do women REALLY have all the power in dating? (spoiler alert: no)

I was talking to my Lyft driver about dating.

“Dating is SO EASY for women!” he said. “Even the ugliest woman can find a guy who’s into her.”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “It’s not that hard to find someone who’ll fuck you, especially with Tinder. But it’s really hard to find someone awesome you’re excited to date who wants to be in a relationship with you.”

He conceded that there was a difference between fucking and finding a great relationship. But he still stuck to his main point: In dating, woman have all the power.

I was a bit flabbergasted, though I shouldn’t have been, and tried to explain that that isn’t exactly true–dating as a woman is actually really tough because we have to worry about rape, assault, and even murder (not to mention harassment, stalking, and general sexism and entitlement). I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it seemed like he’d never really thought about that before.

These are things women live with ALL DAY ERRY DAY since we’re, like, 12. I live with a CONSTANT low-level fear of men. (And I have tons of privilege! I’m white, able-bodied, cisgender, can pass as straight, etc. It’s way worse for women of color, incarcerated women, women in the military, trans women, etc.)

In the two decades since puberty, it’s become practically subconscious, built into everyday choices like what to wear, where to sit on the bus, whether to look a man in the eye, when to laugh at an unfunny joke, when to pretend to be on the phone, when to give a strange guy a fake name (Jenny), when to lie and say I have a boyfriend and how long we’ve been dating (three months), where to stand when I’m in the elevator alone with one or more guys, how to turn down a date without being called a “fucking bitch.” How to get through life every day without disturbing the fragile male ego so much that he decides to hurt me. He being any man, anywhere, anytime.

If you think I’m overreacting, look at the stats. CNN: “White men have committed more mass shootings than any other group.” The U.N.: “50,000 Women A Year Are Killed By Intimate Partners, Family Members.” The CDC: “In the U.S., 43.6% of women (nearly 52.2 million) experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.” 1 in 5 are victims of rape or attempted rape, and 1 in 6 have been stalked. Of women who are killed, it’s most often by a lover or spouse. A 21-year-old Louisiana man shot and killed the woman he’d been dating for two weeks.

Men think women have all the power in dating. They’re so wrong.

I’ve been thinking about my Lyft driver’s comments for weeks. Why is it so upsetting that women might have more power than men in ONE situation? (Even though it’s not true!) It’s like, dating is the ONE TIME men might not have all the power, so they throw a whiny baby tantrum. What the fuck?!

It all boils down to male entitlement— specifically, white male entitlement. As Ijeoma Oluo wrote in her viral essay, “The Anger of the White Male Lie”:

Somebody really does need to stop telling these white boys that they can be anything, and that they can have everything. Because it is not true, and it was never true, and we’re the ones who have to pay when they find that out…Being rejected by girls will be a valid reason as to why a white man drives his car into a group of women.

Her essay is amazing (go read it). She asks, why is it OK and expected for white guys to be mad that they don’t get the hot lady, the most money, the best job, etc. when marginalized people never even have a chance at those things?!

Because we were never supposed to expect any of those things. We were never supposed to expect jobs or police protection or investment in our communities or quality education. We were never supposed to expect to see ourselves in movies or read about our heroism in novels.

Whatever there was to expect — we weren’t supposed to expect any of it to come to us.

And white men expected more of it to come to them than ever existed.

White male entitlement is such a huge fucking bummer.

It’s even more complicated because my Lyft driver was black and I’m white. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to be a black man in America, especially right now, when police are murdering them left and right with zero consequences. It’s not as simple as saying, “Men bad. Women good. Race…in a box off to the side.” Intersectionality is real. As I said before, I have loads of privilege.

But as a woman, I wish men (of all races and classes!) knew they aren’t entitled to my time, attention, body, smile, or praise. I wish they acknowledged their power in dating— and every other realm of life.

For men, the goal shouldn’t be to convince people you’re One of the Good Guys and that you personally aren’t sexist or racist or entitled or whatever. The goal should be to acknowledge that you are and start DOING something to change that, personally and societally. Don’t DENY your privilege; own it and start doing something about it. That’s the only way things will ever improve.

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