Home Pop Culture The dating dilemma. How gender roles have stifled love.

The dating dilemma. How gender roles have stifled love.

Scarlett Johansson for Dolce Gabbana Makeup Fall 2010 Ad Campaign
Scarlett Johansson for Dolce Gabbana Makeup Fall 2010 Ad Campaign

44 years old single and not giving a damn. Sort of…

There’s something reassuring knowing that I have don’t have to deal with a manically depressed girlfriend’s cycles when I return home. That to be sure is the first thing that pops into my mind when I return to my empty boudoir. Love for this author has become ideas, pop culture and the contradictory feeling of smoking two back to back Marlboro light cigerrattes at 6am in the morning with a white coffee that I grab from the 24 hour bodega down the road, before I begin the usual daily musings of what tabloid ennui I will pen for the day ahead of me. To be honest it’s the writer’s lot I tell myself, but I suspect it’s more than that.

Being single in a city like NYC, (save the odd married woman or the wanton girl I run into some party aside) has left me wondering if love really exists. Of course it exists, because the street is littered with people in love, but it is also littered with people bruised by love. That probably includes me as well.

A program that I watched the other day had me feeling sullen and despondent for the balance of the whole evening after I had watched it. It involved a thoughtful analysis of seminal thinker, Erving Goffman‘s take on gender representation in society. In essence it spent an hour describing how most women are portrayed as helpless, glamorous objects that one can ‘acquire’ if inclined. The men on the other hand were portrayed as masculine deities who would save the world and by implication these women, whose images are re played over and over in our saturated culture, with the underlying message; got money, got power, get pussy. How revolting I thought. That a man’s value and his desirability is predicated on his ability to accede to notions of what makes him manly, virtuous viz a viz dominating/subordinate themes that some marketing executive decided describes the stasis of men/women dynamics. Did that mean therefore on some overt level that a man was only a good catch as long as he ascribed to such notions and was willing to play along?

What was one to think if a man chose not to embrace such themes and instead portrayed himself contradictory to traditional themes where he is the undisputed representative of the parochial male stuck with a winning formula of always knowing which way was up and able to solve most inconvenient problems as they came along? Would women finally embrace the male chap who had the courage to be emotional and sensitive and even effeminate or would she now bemoan to her female flock where all the real men where and why all the good ones were either married or just plain gay?

The dominant male once again dominating the female desperate and ever ready to be dominated in exchange for some of her 'niceties.'

Another video that I happened upon about Thai gogo dancers who hustle to the best of their ability to flag a Western husband had me suddenly thinking that it wasn’t always women who are portrayed as the phallic object to be acquired and possessed but sometimes the man as well. In the desperate enclaves of third world states where local men are vilified for being inadequate, females make it a sport of attempting to acquire the affections and marriage proposals of Western men (who they often meet as partying tourists in soft sell sex bars).

The implied message is clear, and the assigned gender roles is also once again even clearer,  he is the provider, the one who promises to free women of their unbearable conditions and her lack of access to the good life she surely deserves (after all the new products she is using to make her ‘pretty’ have sold her that she is far worth than just the pedestrian down the street) and she of course is the provider of the feminine, the subtle, the captive sexual vixen who will give it all away for the right man. She will infinitely be able to provide ‘her’ man pleasures that will send him dizzy, never mind the pleasures outside of money and material possessions that he too is also capable of giving her but is downgraded in a society that insists a real man is only one that can bring home the ‘beef.’

Yet this disparity of what each of the sexes actually brought to the bargaining table is barely acknowledged in the video and instead bar owners (who charge these women a fee to dance and men a finder’s fee should they take one of these girls home) like most western advertisers are busily reminding us that the woman is a very pretty object to admire (and of course acquire) who can only at the end of the day bring a man pleasure as long as he subscribes to the role of being the winner takes all that is the destined lot for today’s preferred man’s man.

In the end the myth of the woman to be acquired and the man to forge forward and save mankind from itself is forever maintained and replayed in a saturated market place that places little premium in a man’s ability to be anything but an accomplished baron of the world and by the same token a woman is ridiculed over and over if she fails to look a certain way, lose enough pounds or ages too quickly for lest men may suddenly not find her desirable and thus now completely dispensable.

Of course it could be I am just disillusioned too much of a naive soul romantic and value the feelings that two people can auger between each other and as long as there is good will, desire and compatibility something could come of it. But that is also neglecting that desire, expectations and romantic inclinations are so often predicated on commercial and cultural innuendo that has tempered the way the sexes see each other- her sex and looks to be bartered for his cache and power. Never mind the power that they may possess as an individual with a rigorous state of mind, good will, integrity or emotional intimacy.

Then there was the article I read about sugardaddy’s that one could arguable reckon is a prostitution racket, until one understands that on some level love is a commodity that will always be bartered, so who could begrudge individuals who chose to openly trade their income and power for a slice of love? Of course love it is implicitly implied will only exist as long as the man keeps spending and is able to maintain his paramour’s expenses. Never mind intimacy or emotional vulnerability. That it seems is too difficult to assuage and hardly factored in too that arrangement.

Which leaves the following question: how does one find love, or just simply companionship? How does one value it? How does one value what the sexes bring to the table and why are so few of us so averse to recognizing the innate pleasures and beauty (and heart ache) that an individual can impart on each other devoid of expectations of presumed roles? And why are such considerations so steeped in the culture of gender role expectations? Is it any wonder then that so many of us are on some level traumatized or stymied by the demands by the potential demands of love interests?

For the time being I’ll continue taking solace in the work that I do, knowing full well that it may in some way bring an admirer to the picture but also keep this fellow marginalized. Then again who wants to love someone if they can’t be loved for whom they really are as opposed to who they are supposed to be…?

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