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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  1. 1

    I commented a lot on that article, that particular author sort of drives me nuts.  

    I got a lot of grief, in particular, about the fact that I allow men to pay whenever they offer, apparently it makes me anti-feminist.   

  2. 2

    As I understand it, eHarmony is a dating web-site aimed at somewhat conservative christian population. Naturally, the advice they give is for the traditional relationship model and gender roles. All “progressive” women who don’t like to be “told” where to go for the dinner date, have their food ordered for them, paid for and treated in other “old fashioned” ways can definitely join some other dating service.. problem solved

  3. 3


    That’s an interesting take, because the gist I’d always gotten from dating profiles on sites such as Chemistry, PlentyOfFish, and Match, was…”sell yourself!   Make a great first impression!”   Which I will admit, was a bit of a turnoff when I’d read some guys’ profiles, they’d go on and on about how great they are, how busy they are, yadda yadda and I’d sit there and go, yeah you sound like a selfish prick.   NEXT!

    My question though is, how do you go about writing a profile about what a person would get out of dating you, without sounding like, “Dating ME would be the best thing ever in your life, and I’m about to give you a 10 page list of reasons as to why”?   Because that to me would be a turnoff too, I’d sit there and think well my goodness, if you’re so awesome, then you don’t need anyone else because you’re just so in love with yourself.

    1. 3.1

      Heather, although your question was directed to Evan, I’d like to suggest that you, if you’re not already familiar with it, come up with an “elevator speech.”   Describe what you have to offer in your own (sincere) words, based on your feelings about what you can contribute to a relationship to make it successful for both parties.

  4. 4

    Jezebel and the author of that wretched article are all about ideology, not the realities of actual dating. Those ideologues are trying to push a political agenda into personal relationships by changing social expectations that ignore the biological realities of gender behaviors in the context of dating and relationships.
    I hope that none of your blog’s readers take seriously anything published at Jezebel. We already have a generation of confused men and unhappy women. Let’s not have another generation suffering the same fate.
    Keep up with the Red Pill wisdom, Marc.

    1. 4.1

      Absolute truth right there, Andrew.   Thank you!
      In my view, men and women need to learn to be each others’ advocates; enough with the war, the confrontation and the self-destructive, never-give-an-inch nihilism we’re forced to swallow with a smile.

  5. 5

    Jezebel has some interesting stuff at times, but it reminds me of attending a convention of sociology professors (just not as intellectual). There’s always talk of how things “should” be, instead of how they are. There’s always the drumbeat of there being no differences between men and women, and the only reason we see differences is because of “social conditioning.”
    Thus, once we get rid of “social conditioning,” men and women will be free to act similarly and everyone will be better off.
    Except life doesn’t work like that. And social conditioning is often a convenient excuse for ignoring true differences that are commonly seen between men and women.
    One commenter on a different thread said it best. She used to love Jezebel and its ideology until she married and had a child. Then she realized that ideology about what should be doesn’t match what usually is.

  6. 6

    Men and women ARE different. It isn’t coincidence that when a couple has a baby, it’s always the woman who is pregnant. And so we are drawn biologically to different things. Men are drawn to feminine receptivity, while women are drawn to masculine initiative.

  7. 7

    I just find it interesting how quickly a lot of people (especially men) are willing to reject social conditioning arguments as extreme, while seemingly having no problem with overarching biologically-driven arguments. Bring up what you view as socially created gender stereotypes, and you’re an ideologue. Chalk up nearly everything to biological differences, and you’re preaching the truth. A load of bullshit in my book.

  8. 8

    ummm wow! Where to begin?!  

    I guess i’ll start off with the gibberish “humour” language. She lost me at “us thinkin’ womens” and didn’t really get me back with “dillions” or “menz”. However I did keep reading for the sake of argument…

    The one general thing I noticed about this girl is that she doesn’t seem to understand that men”z” and women”s” are different! Aside from the fact that they get a “z” and we get a “s”. Men and women want, need, desire, do, say, and think different things! Good luck making a long term relationship work if you don’t get thatconcept. Especially if you’re not willing to give a person those things. One can’t expect to get what they need from a person if they’re not willing to recognize what that person needs and reciprocate.

