A follower recently asked me why we ask the man before the woman when we’re setting people up. And my gut reaction was, “because that’s how it’s done.” But I quickly realized that’s a silly reason to do anything. And so I started to wonder if there was a real basis for this protocol, and is the basis/ reasoning relevant?
Because a big part of what this blog is beginning to do is question why we do what we do when we date. Everyone (especially people who are not dating) loves to point fingers and wax poetic on the problems we have with the current dating system. But when it comes to shaking things up, solutions often come from the outside. From the Shadchans, the Rabbis, the parents, the young married couples trying to help. But what about the people in the dating trenches? We accept certain things as norms because that’s how we’ve been told to date. And then slowly, things begin to disrupt that. It starts with things like dating apps–suddenly we’re doing things differently than our parents/ teachers/ shadchans expected us to do. But that’s just one small start. How do we, as single, Modern Orthodox Jews, dating across a wide spectrum critically look at what we’re doing and try to disrupt the system? Are we in need of an overhaul from within? Do we need to rethink our own thinking?
It starts with questions: Why are we doing what we are doing? Do we feel good about what we are doing?
But beyond that we need to start unpacking the consequences of what our long standing traditions actually mean.
So we’re starting something new on the blog: I’m calling it Disrupting Dating. And based off the conversations that take place on the Instagram page, I’m hoping we can start to shake things up. More conversations tend to happen on the Instagram than the blog. But I encourage anyone/ everyone to comment with your thoughts, because the point of this blog is to create a community of people who are critically thinking, connecting, debating, and navigating dating in the Orthodox community. If you want to write a rebuttal, think piece etc. shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The goal of Disrupting Dating is to delve into topics/ protocol we view as the norm, and begin to question why we do them. What’s the benefit? What’s the harm? Do we need to make changes? How can we make changes? And when I say we, I mean the people who are dating now, or who were recently dating. The people who know what the experience of dating in 2019, 2018, 2017 etc is actually like firsthand, because you live through it on a daily basis.
So, what does it mean to ask a guy before we ask a girl first when setting them up? Why do we do it?
When I polled my followers, people suggested different ideas. Men get more suggestions. Men say yes less often. Women are more sensitive and might take rejection harder.
And all these ideas bothered me. Because they’re founded in gender stereotypes.
And I get where the stereotypes come from, but by feeding into them, we’re doing everyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype a huge disservice. In addition, I think we’re making the people who fit these stereotypes feed into them even more.
I’m going to start to break it down, but I’m only just opening up this conversation on the blog, which already began on the Instagram:
Stereotype: Men get more suggestions: I have 3 brothers. Trust me, I get that this is a thing for a lot of men. But I also know for a fact that there are men who do not get suggestions very often. On the flip side, I know women who go out all the time. Their phone never stops ringing. People are setting them up and asking them out constantly.
Now by feeding into this stereotype you’re ignoring all of the outliers. The men who don’t get calls feel like pariahs. The women who get called all the time are the villains. And not only that, women are constantly made to believe that men have the pick of the crop, whereas women never have any options. Now maybe that’s true. But did anyone ever stop to think about how extraordinarily harmful that is to a woman’s ego? To her confidence? The more you tell a woman she has fewer options, the more she is going to believe it. Maybe what some women are lacking in this whole dating game is just a little bit of confidence. That they too have some agency over their dating lives. That they too can make moves. That the men are not the only ones who have choice. Because what if the more you tell men they can choose whoever they want, the more power they will believe they have?
Stereotype: Men say yes less often: I’ve tried setting up people before, and I know it’s often hard to get a guy to say yes. It’s also sometimes hard to get a woman to say yes, by the way. Why does it have to be a gender thing? Why is it not a personality thing? Why is it not a fear of rejection thing? Did anyone ever stop to think about the fact that maybe this guy thinks there is no chance the woman you’re suggesting is going to say yes? We talk so much about guys having the power; the pick of the litter. So by feeding into this stereotype, you’re feeding into this power dynamic. You’re literally encouraging it. So, what if the girl said yes first, what would that do to the power dynamic? What benefit would a woman gain by being forced to put herself out there and say yes first? What benefit would a man get by knowing the woman is already interested? Maybe nothing. But maybe it would shift things just a tiny bit. Even for just a few people.
Stereotype: Women are more sensitive. This one is probably the most dangerous and harmful of them all. What about the women who are strong and resilient? The ones who say no to men often, and wish someone would just ask them first? And what about the men who are sensitive and fear rejection? What about the men who want to be chased? Did anyone ever think that people, yes, people operate differently? Looking at men and women this way does a few things. By playing into this stereotype you’re encouraging it, and that cannot be healthy for anyone. You’re essentially telling women they should constantly feel sensitive/ offended if they get rejected, and telling men to suck it up, bite the bullet, and develop a thick skin that’s resilient to rejection. But everyone is entitled to feel how they want to feel regardless of their gender. These ideas aren’t novel in today’s rhetoric. Plenty of people are talking about them across all different platforms. But how do we think about them in terms of how we date in the Orthodox community?
So just because “That’s how it’s always been,” doesn’t mean that’s how it should be.
You know how they teach you in school to question everything you’re taught? How you’re encouraged to question processes and protocols at work to see how you can make your company better? Welcome to your newest project. Start asking questions. This is just a start. The conversation does not end here. It continues in the comments, at your tables, on the Instagram, in your own posts etc….Let’s GOOOOO.