Throughout my time in college, I’ve witnessed an increase in the use of the word “feminism,” and with it, an increase in the number of people who identify as feminists. Though there are many different types and meanings, feminism as a whole is generally perceived to be a movement aimed to achieve equality between men and women. Many people, once they find out what feminism actually is, tend to support the concept.
I myself identify as a feminist, and would argue that the newfound mainstream usage of the term is a key step in achieving the movement’s goal. Given the general increase in the understanding of feminism, I’ve been pretty surprised — and disappointed — in how little feminism has impacted romance and relationships in college. Inequality is ever-present, and it negatively impacts both men and women.
As a man who is in a committed long-term relationship, I oftentimes find myself playing the role of wingman at parties, especially for my friend, Joe. By doing so, I’ve discovered there are a few reasons why having a wingman is beneficial. First and foremost, as a wingman I can hype Joe up in ways Joe himself couldn’t do without making himself seem arrogant. Furthermore, if both Joe and I are trying to find Joe a lady, the chances that Joe actually find a lady essentially doubles. However, this assumes that Joe is actually trying to court a lady. Oftentimes he doesn’t try, but instead waits for me to make an approach or confirm a lady’s interested in him before he gets directly involved. This leads us to the main reason why having a wingman is beneficial — the wingman assumes responsibility for the approach. Regardless of the setting or what the first move actually entails, society has ingrained in us the idea that men are supposed to court women. Thus, the burden of approach is on men.
The idea that men are supposed to court women negatively impacts both men and women. For men, the burden of approach and a disproportionate fear of rejection is oftentimes crippling, which is precisely why having a wingman or wingwoman is so essential. However, not all men that have trouble approaching women have access to a wingman/wingwoman, and often these men resort to alcohol, overt aggression and catcalling to compensate. For women, making the first move routinely gets them criticized and thought of as desperate at best, and slutty at worst.
In a truly feminist society, both men and women would approach one another with equal frequency, and the burden of approach would be equal. This would be beneficial for both parties. For men, the burden of making the first move has been removed, and they would enjoy being courted for a change. For women, catcalling would greatly subside, and women would be able to approach men without criticism.
Unfortunately, inequality and anti-feminism also exists outside of the party setting. Over the summer I was with a few of my guy friends, and somehow or another we began to talk about chivalry. The discussion started off with the concept that men should always open the door for women. Personally, I think that holding the door open for another — regardless of gender — is just basic common courtesy. Though holding the door open for another person is a nice gesture, it is by no means an obligation. Almost all of my friends disagreed with me. One of my friends, we’ll call him Jack, went on to further say that acts of chivalry toward women are obligations men must meet and that women have a right to traditional acts of chivalry. He felt particularly strongly that men must pay for women on dates. According to him, it’s only fair that men should pay for the date since men ask women out for dates in the first place. Jack even claimed that he’s heard women say if the man doesn’t pay for the first date, there will be no second date.
The concept that men must pay for dates is anti-feminist on several fronts. First and foremost, it’s simply unfair and unequal to have the man pay for the woman on a standard date. Second, the notion that men should pay for women stems back to the idea that men should court women, and having the man pay for the woman further perpetuates this negative idea. Third, and perhaps most importantly, this notion disrespects the woman’s economic capabilities, and implies that women need to have men provide for them.
Moreover, when you couple the notion that a man must pay for a woman and a man must make the first sexual move, a troubling reality arises. The reasoning goes as such — I’ll take her out on a few dates, pay for her dinners, then I’m entitled to have sex with her. This line of reasoning — which is unfortunately prevalent among some men I know — leads to the objectification of women. At worst, it promotes a rationale that amounts to the man feeling he has the right to have sex with the woman because he paid for her dinners. In other words, the women gave the man tacit consent when she allowed him to pay for her. This, of course, is absolutely ridiculous and is not consent, but it’s the line of thinking that these two social norms imply. In a truly feminist society, these norms wouldn’t exist. Men would benefit by no longer having to pay for women on dates. Women would benefit because they would be seen as economically capable as any man. They would also be respected, valued and courted for other reasons besides sexual gratification.
This is not to say that men should not approach women first, hold the door open, or pay for a date. Men — or women — should feel free to do any of these. However, traditional views on courtship and chivalry has led to certain expectations and obligations. When unequal treatment in obliged, feminism loses, and both men and women are negatively impacted.