    She seems very angry at the idea that a man might want to feel important enough to be listened to, thanked for his efforts, not harshly judged, and feel like he is the most important person TO YOU on your date WITH HIM. Hey, maybe we’re not all that different after all because I know this is what women want!

    She seems to forget that people on eharmony are SERIOUSLY seeking out a lifetime partner. Men and women both. Eharmony is not a notorious booty call website. They are not advising women to drive 30 miles for a booty call. They are advising women to open their minds to more options when seeking out their life partner. They are saying “hey, your future husband might appreciate it if you did this, this and this. It will be much easier to find him if youdid this, this and this.” Nowhere did I read “change who you are and morph into a doormat.”. But hey, maybe it would be nice if women were a little more “welcoming”. 😉 Sorry…cheesy joke.

    In the end I actually find the article mildly insulting. I practiced all those things eharmony advised when I was dating, and still do mostly with my bf. Call me a doormat lady? I believe i’m an intelligent woman, and I have my head on straight. I am definitely no doormat as I won’t take shit treatment from anyone. I am a strong, take charge woman with a good career, I own (and completely renovated with my own hands) a 3 unit apt building, I can check my oil, change a tire and operate power tools. “Delicate flower” my ass! Just because I believe in being feminine with my man, and treating him with kindness and respect. Giving him what he needs and desires and accepting his reciprocations. pfft. I don’t buy it.


  9. 9


    Yep I agree with you.   My boyfriend will tell you that I am a very sassy, strong, no-nonsense kind of girl who can and will take care of herself when needed, and will call people on their bullshit.   But I also allow him to pay for me, and when he wants to do stuff for me, I allow him to, so he feels needed and wanted by me.  

    It’s hard-wired into me to be extemely independent after a few bad relationships where the “men” said I was too dependent on them, and so I said fine, I will never depend on any human being with a penis, ever again, how about that?   So re-learning how to be feminine and allowing my guy to take the lead, is hard to do sometimes.   But I’m getting there. 🙂

    Doormat, my ass.   Hmmpf.   That lady has obviously never met me, nor read some of the emails I’ve sent to men who misbehaved on dates!   I am not going to change who I am as a woman, but I can also be a little more feminine and make my guy feel like he’s needed, every now and again.

  10. 10

    i have to agree with Stacy @2. Consider the source, eHarmony has their own agenda. (For example, I went on eHarmony once. When I stated my status as divorced,   they asked for the name of the judge in my divorce and the date and county where my divorce was filed. Needless to say, I clicked away immediately, I was so creeped out by that). While I agree with Evan’s take, and I disagree with much of the Jezebel article, it IS still annoying for any woman with half a brain, to read that type of advice where women are told to be patient and men are told to move on quickly. Then again, at sites like and other more hip dating sites, I doubt you’re going to get those kinds of suggestions.

  11. 11

    #4 Andrew & #5 SS, I couldn’t have said it better myself, EXACTLY!

    Funny too how people’s outlooks and opinions change after having children 🙂

    Better education for folks is to teach men and women about how they are at the instinctual level (why they do and think the things they do) and about the opposite sex.   Then each can stop getting so irritated and frustrated with each other since these are instinctual aspects that  CANNOT be controlled.   Focus more on personality, beliefs, character, values–those things are changeable and unique to each of us and how those might affect instinctual behaviors.    My two cents!  

  12. 12
    Some other Steve

    Evan gets bonus points for first-ever rhyming snarky with patriarchy 🙂

  13. 13

    I’m sincerely hoping this whole article was written tongue-in-cheek and as a joke!

    And let me guess, the writer is single?

    Honestly, I think it’s hilarious, and anyone who is truly relationship-oriented will see it for exactly what it is. Additionally, I wish we could do away with this mindset that how someone else behaves, whether it be man or woman, or even what someone else advises, threatens you or your entire gender in any way.

    What kind of a woman is rude enough to express such bile when a man has the audacity to pay for her? I don’t know how you can see that generous gesture as anything other than what it is – a kind and considerate attempt to win you over.

    This author is free to move away from E-Harmony’s advice and pursue her fiercely independent neo-liberal worldview, but I think we all know she’ll  most likely be alone for a long time.

