We’re living through some pretty weird times. And one of those things that’s become quite tricky for millennials is dating. In an age where men and women are finally starting to be considered equal, the rise of feminism has completely changed the dynamics of courtship, dating and relationships.
In my diet of conservative political content, I’ve come across many commentators, who deny the existence of a gender pay gap and champion traditional values, that say women in their 30s are regretting sex positivity, hookup culture and their newly found feminist values, because they haven’t managed to find a partner, placing more focus on their careers.
Even though this is a preposterous idea, it seems not to be an uncommon sentiment among men, more specifically American men, that they don’t want to date feminists. And, even though it’s nothing new for men to express their distaste for feminists, there are women who are starting to feel that feminism is, indeed, making dating for us very complicated.
“I consider myself a feminist, but I can’t lie—I’m starting to notice its effects on my dating life,” writes Bolde‘s Jennifer Lee. This doesn’t change my belief in equality, I just hope that men and women can eventually learn to date in harmony because it’s pretty messy right now.”
Despite feeling that it’s more accepted that both men and women are sexual beings, there’s still a double standard at play,” is another issue for JennDoll, in her Medium Post about young feminists’ approach to their dating lives.
So the question is, what can we do to champion gender equality, while still balancing the weird transition from a man’s world to one that we share with women on equal terms.
So what’s at play here?
At the end of the day, our newfound equality has fundamentally changed the rules. Everything from holding a door open for a women, and whether she likes old school chivalry, to who pays for the bill is now in a weird, vague space. And we’ve really been thrown into the deep end of the dating pool as millennials. Not only have the rules changed, but as the first generation that’s (almost) totally equal, we have to create new rules.
Is it okay for women to be sex positive? Do we judge them? Should you hold the door open for her? Who pays the bill? What can I say and what is triggering? Should women even discuss their feminist beliefs on the first date? Does it really chase guys away? Who should make the first move?
Millennials are exploring a new frontier and will likely define the future of romance in the 21st Century and potentially even beyond. But egalitarian societies, where men and women are considered equal and have been for generations, have already created the blueprint.
Why Is Scandinavia The Best Place To Start?
The World Bank Global Gender Gap Index rates Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland as the most egalitarian societies in the world. Sweden’s approach to gender equality perhaps provides the best framework for how to leverage laws to improve family environments, reduce domestic violence and promoting equality in the workplace.
Twelve of the 22 government ministers in Sweden are women and almost half of the members of the current parliament in Sweden are also women. So it should come as no surprise that more and more progressive legislation has been passed over the course of centuries that protects women and puts them on equal standing with men. Women gained the right to vote in 1919, slightly ahead of the rest of the world, but the laws that legalise birth control and abortions, as well as mandatory paternity leave (moms and dads) and universal child grants have freed Swedish women to exercise all of the same freedoms as their male counter[parts
What Does This Have To Do With Millennials Dating?
Because the Scandinavian countries are probably about 50 years ahead of the developed world (and roughly a century ahead of parts of the global south), they simply have more experience than us at dating in an egalitarian society and us millennials have a lot to learn.
New Dating Rules/Norms For Millennials
You’ve probably heard that women tend to approach men more in Scandinavia… because they’re more empowered. And that would make sense, right? The dynamics are totally different.
“There are no societal rules that say the guy should initiate contact, writes Reddit user, kwowo. “That’s the only difference, and the result is that the genders are theoretically on equal terms when it comes to this. If you’re the sort of person who has no problems approaching and initiating contact with others you find attractive, your gender doesn’t matter. It still happens way more often that guys initiate though.”
So courtship has changed and (at least for me), one can only hope that more women feel empowered to the point where they’re able to confidently approach a man and state their intentions. But there are still some women out there that appreciate being approached in a more traditional sense. Every person has their own preferences and tastes and it’s okay if that’s what you want. This is probably the best rule you can apply throughout all of this. Women and men are equal and we can pursue whatever we want, as long as it’s consensual.
I’ve been approached by girls at nightclubs, yes. But the same is also true in reverse, even more so. At cafés you don’t approach anyone, period.
“Maybe we, and especially women, are more open about their sexuality here, writes Reddit user, Abrovinch. “Sexuality and gender roles are spoken about continuously from an early age. In the new curriculum it’s included in pretty much every subject all the way from elementary school. I’m just speculation, but it seems like a reasonable part of the explanation.
“Though I must stress, it is far more common for men to approach women still.”
