On the red carpet, women are wearing tuxes and men are wearing ballgowns. Women have run for political office in record numbers and won. And yet, when it comes to who asks who for a date, it's still the guy who's expected to do the asking.
This division of who-asks-who benefits neither group. Here's why:
Women never get to choose
When women are socially sanctioned to wait for a guy to ask them out, it's disempowering. In a world where only men do the asking, only men are making the judgement about which women might make a great date, or something more. That leaves the women's perceptions and desires out of the equation; they can only choose from among the men who have already chosen them.
When I was single, I was asked out, but I also asked guys out. Of the two guys I approached, both became longer-term relationships — and one became my current partner of eight years. Out of the four guys who asked me out, one became a longer-term relationship. My small number of experiences points to the fact that I'm pretty good at judging the kind of guy who might be great for me — and I bet other women can too.
A note to add: Asking someone out on a date should be low-stakes and not set the tone for the whole relationship. While I may have asked for that first outing with a new guy, their interest and enthusiasm was important — as it is for anyone doing the asking. As the relationship progresses, it shouldn't matter who did the initial asking, but that both people are invested in their partnership and working together.
Bottom line: If you don't think you should ask a guy you find interesting on a date, you could very well be missing out on a great relationship.
Men don't hate it
As the men in the video above point out, they're open to being asked out. It's flattering. They may say yes or they may say no, but all the guys said they would never say no to a date simply because a woman initiated it. And don't forget: Confidence is attractive in anyone.
It's a lot of pressure on men
Asking someone out means you have to put your ego on the line. That makes some people more nervous than others. Not all men will react the same way to that anxiety; it's harder on some than others, but being expected to always do the asking is an unfair pressure on guys.
When only guys ask women on dates, shy, reticent, or very busy men get fewer dates (and choices). Meanwhile, outgoing men with larger egos (and maybe less going on) are more likely to go on more dates, but the women dating them won't necessarily find a better match with this type of guy. The whole situation puts women who prefer someone who is more shy, more introverted — basically, anyone who doesn't have a big ego — at a disadvantage.
Women don't get to practice rejection
Asking out a person who you don't know all that well carries a significant chance of rejection. Practicing this kind of small failure is good for anyone; it gets you more used to dealing with it in other areas of life. (Although the women in the video above are asking out random men on the street. You don't have to make your life that hard!)
But seriously, we already know that part of the inequality between men's and women's pay is women don't ask for raises at the same rate men do. Other data shows that women don't take risks at work as often as men do. Maybe if women were able to practice the (admittedly) torturous feeling of being rejected for a date, it would make it easier for us to take other risks as well.
It can lead to harassment
When only one gender is "supposed" to do the asking, it sometimes leads to misunderstandings, or worse. When men are taught to "go after the woman they want," it can lead to guys not taking "no thanks" for an answer, which could lead to badgering, stalking, harassment and worse.
When I was in college, I was stalked by a guy who asked me out in a physics class. He definitely didn't understand when I didn't want to see him after a few dates and kept turning up at my dorm. Later, he said he thought he was supposed to keep going after me to show his interest because that's what his guy friends told him a guy should do if he likes a woman. This expectation led to some scary moments for me, confusion, guilt, and hurt for him. It also meant I didn't date anyone for the rest of college. And my story is mild compared to what has happened to some of my friends, who simply turned a man down for a date.
If women also asked men out, the pressure and expectation that a man should pursue a woman — despite what she says or how she acts — would certainly be less. It's not a perfect solution. There will always be misunderstandings in human relationships, but making women's interests and desires as important as men's would give men the space to feel it's not their job or right to go after what they want.
It means fewer dates for everyone
The best argument for women asking for dates is that it will result in more dates overall. That's good for anyone who's home alone on a weekend night but really wants to meet someone they click with. Dating is a numbers game, so it benefits anyone who's looking for company to up those numbers in their favor.
So why don't we all "just go after who we're attracted to" as one of the Buzzfeed video guys emphatically says.