  14. 14

    @ Nathan
    “I just find it interesting how quickly a lot of people (especially men) are willing to reject social conditioning arguments as extreme, while seemingly having no problem with overarching biologically-driven arguments.”

    But, is this necessarily speaking to some pre-conceived, irrational bias?
    Or is it simply a case, where evolutionary explanations are the ones which render agreement with an observation?
    From many of your previous comments, you seem to be making the assumption that evolutionary explanations are incompatible with observations of individual variance, and sociological factors, when, in fact, evolutionary theory unifies both within its broad framework(ie. variance is a necessary assumption, and the broad spectrum of sociality is likewise explained in terms co-operation and conflict).
    Thus, unless someone is posing a false dichotomy(ie. sociology vs. evolution), explanations of social phenomenon can only ever be degenerate case-arguments which speak to a lower-level evolutionary basis.
    That fact that so many sociological explanations *rely* upon such a false dichotomy in their premises, is what renders them spurious, and detracts from the credibility of their proponents.

  15. 15

    I’m cracking up that Evan posted an article from Jezebel since they tend to dislike men who “tell women what to do” or who dare to tell women that they are wrong.   Plus, they’d chafe at his suggestion that it is smart for women to wait to have sex until they are in a committed relationship, b/c it would be “slut-shaming.”    At Jezebel, that amounts to misogyny, and I’ve seen commenters refer to him as such and suggest that Jezebel “take him on.”

    You could play a drinking game with all of the faux feminist tripe that those children sling about over there.

    So the commenting section(and many of the articles) basically read like a bunch of 16 year olds who just read a Gloria Steinem bio.   Very entitled, very myopic, and very ignorant bunch but I guess extreme youth and privilege b/c they are always convinced they are right and get a lot of easily researched facts wrong (both in articles and in comments).   They represent women who have every advantage in the world but want to crow that the world hates all women, and any time a woman doesn’t win/succeed/get chosen/gets criticized, it’s sexism(and mind you, this is true even when the women in question is being racist, classist, and xenophobic).   And that drives me nuts.   

    1. 15.1

      You must admit, though, Nicole, that their methods have terrified and hamstrung state and federal legislatures into doing their spiteful, nihilistic bidding.   What comes to mind whenever I have the misfortune of encountering the screed from websites like Jezebel is this:   ungrateful, spiteful, callous, unempathetic, vengeful.   In short, traits very much like those experienced by people (and those who love them) suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder.   I believe this is the over-arching personality/inclination of those who have commandeered women’s movements.  

      1. 15.1.1

        I intended to include this definition of BPD from the DSM:
        A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:   
           1. frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
           2. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by  alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.  
           3. identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.  
           4. impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.  
           5. recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior  
           6. affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).  
           7. chronic feelings of emptiness  
           8. inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)  
           9. transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

  16. 16

    This seems a very silly article Jezebel to me. The e-harmony advice per se does not seem to me to be an issue.

    However, my personal experience of eharmony in the West of England was just dire. Despite being the most expensive option over here,  I received a so called match about once every two weeks in a 3 month period and nearly all of those men were clinically obese and extremely badly educated. I am not saying I can’t deal with someone being a tad overweight (assuming they are doing something about it) or in a less well paid profession but as a lawyer that keeps fit, I am not interested in meeting obese labourers no matter how hard e-harmony try to convince me their compatibility system works.  

  17. 17

    @ Jane,

    I am glad you said what you did about eHarmony, I’d been warned as a divorced woman, that I probably would have  a much more difficult time on there, but I didn’t know that it would be THAT bad.   Yikes.   eHarmony does tend to cater to more conservative, more religious types, so I probably would have struck out there, being a very liberal, childfree, atheist woman.   I is just pure evil, I tell ya! 😉

    I think that woman Jezebel is pretty off kilter in the article; I’m actually impressed when a guy does pay for me, most times on a first date a guy looks at the check and goes, wanna split this?   Which immediately tells me he’s not interested, so I don’t even bother waiting around for him to call, afterwards.   Guys who are sexist are the ones who won’t hold doors, who are always calling women stupid or crazy, guys who won’t comfort a woman when she cries, etc.   Not guys who offer to be kind and pay for your dinner.   Geez.

