As a female college student whose social circle primarily consists of other females in the 17-25 age demographic, my Facebook newsfeed has become saturated with “Date a Girl Who” articles. Earlier this month, The Huffington Post featured an article by Stephanie Ridhalgh titled “Date a Girl Who Travels,” which is written in response to and doesn’t completely understand the satire of another Huffington Post article, “Don’t Date a Girl That Travels” by Adi Zarsadias. “Date a Girl Who Travels” is inspired by Rosemarie Urquico’s “Date a Girl Who Reads,” another poorly written response piece that also misses the satire of the original essay that started this trend in 2011: a piece titled “You Should Date an Illiterate Girl” by Charles Warnke on Thought Catalog.
Excluding Warnke’s piece, the problem with these types of articles is that among young women who haven’t formed their full selves yet, they are a silly and popular way to cop out and aspire to be a “type.” They encourage girls to measure their self-worth against male expectations. And because these type of articles are often accompanied with skinny, faceless, Tumblr-esque depictions of females, they glamorize both the manic pixie dream girl trope and the idea that women fit best in a supporting role.
The first three pieces mentioned above are replete with cliches and girlish fantasies.
“Date a girl who travels. … She doesn’t dote on possessions but rather treasured experiences,” Ridhalgh said.
“Don’t date a girl who travels for she has chosen a life of uncertainty. … She goes with the flow and follows her heart,” Zarsadias said.
Urquico said to find a girl “reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street.” In Warnke’s original essay, the narrator generalizes “readers” and “non-readers” into categories because he feels betrayed by a specific woman who was a reader. Ironically, while Warnke satirizes cliches and stereotypes, the first three articles support them.
This trend of defining women in relation to men isn’t new. Young girls were insecure before “Date a Girl Who” articles, BuzzFeed personality quizzes and the like. Pre-Internet, girls had personality quizzes in teen magazines and other superficial ways of defining themselves. The difference is that now, we live in an era in which people can define themselves by a visual list of their “likes.” Girls can use Pinterest to organize their favorites and showcase their personalities. People can measure the popularity of a post, image or person with an actual number. We have reduced complex ideas and people to searchable hashtags.
Instead of supporting stereotypes on our newsfeeds, let’s celebrate individuality by sharing our own accomplishments and the stories of female role models. It’s easy to latch onto and share the aspirational image of the adventurous traveling girl or the profound literate girl. It’s much harder to do the work of defining ourselves. In a world where millennial attention spans are shorter than this sentence, we’re going to have to find a way to strengthen our stamina. There isn’t a shortcut.
Almeda is a marketing senior from Seattle.