First Dates & Feminism
This is perhaps where it’s most tricky for millennials who are trying to figure their way around the dating scene, because you’re meeting a person you don’t know very well and who you haven’t shared your political beliefs with.
““I would not date someone who’s like ‘I’m not a feminist’ — I don’t need people like that,” says 25-year-old Amelia, in Lee’s story. She has “a hard no Trump voters policy.” For Maddie, a 20-year-old student, the red flags are “political things, when they’re really conservative, or when they talk badly about their exes. Overbearing big personalities. I had a boy mansplain libertarianism on a first date.” Lack of respect is a big one, especially physically: “I went on a date with another guy for the first time, and at the end, I went in for a hug but he tried to go for a kiss.”
“The whole bunch of them sound like a pack of uptight authoritarians looking for a reason to ruin everyone’s sexual happiness, regardless of gender or sexual persuasion,” writes Rich Juzwiak in Slate. “Am I the only one who sees this pattern of manipulation and misery?”
So it seems that men and women are very much divided over this. And, even if you do identify as a male feminist, it’s met with suspicion over your true motives and whether it’s simply being used as sexual currency. So it almost seems like even discussing your feminist beliefs, it’s probably best to steer away from the topic, unless you genuinely insist on it and it’s that important to you. And guys should try to avoid declaring themselves as male feminists and rather show, through their actions that they perceive women as their bona fide equals.
The Internal Contradiction
Jennifer Lee says that anything that can be remotely perceived as misogynistic totally puts her off of a guy, but that it’s also difficult to reconcile that guys think women don’t need them anymore and/or are too afraid to say anything that might come across as sexist. She feels that men are put off by her feminism and that they’re approaching her less.
Rhetorically, this is going to be a hard bridge to cross, because all of the traditional gender roles are still engrained in us… even millennials. There is no unlearning what a transitional generation, millennials, thought we knew about dating when we were growing up. We’re grownups now and have to reconcile our earliest desires with the new world that we live in. This part is where we’re likely to experience the most growing pains.
Learning From Denmark
Aliki Seferou, from Culture Trip explains how different the rules for dating in Denmark are, where there are also very high levels of gender equality. She explains that Danes, who are generally perfectly friendly people, are easiest to meet over drinks because it just helps the conversations flow better. Don’t overdo it, but let alcohol be your friend in this new dating world. She also explains how Danish men tend to be shy and that women are completely comfortable in approaching them.
Fancy dinners and over-dressing is a big no-no there and she recommends more casual dates, like going on a walk or having a picnic. Dinner is a fairly long commitment and can get uncomfortable if you don’t click (not to mention it’s quite expensive too!). Fancy clothes are simply considered to be ostentatious, but perhaps there’s something to be said about men avoiding the age old trick of flashing money or wealth and using that to attract women. In a world where your girlfriend can support herself and may even earn more, there’s no room for this old, outdated brand of courtship.
The final rule, she argues, in contrast to the former, is to not be too stingy. Split the bill. Men shouldn’t be demanding to pay for the entire thing and women shouldn’t expect it. If you’re going out for drinks, buy the first round and let your date get the second, which will totally skip the awkwardness of it all.
But what about those little, nuanced, old school things that I learned, and still quite like doing, like holding the door open, walking/driving her home, offering her your jacket when it’s cold outside and so on? To me, I was brought up to be a gentleman, and I doubt I’ll ever quite shed those parts of my personality. I think it comes down to your preferences, but you should do you. If your date is triggered by your traditional demeanour, or if he is an anti-feminist, I say don’t hide your feels, be direct. If your date doesn’t like it, you can just not see them again and they probably aren’t the right person for you.
Conclusion: Be Free To Do What YOU Want
Look, at the end of the day, isn’t equality about us millennials taking control of our own relationships and taking control of our bodies and our own happiness? If you want a guy who’s hates the patriarchy as much as you, if you prefer a traditional gentleman, if you’re a guy that likes strong, dominant, empowered career women, go for it. If you want yourself a lady or a women desperate to be a mom and you like her… do it. And, for the queer readers among us, love whoever you want to love, man, women or non-binary.
Part of the beauty of living in a “woke” world that’s aware of intersectionality and social justice issues is that we are becoming truly equal, truly empowered. Gone are the days (we hope) of women being trapped in an abusive marriage, of people hiding their sexuality or living with the wrong gender identity; the time where men were domineering and exercised control over submissive women is over. As equals, we can’t be playing an us vs them game, because we’ll all end up completely alone (which is also fine, if that’s what you want). Men and women need to figure out how millennials should be dating together, as a cooperative, not as enemies.