Do Dating Sites Encourage Gender Stereotypes?

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:

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

  • 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.