. And, if what you want is not an equal partner in all things, then maybe you need to adjust your expectations a little until they match up with reality. Right now, women are happier with a vibrator and a cat than they are with a man, according to science. I think that will continue until men step up and do their fair share.
And remember: True equality does not mean that each person gets exactly the same things. It’s harder to be a woman. The pay gap, the pink tax, periods, and childbirth make women carry a heavier burden than men. That’s not an opinion; it’s just an objective reality.
So men: “equal” means that you put in MORE than a woman for the same amount of the credit. You will have to step up and do more than half of the work when a woman is compromised by her biology, and it is fair and right that you do that. You are lucky enough to be free from many of the burdens that women carry, and you will need to recognize and respect that.
I know it’s a big shift in thinking, but it’s the only way that men and women are ever going to get back on the same page. Take it from a queergender person who really doesn’t feel like they have a dog in this fight. It’s just what the studies suggest and how culture is going. The saying is “some things never change,” but that simply isn’t true. Given long enough, everything changes. And in this case, it should have changed a long time ago.
The part of me that is male is shamed by how long women have been oppressed and force into subservient roles, and I plan to fight for true equality because I genuinely believe that is is what we need to move forward.