Case Study: Analysis of a Typical Click Bait Article
Article: “Why Women Need to Start Asking Men Out…Because Men Have no Balls.” – published on Elite Daily on September 9th, 2014.
This one surfaced a few days ago, and rightfully so generated a lot of controversy and traffic.
Right from the title, this article aims to stir the pot. The title is a direct shot to the male ego, and nothing gets under a guy’s skin like questioning his manhood. For male readers, they’re likely to click on it because it angers them, and they want to read what the article is about so they can refute it internally or externally (just read the comments to see what I’m referring to). For female readers, the article can be quite polarizing. On one hand, the title is quite uplifting for the average female reader: it is empowering, it questions gender roles, indeed drawing from the very “hot” things with regards to gender-focused journalism of today. On the other hand, the title is quite sexist, and that might offend some female readers, which also helps generate traffic to the article.
Now let’s break down the article itself.
The first two paragraphs are rich with a sense of female entitlement. Essentially, the author equates that lack of proper dates that women are being taken on to the fact that men don’t know how to treat a women “properly”. But what is proper in terms of gender interactions? The metrics the author is using were only in place for a few generations previous. “Dating” has only been around for about a century, and before that, things were quite different. Women were married off as possessions in bartering deals between noblemen and their sons; kingdoms were united with the trade of a female body. Instances of violence against women were many times higher in the past than they are today.
Even the concept of chivalry is one of the most misused frameworks for male behaviour today. If you actually bothered to look up what chivalry actually means, you may be surprised: it was a code of conduct used by knights during medieval times. One of the stipulations of it was to treat noblewomen well, but chivalry is more heavily based in the codes of combat and behaviour towards one’s enemies. Chivalry basically suggests that you should show no mercy, crush your enemies, respect the church, and be nice to rich girls you want to bang. Chivalry has been adopted as a modern framework for male behaviour in the past century, but it ignores the incredible progress that has been made with regards to the role of women in society and the push for equality that has been made. These two conflicting frameworks are what is causing the rift the author is lamenting in her article.
The author’s next section describes how men are afraid of approaching women. Social anxiety has been present as long as humans have been alive, and as our brains evolved, so did our ability to doubt, to fear, and to analyze short-term and long-term consequences of a social miscue. Both men and women are affected by an inability to approach a complete stranger in a public place, so this is not simply a male centric problem.
The author also makes a point about TV “lying” to women about who men are as people. Television apparently portrays all men as dominant, romantic, infallible beings who are perfect constructs of the male ideal. If you examine the top 5 sitcoms on TV right now, you get the following list:
1. The Big Bang Theory
2. Modern Family
4. New Girl
5. The Simpsons
The reason I chose sitcoms is because they are focused around day-to-day situations and interpersonal interactions. A list of the top 20 shows on TV is littered with NFL programs, reality TV/contestant-based shows, and crime dramas, which are not representative of average relationship constructs.
Look at the male protagonists in each series. The Big Bang Theory is the single most popular program on TV today, and it revolves around a group of 4 male characters whose appeal is rooted in their awkwardness around females and every day situations. Modern Family is a great show, but there is not a Don Draper or Harvey Specter to be found among the male characters. Community is a grab bag of characters, but aside from Jeff (portrayed by Joel McHale), there is no dominant male character to be found. New Girl isn’t focused on a male character, but the supporting cast are all bumbling idiots. Ditto for the appeal of Homer Simpson.
If you go back in time and think of the most popular sitcoms of the past decade, all the male characters who were the head of a family were portrayed as sweet, loveable characters who also happened to be oafish. Comedy is often based around self-depreciation, so it simply isn’t logical to state that TV has portrayed male characters as the author describes them when the inverse is actually true. Of course there are powerful male characters on TV, but those shows aren’t as popular. So if anything, TV is telling women that men are loveable idiots who get lots of laughs and still get the girl in the end, which is the opposite of what the author stated.
The next paragraph places the blame on the single most important woman in a man’s life: his mother. She begins by making a sweeping generalization about how mothers babied their sons into class A narcissists, but then retreats on her point and states that only a few mothers didn’t teach their sons how to “properly” court a woman. This paragraph really has no substance, because there is nothing aside from weak anecdotal evidence backing up her point.
