Do Dating Sites Encourage Gender Stereotypes?

Do Dating Sites Encourage Women to be Doormats?

In a recent Jezebel article called “Dating Sites Encourage Men to Be Interesting, Women to Be Doormats”, Lindy West writes: “Women: be willing to change yourselves to make men like you. Men: Be yourself and the ladies will find you.

West’s money quote: “Him, him, him. Make sure you listen to him! Ask him questions! He worked really hard on this date! And he’s paying for it, apparently! You want him to feel great about the date, don’t you? He deserves your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.”

West is reacting negatively to dating advice given to women on eHarmony. Pointers like:

  • Be flexible with your settings
  • Rethink your must haves and can’t stands
  • Don’t make a rush to judgment
  • Have patience

Anyone want to argue with that advice? Sounds vaguely familiar to the advice that I’ve been giving for nearly ten years.

What really sets the author off is that the tips given to men are more active than passive. Things like:

  • Women love a sense of humor, so tap into that funny bone – or maybe even include some quotes from favorite comedians. Infuse your profile with humor, and she will definitely take notice.
  • You have to stand out, so be interesting. Share the parts of you that are cool and worthy of discussion.

Again, this is good advice to men. Unless you think men should write dull emails or try not to stand out. So if the advice to women is good and the advice to men is good, what seems to be the problem here?

Well, what seems to drive the author crazy is that the advice to men and women is different. Let’s think about why that would be. Hmmm…

1. Men and women ARE different. It’s not that women never write emails (although I encourage them to), and it’s not that men shouldn’t be more patient and open-minded. It’s that…

2. Men write infinitely more emails than women. Women receive infinitely more emails than men. As such, giving men tools to stand out when actively approaching women makes sense, since they’re far more likely to be ignored. And telling women to give guys a break – especially men who aren’t too marketing and online-dating savvy – is also sensible advice.

But acknowledging that would completely undermine the vitriol of the piece and the undercurrent of sexism that the author is looking to find. So really, it doesn’t matter that eHarmony is actually giving good advice that would be generally effective for most men and women. All that matters is that she got to be snarky about the patriarchy.

Oh, and in case you doubt the claim that women receive more emails than men, and thus, don’t bear the same burden of being witty and interesting, click here. It’ll blow you away.

Read the full Jezebel article here. And feel free to share your thoughts below.

And before I close, I just wrote a newsletter about this concept as well. The gist of it is that, in my experience – having written more online dating profiles (for better or worse) than anyone on the planet – the most important thing you can express in a profile (whether you’re a man or a woman) is what the READER gets out of dating you.

In other words, it IS about HIM, HIM, HIM. And his profile – if it’s well-done – should be about YOU, YOU, YOU. People who list their resumes still don’t understand that this is not how people connect emotionally to strangers. Tell the reader how he/she benefits from being in a relationship with you – don’t tell us how damn great you are.

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Comments:

  1. 31
    Rachael

    @selena27

    I love what you wrote!

    That is all ;) 

  2. 32
    Selena

    Thank you Rachael. :)

  3. 33
    Steve

    Every once in a blue moon Jezebel will have a good article.  The rest of the time it is feminist idealouge catty coffe clatch.   
     
    These ( the idealouges ) are the people who will tell you the world is Y when they see it is X, who act to their own benefit accordingly by seeing it is X, but who will scold YOU for saying it is X.
     
    “Who are you gonna believe?  Me or your own eyes?” – Groucho Marx.
     
    Been there, done that bullshit, wasted my time by hearing those people out in college.   Nice thing about adult life is that I rarely ever have to put up with such people for more time than it takes to politely excuse myself to move across the room or click on another link.

  4. 34
    Steve

    Evan;
    You don’t have anything to worry about.   Anyone woman who swallows the opinions in that article either majored in WMST or minored in it while taking something else.   The ones who majored in WMST will never be able to afford your services.   The ones who studied something else who believe that advice will have their opinion changed by life experience and will be writing you a check for your services.

  5. 35
    Goomena.com

    I can’t help but agree that there are stereotypes posed by dating sites, but it’s mostly about marketing to both genders. Take it from a marketer’s point of view; a sales pitch. Women in their majority want to be “pampered” and men want to find “hot young girls”. If you ask me (and I’m actually marketing my own dating site!) the kind of people that do not fall into this stereotype, will probably be the same people that look to other methods of meeting people, either online or IRL, which include dating sites that differ.

  6. 36
    Joe

    To paraphrase you Evan:
    “The author WEBSITE seems to be hypersensitive to anything that sets off her radar and will sort of retrofit her columns to match up to the perceived slight.”
    If you’ve ever been to Jezebel this is abundantly clear from the get-go. It’s a website predicated on the concept that “well-behaved women rarely make history”, and since their expectation is that all women should make history, all women are compelled to rail against “teh patriarchy” (misspelling intentional) by condemning all men as complicit and benefiting from the “obvious” oppression of American women today.
    It’s rather ironic that Jezebel’s by-line is “Home of Shiny Happy Ladies” considering how vitriolic, hypocritical and disingenuous the writing and commentary are. Methinks they misunderstand the definition of “lady” (and by extension,  “gentleman”).
    It’s certainly not an informative site.