  18. 18

    Dating is a bastion of traditional gender roles. Of course, courtship rituals have changed greatly from the time that a gentlemen caller visited a young lady in her parlor, with a chaperone present. Heck, prior to the middle ages, men were known to grab women from their villages and drag them off into the fields to have sex.
    But yes, the man is – generally – expected to pay, to appear strong and masculine, and women are still expected to receive and be appreciative and feminine. We’re still expected to use our girlish wiles to trap a man into marriage and kids, because even those men who want a relationship as much as we do need to be “trapped.” And we women need to be pursued in order to trap him.
    Obviously, some dating sites are more conservative than others. I also hated eHarmony when I tried it, and couldn’t relate to most of the “matches”. I met my boyfriend through a more alternative, smaller site, and I never would have found him on eHarmony. But online dating is so common now that even the most alternative types can be found on OKCupid. I’m guessing the Jezebel author is pretty young, but even she could find a laid-back, indie-type guy who’ll be happy to share dating expenses.
    BTW, when I was younger, I too, tried for more “equality” in dating, including asking a man out, offering to pay my way, etc. But it never worked, and probably made me look either desperate, or uncaring. I never gave the man enough of a chance to show me that he was interested, and that, of course, made it harder to figure out who really was interested.

  19. 19

    Ruby, same here!   I tried for more “equality” when I was younger, asked a couple of guys out, paid for them, initiated more calls, etc.   And I couldn’t understand why nothing worked out.   I’d think wait, I’m the “cool girl” who doesn’t get snippy when he treats me in a way I don’t like, I offer to pay for stuff, I don’t nag.   What on earth gives?   I’ve tried to be the anti-ex girlfriend, hello!

    Now, I’m more willing to embrace the fact that we are just different, men and women.   EMK is right on the ball about men looking for sex and finding love, and women looking for love and finding sex.   Like it or not, there it is, and I just deal with it now.

  20. 20

    I thought the Jezebel article was hilarious. It’s not often that women get to poke fun of a system that is usually not in our favor. I also think the   article might be a generational thing, but it also speaks to the shift that’s happening in society and not all women want the same things in a relationship. And believe it or not, a lot of the women over at Jezebel, along with many of their feminist counterparts, are married.

    Snarky comments aside, the article makes a good point about the schism between men and women. Here you have an entire group of women who want partners but don’t want to have to go about  dating in the same traditional way, and they will have to contend with the fall out of the way they choose to date and not follow the “rules”.  Meaning, the man might not show up if they don’t follow said advice.

    This article is also  a prime example of what happens to women in our world,  a group of women  state a position about what they want and need, and it largely goes ignored or is picked apart. And that’s the problem.  

    1. 20.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Trenia – the only thing that was hilarious about that article was how disproportionately angry the author was at the most benign dating advice of all time: “Guys, be funny and interesting.” “Girls, give some of those guys a chance”. The author 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. I didn’t even write about her completely wrongheaded take on why women should have sex on the first date.

      Feminists are great. The author in question is undoubtedly bright and kind. I just don’t like hypocrisy and insults, and there is often a lot of that thrown around on Jezebel.

      Trenia, you refer to “an entire group of women who want partners but don’t want to have to go about dating in the same traditional way”…and the fallout of their behavior.

      You hit the nail on the head.

      I have no problem with women having sex on the first date. It is usually not an effective strategy. This is not “slut-shaming”. This is common sense based on reality.

      I have no problem with women asking out men. It is usually not an effective strategy. This is not trying to recreate the 50s. This is common sense based on reality.

      And so on.

      If you choose to take on the traditionally (but not exclusively) masculine role of being the aggressor, a) you will have a smaller pool of men from which to choose, and b) the men available will be less likely to be traditionally masculine. They will be more easygoing, patient, and accepting than driven, confident, leaders. This is a GOOD thing for those couples. But it doesn’t mean that other women are wrong for wanting men to be the breadwinners, or to take the lead on dates, or to make the first move. Nor are the men wrong who appreciate women who let them do that.

      I do hope we agree. If not, I don’t take it personally, but you might not like my advice – which is based on how things are, instead of how things ‘should be’ – i.e. some world where men and women are identical and there are no behavioral differences between the genders.

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