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Is Online Dating Empowering Women Or Is It Slowly Killing Us?

Lifestyle

You pick up your phone and, without thinking, your fingers instinctively navigate to your online dating app to check for any alerts, new potential mates, and responses from the string of people you've been half-heartedly chatting with over the last month or so. You thumb through your inbox, roll your eyes at a few messages, screenshot a few to send to your BFF, respond inquisitively to some, and then robotically swipe for a good 10 to 15 before closing out and tending to more pressing, real-world obligations.


You've been playing the online dating app game for months, maybe even years. Still, your greatest success was probably the two-month stint that yielded lots of great sex, but hardly a lasting connection. You ponder whether all of this is even worth the effort of a haphazard swipe.

Here's the thing. Despite the frustrations it can bring, online dating does work, and it works pretty consistently. More than that, it's undeniably empowering for both sexes, and arguably more so for women.

“In terms of women, they don't have to get all dressed up and dolled up, and go stand at the bar and spend a lot of money. They can use online dating apps at home in their pajamas and with their girlfriends around," said Dr. Helen Fisher, a biologist-anthropologist, relationship expert, and the chief scientific advisor for Match.com.

She added that online dating is also safer for women — permitting you follow the basic rules — that it's cost-effective, and that it can yield real, meaningful relationships.

“Women are marrying a lot later now, and they're not marrying the boy that they hung around with in high school or guys that they dated in college or even in their early twenties," noted Dr. Fisher. “For thousands of years, when we were living on the farm and women weren't very educated and were without access to their own money, the only way they could find stability was to marry well. These days, they can get their own career, educate themselves, and marry much later, and online dating is helping to do that."

In that sense, online dating has relieved some of the pressures associated with women feeling like they must get married very early in life. It gives them an opportunity to expand their dating pool beyond their current social circle, a circle which becomes increasingly stagnant as you get older. And yes, while there was always that option to step outside of that circle, online dating makes doing so much easier, and thereby enables us to more easily find a partner at any time in our lives. It also puts a real screening process into place, which can help narrow your focus and prevent time-wasting dating tangents.

How to Make Online Dating Work For You

All that said, the online dating hustle can be downright exhausting. The key is to approach these dating apps strategically with a full understanding of what you want, and what the potential pitfalls are.

Think of Reasons to Say Yes
“You know so little about a human being at the beginning, and you [can over-emphasize] the things that you don't like about them. The brain is built to say no; it's called positive delusion," explained Dr. Fisher. “You've got to overlook the things you don't like and focus on what you do like and get to know the person better. Unless there's something completely and obviously off, think of reasons to say yes to people who are semi in the ball park and get to know them better."

“Saying yes" begins the second you begin filling out your profile, too.

“Apps allow us to filter for everything right down to hair color, but let's be honest — when was the last time a relationship failed or succeeded due to the shade on your noggin?" asked Whitney Linscott, who founded the online dating app, Bracket. “Setting the age too tight? Mr. Right might have just had his birthday and aged out of your range. I assure you there are great guys outside the tight parameters you have set.

Prevent Cognitive Overload

Having options is one of the best things about online dating, but it can also be your downfall.

“So many women get caught up in swiping and searching they rarely make it on an actual date, convinced that their future husband is just one more swipe away," said Linscott.

Dr. Fisher agreed, and explained that there's a sweet spot in the brain between five and nine choices.

“One thing I say to women is, after you've communicated with nine people online, stop and go out with at least one and get to know this person better," she said. "We can introduce you to all kinds of people who are the right size, shape, background, and education — and that's great — but you've got to go out and check out these people yourself. The only real algorithm is your own brain."

If you're dating online with the goal of meeting someone, falling in love, and settling down, get to the important questions. Do you want to get married? What does this timeline look like? Do you want kids? How many? What's your family like? What kinds of relationships do you have with your friends, family, and co-workers? Where do you want to live? What are your career goals?

Another topic to discuss, said Dr. Fisher, is credit score.

“A good credit score indicates if you're responsible, reliable, trustworthy, and smart," Dr. Fisher explained. “It actually ups your mate value because it's an honest signal of how you handle money. You can be driving a fancy car, but it really doesn't say what you were like 10 years ago, and it doesn't say anything about what you're going to be like 10 years from now. That car is a courtship signal for right now, whereas a good credit score is a genuine one. It's been earned."

Match.com just conducted a study on this very topic, and found that financial responsibility ranked higher than a sense of humor, attractiveness, ambition, courage, and modesty in terms of traits people look for in a mate. Also, 69% of those surveyed said that a credit score was an important measure of responsibility or an extremely important quality they look for, and over 50% admitted that finances put a major strain on a previous relationship, with 20% saying this strain ultimately lead to a breakup.

Stop Wasting Time With The Wrong Person

Another topic to discuss, said Dr. Fisher, is credit score.

It's anyone's prerogative to date around, but if you're looking to settle down, don't waste your time on someone who's clearly not the person you want to spend the foreseeable future with. The “grass is greener" syndrome is real in online dating because a new mate is literally within a fingertip's reach. As someone who's extensively studied brain circuitry of those in love and therefore has a profound understanding of the way humans act when they're deeply committed, Dr. Fisher was straightforward about this one.

“Once you fall in love, all those others have no meaning for you at all, so if you're dating someone for a month and you're still thinking, 'Maybe there's something better,' you have not fallen in love yet."

Falling in love doesn't always happen quickly, but if you're looking for greener grass months into the relationship, either this person's not the right one for you, or you're not ready for a relationship. And if you're the one who's all in with little to no commitment from the other person, it's time to have a serious talk.

Ultimately, online dating is empowering for both sexes and, when approached with authenticity and an open mind, can absolutely work.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.