In the first few minutes of this season’s “Bachelorette,” star Rachel Lindsay is sitting with other former “Bachelorette” contestants, receiving advice on how to handle the onslaught of male suitors she is about to encounter. As with every season, the suggestions include “Make sure they are nice to you,” “Make sure you don’t get swindled by someone because he’s too handsome!” and, of course, “Make sure he really wants marriage and children!” Finally, one of them, let’s call her Blonde No. 3, ends the conversation in a dreamlike voice, saying, “Let them show you the fairytale you truly deserve.”
I’ve spoken before about my distaste for the Cinderella-type garbage in this series and how it provides a dangerously false dating scenario that very few relationships can live up to once the filming ends.
But this month’s column isn’t to shit all over the “Bachelor” franchise again. Rather, it’s to question this idea of what women “deserve” and how these ideas are forced down our throats both by other women as well as men. Here are some of the most frequently dictated rules I’ve listened to.
You never deserve to be hit. (Like I’ve said before, super, but why do men deserve to be hit?)
You deserve to have the door opened for you.
You deserve to have men pay for your dates.
You deserve to be treated like a princess.
I understand there are plenty of women who want these things. Whether they know why they want them I cannot say. But all these rules about what we “deserve” don’t “save” us as women. All it does it force conformity and homogeneity on us as a culture. If I am a straight man, these rules give me the power to treat all women in a cookie-cutter fashion as well as be furious if she isn’t impressed by something like having the door opened for her.
I’ve often wondered how many times men abide by these rules to show off for other people. How much of this so-called “chivalry” happens behind closed doors? And would women care about it as much if they weren’t socially rewarded for bragging about what they got men to do for them?
For instance, I dated someone a long time ago who would lose his mind if I didn’t want help carrying groceries from my car (he tended surreptitiously pick the lightest bags), or didn’t need help opening the door — he would make large flourishes to do both … if we were in public.
At home, he barely acknowledged me, didn’t pay his half of the rent, and was rude and condescending. I think this is true of a lot of these situations. Gentleman in the streets, asshole everywhere else.
So my question is why can’t we treat women as unique individuals? Why is everything “all women want this”? Thus, if you are turned off by something like being proposed to in the middle of the street in Paris (or at all), you are either lying or relieved of your womanhood by others until you conform.
Why don’t we get a say on how we want to be treated? Why do I have men lecturing me about what I “deserve” or women who don’t even know me telling me I’ll understand when I mature (though at almost 36, I’m not what they’re expecting to change)?
Similarly, I have always been turned off by the “protection” fathers are expected to provide for their daughters (because, they deserve this, obviously). The jokes about “dad’s gonna be on the porch with a shotgun” when his daughter’s dates pick her up … ewww. Is anyone else creeped out by that? That someone’s dad is so concerned with her sexuality? We are supposed to honor men who dictate rules for dating their daughters to potential suitors, but has anyone ever asked the daughter about what she wants?
I recently saw a shirt that finally promotes dads getting the point: turn that concern into concern for your daughter, not concern for your decisions about her and the boys (or girls) who are interested in her. It states:
“Rules for dating my daughter
I don’t make the rules
You don’t make the rules
She makes the rules
Her body, her rules”
I think that’s a lesson everyone — men and women — should take to heart about both sexes. Respecting people as individuals will allow for significantly less confusion when someone new doesn’t conform to social standards as well as force those who do conform to consider why, beyond the very tired excuse of “that’s just the way it is.”