‘Reasons why’: women as objects of change in the dating world

Ellen’s noticed a trend of women feeling as if they have to change for men – and she’s fed up

Despite your inner feminist screeching and shuddering, you’re looking at demeaning articles with titles like: ‘top 20 reasons why you’re still single,’ ‘11 reasons why he’s not interested,’ ‘5 reasons why he’s ignoring you,’ and on and on and on. Suddenly, you’ve become a gullible teenager nodding at every ‘reason why,’ and you believe an oracle wrote the answers to your relationship issues. Why do women feel they have to look up such articles, and why do they feel they have to write them? Why are women pushed towards that cringe-worthy state where they feel like desperate damsels lost in Googleland?

Why are women pushed towards that cringe-worthy state where they feel like desperate damsels lost in Googleland?

Because the reassurance that these articles supply is dubious, temporary, and often takes the form of a sigh and a shrug, saying, ‘oh well, men are bad at replying to messages.’ Women are meant to feel reassured by this attitude, because of course, men can only be men – end of story. There are also implications in many of these articles that, if women are not reassured or cannot accept that ‘men are just men,’ then the woman should take responsibility and change herself. This enforces the idea that a woman’s actions towards the man she has been dating have been wrong, detrimental or even that her actions have portrayed her in such a way that is not appealing to any man. It stirs up thoughts that messaging first is wrong, that she shouldn’t have messaged him at 23:13, that she shouldn’t have added an emoji, that she shouldn’t have added the extra kiss, that what she said the other day was wrong, that she shouldn’t have looked at him then, that she shouldn’t have smiled, that her smile was too big, too small, too non-smiley. It’s a warped dynamic in which women are emblematic of instability, trying to learn and unlearn traits, while men are symbols of permanence and stability. This bizarrely takes us back to old notions of women being fickle and volatile while men are rational, sure and strong.

There are implications in many of these articles that, if women are not reassured or cannot accept that ‘men are just men,’ then the woman should take responsibility and change herself.

So why are these articles written? Maybe editors believe there will always be readership for this topic because women want to seek out ways to change, and these articles can supposedly do that. We enter a vicious cycle: men can sit back, unchanging, while women feel they need to change themselves. Even more saddening is the fact that it’s most often women who write these articles. Is it easy money? Is it a way into journalism? Do these writers want to provide sisterly reassurance, which is in fact detrimental and problematic? I’d say these women and their readers are subjected to patriarchal norms that a capitalist society has conditioned. However, we can’t afford to treat that overarching problem as a bullet point: we need to make the act of change something that both men and women do in the dating world.

We enter a vicious cycle: men can sit back, unchanging, while women feel they need to change themselves.

In these ‘reason why’ articles (which are almost always aimed at a heteronormative audience), there will also often be the suggestion that men are intimidated by a woman’s confidence. This statement is dangerous, whether true or not. There is an underlying tone that confidence is a damaging choice, and that it is not characteristic of women. Confident women should be allowed to be confident without suggesting that their confidence impedes their dating. The link made in these articles suggests that confidence in women is not only a negative attribute but something that can be altered, and that their self-confidence must be dulled down. This returns to the idea of women becoming the subject of change, the ones to adapt and tailor themselves for men.

Confident women should be allowed to be confident without suggesting that their confidence impedes their dating.

So then, where are the articles for men to also take responsibility, to partake in some of the change? Where are the articles titled, ‘20 reasons not to ignore her message,’ ‘11 reasons why her confidence is attractive,’ ‘5 reasons why she deserves more’? But then who would read it, since men don’t have that pressure to change? How can we create that pressure? How do we allow women to have the freedom to stop having the responsibility of change?  It is never helpful to end an article with questions – but it is for usto answer this, not just me. And so I turn to you to start looking for your own reasons on how we stop installing expectations that women will always change, how we ensure that change is equal in a relationship, not more and more reasons why just women should change.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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