Last week the NYTimes took a few creative liberties in constructing what Amanda Hess called the “bogus trend triple threat,” aka, putting together trends with loosely related information and making sweeping generalizations about this loosely related, poorly researched, barely proven data. One of these three stories that got the most attention was of course about the death of romance for those in the female empowered set. Female independence, it turns out, is a major boner killer.
Some men have more fundamental issues. One 38-year-old Italian manager complained that her boyfriend suggested she change jobs because he no longer felt able to “seduce her” after her salary rose above his. A French management consultant said her husband, a teacher, stopped coming to parties with her because he felt inadequate every time anyone asked him what he did. A German banker said one reason her ex-husband left her for a physiotherapist was “because she would have more time for him.”
“It is amazing how even many liberal-minded men end up having sexual and emotional difficulties being with more obviously successful women,” said Sasha Havlicek, the 35-year-old chief executive of a London research group. A high-flying friend of hers resorted to ritually feigning helplessness with her partner to promote his sense of masculinity. “The male ego can be a more fragile thing than the female ego, which is used to a regular battering and has hence developed a sense of humor!”
What we have here is a 21st century feminist dating kannnnandrum. As a single dater, I am constantly facing the woes of the, “I’m not good enough,” dude who has internalized the ethos of failed masculinity thereby precluding him from dating what he perceives as powerful women. In all honesty, we can say, we won’t date that person or you don’t want to date someone like that anyway, but we all know it is more complicated than that. Everyone is impacted by expectations of gender and unless there was a redefining masculinity revolution that impacted more than a handful of guys, I think we are kinda shit out of luck with this one. Basically, we have our work cut out for us.
Bennhold’s article concludes that in order to prevent this 21st century dating conundrum and not end up alone with a dried up vagina and 700 cats is to, “Leave the snazzy company car at home on the first date; find your life partner in your 20s, rather than your 30s, before you’ve become too successful. And go after men who draw their confidence from sources other than money, like academics and artists.” This weak and most likely ineffective advice doesn’t really address the true matter at hand which is that models of romance are changing and instead of supporting antiquated ideas of romance that don’t line up to people’s lived realities, we should be supporting and showcasing a new model, one that doesn’t rely on women’s inferiority to men. Trust me, even sad, “I’m not good enough dude,” will come around to this view point.
I know, its scary to think you may die alone. Trust me, we all wrangle with this fear. But this type of fear-mongering won’t actually lead you to happier romantic relationships. What leads to happier relationships is being empowered, being honest, intentional and clear about what you want. Feminism is constructed in the mainstream as a boner killer and is very effective in keeping young women disinterested in it, but in the long-run, feminism actually makes your love life better. And incorporating and prioritizing your own needs into your romantic life means sometimes running the risk of being single for a little while and it means having some standards and it means not settling, but the truth is we have too much to lose any other way.
My mentor and friend Malkia offered me some pretty amazing advice recently on how romance is one of the most fundamental and important things we have to fight against a world that is pulling us apart and breaking up our communities. As our lives become increasingly isolated, loving is one of the most radical ways for us to resist forced upon social, economic and political circumstances. Resisting romantic expectations, redefining romance for ourselves and creating the kinds of relationships that will be truly satisfying for who we are, today, it turns out is as radical as it was before and as important for us to do as ever before.
Hess concludes in her piece that these stories are more harmful then just charting bogus trends. She writes,
These stories make light of our most basic identities as women—they tell us how our civil rights are ruining our interpersonal relationships, how our wombs are interfering with our higher education, and whether our basic body types are currently socially acceptable. Let’s conveniently gloss over the supporting figures: Even one inflated female trend piece in the NYT is one too many.
So, basically we can’t let the fear-mongering win. The numbers are wrong. As Tracy Clark-Flory wrote at Broadsheet, there are more guys that are cool with new models of romance and femininity than we realize and that number is only growing. Dare I sound too much like a hopeless romantic, but I think we just have to have a little faith and a little bit of hope, that things are in fact changing.