ModernMan “dating and relationship expert” Dan Bacon’s 2013 article “How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones” recently resurfaced on the Internet, causing an uproar across media platforms. The ModernMan site is known for giving style tips and dating advice to men, with Bacon’s article coming under fire from women taken aback by the sexist, objectifying tone Bacon uses to instruct men on how to approach a woman. Criticisms of the article center on the idea that a man is recommending other men to bother women who might not want to be bothered, particularly when they are wearing headphones. For example, The Huffington Post notes that Bacon’s article claims, “Women who have chosen to put something over and/or in their ears that actively prevents them from having to hear anything else do want to talk to random men—they just need some nudging.”
Listening to headphones is a conventional social cue indicating that a person doesn’t want to be disturbed. This, however, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is wrong with Bacon’s article. The article is a perfect example of how Internet dating sites continue to encourage dangerously dated gender stereotypes in an increasingly diversifying world.
As a woman, Bacon’s article was particularly unsettling to read, though it is genuinely demeaning to anyone who may read it. Bacon writes to his male audience as if they have never spoken to another human being before in their life.
He instructs men to “wave your hand in her direct line of vision” and to “pretend to be taking headphones off your head, so she fully understands what you mean” in order to gain the attention of a woman. This over-simplification of the social situation represents both men and women as unintelligent and socially inept.
Bacon’s writing also portrays women as dim-witted props who simply wait for a man to approach them—as if the only possible reason they could be sitting in a public place is to find a “boyfriend (or even a new lover).”
Furthermore, Bacon says, “Women know that [it] is the man’s role to be confident enough to walk over and talk to a woman he finds attractive, so they have a chance to meet.” This singular statement alone would be enough to encourage a passionate, feminist critique of his article since he essentially claims that women are just waiting around to be confronted by a man.
Romance in the 21st century is generally very accepting, as dating norms of the past have been pushed to the wayside. Despite this, it seems that dating sites and blogs haven’t caught up with society’s critique of heteronormative gender stereotypes.
We need to use Bacon’s offensive article as a gateway to discuss the demeaning and negative way that popular dating blogs and websites talk about gender. It is crucial that we continue to be critical of articles such as Bacon’s and that we remain aware of the ways in which the media influence public perception of gender roles.