Relationships seem to be dominated by men. Whether this is because of the social/cultural expectation that men are supposed to be powerful, or because they are always assumed to be the dominate gender, I’m not sure. I think that it is a mixture of both. Men are seen as in control; they make the first move, pay for dates, buy gifts, etc. This idea that a man should be the head of the relationship has been around since the dawn of patriarchy, but the American expectations in relationship related behavior seems to be heavily based on the traditional 1950’s “American Dream” ideal.
We all know what I’m talking about here; iconic milkshake dates, dances, and drive in movies. This is the dating ideal that many people still hold onto today. The manly gentleman archetype and the feminine woman in skirts and a bow in her hair. To me, though the 1950’s might seem like an ideal to live up to since modern culture has some humanity lacking in it, it’s also a made-up reality. The 50’s were just as complicated and difficult as the world that we live in today. But for some reason, humans always idolize the past and create new expectations and cultural norms from what they think the past was like. I think that my generation (the millennials) have done this with dating behavior. We see the pictures of poodle skirts and milkshakes and we see the long-term relationships of some of our grandparents and we expect our reality to be just like that.
Of course, dating has changed a lot since then; millennials today have become more attached. In today’s culture, young people jump into relationships quicker than any of their grandparents ever did. And instead of “going out” with multiple people at once rather than “going steady” with one singular person, young people seem to jump into one relationship as soon as they go on a date. Our grandparents were much more laid back when it came to dating than my generation is. One thing that drives me nuts about our dating culture is that you can’t go on dates with more than one person at one time and that men my age seem to think that as soon as a woman hangs out with him once she’s in love with him. I personally don’t want to inhibit my chances of finding actual love by only talking to one person at one time even if we’re not together in a formal sense. I also can’t stand the expectation that a woman will immediately be obsessed with a man if he gives her two seconds of attention. But that’s me ranting about a similar but different subject. The one thing that has remained the same between our current dating culture and the traditional one is that men are still expected to do all the same things and oversee where the relationship goes.
At least in the public eye.
It’s no secret that women have more control over a relationship than meets the eye. Just like how women have done more work within the private home than the public sphere than men throughout history, women do a lot of work within the hidden relationship as well. A man can ask a woman out as many times as he likes, but if the woman denies his affections, then there will be no romantic relationship (or usually physical one) either. As with many things, women are the power behind the powerful one. There is the saying that behind every great king is an even greater queen. It’s a saying for a reason.
Though men are seen as dominate, a woman has just as much or more power within relationship dynamics. Women always seem to have back handed “secret” power; especially in romance. A great example of this would be that in the Victorian age, a man was expected to propose, but a woman could reject him as many times as she liked. It was even expected for a woman to reject a man even if she loved him. I feel like no matter what society portrays, we women know what’s up. I mean, why would there be any reason for a man to woo a woman if he has the real dominance in a relationship.
Women are powerful, even if society tends to leave it in the dark. I think the traditional archetypes and expectations are out of touch and inaccurate. I’m not sure how much longer history is going to ignore the power of women within society and culture, but I’m hoping someday soon people will grasp this realization.
Over and out- Lauren