If you haven’t figured it out yet let me tell you: there is a huge disparity between the expectations placed on women vs men. In every aspect of life, the expectations of women are greater than men. From the workplace, to the home, to any relationships at all. We expect so much more of women, and cut men so much slack. We ask, we expect, we demand so much of women in all corners of life. And believe me, it’s exhausting.
So this week, let’s explore some of the ways we unfairly challenge women in romantic (hetero) relationships that we would never place on men.
- Why are you single in the first place?
Society expects women to settle down and applies much more pressure to women than to men. There are plenty of misconceptions about single women (single women are spinsters or cat ladies, single men are bachelors), and they all stem from the sexist idea that marriage is the ultimate goal for a woman. We no longer live in a time when women have to partner up with a spouse for security (because women can now have an education and a career). And yet we still expect women to marry much earlier than we expect men to. Whereas our culture is much more comfortable with the idea of a single bachelor who isn’t interested in settling down.
- Why a woman would want to pay on a date?
As dating becomes more “modern” many elements are challenged about dating culture. One of the big debates is who should pay? Should you split the check? Should the person who initiated the date pay? Should the man always pay? The whole tradition of men paying on a first date stems from old sexist ways (women didn’t used to have income, after all), and it burdens both men and women now.
There are lots of studies on what people actually think about who ends up paying (Match.com found that 71% of men find it attractive to split the bill). But what I found most alarming was that 74% of women offer to pay to avoid obligations for anything on the date – physical intimacy or another date.
- Making more money.
And to bring the issue full circle, now not only can women work and earn their own income, they can actually earn more than their male romantic prospects. And while we would never be concerned, or worried, or warn against, or find it problematic in a relationship for the man to earn more than the woman, it seems it is highly problematic for the woman to be the higher bread winner. Women earning more is approached as an obstacle, something the couple will need to “manage”. Some statistics even suggest women earning more are less likely to get married.
- Not being interested in living with their significant other.
Moving in with your SO is a significant milestone in a relationship. And similar to the stereotype that all women want to be in a relationship, women are also expected to want that peak commitment milestone much sooner than men. Men can have their “bachelor pad” but women are expected to “nest”. You see endless articles about “How to get your man to want to settle down” because it is just assumed that the woman is always ready to settle down. Wild oats and living alone is for men, women are supposed to be in constant committed relationship mentality (though who are these men sowing their wild oats with then?).
- Why are you so dressed up if you already have a significant other?
Let’s be honest, women’s bodies and appearances are constantly being policed in ways that men are not. And obviously the only reason a woman would ever doll up is to attract a man, so what are you looking for if you already have a man? It couldn’t possibly be because you like that dress or your hair done a certain way or enjoy putting on make up for yourself. Clearly all of this is for attracting a husband.
- Why are you not dressed up?
And the opposite side of that coin: are you letting yourself go? And of course the implication is the same: you should always be dressing to please the men around you. Meanwhile, the “dad bod” is totally acceptable. Women are either too exposed or too conservative; too attractive or not attractive enough. There isn’t really a happy medium, no matter how a woman presents herself someone will be upset. And it seems to be impossible to convince people that a woman dresses herself for reasons other than to please a man.
- Why aren’t you married yet?
Or better yet, isn’t your biological clock ticking? Men can have children at any age, so they can be single and ready to mingle for their entire lives. But women only have a few decades to be baby machines. And women only have two purposes in life: pleasing men and making babies.
Being a woman is hard. There are higher expectations and a lot less grace. More judgements and more shame. Every accomplishment is fought for, and then seen as a threat to the men in our lives. Everyone has an opinion on every choice a woman makes, and it’s lose/lose across the board. We can’t even fall in love in peace. As women gain more rights, more equality, a louder voice, there will continue to be a disparity between how we used to think about women and who women actually are. Women aren’t just baby making machines put on this earth for the pleasures of men. We are humans.