The fact is, more children are growing up in single parent households today than 30 years prior, so this has indeed had an effect on how boys are raised. Simply put, a mother can do many things, but be a father she cannot. The reason why men are supposedly lacking courage and the knowledge on how to properly court a woman isn’t because their mothers taught them the wrong way, but because an increasing number of guys grew up without the regular presence of their father to model their behaviour after.
The overarching issue with this article that is prevalent within the mother shaming paragraph is the “proper” way to court a woman. What Elite Daily’s staff often do when framing their argument around the decline of the dating scene is blame the “hookup culture” and lack of quality dates that people are going on nowadays. What their writing staff fail to recognize is that we are basing our “proper” dating constructs on outdated metrics and advice from our parents. A lot has changed in 30 years, and the way that a lot of couples interact has also changed.
For starters, more women than men are in university now. Indisputable fact. What this also equates to is a lot more women are pursuing successful careers than in the past. Awesome. What this also means is that finding time to get together for an actual date is becoming increasingly difficult as now both, not just one, of the people in a couple are working hard towards a successful career, and that puts limits on time. It also means that because of both genders pursuing careers instead of predominantly one in years past, both parties have a steady source of income. This changes the expectation for a lot of the financial responsibility with regards to dating.
In the past, men picked up the cheque because they made more money. As well they should; it’s only fair. Today, women make virtually the same salaries as men do, so there is no wage disparity between the average couple. If that last sentence set off an alarm bell about wage inequality, stop. There is no such thing – that 77 cents on the dollar statistic used by President Obama and countless other agencies has been proven as shaky at best. If you really want to read into it, click here. Even the Huffington Post, a very pro-feminist publication source, has an article that disputes it.
So with wages being similar and time, the most valuable commodity we have, being limited to couples, “proper” dating seems fairly difficult. Factor in that stable careers are becoming increasingly rare, and higher education is being pursued by more and more people, and you now have to factor in relocation into the equation of difficult dating.
Social media has also made dating increasingly difficult. Facebook and Instagram provide constant snapshots of couple’s lives together, but they also provide individuals with access to visual stimulation from external parties. Communication is easier than ever, and the prospect of meeting and having casual, short-lived relationships with multiple partners is increasingly appealing to the people in the Millennial generation. Add in dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, or OkCupid, and you have access to hundreds, if not thousands of potential partners literally at your fingertips. This never existed in the past, so why are we basing our metrics for “proper” dating in a time when the basis for these metrics no longer exists?
This ties into the author’s next paragraph: they think there’s always someone better. This goes for both genders, as not just men have access to Facebook, Instagram, Tinder and the like: we all do. Both genders are equally as guilty of potential social media infidelity. One gender is not more likely to cheat than the other. Studies have been published that suggest men cheat more, but just as many are published that suggest the opposite is true.
The author’s final paragraph that talks about men not growing up as quickly as women do is laughable at best. It draws on a “study” by Nickleodeon UK that was performed in anticipation of one of their new programs that is all about a childish bachelor who assumes legal guardianship over a very mature and intelligent 12 year old boy. Aside from the obvious alarm signals about the legitimacy of a study conducted by a TV network, the results of the study conveniently align with the theme of the show.
How the study went about determining what constituted being “grown up” was related to behaviours very stereotypical of males, but the sheer amateur nature of the study doesn’t really warrant much a response. If you’re supporting your points with “studies” done by TV networks, you really have no business being a writer, even if it’s for a click bait website.
To wrap-up, I believe that there is a good amount of data supporting that socially, we have changed in the way we deal and progress with relationships. Our world is not the same as our parents’ was, so we should stop using their dating stories as a social yardstick for our own. Live your life, be who you want to be with, and quit feeling pressured to go out on extravagant dates because its the “proper” thing to do. The point of a relationship isn’t to spend money or adhere to archaic social constructs; it’s to be with someone who challenges you to be better and who you enjoy learning from and spending time with. You cannot achieve happiness without a bit of struggle, and no amount of assumed chivalrous behaviour will achieve that.
What will is adapting to the times and realizing that the dating game has changed. Things are more challenging than ever now, so the key is to be adaptable and open to change, and to also encourage a more equality-centric approach to things, rather than feeling pressured to have storybook romance encouraged by mislead nostalgia. Don’t use money as your relationship currency; use your partner’s and your own personal growth and happiness.