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Armen-Gurgen Movsesyan
Writing 340
Social Sciences
Ben Pack

Feminist Ideals vs. Masculinity and Chivalry in Heterosexual Relationships

Australian comedian Jim Jeffries jokes that woman do not deserve equal pay in the
workplace not because they lack any skills a man has, but because men need more money to woo
women. The idea of chivalry continues to play a major role in the dating scene while the feminist
movement updates its platforms for the modern era, encouraging men to support it. The two
mutually exclusive concepts play an integral role in modern relationships. While women may
desire to have equality in society, they seek out specific qualities in men which often contradict
the principles of feminism. Therefore, feminist platforms should not govern the dynamics of a
heterosexual relationship.
Differences in the composition of the male and female brain can explain gender
characteristics and norms. David Geary, professor of psychological sciences at the University of
Missouri, explains that the frontal and temporal areas of the cortex which determine language
skills and the ability to accurately read emotions are larger and more precisely organized in the
female brain (Geary). Therefore, women exhibit more advanced communications skills with the
ability to quickly interpret and manipulate information. Male brains, on the other hand, exhibit
superior spatial and critical learning skills. These differences can explain certain relationship

expectations and dynamics. For example, because the female brain responds rapidly to emotional
cues, the tendency for men to rely on logic and problem-solving skills creates communication
issues and emotional distance. Dr. Nancy Wesson, behavioral psychologist, explains that women
have a stronger tendency to seek emotional support from their partners (Wesson.) This emotional
necessity stems from the biological imperative, the search for a supportive and protective
partner. While the feminist movement encourages self-sufficiency and independence, it does not
address the biological imperative and the neurological expectations in heterosexual relationships.
Feminist ideals, which challenge double-standards and institutionalized practices, do not address
feminine needs required outside of the professional environment.
Interestingly, a study conducted in the journal Gender & Society revealed that nearly all
women who identify themselves as feminist still adhered to traditional gender roles when it came
to dating, expecting men to pay for the first date and determine the level of commitment within
the relationship (Pardes). The study also exposes the feminine needs which feminist platforms do
not address. While the women in the study agreed to take equal responsibility in areas of
housework, finance and childcare, they also revealed that they used chivalry as a litmus test for a
mans character. This discrepancy further supports the incongruous expectations implicit in
feminist ideals.
Martie Haselton, professor at UCLA looked at dozens of studies on more than 5,000
women in search of evidence of specific preferences in mates during ovulation. The study
emphasized an analysis on the most fertile women, those interested in short-term partners. The

study revealed that fertile women were more interested in masculine bodies, symmetrical facial
features, dominant behavior and certain body odors (Bowerman.) However, the study also
showed that women preferred the more stable, supportive male outside of the ovulation
timeframe for long-term relationships. Haselton explains that while men are driven by
biological motivations, the same is true for women. Researchers from the University of
Rochester, the University of Illinois and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel
investigated a possible mechanism explaining why women and men differ in their sexual
reactions with receptive opposite-sex strangers. One hundred and twelve undergraduate students
volunteered for the study, split evenly between women and men, and paired randomly with an
opposite-sex. The research found that men who perceived possible female partners as more
feminine found them more attractive. This finding suggest that the physical cues of femininity
stimulate sexual attraction because they suggest higher estrogen levels, better overall mate
quality and solid reproductive health (Mejia.) More importantly, the study found that women
were not attracted to responsive or nice males, in other words, men who openly demonstrated
sexual interest in female partner. Gurit Birnbaum, head of the study explained that women
perceive responsive men as vulnerable and less dominant. Birnbaum added that
unresponsiveness had the strongest effect on attracting females during the early stages of
socialization. Both studies by Birnbaum and Haselton suggest that sheer masculinity and
dominance cannot maintain a female partner for the long-term, however, as the female biology
necessitates a sense of security from their partners to assure family stability.

Feminism does not only encourage equality and the destructuralization of patriarchal
institutions, but it also questions the value of masculinity and its importance in relationships.
Amber Pawlik, author of Objectivist Sexuality: An Outline for Happily Ever After, explains that
the principles of masculinity and femininity, at their core, build the foundation of heterosexual
relationships (Pawlk.) She explains that without these values, it becomes difficult to define a
functional heterosexual, making it difficult, therefore, for partners to seek out and understanding
healthy, balanced relationships. Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man,
discusses the pressures of being masculine. Keen explains that these pressures stem from ancient
archetypes associated with the masculine form and persona, ideas deeply rooted in the human
psychology and, as medical studies show, in the human biology (Keen.) While the journey
towards manhood differs between cultures, it always involves the boys evolution into the leader,
the hunter, the sage or the protector, concepts which continue to permeate the modern rhetoric.
Keens observations have an allegorical significance and reveal that the masculine image does
not simply stem from modern stereotypes. By questioning the importance of masculine qualities,
especially vis--vis relationships, feminist undermine the female biological imperative. Gloria
Steinem, famous American feminist and author, gave several speeches in 2002, preaching that
school shootings, Nazism, and terrorism were a product of male dominance. She claimed that
the cult of masculinity is the basis of every violent, fascist regime. We need to raise our sons
more like our daughters, with empathy, flexibility, patience, and compassion. This
oversimplification not only equates violence and atrocity with masculinity, but it warps the core
principle of masculinity and its value in long-term relationships. Masculinity could just as easily

be equated with the men who stopped the Nazis, but the tendency to demonize masculinity leads
feminist to judge it through a subjective filter. Rather than discussing how masculinity can
benefit society but fostering healthy, stable relationships and, by extension, stable communities,
the feminist agenda often suffocates the idea of masculinity entirely.
The effort to create a gender-equal society has created confusion regarding the role of
men and women in relationships. By inflating the issue of male violence, feminists have
encouraged men to adopt more feminine qualities in order to resolve institutionalized
discrimination. By analyzing the psychology involved in heterosexual relationships and
addressing the neurological origins of male and female behaviors, we can come to a more
accurate understanding of why these behaviors exist and the expectations it creates in
heterosexual relationships.
Undervaluing dominant behavior in males contradicts the biological imperative. As a
result, it encourages undesirable behaviors in men which do not attract heterosexual women. As
medical studies reveal, heterosexual women seek out dominant behavior. Masculinity combined
with stability creates a sense of security associated with bearing children and feeling protected.
This search for a sense of security can also explain why women who identify themselves as
feminists still value chivalry. Feminist platforms should strive to preserve equal opportunity and
privilege in socio-economic institutions, but they should not warp the principles of femininity
and masculinity which create the foundation for healthy heterosexual relationships.

Works Cited
Amber, Pawlik. "4." Objectivist Sexuality: An Outline for Happily Ever After. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 4053. Print.
Bowerman, Mary. "Biology of Attraction: Women Have Urges Too." USA Today. Gannett, 14
Feb. 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.
Geary, David. "How Male and Female Brains Differ." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.
Keen, Sam. Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man. New York: Bantam, 1992. Print.
Mejia, Paula. "Study Finds That Men Like Nice Women, But Not the Other Way Around."
Newsweek. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.
Pardes, Arielle. "You're a Feminist... So Why Don't You Date Like One?" Women's Health, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.
Wisson, Nancy. "15 Traits of a Healthy Relationship." Nancy Wesson Ph D. N.p., n.d. Web. 03
Feb. 2015.