In my 23 years on this planet, I have consumed a lot of pop culture. Particularly pop culture that focuses on love and romance. I’ve watched every movie on every “50 Best Rom-Coms of All Time” listicle at least twice.
But I’ve only very recently taken notice of the different ways we are willing to perceive men and women in the multitudes of romantic stories that we encounter on a day-to-day basis.
The difference is this: we think men should be romantic, and women should be romanced.
Full disclosure, this thought did strike me while listening to Taylor Swift’s latest single, “Lover,” on repeat. If you haven’t heard it, the song is a straight-up lyrical masterpiece, and also probably the most romantic song Swift has ever released, in which she basically lays down what her wedding vows would be if her “lover” would be so inclined. The song is doing well on the charts, but not, like...Ed Sheeran love song well. Which is to say, you could easily go into Farmers or Kmart, and not hear “Lover” even once (a disgrace, I say).
At first, this kind of blew my mind. “Lover” has lyrics, melodies and depth that could run laps around “Perfect” or “Thinking Out Loud” - why on earth did Ed’s more mediocre love songs receive more success than Taylor’s?
Regardless of the inner workings of the music industry, which I’m not going to pretend to understand, I think the one key reason for this discrepancy is that we’re just not comfortable with women being romantic. Not in the same way that we’re comfortable with men being romantic.
Men are the pursuers, the wooers, the stand outside your window with a boombox-ers. Women are the objects of desire, we’re meant to flutter our eyelashes and look down on our suitors from ivy framed windows. We are not meant to stand up on a global platform and declare our undying love for someone.
Think of every huge romantic gesture from almost every movie you’ve ever seen. Think of how many leading men you’ve watched run through airports and scream from the rooftops. Think of Ryan Gosling building Rachel McAdams a house, Heath Ledger serenading Julia Stiles, Patrick Dempsey on the ride-on lawnmower.
Now imagine the reverse. Imagine a movie where the leading woman persistently tries to woo the man. Think about that trope of romantic movies, where the man essentially has to convince the woman to love him back - and imagine the genders switched. Suddenly, the story is no longer romantic. The female character will certainly not become a swoon-worthy heartthrob who adorns the walls of teenagers’ bedrooms. She’d be seen as annoying or creepy or weird. She’d be played off for laughs.
Why do we have such a problem with women being romantic?
Is it because we’re so used to seeing women as objects - to be observed and admired on pedestals - that seeing them as agents in their own love lives is simply upsetting the natural order?
Is it because we see it as natural for women to be vulnerable and emotional, so when they share their feelings - whether through a love ballad or silently holding up confessional placards at someone’s doorstep - it’s not a huge brave thing worth celebrating, it’s just second nature?
Or is it simply because we would rather watch Adam Sandler playing guitar and singing a love song than Drew Barrymore? ...Nope, it’s definitely not that.
We should allow women to be romantic, not just romanced. We should celebrate stories that divert from these tired tropes of yesteryear. Because real women aren’t waiting by their window for a man to start throwing pebbles. Because it takes just as much guts for a woman to be vulnerable about her feelings as it does a man.
And most of all, because Taylor Swift’s music is better than Ed Sheeran’s.Support Villainesse