Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Trying to "Be More Feminine or Masculine" is a Trap

I have been thinking a lot about gender lately. How so much of what we think is "biological" is not. How a lot of social scientists seem obsessed these days with doing studies to "prove" those biological narratives. And how people love to gobble up said studies, never mind that they tend to be riddled with sexism, and driven by patriarchal notions of what it means to be a man or a woman.

Here is a quote from a recent post on the blog And That's Why You're Single:

I was working with two women on their profiles yesterday. Both women made it a point to express their love of baseball and beer or golf and sailing. When I explained to them that most men don’t see that as a selling point, they asked why. My answer was pretty simple: because those things aren’t feminine. That and most men aren’t looking for someone to go golfing with or to attend a Yankees game and throw back a few brews. They can do that with their guy friends. It’s not a bad thing if a woman enjoys those activities. It’s just not something that scores them points in a dating profile or on a the first few dates.

This is the mistake so many women make in their profiles. They try too hard to seem like “one of the guys.” They talk up their jobs, their financial security, all the athletic activities they do, and they don’t showcase their more uniquely feminine traits.

I'm struck by what feels like a paradox to me. On the one hand, the advice to offer more "feminine" qualities is probably fairly good, given current social conditions. The majority of men (and women for that matter) do still seem to be operating on the gender constructions we have inherited.

However, I couldn't in good conscious give such advice. I seriously question the ways in which different activities get attached to "feminine" and "masculine." A love of baseball doesn't have anything to do with being a man or being a woman, and it's silly to perpetuate such ideas. More to the point, though, I am entirely exhausted with the deeper set of assumptions that get tied to gender. For example, the idea that women are more "emotional" than men. Or the converse that men are more "rational." Underlying both of those statements is the view that reason and logic are superior to emotions, something I completely disagree with.

Given this quandary, what might be some good advice to people on the dating scene?

Here are a few ideas I have. I encourage readers to chime in with others.

1. Learn how to tell a well rounded story about yourself. Forget about all this feminine/masculine, alpha/beta nonsense. Who are you? What are you passionate about? What motivates you to get up every morning?

2. Become skilled in speaking about what you want in a relationship. Just saying you want a long term relationship or to get married isn't enough. What qualities within a relationship are most important to you? How slow or fast do you want it to move? What are a few deal breakers?

3. Do your best to let go of comparisons to others. This is generally good advice. What I am speaking about here specifically, though, is the ways in which people tend to treat dating these days as a competition. When you think you are competing for someone's attention and interest, you tend to build a story about yourself that "looks good" and "sells," instead of just being yourself. In fact, I remember awhile back while I was doing online dating revising my profile based on the thought that it was better to downplay many of the most important things in my life because they aren't at all mainstream interests. All that lead to was meeting women who didn't share enough of my worldview to even maintain a decent conversation.

Your thoughts?


  1. Argh, I'm getting a bad Red Pen Syndrome itch...

    Anyway, I think it's interesting about the sports/beer/golf thing, because very often what turns me off when I read on a UK dating profile "football, drinking" type stuff in that vein, is that it's presented as though "that's what boys like, so I'm totally attractive to you for liking them too" (sometimes that thinking is stated explicitly in the profile - urgh!). Anyone pandering to gender stereotypes like that is NOT going to fit well with me! (Golf or sailing turn me off because I have no interest in those things, except for a few months when I was 14 I wanted to sail a yacht around the world.) If she puts something not quite so stereotypical, such as rugby or cricket, then I think "cool, this is a woman who likes some of the same sports I do, maybe we can have a conversation; and she's not shy about being non-gender-conforming in her interests, which is also cool".

    As far as advice is concerned, I think you covered most of the general points I would think of. The most attractive profiles are definitely ones that answer the points you raised.

    I think it's important to remember that the type of person you want to attract is the type of person who is attracted to the type of person that YOU are, and therefore the best way to do that is to show of oneself rather than try to craft something to attract someone. That seems to be the basis of all three points in the OP.

  2. Some good tips and advice there. I should try some of these if I want to get a girlfriend.