What's Really Behind the Whole Men-Ask-Women-Out-First Thing?

KateH_FeministWednesdayKate Harveston Recently, I was watching an episode of Family Guy that touched on the topic of women asking men out. When the typical-teen-daughter character, Meg, asks her mother if it’s acceptable for her to make the first move and ask a guy out, her mother responds,

“Meg, are you asking me in this day and age, whether it’s appropriate for a girl to ask a boy out on a date? Of course it’s appropriate. It’s also sad and desperate and I would never do it, but you’re not me, are you sweetie?”

As a show that’s known for using well-established misogynistic tropes for cheap laughs, perhaps Family Guy isn’t the place to get your feminist musings. However, it really did get me thinking about how often this idea is perpetuated in our culture. I mean, if Family Guy is using it, it has to be relatable to a large audience to some extent, right?

It really is. The idea that girls have to be desperate or not-as-desirable in order to be the one asking a guy out is repeated throughout our cultural rhetoric time and time again. It’s an antiquated standard that should really hold no relevance in today’s progressive society. However, it’s still the norm, and it is undoubtedly perpetuated in order to keep patriarchal control over women in place.

It often feels like from the very start of a romantic connection, the man has the control. It’s well-known that “everyone” expects the man to ask the woman out if he wants to start dating. The idea of the woman asking the man out is downright strange or unnatural to many of us — but why? To figure out how to break this cultural norm, we have to analyze what’s really behind it so we can resolve it once and for all.


Society Tells Them To

The easy answer is the obvious one: men ask women out because society tells them the world is their oyster. There isn’t anyone in the media specifically directing it, but the suggestion is everywhere. From books to movies, romantic situations always seem to start with the man asking a woman out. It becomes natural for people in real life to expect the same thing.

To start chipping away at this sexist norm, the opposite situation needs more representation in popular media. Seeing more women asking men out will create confidence in real women to do the same thing for themselves.


Women Also Expect It

Because society sets people up to think men should ask women out, women start to expect it. Through no fault of their own, they assume it’s what should happen. After all, members of both sexes are more likely to see men as commanding, so not only does it feel normal — it feels natural. But just because something’s customary doesn’t make it right. Once more women realize they have the equal right and ability to ask men out, they’ll feel more comfortable doing it for themselves.


It All Comes Back to Tradition

As with many areas of life, tradition can keep people from changing how they do things. Sometimes it takes a person their whole life to try something new. It’s all about what they feel comfortable with, and that applies to gender norms as well. While many feminists actively seek to change all sexist norms and stereotypes, some don’t. As one self-proclaimed feminist wrote, she appreciates being able to let the man take charge of the dating world, because she takes charge in so many other aspects of her life.

The small number of women starting to ask men out to change the dating game don’t make a big impact now, but they influence the women around them one by one. Eventually, more women will take notice and start breaking their own dating rules and traditions. It’s a slow process, but a rewarding one. Women who ask men out will notice their confidence growing, and may find themselves in a happier position in life faster by taking the initiative to find a good romantic partner.

Can women anticipate expectations such as men asking women out to change overnight? No, and it probably won’t change completely anytime soon. The point is to show women that they can do things in different ways than those that have always been fed to us. So single ladies? Give it a try some time! Or at least get your friends talking about it. Having conversations about topics like this is what gets the ball rolling — so, ladies, it’s in your court now.