  7. 37
    Jessica

    It is however important that she points out that men are encouraged to be interesting and women are not. It’s really sad to me how many men don’t care about a women’s interests or intellect at all, while women are often expected to buy into and become an expert on every one of his hobbies. Rarely have I been on a date with an “interesting” man who bothered to reciprocate by asking me anything thoughtful about myself. And I most certainly believe that women are emailed more frequently than men, but that the quality of those emails is much lower than the reverse, reading such as: “hey beautiful, wanna chat?” or “you seem nice” or “great body”. Women should have the same opportunity as men to choose someone they are attracted to physically, emotionally and intellectually instead of lowering there standards and settling for a relationship with someone they are incompatible with. I’m not advocating that women pick a man apart or have unreasonable expectations, but just in the way a man wouldn’t settle for a match that didn’t fulfill those qualities, a woman should not either. 

  8. 38
    Karl R

    Jessica said: (#38)
    “Rarely have I been on a date with an ‘interesting’ man who bothered to reciprocate by asking me anything thoughtful about myself.”
     
    What about your dates with less interesting men? Did some of those men ask you more questions about yourself?
     
    Which is more important to you, a boyfriend who is interesting, or a boyfriend who takes an interest in you?
     
    Did you even date the less interesting men? If you didn’t, that supports the idea that men are required to be interesting.
     
    Jessica said: (#38)
    “Women should have the same opportunity as men to choose someone they are attracted to physically, emotionally and intellectually instead of lowering there standards and settling for a relationship with someone they are incompatible with. I’m not advocating that women pick a man apart or have unreasonable expectations, but just in the way a man wouldn’t settle for a match that didn’t fulfill those qualities, a woman should not either.”
     
    On face value, your statement seems to make sense. However, I think you (a woman) and I (a man) probably have very different ideas as to what expectations are reasonable. I suspect that the expectations you find reasonable would seem unreasonably narrow to me.
     
    Would you care to test this, Jessica?
     
    Physical standards:
    1. Do you have any height requirements for how tall the man needs to be?
    2. Do you have any age requirements?
    3. Do you have any fitness requirements?
    4. Do you have any other physical requirements?
     
    Emotional standards:
    5. What are your emotional standards that the man has to meet?
     
    Intellectual/achievement standards:
    6. How intelligent do you require the man be?
    7. Do you have any requirements regarding the man’s education?
    8. Do you have any requirements regarding the man’s income?
    9. Do you have any requirements regarding the man’s professional success?
     
    Compatibility requirements:
    10. Do you have any requirements regarding a man’s interests?
    11. Do you have any requirements regarding a man’s goals?
    12. Do you have any requirements regarding a man’s ideology?
    13. Do you have any other requirements regarding compatibility?
     
    Now that you have your own standards/requirements firmly in you mind, let’s compare them to mine.
     
    My physical standards:
    1. I have no height requirements.
    2. My age range for long-term relationships has gone from 11 years younger to 16 years older. My wife is 16 years older than me.
    3. I won’t date smokers. Most addictions would also be deal-breakers.
    4. I have to find the woman physically attractive. Other than that, no requirements. I’ve been in long-term relationships with women who outweighed me, a woman who had an STD, women with chronic health issues, etc. I’ve also been in relationships with women who were in better physical condition than me.
     
    My emotional standards:
    5. The woman has to be easy to get along with. I need to trust her. We need to respect each other. That’s it.
     
    My intellectual/achievement standards:
    6. I have to be able to carry on an intelligent conversation with the woman. As long as that is met, the woman can be significantly more/less intelligent than me.
    7. No requirements. I’ve dated women who hadn’t completed college. I’ve dated women with advanced degrees.
    8. The woman has to be able to support herself (legally).
    9. See my previous answer.
     
    Compatibility requirements:
    10. I wanted to share at least one common interest with the women I dated. I didn’t care which one.
    11. I don’t want kids. The woman had to agree to that.
    12. I’ve dated women from several different religions (including some devout christians, two pagans, atheists, agnostics, etc.) I don’t care about political party affiliation either.
    13. Shared values are more important than shared interests or ideologies.
     
    Are your standards/requirements more restrictive than mine?
     
    My dates didn’t have to meet very many qualities. Therefore, I didn’t have to settle on those qualities. If your dates don’t have to meet very many qualities, then you won’t have to settle either.
     
    You’ve seen how broad my standards and requirements are. Do you think that you and I might have a different opinion about which requirements are reasonable and which are unreasonable?
     
    Jessica said: (#38)
    “Women should have the same opportunity as men to choose someone they are attracted to physically, emotionally and intellectually”
     
    Narrowing down your statement, there is a fundamental flaw in your reasoning. People don’t get to choose which opportunities will become available. We only get to select from the opportunities that have become available.
     
    I suspect that you may have more men interested in you than I had women interested in me. If that’s true, you should have more opportunities than I had. I also suspect you’ve ruled out far more of those opportunities as being unattractive than I have. That’s entirely your choice.
     
    If your choices are limiting your opportunities, where do you think the solution lies?

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