You might be a great guy, but if all the movies and books listed in your online dating profile favorites are by dudes or about dudes, we’ve got a problem.
Dear Gentleman of OkCupid, and also of the world,
I really like your profile, and that picture of your bike and/or cat is totally turning me on. I also like your clever username and the fact that your “desired age” range doesn’t make you a cradle-robber.
I especially like that you have an extensive list of preferred authors and books. I love to read too, and it seems that we have much in com—oh wait, hold up, for real? I take it all back. Upon closer inspection of the aforementioned epically long list, I’ve noticed that of the 42 classics, literary novels, and thick tomes of non-fiction you identify as your “faves, if I had to choose a few,” there are exactly zero written by a human of the lady-persuasion. Zero.
Concerned, I dug a little deeper, looking for a glimmer of something that even smells like variety, like you recognize that much of the art and culture in the world is produced by women and might be worth considering, but I’m SOL. All the TV shows you follow are made by dudes about dudes. Ditto on your movie choices. Even your music is bro-heavy.
I like you enough to have read this far, so I’ll cut you some slack. I’m going to assume you don’t intentionally limit your content to things-made-by-dicks (literally) because if that were true, well, you’d be one of those guys who “just doesn’t think women are that funny,” or whatever, and we’d be done talking. So let’s assume this happened by accident.
And it is, truly, shockingly easy to accidentally consume all-male cultural content, if only because of disparities in what gets made and who gets to make it. Over the last five years, less than 5% of studio-produced feature films were directed by women. Guess who reviews those films? Dudes, to the tune of 80% of all movie reviews. Less than 20% of authors reviewed by the New York Times Book Review are women. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that 80% of the reviewers are, you guessed it, male. So it’s not all your fault that your worldview is so biased; society has literally been dealing you, and all of us, an extraordinarily lopsided hand.
But seriously, could you try a little harder? You like True Detective, right? Have you tried Top of the Lake (directed by Jane Campion)? You read all the Jonathans (Lethem, Safran-Foer, Franzen), have you picked up Miranda July, Nicole Krauss, or Jennifer Egan? You feel it is important to be versed in the classics, but not Austen or sisters Bronte? You adore How I Met Your Mother, but have never given New Girl a chance?
Do you think my suggestions are terrible? Did you read one Miranda July story and hate it? Who cares! These are just examples, bro.
Don’t know how to expand your palette? Ask your lady friends, sisters, mother, girlfriends, or more well-rounded homeboys. Read the Internet, see who has won awards, follow the trail of Netflix recommendations until you find something directed by a woman. Branch out on your own—it’s not my job to make your summer reading list.*
And if you’re muttering to yourself right now about how there’s nothing wrong with boys liking stories about boys, you’re right, there’s not! But we women read and watch stories about boys all the time; it’s called All of the Stories Everywhere. I’m not dissing Breaking Bad; I love Breaking Bad. I repeat, because I know you will get stuck on this; I’m not dissing any specific piece of content made by or about men. Some of it is, indeed, excellent. I’m just suggesting that consuming stories in any form is an exercise in empathy building and using your imagination. We explore what it might feel like to be different people experiencing facets of life we will likely never experience. An imbalance of protagonists and creators leads to an imbalance of empathy, which is the beginning of the slippery slope down misogyny lane.
It severely warps our sense of humanity when all the stories we absorb are ones in which men are people and women are background decoration. Some of those stories are still good stories, but taken en masse, they reinforce the ugliest assumptions about who is the actor and who is the acted upon.
So, dear OkCupid suitor o’ mine, you have a few choices. You can take a good hard look at your Favorites and ask yourself why you haven’t read 10 pages written by a woman in the last decade. You can fix that, not just by reading one book or watching one show, but by rethinking what goes into your media diet and how you can balance it.
You could also ignore everything I’ve just written and go on your merry way, skipping from Jonathan to Jonathan, happy as a clam. After all, the Jonathans can be pretty great sometimes. If that’s how you want this to go, that’s your call, but I’ll be over here flirting with the guy who wants to talk about how The L Word paved the way for Orange is the New Black.
*Although it is not my job to make you a summer reading and viewing list…in addition to everything listed above, may I recommend The Mindy Project, Obvious Child, Broad City, The Good Wife, The Queen of Versailles, Blackfish, Frozen, Jesmyn Ward, Katherine Boo, Jhumpa Lahiri, Roxane Gay, Ann Friedman, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Louise Erdrich, Margaret Atwood, Alison Bechdel, Joan Didion, Mary Karr, Edwidge Danticat, Karen Russell, Flannery O’Connor, and Rachel Kushner as mere launching points for what I hope will be a very diverse, story-filled summer for you and yours.
Role Reboot regular contributor Emily Heist Moss is a New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works in a tech start-up. She blogs every day about gender, media, politics and sex at Rosie Says, and has written for Jezebel, The Frisky, The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.