BY Nicole Phillips

Confidence – something we all want to have, unless we have it.

Last year, I went on a date with a guy named Dallas. We matched on Bumble and his name was a U.S city so how could I say no?

We met up at a hipster bookshop-cum-bar in Glebe and drank crappy house red wine. He bought the drinks. After a decent exchange of banter, we proceeded the next phase of the date to a Mexican restaurant down the road. We shared nachos and spoke about music, succulents and his new start-up design studio. The corn chips got saggy and as I went to get the bill (noting that he had bought the drinks so it was only fair I paid), an awkward argument erupted. The idea of me paying my equal share on a first date did not sit well with him. The date ended with me wondering why such an antiquated dating tropes still endures in seemingly progressive male circles. After all, the guy wore a beanie inside and used the word ‘tubular’ ironically.

Enter the crisis of the confident woman. Progress aside, many men still feel intimidated by self-assured and sexually confident women. The phenomena is well documented, with old mate Freud first theorising the ‘Madonna-Whore Complex’ as a distinction that men draw between women as either respectable Madonnas or desirable prostitutes, with the implication that the two are mutually exclusive. As such, men would either sleep with a woman out of lust or marry a woman out of love, but never both.

Of course Freud’s 1920s view of female autonomy is terribly outdated, but outdated gender-based rules still plague the modern dating scene. Conventions like: “don’t have sex on the first date”, “don’t text until he texts first” and “don’t bring up gross topics” suggest that Freud wasn’t far from the mark in describing the idolisation of the Madonna.

The problem is also fraught in the language we use to describe confident woman. Damaging terminology like ‘that guy is whipped’ by his girlfriend undermines a woman’s right to assert her expectations in a relationship. As I write this article, I recall a night out with a redhead Brit I met at a hostel in Guatemala. While sitting at the bar, we saw a strikingly beautiful girl with a shaved head. Battling over the Reggaton music, he turned to me and commented (I kid you not), “don’t you hate those feminist types.” I checked out of the hostel that night.

So who or what is feeding this belief that confidence in a woman is crippling their love lives? I recently heard a talk by Mandy Len Catron, who attempted to tackle this idea. Len Catron has spent her academic career researching the different roles that love plays in our lives. She spoke about the ‘Cinderella’ romance narrative, one that has been continuously repackaged and replayed in pop culture. This script of love portrays the woman as a passive and docile character. She waits patiently and quietly to be chosen by her Prince Charming, as Catron put it: ‘desperate to be noticed by going as unnoticed as possible.’ Meanwhile, her outgoing and forthcoming stepsisters are caricatured as grotesque and unladylike.

At this point in time, I must refer back to my 14-year-old filmic bible ‘Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging.’ As a brace-faced, Roaccutane-dependent teen with a penchant for making papier-mâché costumes, there was no one more relatable than Georgia Nicholson. Desperate to receive the attention from her love interest Robbie, her friend reminds her that “boys don’t rate girls for funniness.” Her skinny and conventionally attractive friend encourages her to be a more subdued version of herself.

I am feeling fed up that women are still receiving the same message. We are a new-age species who know what we want and aren’t prepared to take anything less. On international Women’s Day, my message to my confident sisters is to keep doing what you do.

If you want to ask him out, go ahead. If you enjoy casual sex, initiate a one-night stand. If you want to discuss poo on a first date or wear an olive costume to a party, don’t let stupid archaic norms stop you. Make your own decisions and write your own narratives, because glass slippers really are off-trend.

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